Category Archives: Creativity

Thick skin


My life has felt upside down for a while.

Things changed so radically, but they didn’t change at all. I felt my family falling away from me in a more permanent way than I was prepared for. I felt un-moored.

And stability has returned now, of a nature. And that feels even stranger. Wasn’t everything supposed to change forever? I was prepared to grieve. I was grieving.

But it seems that was premature. I should be happy, right?

And so, I continue. I live my life. I do my job. My job is my sanity, as much as I would prefer to stay home and feel sorry for myself. My job gives me a purpose, and an identity; something that seems to be of value to others.

I’m learning to play guitar. It was painful at first, and I didn’t know if I could continue. But I’ve developed callouses, and my fingers have grown accustomed to the strange positions they must take to form a chord. I’ve learned to play partial chords, which qualifies as “good enough” for my mid-life hobby.

So life goes on, and I develop my mental callouses, and I grow accustomed to the strange forms life takes. It’s good enough.


Just this


Sometimes I don’t want my life. I just want to trade it in, and hope for a better deal the next time around.

I know I have it so much better than so many people in the world. Logically, I know this. But I don’t like it. I am just feeling sorry for myself, I guess.

It’s been nice being off work, mostly. I’m not really sure it’s good for me, though. Maybe I SHOULD travel next time, instead of having so much time alone with my thoughts. I’ve had too much time to wallow in regrets and missed opportunities.

Like the other day I started thinking about how, when I was finishing up my English degree, I was encouraged to go to grad school by two of the people in the department who could have guaranteed my admission. I started berating myself about all the ways my life could be different.

But I also remember I didn’t want to keep going to school, and I didn’t want to get too caught up in academia. That I wanted to write popular fiction, and never mind if I haven’t yet, I still do, and grad school doesn’t lead that way.

I still wonder if I’ll ever be happy, whatever happens to me. I know I’m still relatively young and could do anything I put my mind to, but everything seems so disappointing in reality. I thought my current job would be so much fun and I’d be happy.

Magical thinking – that a person, job or thing will come along and create your happy ending.

So the path is ever thus: Seek contentment with what you have. Gratitude for the good things, acceptance of what isn’t ideal. To live this life, this moment, as best you can.

This morning I am working on a novel. A cat is on my lap. Dog sleeping nearby. I had a really good breakfast… it’s foggy and drizzly, and a great day to stay home and write. Can I be grateful for this? I think so. Forget about yesterday and tomorrow, and just live.

Just breathe.

Just getting started


Writing over the last year has mostly been a struggle to get started.

That’s gotten easier. Most of what I write now, I’m not quite sure it’s going to be something I type into the manuscript (/Scrivener). I just think of them as exercises, idea generation. Still, a lot of these exercises have become usable material, either in a scene or simply as character insight.

I write my first drafts, of most everything (including blog posts) in longhand. I just find it easier to drop into my creative mindset that way. Then I type in what makes the cut, and sometimes I do keep typing the scene, once the floodgates have opened.

One technique I’ve used this week is character A addresses character B. It goes on and on, as that character expresses his inner world to the other character. A surprising amount of that has turned into scene dialogue.

I’ve also been using other fiction to get me started. No, not copying. Rather, I examine things like paragraph structure and try to write something that mimics that structure. (I was getting into an awfully repetitive pattern: character acts, then speaks; Character responds, then acts.)

I’ve also learned to keep an eye out for small turns of phrase that can help me say things a different way. Yesterday, I made note of the phrase, “she said grimly,” and will use that as my jumping-off point today.

What is happening to my characters right now, that will lead one to say something grimly? I already have an idea, but I bet it will be different once I actually start writing it. That is what makes writing such fun for me, now I’ve let go of strict outlining. I am curious about what happens next.

I am on an adventure. 🙂

Vacation day 2


Oh, vacation is nice, isn’t it? Even at home, I’m all, what to do next? Read a book? Take a nap? Go for a walk?

I am proud of myself for relaxing. Last time it took me a good four days before I gave up trying to plan and do things. I am probably less worried then I’d be if I traveled, because all I’d think about on the way home is how much there would be to do before going back to work.

So I’m still doing dishes, and vacuuming, and cleaning the bathroom. I’m just not very worried about it, because there is plenty of time. I haven’t done laundry, but I think I have enough clothing for the weekend. Laundry on Monday!

Yes, life is too, too exciting. I know you’re so jealous!

I’m still writing, too. What an interesting novel this is turning out to be, now that I’ve let go of the outline. I will probably return to some kind of outline eventually, but right now I’m just taking it scene by scene, as the story reveals itself to me. Yes, I’ve become that kind of writer. It took about 50k words to let go of control, though.

Okay, back to doing nothing!

Cranking the engine


Working on the novel has been going really well the last few days, After many days of it not going anywhere or looking like anything good was going to come of the effort. Reminds me of something Stephen King said:

The real challenge is getting into the damn thing, and I believe that’s why so many would-be writers with great ideas never actually pick up the pen or start tapping away at the keys. All too often, it’s like trying to start a car on a cold day. At first the motor doesn’t even crank, it only groans. But if you keep at it (and if the battery doesn’t die), the engine starts…runs rough… and then smooths out.

That’s exactly how it feels! I love the story that is taking shape now. It’s so vastly different from when I started, and the re-write is going to be a mammoth effort in itself, but I like this story so much more now. And the characters are taking on a life of their own.

I thought I was a planner. I started with an outline, and Scrivener has encouraged my outlining habit. Yet, all along, it felt forced, cliched and predictable. No wonder I was stuck for so long: I was bored with it!

Now that I’m allowing the story to take shape in a more organic fashion, I’m excited and not sure what will happen next. (Yesterday I got quite a surprise, actually. I did not see that coming, but once I’d written it, it felt so right, like it had been meant to happen that way all along!)

The story is taking on the qualities of fun, mystery and magic I so enjoy in fiction, and that I was hoping to write. Hopefully that means readers will enjoy the ride, too.

GISHWHES: Don’t panic.


So, I’m seeing a lot of concern about GISHWHES on Twitter today. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go here or read my post about last year’s hunt.)

Here’s my advice:

1) Don’t panic. What’s the worst that can happen? Perhaps you go into fight-or-flight mode, or freeze, overwhelmed by the tasks. You don’t talk to your team. You don’t leave the house. You don’t create anything. It’s sad, but not the end of the world. Your team will continue to do their thing, and you will go on with your life. No one loses anything.

On the other hand, if you make even one beautiful item or complete one act of kindness, you will have been a successful Gisher. Be brave.

2) Gishwhes isn’t about winning. I know, I know. I want to go on vacation with Misha, too. (Who doesn’t?!) And honestly, I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I really thought our team had a chance last year. We did so many cool things. We got so many things on the list, and they were mostly beautiful things and actions. Did we win? No. We were not even runners up.

And you know what? It was fine. Seriously. I had such a great week, with so many fun and revitalizing experiences, on top of the joy of collaboration with people around the world. Totally worth 18 bucks.

3) Be true to yourself. There is a lot of talk about not sleeping during Gishwhes. That isn’t me. I am almost 40 and have a chronic illness. And a Monday- Thursday job. (And a dog and two cats, if anyone’s counting.) I need my sleep, and I am going to sleep. For me, Gishwhes is about enjoying life, not making it harder. I will go to work. I will sleep. I will walk my dog. AND I’ll do the hunt.

Finally, here’s a little self-help tip (or lifehack, for you hipsters): set your intention. And no, it can’t be “to win GISHWHES” – that is an external reward. Your intention must be something for your inner well-being. Are you trying to be more creative in your life? To have more fun? To overcome social anxiety? Set your intention: that is your reward.

Now, write it out in bright marker. Or type it in large font. Paste it up all over your home/bedroom/car so you remember why you are really doing this.

And enjoy the hunt. 🙂


Using Pain


Julia Cameron just posted this on Twitter:

Pain does use our energy, but we can consciously channel it toward positive action if we are willing to look at our options with fresh eyes.

It spoke to me like a message from the universe. My first thought was related to Rheumatoid Arthritis, for which I am currently being treated. I haven’t talked about it a lot here, but it’s been a big part of my life the last few months. (And I was suffering from it for a long time before that, but didn’t know what it was; the depression I have discussed was likely tied in to the chronic pain as much as anything else.) It’s been a relief to have answers, and the medicine I’m taking will likely prevent long-term joint damage.

Quick public service announcement: RA manifests in ways you might not expect. I had physical pain that I attributed to overtraining (and it wasn’t), but there are a lot of other symptoms I wasn’t aware tied into RA: fatigue, depression, getting sick a lot, flu-like symptoms. I thought I was going crazy, and I probably would have had a nervous breakdown if I hadn’t gotten a physical and learned more.

I’ve been feeling much better the last few weeks, due (I think) to a combination of medication and lifestyle change. I don’t get wiped out from everyday activity anymore, though I do still feel crushed if I overdo it. (Which is pretty much every time I teach Spinning.)

I’ve had to completely restructure my life. I was already pretty big on self-care, but now it’s the priority. Work is not my priority, though it’s going very well now that I’m part time, and don’t feel like I have to drag myself in at 7 a.m., feeling wretched and hating the world.

Anyway, the quote above, about channeling pain toward positive action, hit me in a way it wouldn’t have before. I have certainly used painful emotions as creative fuel in the past, but I’ve never considered how physical pain can make you look at your options “with open eyes.” That’s exactly what I’ve been doing the last week.

I know a 9 to 5 job isn’t possible for me now, maybe ever. With that in mind, I got a copy of the Writer’s Market 2015 from the library and started looking at my options. There are several great options for entry-level freelance in fitness magazines, for example, that I wouldn’t have considered before. I have stopped thinking of how low my chances are for making a living as a writer, and have instead focused on “filling the form” to work toward that future. I have started to see this disease as a gift – oh, I know, cliché city, right? – because it has ruled out what used to be my safety net.

I am finally feeling brave and strong enough to listen to that little girl inside who wrote stories for fun. So, I’ll write today’s pages, and do today’s research. And that is enough.