Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Good Read: The Productive Writer

Leave a comment, as I will be giving away a copy of this book next week!           

            Sage Cohen, author of The Productive Writer (Writer’s Digest Books), doesn’t tell you where to place the comma or what voice to use, but as her subtitle promotes: Helps you Write More, Stress Less & Create Success, I think she hits the mark.
            What I like about the book is that she helps the writer go to their strengths. We don’t all have the same temperament, so we don’t all write the same way. Cohen says: “Writers make time for writing. And everyone does it her own way. Your job is to find your way.”
             Some Chapter titles:
             Scheduling Time and Tasks
             Embracing Fear
             Writing in the Margins of a Full-Time Life
    The last chapter above about writing around your day job is very encouraging. She has you look at your job in a new way. Cohen says: “Make a list of the skills you are developing at your day job. Identify and appreciate how each one relates to and benefits your writing life. Refer to it any time you’re feeling discouraged about 'wasting time' at work."
            The book is small (about 5 x 7) and light enough (about 200 pages) to fit in most handbags or satchels. It is easy to read with many bulleted items and small charts in two-color green.  It is a practical tool you’ll love to pick up time and again, place by your computer and read when you feel bogged down.
            No book answers all your motivational questions, and I don’t agree with everything she says, but I believe reading this book is very much worth your time.

            Leave a comment and I’ll be drawing at the end of next week to give away a copy of The Productive Writer. The last day to leave a comment will be next Friday, July 29.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Google Alerts: What a Find

A few weeks ago, I signed up to receive Google Alerts and I have found them to be very helpful. Many of you may already use this tool, so feel free to comment with any additional information.
            I had heard people talk about alerts, but I had never used them until colleague and coach, Rochelle Melander (Write Now Coach! Blog), mentioned it on her blog (you may want to go to her site, she is a great encourager). I hit the link she had placed and signed up.
Google searches the Internet for information on specific topics you select when you signup. I am writing an historical novel set in the early 1800s during the time when the stagecoach was a common form of transportation. To experiment I set up a Google Alert for all articles containing the word “stagecoach”. I asked to receive an email with this information once a day. Every evening at about 10:30 I receive a list of between 5-8 articles that were found on the Internet. Not all refer to my area of interest, but I have been amazed at the ones that do. I could narrow my search and ask for only articles referring to stagecoach wagons.  But, I have not received too many entries that I can’t just delete the ones I don’t need and keep those that apply to my subject.
But, the cool thing is I have been inspired to write. I read a new fact about that time period or a find a museum I hadn’t heard about, so I go to a few websites and learn new things.
I'm still experimenting, so I don’t know all I can do with this tool yet, but I do know it is something I want to continue to use and you might also.
Go to and set up your alerts. It’s simple, or I wouldn’t be doing it!


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Who Inspires Your Creativity?

In my last post about creativity, I talked about filling up our well. Today I want to ask the question, “Who inspires or inspired you to be creative?”
     Although we usually have more than one person who contributed to our creative life, I want to thank Mrs. Hickman, my seventh grade art teacher.
     In addition to writing, I love to draw and paint. I sometimes think that if things would have been different I may have been an art teacher, but I ended up a writer who likes to sometimes pretend, she is an artist.
     If any of you were quiet and obedient students, like me, you probably didn’t get much attention or encouragement from your teachers. I didn’t ask many questions, nor did I cause disruptions in class, and I think my teachers looked at me with sigh of relief because they didn’t have to spend their time and energy on me.
     Mrs. Hickman was one of my youngest teachers, and she would get down beside me and speak softly as she encouraged me. When my art class was over, I continued to draw at home. Before I left junior high I got up the courage to show my drawings to her. She kept them overnight and when she returned my drawing tablet the next day, she had written and illustrated an entire page of helpful instructions and told me I was doing very well and to keep practicing.
     I went on to high school and took art for one year, but I didn’t feel the teacher even knew I was in the classroom. Soon after, I stopped pursuing art, but I didn’t lose my passion and now I have an art bin of pastels, oils and watercolor paints and indulge myself as an adult.
    When I think about Mrs. Hickman, this is what comes to mind:
            She took time. She took the time to say words that uplifted. She gave me instructions on how to do better, but also told me things I was doing right. She also took time for me when I wasn’t her student.
            She was kind. She was simply kind. She was soft-spoken and smiled when she told me what I was doing wrong.
            She took me seriously. Even though I was a “kid” she saw potential and encouraged me.
     Oh, and I still have that drawing tablet I showed her over forty years ago.
     Thank you, Debby Hickman.

Who inspired you along the way?

Friday, July 1, 2011

How Do You Nurture Your Creativity?

Last week my husband and I spent a day at the Art Institute of Chicago. A visit to an art museum and to the city is one of the ways I fill up my creative well.

 Since we live in the Chicago area, the museum is only a short train ride, one of my favorite ways to go to the city. I take my journal and observe people. I watch as they board and disembark, noticing their age, dress and if they sit close to me, I listen to their dialect. I also discreetly listen to snippets of conversation and realize how each person is involved in diverse situations.
As the train winds into the heart of the city, I look out the window at the tall buildings and strain my eyes to maybe peek inside an open curtain and wonder what an apartment or condo looks like in the city. What do people think or dream about? I get an idea for a short story about a single woman who lives downtown and before we arrive at the station, I give her a name.
We walk to Michigan Avenue, a main thoroughfare in Chicago. I hear cars going by, cabs zooming past with horns blaring. I smell exhaust, tobacco, coffee brewing from a coffee shop. I try to engage my senses.

We finally enter the museum. Conversations are more hushed and people are walking slower. I find a bench and sit down to look at my favorite painting: Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877, by Gustave Caillebotte. I ask myself: Who are the people in the painting? How does the artist paint something that causes us to stop and stare and inspire us to create in our own ways? I could have sat there for an hour, but we continue through the museum and are moved by what we see.
The day ends too quickly and we come home tired, with sore feet, but I am filled up. As I sit on my livingroom couch, I pull out the postcards I bought of the paintings that caused my heart to soar. I don’t want to lose this feeling of a full creative well, but I know it will pass. So, I grab my journal and write down those ideas and inspirations that I don’t want to forget.

How do you nurture your creativity?