Thursday, March 25, 2010

 

Exercising the Write Muscles

I'm watching snow fall in Denver as I write this.
My family and I have been on a vacation of sorts for more than a week. I've been enjoying my childhood haunts and playing with my kids. I've had a chance to finish reading a novel and start another one. A client re-configured assignments, so I've had only e-mails to draw me near to the computer. No deadlines to interfere with my focus on fun.
While the play and fun has helped to revive some of my creativity, staying in a place that is not conducive for writing for more than a week has dulled my writing abilities.
I have always had an understanding about how important it is to write regularly, but because I write regularly, I rarely have had a chance to test that understanding.
Now I have.
My writing muscles feel sluggish. My brain feels slushy.
I'm enjoying my vacation, but writing this post is making me realize how I may have to start exercising my writing muscles before returning home.
Otherwise, I may need a to take a writing vacation once I'm back from my family vacation.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. When she is not on vacation, Elizabeth contributes to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

 

Motherhood creeps, jumps and leaps on the page

Happy Mother's Day to all creative souls who give birth to a piece of writing, nurture it and, if with luck (and a few other ingredients), watch it spring the wings of independence as a published work, lovingly caressed by devoted readers.
This past busy week, while my mother visited, I turned in a piece of work to an editor for a new-to-me publication. I had researched, drafted, re-drafted, re-researched, and coaxed my husband to read it (twice!). It was a tight piece of writing about a complicated subject. Word-by-word, I was proud of it.
After I turned it in, I had some back and forth with the editor. We tweaked it, outside influences creeping into my original piece of writing. Improving it to become a better piece of writing. When the editor asked me to send my invoice, indicating they had accepted the latest draft, I was thrilled.
As I sent the invoice off, I noticed another e-mail from the editor. My piece had been sent on to another editor and there might be more changes coming.
As I wait for them to maybe send it back, my mind (and heart) are going through a checklist about why they might not like this "child." But my creative work has been released into the world and I need it to stand its own.
Enjoy your day and try to find a creative spark to nurture and release into the world.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach. She writes about motherhood at Coastal Carolina Moms and creativity at TheWriteElizabeth. The creative spark she hopes to nurture today will revolve around a Tiki Bar on a sunny beach.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

 

Which side of your brain do you trust most?

Ever since I finished writing a nonfiction book proposal a few weeks back, I have been contemplating the concept of the creative side of the brain competing with the literal side of the brain. The ol' right brain/left brain coming into play. Or perhaps warring factions.
I like to find a fountain pen and brainstorm, writing curlicue words interrupted by doodles on luscious pieces of paper. I like to write and play with words. I frequently like to edit those words. Admittedly, I'm not sure researching and discerning the market information for my book is my forte. Don't get me wrong, I love to research and expanding or following an idea. But it seems like the research portions of the proposal should be more objective, not the subjective like the creative portions seem to be.
What do I mean by subjective? Just like finding an agent, as the writer, you determine who you think your audience will be. But you have no real way of knowing who exactly will read your book, so you research other books that may be similar without the important ingredient of *you* and what you bring to the book. You are unique. How do you quantify that? How can you be objective about you? And, if you aren't being objective, does you literal side of the brain assert itself to the right side, insisting on being heard?
Fortunately, (I think!) I worked on the marketing research first, letting my right brain rest. Then I focused on the more creative aspects, sort of eating the vegetables before getting to the chocolate cake.
Does the creative side of my brain understand that? Will it appreciate that I consider it chocolate cake and perform for me when I ask? Or do I somehow need to start treating the left side better to rile up the right side of my brain, making it jealous?
What does your right--or left--brain think about all this?
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a creativity coach and the moderator/main blogger for CoastalCarolinaMoms. She has her own blog, TheWriteElizabeth, where she discovers creativity. Please note, no brain cells were harmed in the creation of this post.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

 

Which is the most important part of the equation? Money? Creativity? Books?

For two weeks, I've been in the throes of working out a collaboration agreement for a nonfiction book proposal, not to mention the pitch and the proposal. At one point I spoke to a creative person/writer friend about what a collaboration agreement entails and how to shepherd the work into print.
It seems every discussion of traditional publishing (which is the avenue I'm following) leads to a discussion of self-publishing (which my friend is considering). Often, it seems, financial considerations recede as a creative person "just wants to get my work into the hands of my readers." Oddly, when I've held a book to which I've contributed, it has been a thrill...but I've never actually met anyone who has read one of those books. The check for those works were maybe less thrilling and sometimes, in those books, my creativity might have taken a secondary role to my skills as a writer.
Fortunately, as I spend time Twittering or blogging, I believe I am able to reach my readers and I'm able to tap into my creativity. Not having an editor can be a fabulous feeling, but I cannot physically hold my work--I've even settle for reading one of my books in a Amazon Kindle. But, then again, when I look at the analysis of the locations of blog readers, I'm amazed at how far my reach can be on the Internet.
So, in the mish-mash of this post, I guess I'm trying to sort out which is most important: to keep plugging away at writing for traditional publishing? To write your heart out and self-publish to reach your audience (including writing rambling posts like this one)? To keep your eye on the financial bottom line? And where does creativity enter the equation? What are your thoughts?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a creativity coach and the moderator/main blogger for CoastalCarolinaMoms. She is also a freelance writer and ponders daily doses of creativity at TheWriteElizabeth. Once she shakes away all these ponderous questions about publishing, she plans on returning her focus to the book proposal. Really. Well, maybe, she might have to think about what to eat for lunch.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

 

Fueling the creative fire

As I get geared up for offering a few local, free seminars on reconnecting with creativity, I've been diving into a lot of books on writing and, of course, books about creativity. I've been focused on lessons of creativity for the attendees. Of course, one of the elements of creativity I keep running into is the fact that reaching into creativity is often not a linear path.

I spend a lot of time writing and I know how hard I may work on a piece and how much time I may spend editing it. Spinning a creative phrase or teasing up an image. I take pride in what I write and try to fine tune it as much as possible. (Although, admittedly, I don't always catch every mistake much as I would like to!) But frequently, I wish my craft would take a back seat and let my creativity take over. Lately, I've been spending a lot of time over working and over thinking a few queries and essays and not hitting my stride on figuring out the angles to a few pitches. My creativity seemed tapped out, even though words still arrive on the page.

So, after a couple weeks of endless deadlines, frigid days, and children getting sick, I spent last week reconnecting with friends and letting e-mails pile up, instead of sitting in front of a computer. In doing so, I realized how talking with people can add fuel to my creativity. The exchange of ideas can reach inside and re-stoke the flames of creativity.

Laughing and spending time with people has not only helped re-energize me for the upcoming week and its projects, but it has given me insight into a few queries I've been working on.

Such an enjoyable week made me glad that creativity is not linear--and that sometimes we need to walk away from our creative selves to find them again.

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Elizabeth King Humphrey is a creativity coach and the moderator/main blogger for CoastalCarolinaMoms. She is also a freelance writer spending more time each day seeking creativity in every aspect of her day. Even if that happens to be creative sleeping and dreaming.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

 

What does it take to enjoy ALL your writing?

For the past couple days, I haven't been enjoying my writing and I blame my lack of time for my creative work.

I seem to just churn out assignment after assignment while the querying machine is working overtime and I'm giving my Web site a badly needed overhaul. Meanwhile, my creative projects remain buried, my journal is gathering dust and I feel exhausted. But I convince myself it is okay, because I'm able to bill for my time. I'll catch up on these other projects later.

In this economy, it seems foolhardy not to keep up the marketing and the queries to stay in front of every editor possible. But during the time when I love being paid to write, I forget to spend time on the writing that gives me joy. I scurry about, working to prove that I should be hired and that I am worthy of the next assignment.

Just like making time to exercise or spend time with friends or family, creative projects (in my case creative writing) help to give me the fuel for other projects. Instead of excluding these projects as a waste of time because of the bottom line, they need to be embraced during the week and nurtured.

Obviously, we have responsibilities to handle throughout our week, but creativity and fueling our own passions will keep us healthier and happier in the long run.

Are there times when you aren't enjoying your writing? What is it that you blame? How do you get around it? What are some of the things that inspire you to write?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a creativity coach and the moderator/main blogger for CoastalCarolinaMoms. She is also a freelance writer, columnist and blogs for wilmaville. She will be writing in her journal later today. She promises. Really. At least after she finishes this one article....

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

 

When do you do your best writing?

I had the pleasure of traveling to BlissDom09 in Nashville over the weekend--a conference of more than 300 bloggers. The keynote address was given by Jen Lancaster, who has her fourth memoir coming out in May.
She has a wicked sense of humor, a contagious laugh and I enjoyed her talk immensely. And I know I probably would have even if I hadn't been sitting next to one of her biggest fans (if not her biggest fan).
Often I bemoan the fact that I don't always have all the time I would like to follow my creative work to its completion. (How many of us have ideas scrawled on grocery lists or on notepaper tucked in as a bookmark?)
I have a children's book that moves higher up the pile of my creative work, only to push all the other ideas and creative work down. And that is just one pile.
Listening to Jen Lancaster convinced me I need to follow through and (again) set attainable goals. Amazingly, she convinced me of this even as she admitted to having a marathon writing session in the months leading up to her deadlines--8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for weeks on end. Mind you, I don't have the publishing contract(s) yet, but certainly honoring the creative work is one big step towards moving the book up the pile--or something else and spending even an extra 15 minutes on it.
She mentioned that, according to Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, it is a lot of hard work, amassing up to 10,000 hours to become good at something. It is not going to be your talent that guarantees your success, but spending time at your craft and celebrating that you get to do it. Even if it is just a few extra minutes a day.
Celebrating your craft--what a fantastic way to celebrate you!

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a creativity coach and the moderator/main blogger for CoastalCarolinaMoms.com. She is also a freelance writer, columnist and blogs for wilmaville.com. She knows she needs a couple extra minutes each day to spend creatively, but she's been enjoying the energizing company of the BlissDom and WOW! women.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

 

Bucking the Trends

It never fails. Once a Harry Potter-like phenomenon hits, dozens of YA books about wizards and magic follow. Some are successful, while others fall into literary oblivion. A huge chick lit book is made into a major motion picture with Hollywood's hottest stars slated to star in it? Expect chick lit to fill the bookshelves in the next year. This is what happens when trends hit the publishing industry. A lot of new writers will get excited and want to jump on the latest bandwagon, prompting scores of them to blindly send out queries and/or manuscripts, explaining why their book is better than the current bestseller.

This is not always the best approach and here's why:

1. Publishing is a slow business: By the time a writer gets a final draft of a manuscript finished, it could be at least six months to a year after the hot new trend debuts. (If it only takes one month to churn out a "polished" manuscript, there's small chance it's really polished.) Once you start on the querying road, it could be another six months to a year before you get a "yes" from an agent or publisher and then another year or two until the book is actually published. Guess what? The trend is probably dead by then.

2. The trend is not really your style: Say the trend is romance with a quirky heroine; she swears like a sailor and chain smokes, but is really kind to puppies and elderly ladies. If this is right up your alley, it'll show with each enthusiastic word you put on paper. If you're more the crime scene analyst type who's trying to catch the latest serial killer and you force yourself to write about the quirky heroine, chances are she won't ring true and you'll hate every word you have to write about her.

3. Many agents aren't interested in the latest trends: While some agents leap onto the latest bandwagon, some are more concerned with writing that will last the test of time, writing that will become the next generation's classics. The last thing they want to see is the next Narnia chronicle; they want a hero who readers remember long after they close the book.

Instead of spending the next year or two of your life hoping to publish a book whose premise will be outdated and tired by the time readers get their hands on it, spend it crafting a book whose characters you love, whose story is true and whose trend is timelessness.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

 

Women as Writers: Take What's Useful...

A few months ago, I seemed to keep running into the same theme concerning women as writers: that once women start families, the vast majority of them stop writing.

I read it in Alice Walker: A Life, where she recalls one encounter with a woman she upset with her assertion that having more than one child hampers a woman's full creativity (I'm paraphrasing). Ms. Walker, of course, only had one child. The woman who reacted was bothered by the assumption, prompting her to write a letter to the author, who in turn told the woman that she should take what is useful and ignore the rest.

On one hand, I often say that same thing: take what is useful and ignore the rest. On the other hand, it does nag at me when I continue to run into the idea that women aren't allowed their full creativity when children come on the scene. When men become fathers, no one expects them to stop writing, but for women, who most often are the primary caregivers (whether they work outside of the home or not), unless she's a bestselling author, she can be expected to put her writing on the back burner.

If you've always been a writer, this can be akin to setting your dreams on the back burner, on a low fire and watching it slowly die.

Yes, it can be more difficult to find time to write when you have children, but if writing is truly your passion, what you were called to do, then it shouldn't matter if you have one child or five or ten. We all find time for what we truly value, whether it's reading, exercising or scrapbooking.

Of course, this may hit closer to home if you're a mother, but whether you have children or not, take what's useful: you're a writer, and ignore the rest: the idea that women always have to sacrifice the best of themselves.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

 

How to Put More Creativity Into Your Writing

While preparing a speech on, “How to Present a More Creative Speech” for an audience of 800 Toastmasters in Dubai last year, I realized that not all people (and this goes for writers, too) are or feel they are creative. I thought that the exercises I devised for these Middle Eastern public speakers might be useful for writers.

According to a popular scientific theory, those of us who rely on intuition and who seem naturally creative, are right-brain thinkers. Those who are more analytical and logical, have a more well-developed left brain. For my audience in Dubai, I designed the following guide offering some activities to help my fellow Toastmasters to become more creative. I thought that you might like to try some of the activities on this list. In fact, if you feel that you are not naturally creative and you would like to loosen up a bit and feel a little freer, I suggest that you pursue all six of these activities often.

1: Go out and play. Join in with a group of kids who are playing a game, jump rope, play with a puppy or a baby or go out dancing.

2: Get involved in an art project. Work on a paint-by-number kit, do mosaic or weaving, pursue creative gardening, a needlework project or a craft, for example.

3: Read a children’s story out loud to a child. Exaggerate the voices of the characters. You’ll have fun and the child will love it.

4: Enjoy something without analyzing it. Oooh, this is a hard one for left-brain thinkers. But it’s an excellent exercise. Take cues from children or a kitten.

5: Solve a problem using intuition rather than logic. Here’s another difficult challenge. But you can do it—I know you can.

6: Find a role model/mentor. This might be someone who you feel is creative—observe this person, copy him/her and ask them to help you to become more creative.

Here’s a quote by artist Mary Lou Cook. I think it really sums up the definition of creativity. “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.”

Patricia


Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer, workshop leader, lecturer and the author of 25 books. To learn more about creating and producing a book, order her latest book,The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Bookhttp://www.matilijapress.com. Visit her informative blog at www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.

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