Sunday, June 19, 2011

You are only lost if you think you are?

While attempting to learn about and write a romantic suspense, another year has passed. Besides reading suspense authors, I took a few side trips. These excursions included online classes here and there, talking to writers, loops and more reading, writing and dreaming as time moved relentlessly on.

The RS ended up being too gory-more horror than romance-and too much fantasy. In the laborious process of trying to make myself fit and write what was logical to pursue, I frequently wandered from the goal. I began to play with other ideas: I couldn't help it, avoid it, or shut it down. It makes me crazier than I already am when this happens. And I love that it happens. A middle grade fantasy and two characters emerged.

I recently attended a webinar - the guest lecturer was... if my dreams come true agent. Said agent is critiquing pitches from attendees. Wow! So, what did I pitch? Not my Golden Heart finalist ms, not my angel fantasy, not my "real" novel - but my middle grade pitch.

Once again I find myself following another path. And I am grateful. I am having fun writing.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mind Mapping, Fun with Right and Left Brain

Years ago I was introduced to Mind Mapping as a creative exercise. I'm not learned enough to tackle the scientific data that asserts the brain can only consciously use one hemisphere. Is this an inviolable truth or are there other scenarios?

Could there be sequential, delineated brain activity, simultaneous synapses firing from both hemispheres existing other than in consciousness or subconsciousness? I do not know but it would be fun to explore these questions another time.

This is what I have experienced and know about mind mapping. For me and some others: Mind Mapping is a drawing/thinking technique that uses the right and left brain hemispheres.

Mind Mapping is a way to develop, articulate, and explore possibilities. I think of it as visual free association. The goal is to think laterally, to let your creative self tap into your wondrous brain and its delightful hemispheres to journey, to explore.

I have used it for personal evaluation, growth, and to examine specific problems. It has helped me breakdown and understand everything from emotional reactions to relaxation theory, wiring the dryer, to gardening alternatives.

At its most basic - paper and pen are required. I've used typing paper, colored papers, envelopes, a large 18"x 24" pad, colored pencils, crayons, markers, and inks. I confess I still like to color and yes, I still have some coloring books.

Until recently, I have not considered using mind mapping for writing. This is my Ah Ha moment! I am excited about using it for writing because of what I have experienced with mind mapping. I don't how I missed this- it now seems like such an an evident progression. Ah well...the mysterious workings of the mind, at least my mind, have to include when it apparently doesn't seem to be working on an obvious level!

Thanks to the Internet, mind mapping can also be done using free software. offers a basic explanation and has a handy program for making very neat and orderly mind maps. My hand drawn maps are colorful and messy. As I explore mind mapping and writing I may consider the more ordered approach.

I will mind map the characters in the new book. I have a general sense of them but not enough depth. I'll post an update on the progress and success or failure as I pursue this new application.

I'll get neat and computerized later- right now I want my pencils, my gigandor drawing paper and inks - I like color, I like words, I like drawing. Whoopee, it makes me happy thinking about it!

Besides, you might also want to check out:

The New Drawing on the Right side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. I read her original book as well as the latest edition. The upside down exercise is terrific. I recommend it to anyone interested in improving their drawing or if you are fascinated with perception.

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I love this book and it is one I reread.

In her article featured on the creativity portal, Linda Dessau references Michael J. Gelb's, How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, defines mind mapping, and offers a good overview of its applications. I read her article but not his book.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hoops and Loops

Occasionally, I miss the basketball hoop the children had. I like dribbling and shooting even though I miss more than I sink. In school I was good at a few sports. Anyone who knows how klutzy I can be may find this surprising. But in junior high and high school I managed to participate without significant injury or humiliation in hurdles, basketball, volleyball, modern dance, and swimming.

These days I rarely swim; have less occasions for one-on-one and probably could only clear successive hurdles with a gun pointed at me, a big, mean automatic. In college I wanted to take a fencing class but ended up in modern dance to solve a scheduling problem. Things change, often not by intent or declaration; the changes are quieter, more seamless or as the case with fencing are practical.

These days sans hoops I have discovered loops. With that discovery comes a deliberate and calculated decision/change.

A fellow writer referred me to a loop, an online general discussion by writers that covers many subjects, like contests, conversations, points of grammar, new works, publishing trends, angst, Q&A, and blogs. This is an amazing and vast resource. It is an active, thriving, online community of writers with subjects as varied and in depth as individual writer's interests.

Following an extensive postmortem on my Golden Heart entry and several revisions, FROZEN brain and writer's block have been huge issues for me. I have several other novels I can revisit but that was also not satisfying.

It is time to move in a different direction, romantic-suspense. After more thought, I am finally committed to take the plunge. I do not do this lightly. My last two years and the pursuit of contemporary led me to place as a finalist in the RWA's Golden Heart contest as a first time entrant. I have done a lot of work yet remained restless and dissatisfied.

Changing directions requires a basic shift in mindset, a new learning curve, and an immersion into the genre particulars. This is a little overwhelming. I probably would not have considered this pre-Internet. The wealth of information and postings via loops helped me make the decision. In the isolated writer's world, networking, fellow writers, and the Internet are one of the most valuable resources.

Growing and taking chances is one of the exciting and disquieting aspects of writing. I feel energized. There may be a time in the future when both hoops and loops are part of my day. Who knows maybe I'll finally take that fencing class. En Garde!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Purple hats, french perfume, and pocket rockets

The messy desk is back...what a tremendous relief. When I am blocked, I clean and my desk is an ordered place. I clean the keyboard with alcohol and Q-tips, between the keys, and the surface. It is a bleak and uninspired ritual and I persist to keep me near my computer...waiting...waiting for the muse.

In the years that I focused on my art, my creative identity solidified, complete with little rituals. Creativity and rituals, creativity and structure, in my wired brain these elements are aspects of being able to paint and write. When I was a younger artist, I would paint and paint, the muse in my heart and mind, never gone. In the rituals was a part of my artistic identity: black tights, eye makeup, lip gloss, long hair, and perfume. The perfume was a counterpoint to the heaviness of linseed oil, turpentine, and oil paint vapors. The rest was just for fun. I'd listen to music, paint long into the night til morning - and slide into bliss.

When I grew up (ahem) and more and more people occupied my waking hours, my little rituals retreated. I got tired of the question, "Where are you going?" as I appeared in one of my flamboyant outfits and smelling of perfume. The message was clear; the artist had departed - there were fewer and fewer works in progress. If I was dressed it must be for a special occasion like grocery shopping, scouts, dinner date, or work.

The happy dances in black tights disappeared. I have never been a public person; I'm not good with an audience. Yet, somehow I lost my private space too; no one to blame, it happened. In my artistic days, I was about the creative act and the expression - the artist made visible. Jeans, awesome shoes, short skirts, ties, hats, eye make-up, and lip gloss - the outward expression as I worked on my latest painting. Canvases lined my walls, works in progress and blank, beautiful canvases ...waiting.

Look artistic, smell artistic, live artistic, do artistic, think artistic, all the package equals artist's life. That was my mantra.

As I traveled thru the parenting and social complexities of family, my creativity transferred to storytelling/reading, artful cakes, children's outside art shows, how many different ways could I arrange the furniture, and moving bushes outside.

Recently, one of my daughters dragged me into Ultra, the makeup mecca at Pier Park. What an uncomfortable and fun several hours that became. I was made over in the low key way I am most comfortable with and it was an improvement. As I was checking out the clerk held up one of my purchases and joyfully announced to the small crowd, "one pocket rocket." I went red; for some maddening reason I still blush. I had unwittingly purchased a lip gloss that is marketed as a pocket rocket compete with a hologram of a very fitful and lovely male named David who disrobes as you apply the product. All of which she demonstrated to me and the crowd. Oh, and he smells like dessert.. Welcome to the new and improved lip gloss.

There is nothing to be done to apply what I have learned or am now learning to the past. But today and tomorrow offer possibilities and hope. Here I sit back on track with my writing, with my favorite purple fedora, french perfume, and David; even my paints and paintbrushes are near. What fun! Write on...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Between the covers - Reading for fun

I love Mondays. The day is like a mini New Years day; I have survived another weekend to arrive again at a new beginning. The week stretches before me, a little celebration of possibilities, rife with opportunities.

For years I have read quite a bit for research and market study. Reading for pleasure fell to the bottom of my list. I am taking the week to do just that - read for the fun of it. Rather than reaching for the book before I sleep, I'm reaching for it during the day. It strikes me as truly indulgent to do this.

I'll continue ee cummings - Poems 1923-54, Michio Kaku - Hyperspace, and James Kelley - Lego-Mindstorms Programming Guide. And will read a couple of other authors, Elizabeth Strout - Olive Kitteridge and David Sedaris - Naked.

A few nights ago I reached for a favorite book for the comfort and pleasure it offers. I had forgotten the power of a good book, a good read. I was transfixed by the cadence and the emotion of the poetry. Then I read some of Lester Del Rey's short stories and I was transported - a time traveler. It was one of the best parts of the long day.

I remain surprised at how the structure of our lives is determined in small ways. The choices we make either directly or by omission can seem insignificant. But these choices direct our path, determine in no small measure who we are and the texture and substance of living. Reading is a simple joy.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Why we do it

It's funny what prompts inspiration and insight. Yesterday I found myself thinking about boundaries and what is entrenched - sacrosanct.
As old as I am I discovered something about myself- surprise.

There are few things that hurt my feelings. I'm immune and if not immune; most of the time fairly protected. I've had a lifetime to perfect those defenses. But I realized yesterday- two things cut deeply- automatically. Both are about my creative endeavors.

One is disengagement- a disinterest that is I don't care to read or view your work.
The second is value. Is there value, beyond the immediate in what I share? Is there a connection, a communication worth rereading and experiencing again?

In this immediate and short attention span world of twitter, facebook, email, and blogs perhaps I will become hardened - buck up to the trend. And those two surprising triggers will go the way of other sensitivites. But I suspect these two reactions are tied to my creative psyche.

It is evident to me that although writing is a lonely pursuit; it is an intensely social act. What prompts someone to sit and write is probably as varied as the individuals. Yet, I believe the end goal is a profound need/desire to communicate, to share, to connect. For someone who suffered from extreme shyness and has felt alienated most of her life; this realization struck me hard.

When I write, it is like when I paint. It is a private place- a flow removed from the daily mechanics of living. I agree with the characterization that painting/ writing (creativity) are a state of being - a flow. That experience continues to be one of the most profound and intense of my life. I had no idea how earnestly I desired to share, to interface socially. I am still looking for that connection.
Writing - creativity are the best of me- even though I have not reached/produced my best work. For me there is nothing more personal than writing and painting, than sharing one's creativity. It is what I have to offer.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

the power of yes

Back to my blog after a break. I meant to be here sooner rather than later but in the final analysis I do what I can when I can. Often, it seems the action is painfully slow if I apply measurements. So, I try to measure things of more consequence like the weight of a raindrop versus a dewdrop, the velocity of ideas, and the power of doing.

I am witness to some positive and forward movement in another writer's career. Since this writer is also a close friend, I have a terrific vantage point. What I see gives me hope and helps me in retooling some of my practices and assumptions.

Several things have propelled this writer as I understand it from what we have discussed and what I have gleaned.

1- An abiding belief in her work. Repeat the mantra. I am writer, it is what I love and will do. This is not to say she has not had doubts. The final few weeks before her break were the most intense I witnessed. Fraught with self doubt and exhausted by the rejections, there were times I know she wondered if she would "make it". How much can one frail writer's ego endure? Turns out, much more than you would think. Try over 186(I think) at last count.

2-A support system of writers who share her dream, believe in her talent, and believe in their talent. Add a shake of K. Gibran's directive that Work is love made visible. Viola - an important network for bouncing ideas, rewrites, and reminding one another after the umpteenth rewrite to wish upon those falling stars (after pausing to absorb and jot a few notes about the beauty of the night sky). Reciprocity-in the middle of the day, the night, returning the energy invested by reinvesting in other writer's works and struggles. My friend introduced me, a loner, to a community of heart, brains, and tenacity. I'm no longer flying solo with no net.

3- The Work, the Art, whatever you use to describe that which is produced should be the best it can be. Your best- each and every time - that is what you as a writer/artist owe to the effort. This means rewrite, rethink, redo. For me this is one of the most powerful aspects of writing - bending, folding, morphing creativity. There may not be any new ideas; most writers have heard, "I had that idea for a book." How we tell the story, the characters who they are and the emotions they evoke in readers, this is where I think there is newness.

So, a heartfelt thank you to my writer friend for keeping me in the loop and energizing my dreams again. And a huge congratulations for crossing over into actualization. Well done!