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Posts tagged with: inspiration

How To Find Your Magic

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Do you have your green on? Leprechauns, gold and magic surround this holiday, but as writers we must employ a bit of creative “magic” every day to create characters, worlds and emotionally moving stories. Many call this magic their muse.

Originally a Muse was any of the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology presiding over song and poetry and the arts and sciences. The term has come to mean “a source of inspiration, especially: a guiding genius.” (Merriam-Webster)

Our muse is our creativity, an internal source we draw upon whenever we need to create something new or solve a problem. Which is very similar to the term, lateral thinking (coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono), which means the solving of problems by an indirect and creative approach, typically through viewing the problem in a new and unusual light.

People are born with creative ability, no more or less than the others around them. It is the tapping into this ability, thinking laterally, that helps the artist create new and inspiring projects.

So, what can we do to tap into our well of creative waters? Lure our muses out of hiding and conjure up our magic for the pages of our manuscripts? Over the years I have developed a few techniques to build the muse-alluring rainbow and follow it to the end to find my pot of gold (okay – yes, that was stretching the metaphor a bit for the sake of the day).

Clear my desk. I can’t think about my WIP when there are bills piled next to my computer or kid permission slips or my list of a million little things that need to happen. The clutter pulls my attention away from the book and my muse refuses to waste her time coming near me.

Make a cup of chai latte. I’ve addicted my muse to hot chai lattes. I make them at home to save on cost and limit them for the calories. But if I’m stuck and trying to immerse myself in my book world, the spicy taste of cinnamon mixed with hot milk, black tea and cardamom pushes me right in.

Find my playlist. At the beginning of a new book I create a musical playlist with songs that represent the time period and songs that help me understand the characters (which is why my iPhone has both Gregorian monks chanting and Eminem). I don’t listen to music every day, but when my muse is playing hard to get, the music lures her in like the Pied Piper.

Cut and paste. I’m very visually oriented, so I like to see what I’m writing about. Consequently, I collage my stories, or at least the characters and settings. At the beginning of a new project, I take a day or two to look up pictures of places and people, print them off and glue them to poster board, manila folders or blank books. I also cut and paste them electronically if I don’t have time to pull out the scissors and glue (using One Note). I actually brainstorm with pictures, discovering backstory and plot details in fun or creative images. I prop them up in my line of sight (on my clean desk) when I write.

Collage for CAPTURED HEART – Scottish Historical Romance

Walk. There is something about fresh air and rushing blood that gets my creative energy sparking. If I dwell on a scene while walking, dialogue pops into my head. It is almost like my muse is skipping along, flicking ideas at me until I grasp one and we run with it. By the time I get home I’m usually itching to start typing.

Free Association. One idea I’ve yet to try is called Word Spit (yes, I came up with the name and I’m sure you could come up with a better one : ). Take a blank piece of paper and a pen. Without thinking, start writing down random words, anything that pops in your mind. Often these words start taking on a pattern or interact with one another as they flow from your subconscious to the paper. Take some of the words and try to apply them to your plot or characters, and see if they spark inspiration or a new direction.

We all have a muse, our inspiration for creating art, expressing our ideas, and molding something beautiful out of lifeless material. She or he is a one-of-a-kind personal guide to finding our pot of gold. You just need to lure her in and grab on.

Do you have any techniques for bringing forth creativity? How do you find your magic?

 

 

Write On 2017! – Time Management

For the past eight weeks in our Write on 2017 series, we’ve explored ways to stay on course and on fire about our writing. Today we’re going to wrap up the series by discussing the most asked question I get when I give productivity workshops to writers, and that is, “How can I find more time to write?”

If you’ve already made writing a priority (remember this little clown?), it’s not a matter of finding time but better using the time you have. Here are a few quick tips:

1. Clock in for Business – While most of us do not have time clocks to punch when we start writing, there are a number of ways to “cross the threshold” into work. Sit in your writing chair and declare that your workday has begun. Put up a sign that says “Writer at Work.” Or create a writing log and sign in. The key is creating a block of time to write and then honoring that commitment. You wouldn’t cheat an employer out of an honest day’s work; don’t cheat yourself.

2. Minimize Distractions – Turn off all notifications on your phone. Disconnect your computer from the Internet. Tell your family or roommates that you are not to be disturbed unless there is a fire or flood. If it helps, pop in ear buds with the music of your choice or use a sound-streaming service such as Brain FM to improve focus and productivity.

3. Create to-do lists – Before your dedicated writing time, jot down everything you’d like to accomplish, things like number of new words you want to write or pages to edit. Planning ahead will keep you focused and provide a roadmap when you’re not sure where to go next.

4. Report to a goal or productivity partner – Every Monday I send an e-mail to one of my critique partners reporting what I accomplished in my writing world the week prior and what my plans are for the week ahead. She chimes in with praise or cyber hugs then shares her weekly writing update. We’ve been holding each other accountable for more than ten years, and I can tell you I’ve kicked out some pretty impressive word counts in the hours before our check-ins.

5. Tackle tough stuff first – If you’re struggling with a scene or a bit of research, get to it while you’re fresh. Tackling the tough stuff first will free up your mind and will most likely give you a boost of confidence.

6. Writing Sprints – If you’re having a hard time getting started, set a timer for twenty minutes and write, even if it’s something like, “I don’t know what to write” or “This story is giving me fits”. The act of engaging your fingers and putting words on the page should loosen things up. In addition, knowing that you have only a set amount of time will motivate you to get something down. Check out the Ruby Sprint Schedule, which runs during our annual Winter Writing Festival.

7. Reward yourself – In a business where you don’t receive a regular paycheck, it’s important to recognize your accomplishments. Did you finish a particularly rough scene? Dip into your stash of chocolate. Did you meet your writing goals for the day? Walk the dog or watch the next movie in your Netflix queue. These little rewards go a long way in helping you make big progress.

Now it’s your turn!

Your Assignment: Identify at least one thing you can do to better manage your writing time. Write it in the comment section below. Then, DO IT!

This is Part 8 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Write On 2017! – Your Vision

Every Monday I volunteer at a house of hospitality for pregnant and newly parenting women. Essentially, it’s a homeless shelter. Many of our moms have no family support or are newly released from jail or battling addiction.

One of the first things our moms do once they arrive at the house is put together a vision board. On this vision board they place words and images of what they want in their futures. For most of these women, this is the first time they’ve done “vision” work. Their reality: it’s hard to think about the future when you’re looking for your next meal or fix.

I love listening to our moms talk about the things on their vision boards, everything from graduation caps to shiny new baby cribs to words like SOBRIETY in giant letters. I love to see the looks on their faces as they picture a better life for them and their sweet little newborn babies. I feel their anxiety, excitement, and, above all, hope.

Visions are powerful tools.

Today in our Write On 2017! series, we’re going to talk about visions and how you can craft and use a vision to motivate you and guide your writing career.  Simply put, a vision defines the desired or intended future state of your business. Remember when we talked last week about missions? Missions INSPIRE; visions are what you ASPIRE to.

What makes a great vision? Visions are short, no more than a couple of sentences. They clearly outline your overall future aspirations without providing details of how those aspirations will be reached. And unlike missions, visions will and should change as you reach new milestones or change direction.

Some big-biz examples:

  • The earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online. (Amazon)
  • We will be the model for high quality journalism in the 21st century, strengthening the cultural, civic and social fabric of our democracy. (NPR)
  • The world’s beer company. Through all of our products, services and relationships, we will add to life’s enjoyment. (ANHEUSER-BUSCH)

Your Assignment: Craft your vision statement.

Time to have some fun with this one. Get yourself in a quiet, thoughtful state of mind. When I give this workshop in person, I’ll turn off the lights and let the room settle into a nice, peaceful silence. Ready?

  1. Close your eyes and envision your writing career FIVE years from now. What are you writing? Who is surrounding you? What is your financial situation? What is your state of mind? How is your health? Your spirits?
  2. Close your eyes and envision your writing career TEN years from now. Has anything changed? (It’s okay if it changes…or not. My goal is to help you deepen your thought process.)
  3. Now write “I am _____________________” and fill in the blank. Don’t worry if you need two or three sentences to list your aspirations. Once you get the thoughts down, you can narrow your focus. Or not. 🙂

Here’s my vision: I am a best-selling author who creates compelling stories that touch the hearts of my dedicated readers. A bit simple and not-too-sexy, but right now that’s how I visualize my future. Likewise, your vision must be you; it must come from a deep and true place. 

Feel free to post the above exercise and/or your vision in the comment section below. Write on!

This is Part 3 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1 here. Part 2 here. Image via Wiki Commons By Evan-Amos – Own work, Public Domain.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Write On 2017! Your Mission

Picture of frog

Have you heard the phrase, Eat the frog first? It references Mark Twain’s famous quote, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” When  I worked in the corporate world, this phrase essentially meant do your toughest work first, and the rest of the day will be a breeze.

Today I’m here to help you craft a writing plan that will help you stay on course and on fire about your writing throughout 2017 (Write On 2017! Worksheet). And it all begins with the Mission Statement. I’ll be honest, IMO, this is the single hardest task we’ll cover in the next seven weeks as we craft writing plans. It took me a week-long retreat in Mexico with some writing friends and a couple of margaritas before I finally got my head around my mission statement.

Simply put, a mission statement is a formal summary of your aims and values. It’s the heart of who you are and what you do. Above all, your mission should INSPIRE you.

Missions are short, about twenty-five words or less. Management guru Peter Drucker suggests your mission be short enough to fit on a T-shirt. Missions are broad; they don’t box you in.  Missions should withstand the test of time and changes in your writing and the industry. Finally, missions are realistic (practical and workable) and easily understood.

Corporate America has spent millions of dollars crafting mission statements to inspire and guide. Here are some good ones:

  • To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. (GOOGLE)
  • To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. (NIKE)
  • To make the world a more caring place by helping people laugh, love, heal, say thanks, reach out and make meaningful connections with others. (HALLMARK)
  • To spread ideas. (TED)

Your Assignment: Craft your mission statement.

As I mentioned, crafting my mission statement took me a couple of whacks. The task felt so big…so important. But when I reminded myself that missions are about that little nugget, the heart of who I was as a writer, the task got much more manageable. So what’s at the heart? You, your product, your aims, and your audience. Here is a quick exercise to get you thinking about these factors.

  1. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your writing
  2. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your ideal image from READERS’ POV
  3. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your ideal image from YOUR POV

With these words/phrases in mind, take a crack at writing a mission statement for your writing. Start with MY MISSION IS TO…

Here’s mine: My mission is to tell great stories…that capture the hearts and entertainment dollars of a loyal and ever-growing reader bse.

Feel free to post the above exercise and/or your mission in the comment section below. Write on!

This is Part 2 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1 here.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Write On 2017! Prioritize Your Writing

Say it with me, writer friends: It’s time to stop clowning around and get serious about my writing! Maybe you’re a new writer hankering to finish your first novel. Or maybe you’ve been in the writing trenches a while and need to take that next BIG STEP. Get an agent. Self-publish. Quit your day job. Regardless of where you’re at in the writing journey, you can increase productivity and improve process through a thoughtful and focused writing plan.

Over the next eight Wednesdays I’ll share proven strategies and exercises to keep you on course and on fire about your writing. In these interactive posts, you’ll learn practical steps to prioritize your creative life, draft a writing plan to hold you accountable, and explore exercises that inspire and affirm. These blog posts are culled from one of my most popular writing workshops: Write On! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting, & Time Management. If you’re a worksheet-y kind of writer, see the Write On Worksheet.

Today’s topic: Prioritize Your Writing Life

If you’re serious about your writing, you must honor it with your time, talent, and treasure. Bonus: When you take your writing seriously, others will too, such as spouses, editors/agents, and readers.

Do you see that little clown above? That’s my youngest daughter. After I first created my writing plan twelve years ago, I told my girls, including that cutey-patooty clown, that I was setting aside time every day to write. If my girls needed something and I was at my writing desk, they would ask me, “Mommy, are you on the clock?” If I said yes, they knew I needed to finish my work. This was a pivotal moment in my writing career. Words and book contracts soon followed.

A few quick tips to prioritize: 

  1. Regular Writing Schedule – Writing is a muscle, and it works best when used regularly. Follow a writing sked that works for you. Write 500 words a day or 5,000 words a weekend. Or write from 5-6 every morning or 9-11 every night. When I’m drafting a book, I write 2,500 words a day, Monday-Friday. Interestingly enough, I became more productive (and less weary) when I decided to take weekends off.
  2. Writing Environment – Create a place to write. Home offices are great, as you can close the door, but don’t get caught up looking for the “perfect writing spot.” I use a desk in my living room. A friend of mine writes at Starbucks every day. If it helps, put up a few inspirational quotes, a vision board with your latest book project, or even a Writer-At-Work sign.
  3. Dollars and Cents – Set aside money for writing conferences and craft books. A solid investment now leads to greater future returns. Even though writing conferences exhaust me, I’m wonderfully productive once I get home. Perhaps it’s all that shared energy and filling of the creative well. 
  4. Writing Groups – Join a writing organization (RWA, Sisters in Crime, ITWSCBWI, etc.), great places for education and motivation. Likewise, critique groups and writing challenges can help boost productivity. Check out the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival for a heaping dose of writing inspiration and productivity challenges.
  5. Writing Plan – Create a writing plan and review it at least quarterly. Check the Ruby blog every Wednesday for the next eight weeks, and I’ll help you craft a simple but effective writing plan for 2017. 
  6. Your Manifesto – Say it. To your family. To your friends. And most importantly, to yourself. “I am a writer…a storyteller…an artist who paints with words, and I shall nurture and honor my creative soul.” This above all else.

Your Assignment

Now it’s your turn. Identify at least one thing you can do to prioritize your writing life. Write it in the comment section below. Then, DO IT!

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

 

 

There Is No Use Denying Who You Are

This is a republished blog posted here on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood as Closet Writers that was felt by many of our readers. I hope it will connect with a few more as we go into a new year.

Closet writers break my heart. Any reason a writer keeps their writing a secret is just wrong, unless the writing is extremely personal and not meant for other’s eyes. I was a closet writer.

There are many reasons why writers remain in the closet and the Rubies have had discussions concerning them. At some time or another, many of us have faced the road-blocks that kept us from being us.

Some writers think they haven’t read enough books to be considered a writing expert. In their minds, if people find out they write, they must’ve read every single book ever published. I’m here to tell you that I’ve never read Huck Finn, War and Peace, Fifty Shades Of Gray or a zillion other classic or best-selling books. Does that confession make me less of a writer? I think not.

Being shy, it can take years for some people to join a writer’s group. A long, long time ago, when the internet was young and a thing called dial-up was used to connect to it, writers actually went to public meetings to connect with those of like minds. Walking into a meeting can be daunting to a wall flower. I know because I’m an introvert. The internet and the ambiguity it provides, has made it easier for some writers to connect to others, but not all. They remain in the background, unsure of themselves. To them, I say, “it’s always the quiet ones who make the biggest impression when they’re ready.” Rest assured most writers are genuinely nice and more than willing to help other writers in any way they can. You only need to be serious about the craft to be considered a writer by them.

A closet writer might feel they don’t know enough about the craft and until they know all there is to know they remain in seclusion. I’m not sure if there is anyone out there who knows it all. Well, maybe King, Patterson or Nora. Only they can answer that question. The point being, the majority of writers will openly admit that they don’t know everything and that they learn something new all the time. Join the club that strives to be better at their craft.

My writing sucks. It very well could, but are you the best judge? You’ve read and studied and wrote and edited. Now it’s time to trust yourself and share your work. If a critique offers constructive advice, weigh it, and then accept it or not. In the end, it’s your story. There is no greater joy for a writer than when a reader enjoys your work. The only way to know that joy is to share your gift.

There are those who really, really want to be a writer but struggle to do the work required. Writing is hard work and takes a huge amount of time. Completing a work is possible a word at a time. Commit to the work, or perhaps another hobby would be better for you.

I’m fortunate. I’m a writer who has had the support of family and friends for many years, but that wasn’t always the case. I once was a closet writer. I was told that my dreams of becoming a published writer were stupid and thus I hid my passion. Now, when I read the notebooks I filled during that time, I cringe at the darkness that shadowed my life.

One day, I finally broke and said to myself, “This is my life and I don’t want to look back and wonder what if I’d taken one step. Would my dreams have come true?” That was a year of change for me on many levels. It was a hard trial but through it I learned I had the support of many family members. I read craft books. I joined a writer’s group. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I attended conferences and workshops.  I found more support through my writer friends. I met the man of my dreams and he became my biggest supporter. I will love him forever for letting me be me.

Life doesn’t give us do-overs, but it does give us second chances. Take the step toward being you.

 

Autumn Jordon is the award-winning author of Perfect and Perfect Hearts.  She enjoys writing  contemporary romance, romantic suspense and thrillers/mysteries.  Subscribe to her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com and be entered into members only contests. perfect-box-basic-2

Accidental Hitchhiker: The Story Behind the Story

hitchhikerPeople often ask writers where we get our ideas. Mine come from anywhere and everywhere—a dream, a snippet of conversation overheard in a bar, a walk with my husband. After that initial burst of inspiration, I build on the idea. Expand and improve it as only a romance writer can, making it more. More exciting. More funny. More romantic.

My first published work was a short story in Woman’s World magazine. I’d decided to try my hand at short stories, and when I sat down to brainstorm, the first thing to come into my head was a decidedly unromantic incident from my college days, in which I’d managed to get into a car with a strange guy because I thought he was my ex-boyfriend.

See, my sophomore year in college, I had dated this guy, Troy, who drove a blue Toyota Camry (name, make, and model changed to protect the innocent). Things didn’t work out, and we went our separate ways, but every time I saw a blue Camry, I’d find myself looking closely to see if the driver was Troy. This got to be pretty annoying, because there were a lot of blue Camrys on the road.

One day, as I was walking home from class, I saw yet another blue Camry. I did my usual check. The car was going pretty fast, but the driver looked like he could be Troy–same color and length hair, eyes disguised by sunglasses. As the car passed me, I turned around to see if the sticker Troy had on his car was on the bumper. It wasn’t.

Yet another blue Camry that wasn’t Troy’s, I thought, and continued on my way.

A minute later, the Camry pulled up next to me. “Want a ride?” the driver asked.

Oh, I thought. It was Troy after all. Why else would the driver have turned around to offer me a ride?

I was so convinced it was my ex that I was in the car with the door closed and my seatbelt fastened before I realized that the reason Troy looked so different was because he wasn’t, in fact, Troy. He was a complete stranger who had stopped to give me a ride because he thought I’d been checking him out.

Let me stop right here to explain something–I am not an adventurous person. Take the least adventurous person you know, and then imagine someone way less adventurous. That’s me. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t even make eye contact with strangers, much less get in their cars.

Cue total freak out. I was certain my life was over. I was speeding down the road with some random guy. He could be a rapist. He could be a murderer.

But, as it turned out, he was a perfectly nice person who drove me straight to my apartment. As he dropped me off, he said, “Well, at least you got a ride home out of it.”

But, actually, I got much more, because as I thought back over the incident, my romance-writer brain kicked into gear, massaging the chain of events and the characters until I had something totally different. Something funny and romantic. Thus was born my first Woman’s World short story, in which the heroine thinks she’s getting into her brother’s car, but is actually getting into the car of the hot neighbor she had been crushing on. If you want to see how the two versions of the story differ (in just about every way possible), you can read the fictional version at my website.

And that’s one of my favorite things about being a writer. I can take a terrible real-life experience and reimagine it in a totally different, infinitely more satisfying way.

What’s your favorite part about being a writer? Are there any crazy real-life stories you’ve fictionalized?

A Picture Paints A Thousand Words (I Hope!)

People always ask where I get my story ideas. It’s a complicated question…and yet it isn’t. Because they never come from any one place. Sometimes an article I read on the internet will get the wheels turning. Sometimes an overheard conversation sparks something. And sometimes it’s a picture.Lane 10

A picture like this one. 

My son went snow tubing with friends this past winter. When he came back, he had several pictures. This was one of them. I chuckled and told him his facial expression seemed a little sinister. But as I looked closer, I caught a little flash of red just behind him. A small marker that said Lane 10. And there it was. The idea and title for a new book. A thriller. One where something terrible happens on Lane 10.

Right now that’s all it is. The smallest kernel of an idea. But once I get a chance, I plan to explore it just a little more. And hopefully, one day, that photo will give birth to a brand new book–painting not just a thousand words, but tens of thousands of words.

And there you have it. Short and sweet. I would love to hear your thoughts!

If you’re an author, do you have an interesting story about where you got one of your ideas? If you’re a reader, have you ever read a book and wondered how on earth the writer came up with the plot?

Consolation Day 2015

Silent PhoneA few days ago (March 26th, to be exact), calls went out to several dozen very talented writers and authors in the romance community. I’m pretty sure this is not news to you.

That same day, hundreds of folks who had entered did not receive a call. I admit, I was one of those. Woe is me. If you’re stopping by here today, I’m guessing you may have been one of those waiting by the phone, disappointed when it didn’t ring (or it rang, but it was a telemarketer or family member or someone else equally unaware of how the ringing of the phone on that particular day can make your blood pressure skyrocket).

But after the phone call never came, and I commiserated with my friends, and I had a lovely cocktail (or two) with my husband that night, I picked myself up and wrote this post—because I know the healing power of venting (in a civilized, non-attacking way). I love this annual Ruby tradition because it reminds me that I’m not alone. There are so many of us striving for the brass ring, trying to get ahead and have our talents recognized.

Oh, and I love this tradition because I get to give away PRIZES! Fabulous, healing, nurturing, monetary or delicious prizes!

Finding the Aha Moments

Last week, for about the twelfth time, I found myself befuddled up to my eyeballs over a romantic suspense work in progress. Whether you’re a panster, like myself, or a plotter, at some point you could find fresh ideas hiding in the deepest, darkness recesses of your mind amongst a pile of crappy overused ideas. When this happened to me in the past, I’d walked around for days mulling over my problem, my plot’s direction, which is perfectly fine, if you don’t have a deadline and or have time to waste. This time I purchased a few books (Snap: Seizing Your AHA Moments by Katherine Ramsland and Your Creative Brain by Shelly Carson, PHD) and learned for one that mulling is an acceptable process to release your muse. What I also learned, so far, that the more tricks you use to open the gates the faster that will happen.

We’re like the grains of sand on a pearly white beach. Besides having the potential to be stuck in places we really don’t want to go, we’re totally awesome and unique and we all learn in different ways. And in combination of ways.

It’s alleged that we have seven mind-sets (seven ways of learning and using our minds): Absorb Brainset, Envision Brainset, Connect Brainset, Reason Brainset, Evaluate Brainset, Transform Brainset, and Stream Brainset. I’m not going to divulge every detail I’ve learned from these books so far. I suggest you check them out for yourself.  However, I will share a concise description of each mindset and an exercise you can use that key to unlock your mind’s muse.

Absorb Mindset: Ability to absorb new information in a non-judgmental way to be stored for use later when you can use say information to see associations between objects and to remain open to your subconscious.  

Exercise: Pick a space, indoor or outside. For five minutes, really absorb your surroundings. Notice the colors, textures, lines and shadows.  Then touch, listen, smell and taste. Next pick an object and think of a new way use for it. We’ve all seen the Knorr Side Dish commercial where a cork screw is used as a coat nail and a fork is used a cabinet handle. That is the same idea.

Envision Mindset:  In this mindset we deliberately imagine ways to solve problems, using absorb information. This mindset is well known to creative people.  The exercise below will help you increase your mental imagery. It turns off the stream of unwanted thoughts.

Exercise: Close your eyes and take three deep cleansing breathes. Now image your happy place. Where you feel the most relax? Picture yourself there. Allow yourself to feel the surroundings. If your recliner, feel the texture of the material against your skin, the firmness of the cushion surrounding you, the angle of your body as you relax. Are there sounds around you? Soft music or maybe a ball game on the T.V., or your children playing at your feet.  How about smells, tastes.  Allow yourself to enjoy your happy place for a few minutes.

Connect Mindset:  This mindset allows you to spawn many ideas without concerns to how they will play out. You’ll think out of the box. Successful use of this mindset could lead you to become overwhelmed with creative possible ideas. You’ll become energized and excited about your work.

Exercise: Set a timer for three minutes. On a piece of paper write down as many uses for a shoe you can think of. Then set the timer again and write down all the things you can do with a shoelace. Set the timer again and jot down the consequences of a torn shoelace.

Reason Brainset: This brainset solves problems logically, using all your storage memories and knowledge. It allows you to control what thoughts occupy your mind. It is deliberate and necessary as you complete your creative project. It is the perfect mindset to flesh out a whimsical idea and make it realistic. It helps you motivate action, manage time, increases chances for success, strengthens self-confidence and heightens sense of control over your life. It’s one mindset I’ve consciously worked on every single day, several times a day, over the last several months.

Exercise: You will stop particular unwanted thoughts or train of thoughts as soon as they enter you mind by simply saying, “Don’t go there.” Or “Thinking of this is not my on my hour’s agenda.”

Evaluate Mindset: Coming up with fresh ideas is vital is our line of work, but judging whether those ideas are indeed worth spending time one is also essential. This is where this mindset comes in. Three factors are necessary: active judgement, focused attention and impersonality. We need to judge our work against others of which it’s competing. Not us against them. This is about our work, not ourselves. In order to do that, we need to get some distance from our work, judge it with respect, don’t toss the work mid-project, look at each of its parts and evaluate their merits, and look at the work from the point of view of your audience. Be flexible. Consult others. Be hard on your work and not yourself!

Exercise: On a sheet of paper write the titles of your top ten books of all time.  Imagine they’re no longer available anywhere or ever again. Now, ( I know you’re going to hate me)  cross off five. Behind them, write why you crossed them off.

Transform Mindset:  Is all about emotion. Our emotion. Our negative emotions and how they affect our memories and visions. It’s important we know this mindset and how it disturbs our creativity. It is a what-if state, just like the envision mindset, but unlike the purposeful imaginings of the later, this mindset’s themes are worry, anxiety, self-pity or regret.  But this mindset can help with your creative project. Our characters are an extension of humanity.  People have flaws, negative thoughts, regrets. We can use this mindset to write timeless characters if only we draw on the transform mindset.

Exercise: Pick three things in your home that you feel best represents you: personality, taste, qualities. Now write a paragraph about each and how they relate to you. Did you learn anything about yourself? Was there a negative or positive view of yourself?

The Stream Mindset: We refer to this mindset as being in ‘the zone.’ It is the unique melding of self and action. You lose your sense of self and focus on the world at hand. But how do we achieve this mindset.

First, you need the expertise to enter the stream mindset. Second, you need to be engaged in an activity that intrinsically motivating you. (Intrinsic motivation means that you’re involved in an activity because of an internal award and not an external one.) Do you write for the joy of writing?

Exercise: On a piece of paper jot down five activities that had your blood surging and your mind whirling. These activities are your passion.

 

As I said at the beginning of this blog, I’ve only touched on the information contained in these two books. In fact, I’m not finished with either of them, but what I’ve learned so far has helped me to be more productive, to think out of the box on my wip, and be more acceptable of the amount of work I can accomplish in a day.

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  • Elisa Beatty: Oh, my goodness, Kate! Congrats on completing a wonderful series!! I’m sure it’s...
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