Tag Archives: creativity

What Color Are Igloos?

I worry about the future of humanity some days more than others. Today is one of those days.

My nephew told me he was helping out in his daughter’s class while they were practicing writing the letter “i”. When they finished the row, their reward was getting to color the igloo at the bottom of the page.

Wait for it ……. the kids all had to color it white because the school demands “realistic depictions” and the only proper color for an igloo is white.

Also, the school doesn’t allow coloring with black crayons because then they can’t see if the budding automatons have colored outside the lines.

As one who has colored my share of purple igloos, this makes me feel a bit hopeless. Why do we think we’re helping our kids when we’re afraid to let them play, quash their individuality, and destroy any crumb of creativity clinging to them?

coloring2

The Writing Diet – Book Review

Title: THE WRITING DIET ”” WRITE YOURSELF RIGHT-SIZE

Author: Julia Cameron

Devour it

→ Nibble till it’s gone

Spit it out

Julia Cameron has written 25 books, both fiction and non-fiction. One of her best-sellers is The Artist’s Way, which is also the basis of courses she teaches, helping students find their creativity.

As she was teaching over the years, she saw her students not only transform their creative brains, but she saw them transform their bodies and lifestyles as well.

The Writing Diet explains that process. She provides several tools ”” “Morning Pages,” journaling, asking yourself four questions to distract you from your cravings, going on culinary adventures, and something as simple as taking walks, among many other exercises.

I didn’t think I’d find much of interest in this book because not only do I tap my creativity constantly, I’m not one for exercises and assignments. But I read the whole thing fairly quickly, enjoying it immensely. While I didn’t do any of the exercises, per se, many of them did make me stop and think.

She talks about “eating clean” which is the same thing I’m trying to do. She said, “The healthiest way to view our relationship to food is to see it in terms of progress, not perfection. Now we are eating more healthfully, if not perfectly. This is progress, and it is progress with which we must learn to be satisfied.”

Amen.

My favorite image from the book was a woman she quoted. “I have to take my overeating one day at a time,” says Eleanor. “I feel like I have my finger in the dyke. I can’t keep it there forever, but I can keep it there just for a day.”

I like that. In fact, there was a lot of similar talk about 12-step programs. Another of her students said he thought it was easier to be an alcoholic because alcoholics can stay away from liquor but everyone needs to eat.

If you can eat right for one day, maybe you can get up and do it again tomorrow. Pretty soon, you may find you’ve been doing it for years.

Lots of excellent, practical advice.

If you haven’t tried journaling before and seem to have some issues with food or healthy living, then you might benefit from reading The Writing Diet and doing the tasks Cameron lays out for each chapter.

What have you got to lose … besides weight, that is?

Have you tried journaling? Did it work for you? Have you ever dumped a bad habit or incorporated a good one? How did you do it?

What I Learned From National Novel Writing Month

I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo lately, but I wrote this in 2006 after the first time I played. Maybe it will help current participants. Or not. But I wrote it and here it is. So there.

What I Learned From National Novel Writing Month

61,412.

The number of Legos on my son’s floor? The number of rejection letters I’ve received? Miles of cable hooking up my computers, printers, and modems?

No. Well, yes, but that’s not what’s important right now.

61,412 is the number of words I wrote during the National Novel Writing Month challenge between November 1st and November 30th, completing two first draft manuscripts of my middle grade novels.

Chris Baty started NaNoWriMo in 1999 with 21 aspiring novelists accepting the challenge of writing a 50,000-word novel from scratch in November. Six of them crossed the 50,000-word finish line. In 2005 there were upwards of 59,000 participants with 9,769 crossing the finish line. They anticipate 75,000 participants in 2006.*

Why, you ask, would I subject myself to this type of chained-to-your-desk-butt-numbing-highly-caffeinated torture? Simple. To write. To get it done. To learn. Having survived, I highly recommend this peculiar approach to kick-start a stalled project or to silence your inner-editor or to give yourself a shove right over the Niagara Falls of your creativity.

But before I go any further, I have a confession. I cheated. I didn’t write one long novel; I wrote two short ones. But I knew I was going to cheat before I even started so as penance, I set my bar a bit higher at 60,000 words. There, I feel better.

Despite bending the rules, I wrote and I learned.

I learned to plant my hindquarters in my chair for extended periods of time. It seems obvious, but the obvious truths are often the very ones we overlook. If I’m not in front of my keyboard, it’s guaranteed that no writing will take place. But if I’m sitting, fingers poised, I will write.

I learned the importance of an organized plan of attack. I knew how many days, hours, and minutes I had available to write. I knew how many words I needed. I had access to a calculator, a 40-cup coffee hypodermic, and the pizza delivery guy. My plan was born.

I learned how to write faster and better. When quantity matters more than quality, I learned to stop editing myself along the way. Something magical happened when I ignored my dictionary, thesaurus and style manual. I was free to write creatively instead of correctly. My word choices broadened in direct proportion to how far behind I was on my word count that day. Instead of using a safe but boring word like quickly, I found myself using a more colorful phrase like in a jiffy or as fast as a pig going downhill on roller skates. What a bonus to count all the extra words!

In the dark recesses of my gray matter, I know there lurks a problem with POV. Writing oodles of scenes, broken only by eating and sleeping, allowed me to shine a very bright light on POV and keep it in the front of my mind. While I may still have occasional POV issues, thirty days of concentrated focus taught me to notice and correct them. My critique group will be delighted.

I also learned it doesn’t matter whether I’m cranky, sad, angry, tired or hungry. Nobody can tell based on my writing. Now I know I never have to put off writing until I’m in a better mood. As a bonus, I learned that writing always puts me in a better mood.

I learned the importance of good health. Sitting and writing is a physical ordeal, despite all outward appearances. I had to take time to exercise and stretch every day. I had to protect my fingers, forearms, neck and eyeballs constantly. I also flossed more often than normal, but in retrospect that probably had more to do with stalling.

On a personal note, I learned my household will not fall apart if I focus on an all-consuming project. Thanksgiving dinner is just as enjoyable with Stove Top as it is with homemade chestnut-oyster-blue cheese stuffing. (Actually, my kids say it’s more enjoyable. Go figure.) Laundry will not topple over and suffocate us while we sleep, field trip forms will get signed in a timely manner, and the Health Department will not need to visit.

Those Legos, though, do need to get picked up.

* Stats for 2008 ””

119,301 adult participants

22,000 K-12 student participants from 600 schools

21,683 winners

1.6 billion words

If you haven’t dipped your toe in this water yet, you owe it to yourself to try. Nothing bad will happen. Swear. It’s not too late to get started this year and it’s certainly not too late for next year. Do it!

What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

In November 2004 I attempted my first writing marathon … National Novel Writing Month. Every year between November 1st and 30th, crazy writers accept the challenge to write 50,000 words of a new novel.

Chris Baty hatched NaNoWriMo in 1999 with 21 aspiring novelists accepting the challenge. Six of them crossed the finish line. In 2007, 101,510 writers took the challenge and 15,333 finished. A total of ”” and this is a REALLY big number, possibly amicable ”” 1,187,931,929 words were logged. Crikey!

There have been at least 25 published NaNoWriMo authors, including Sara Gruen and others you’ve probably heard of. Maybe you’ll be on that list in a few years.

But only if you accept the challenge, Grasshopper.

Why, you ask, would I subject myself not once, not twice, but three times to this type of chained-to-your-desk-butt-numbing-highly-caffeinated torture? Simple. To write. To get it done. To learn. To create a habit.

Having survived, I highly recommend this peculiar approach to kick-start a stalled project or to silence your inner-editor or to give yourself a shove right over the Niagara Falls of your creativity.

I learned to plant my hindquarters in my chair for extended periods of time. It seems obvious, but the obvious truths are often the very ones we overlook. If I’m not in front of my keyboard, it’s guaranteed that no writing will take place. But if I’m sitting, fingers poised, I will write.

I learned the importance of an organized plan of attack. I knew how many days, hours, and minutes I had available to write. I knew how many words I needed. I had access to a calculator, a 40-cup coffee hypodermic, and the pizza delivery guy. My plan was born.

I learned how to write faster and better. When quantity matters more than quality, I learned to stop editing myself along the way. Something magical happened when I ignored my dictionary, thesaurus and style manual. I was free to write creatively instead of correctly. My word choices broadened in direct proportion to how far behind I was on my word count that day. Instead of using a boring placeholder word like quickly, I found myself using a more colorful phrase like in a jiffy or as fast as a pig going downhill on roller skates. What a bonus to count all the extra words!

I also learned it doesn’t matter whether I’m cranky, sad, angry, tired or hungry. Nobody can tell my state of mind based on my writing. Now I know I never have to put off writing until I’m in a better mood. As a bonus, I learned that writing always puts me in a better mood.

I learned the importance of good health. Sitting and writing is a physical ordeal, despite all outward appearances. I had to take time to exercise and stretch every day. I had to protect my fingers, forearms, neck and eyeballs constantly. I also flossed more often than normal, but in retrospect that probably had more to do with stalling.

I learned my household would not fall apart if I focus on an all-consuming project. Thanksgiving dinner is just as enjoyable with Stove Top as it is with homemade chestnut-blue cheese stuffing. My kids, in fact, say it’s more enjoyable. Go figure. Laundry will not topple over and suffocate us while we sleep, field trip forms will get signed in a timely manner and the Health Department will not need to visit.

So, if you’ve been considering writing a novel, or you just need your butt kicked, start preparing for National Novel Writing Month in November. Take some notes, research a location for your setting, sketch your characters, and maybe rent an industrial-sized coffee pot.

Let me know how it turns out. Nevermind. I know how it’ll turn out. It’ll be crappy. Oh, so joyfully crappy. Mold it, bend it, curse at it, delight in it.

You’ve won!

Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? Why or why not?