Nov 6, 2013


Happy NaNoWriMo! A writing friend asked me the other day if I had any time management tips to help her get through NaNo. Here’s what I told her:
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” -- Mark Twain
Confession #1 – I am a not-so-closeted self-help junkie.

One reason I gravitate towards them is because they inevitably offer great stories.  Even books where the advice doesn’t quite fit you (and I’m not sure I’ve ever read one where I didn’t pick up at least one new thing) can be appreciated for the telling of a good story or two.

Confession #2 – I tend to buy self-help books the same way I do fiction – Cover Art. I’m one of the 22% of readers who give great importance to a book cover. I’ve found some of my most favorite books this way – Big Stone GapGarden SpellsThe Last Time They Met (whose cover is much more impacting in a book store than on line). I’m also a sucker for clever titles.

So when I saw the above book several years back from Brian Tracey, my intrigue went to high and I had to have it.

Thank goodness, too. To this day the premise of the book is a go-to strategy that has snuck in my subconscious, and, like a song earwig, springs itself on me, usually when I’m under a false impression that everything is hunky dory fine.

Eat that Frog is based on the Mark Twain quote above. Tracey re-frames the quote so that your frog =’s the hardest, hairiest, rottenest and (probably) most important task you have to do in any given day and it should be tackled before any other thing in your day.

Frogs are also tasks we are most likely to procrastinate. Like getting our words in each day for NaNo.

Eating your frog first thing sets up your day to end well with easier tasks, and it ensures you’ll have energy to clear your list because you accomplished something big first, which is energizing. If you have two frogs to eat in any given day, his advice is to eat your ugliest frog first.

He goes on to offer 21 tactics to help support finding and swallowing those croakers.

So to answer my friend - whenever I find myself overwhelmed by my to-do list, I go frog hunting.

What’s your best advice for surviving Nano?

Nov 4, 2013

Can Stella Get Her Groove Back?

(photo courtesy of Bob from the

A Creator’s guide to surviving the winter of our discontent when tragedy strikes.

 “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist or [sic] understand.” – George Orwell, Why I Write

My four year old is in a blocks phase. Actually it’s a tower phase. She’ll build a tower with almost anything that presents itself – those jelly collections at the pancake house, vegetable cans from the pantry, the new pile of library books…

I admit that this is an OCD game I can get behind. I love to see how tall we can get the tower before it starts to wobble, before the architecture cracks at the bottom and causes the top to finally topple.

Several weeks ago my family experienced the unexpected, tragic death of a close family member.  As regular readers know, I was already in the middle of a major life transitionwith a cross country move and change in employment, all of which are on every top “life stressors” lists for a reason.

Since the funeral, I understandably haven’t been myself. It was enough to send my creative balance toppling.

The emotions of creative types often live at the surface and run deep. That’s a good thing, serving us well as we channel it into whatever creative endeavor we’ve chosen.

This latest event was a reminder of what a delicate balance the whole thing is - too much emotion and we are blinded, unable to produce or produce at our best, cascading into a spiral where we end up chopping off our ears or obliterating ourselves with cocaine (no worries, my ears are still attached and I'm not in need of rehab. And, no, that's not the denial talking).

So what’s a girl in mourning who typically writes lighthearted, funny mysteries to do?

For me what’s suffered most is my social media “platform building”. This blog for instance which hasn’t had an update for weeks. Anything even remotely twitter related…I want people to go away. At least for a minute. I need time to process, to get back into balance.

My writing (thankfully) hasn’t suffered. I’m not writing comedy, but I’m writing. A new WIP I’ve had churning for a while. I won’t know if it’s any good until I get past my current funk, but words are hitting the page and that means there’s at least a foundation to edit against.

In the meantime, I’ve been contemplating others in my situation. I’d previously posted 25 things to do when you just can’t write.

But this is different. This is how to get writing again. Or what to do when you shouldn’t  be writing because that balance just isn’t quite there. Because tragedy. Or life.

What follows isn’t one of those “you should do this” list. Managing emotion, grief, sometimes depression, for any creative type is such a personal thing, often cultivated over years. But if you're recovering from a tragedy or even an all around snapping turtle blues rough time, it might give you just one new idea, one different perspective, one extra thing to try that might help re-balance your stack. 

Here’s what’s been helping me get my way back to center:

·         Be PhysicalScientifically proven to be better than antidepressants. A lot of writers find walking a big comfort. Me, I demoed my bathroom. Nothing like a five pound sledge smashing into porcelain tile, followed by the revving sound of the saws-all as it clears the drywall. Seriously, better than therapy.
·         Lower ExpectationsHappy is not the goal if you want to be happy says the geeks. Productive, good goal. Not sad – I’ll take it. Out of my pajamas earns stickers on the star chart.
·         Create Anyway – Writers write. It will probably suck. It will feel awkward. You’ll know it’s not your best work. But, magically, it will help. It will heal. It will be a release.
·         Mixed Media therapy – If you’re a writer, paint. Painter? Sculpt. Your insides are probably longing to create still and doing something in a media outside your norm will give your ego permission to suck and do it anyway which will allow for the above bullet to do its thing. I’m currently experimenting in pumpkin and candy corn.
·         Routines Help – eat, sleep, work, kids, write time…the same thing, every day. Routines allow the body to function so that the mind can work through its stuff unburdened by having to make every day decisions.
·         Meditate – Every day for 20 minutes. Whether you manage to do it well or not, the act of trying, the act of practicing stillness, will allow the soul to take a timeout
·         Purge – find a friend you can unload to, write a letter that spews it all out, join a support group…find a way to get it out in a safe place. See writing as a healer link above
·         Give Yourself Permission - Tragedy is supposed to suck and grief moves at its own pace. Get off your own back and give yourself permission to feel like awful for a while.
·         Ask For Help – I don’t know many people who are good at this. This comes with being a Type A with a bunch of Type A friends. But sometimes we have to realize it’s our only option for moving forward. Whether it’s something small, like asking those around you to carry a bit more until you’re back on your feet, or spending some comfy couch time with a pro, you owe it to those who love you not to let your balance issues get too far out of control. Asking for help isn’t weak. It’s what gets strong people through tough times.

Many of you have sent warm wishes and good thoughts. Thanks for that. Those help too. So does your patience while I’m working to re-balance.

Creative friends – what’s your go to for restoring your balance when life knocks you down? 

Oct 8, 2013

How You (and most writers I know) are Just Like Nicolas Sparks

While trolling the interwebs looking for advice on how to handle my agent “call”, I ran into this series of great post from bestselling Nicolas Sparks on how he landed an agent and ultimate publishing deal.

I highly recommend you read the series. But here is what I learned – Before becoming a bestselling author, he was a lot like you and me.

-        If you’ve received more than 20 rejections, you’re like Nick. -  He only had one offer from one agent. 24 agents said no, even those who had read the novel. The one agent that said yes was fresh out of college and never sold anything before.
-        Even successful writers don’t write the best query lettersCheck out his query letter for the Notebook.- I’m sure back in its day this letter was good, but as members of any of the query websites such as agentqueryconnect or querytracker would attest, this letter would most likely get a quick and tidy form rejection today.
-         If you have a day job and write whenever you can fit it in, you’re like Nick - Before he sold his novel, he had a day job. He fit writing in on the side, and his wife generously put up with him being a consumed writer. He writes five or six days a week. 
 If you have books in the trunk, you’re like Nick - He had two other shelved books before finally making it with the Notebook
 If you’re hoping for even a paltry advance for something you wrote, you’re like Nick. - The day he sold his novel he was hoping for an offer that would pay off his credit card or maybe let them get a second car. Instead, he was offered a life changing million dollars.

The moral of this story is one that gets repeated often in our world – even overnight successes aren’t really. They struggled just like you.

But they never, ever gave up the dream.

How many ways are you like Nick?

Oct 1, 2013

One Size Does Not Fit All

I am afflicted with what is referred to in urban slang as Jesus toes (no offense intended to my Christian friends), or, more clinically, as Morton toes, where my second toe is larger than my first. And not just by a bit. It is head and shoulders above the rest.

What this means in practical terms (besides the fact that if I ever lose a finger, I'm golden) is I am forever having to buy new socks (because sock makers expect girls' feet to slant) and that there are some high heels I can never ever wear, despite how much I covet them.

No one ever thinks that socks, beyond the basic sizes, are not a "one size fits all" item. People assume they are ubiquitous.

Similarly, people often assume that there is a one size fits all system for accomplishing big goals like writing the great American novel, losing weight or starting a business.

I had someone tell me yesterday that if I wasn't writing everyday, I wasn't serious about my writing.

To this well intended person I say - What a bunch of bunk! My foot will never fit in that shoe. And thankfully, after years of foot ache, I have learned that, and now, despite how tempting it sounds, I resist the slingbacks with the shiny buckle.

I'm sure you've heard it all before, too - You must write everyday. You must have a word goal. You must eliminate adverbs...

And it's not just writers who hear these things. Anyone trying to accomplish something, from starting a business to losing weight, will hear similar advice.

It starts innocently. When attempting a complicated new path, we naturally read everything we can, eager to not repeat mistakes of the successful people before us. Over time and the internet (because if you read it on the internet it must be true), that beginners advice becomes instantiated as a law.

But one size does not fit all. We are each built with different metabolisms, productivity and creativity engines and feet.

Whether you are on a journey to a smaller waist line or moving people with your prose, there is no one thing that everyone must do to be successful. Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of bananas.

In my post on how to stop your yo-yo writing diet, I noted the importance of having a system for fitting writing into your daily life, and that's something I firmly stand behind.

But your system and my system may not look anything alike. You need a system that will work best with your style, that supports your strengthens and curbs your weaknesses. For some people, even that won't work for them. They need to be free of the pressure of a system or plan to create well.

The key is to learn what shoes hurt your feet, or in this case, what writing adages do and don't work best for you.

The road to productivity and creativity is paved with self discovery.

So, for anyone who needs permission from the internet, here you go - You may not write everyday. You may not ever have a word count goal. You may be an adverb loving fool with Jesus toes who will never be able to wear the beautiful Manolo Blahniks.

Writer friends, what writing adages have you found most and least helpful? Post them up in the comments.

Sep 24, 2013

25 Productive Alternatives When You Just Can’t Write

Have your imaginary friends stopped talking to you? Is your muse on vacation?

I don’t have writers block. I'm in a writes lull. My main manuscript is on submission. I was working on book two in the series, but if book one doesn’t sell, I might backburner it and focus on a new project. I don’t want to get the new project going just yet, though, until there is some resolution on book 1. No since changing gears if I won’t need to. Besides, starting a new project would be an emotional commitment that I’m not ready for yet.

But I don’t want to be a slug. So if you are like, in a lull, unable to work on a manuscript, here are 25 other things (with resource links) that we can be doing to spend the time productively.

1.       Support fellow authors with shout outs on twitter and facebook
2.       Walk – All the cool writers do it
3.       Pre-write a month’s worth of blog posts around a particular theme
4.       Find and post helpful advice on a writer’s forum –,,
5.       Find, read and review a book from a first time published or Indie author. Nora Roberts does not need your review J
6.       Put critique karma in the bank by being a beta reader or critique partner. I use Ladies Who Critique and Scribophile
7.       Hang out on the internet somewhere you wouldn’t normally – arts, science and food, oh my
9.       Learn one new grammar tip a day. I like Grammar Girl and Daily Grammar
10.   If you aren’t already on it, join and dive in to Goodreads. If you are, up your gaming by participating more
11.   Set up your Google+ profile and presence, (the second largest social community on the web) including linking your author presence so that your picture and bio show in google search
12.   Sketch or draw – It makes you see better
13.   Guest blog – everyone is always looking for a way to mix up their online content and it’s a great marketing tool
14.   Host a contest – big or small work but engenders lots of goodwill
15.   Join a genre fan group – be a fan before you need fans
16.   Go somewhere new – bar, restaurant, concert at the local school. Or try communing with nature scientifically proven to up your creativity
17.   Ride the bus or train – and be amazed at the creativity it inspires
18.   Go somewhere old and act differently – observe how people respond
19.   Take a class – most community colleges and local universities offer cheap, fun classes through their extension programs. Also, check out free online classes
20.   Attend your local government meeting – want to see conflict in action? Go to a town meeting.
23.   Take pictures and tell a picture story
24.   Join a meetup on something you have passion for
25.   Discover your romance name – or other silly things that can inspire you to think differently

 What do you do when you can't write? Share your tips in the comments.

Sep 18, 2013

Stop Your Yo-yo Writing Diet Now!

There I was, in my writers group, sucking down my healthy snack and a good cup of coffee, listening to my fellow wannabe authors round-robin their week’s progress, looking for support to overcome their obstacles. And then it hit me – substitute words written for pounds lost and I’m in Weight Watchers for Authors.

Last post I talked about time management for writers and starting the new year with goal setting. But most writers have writing goals. The problem is, we aren’t meeting them. The number one issue facing many aspiring writers is not their writing talent or craft development, it's figuring out how to manage a writing life and a real life.

Goals and Desire Are Not Enough

Like the aspiring pound-dropping, healthy eater, we often start the week determined to meet our word or chapter goal, only to find ourselves at week’s end disappointed with the results. It was a bad week at work or with the family, we tell ourselves. Or the migraine flared up. Or I couldn’t possibly stick to the plan with the season premiere of Breaking Bad tempting me worse than a desert table at a Christmas party. So the manuscript sits until we can haul ourselves back to it through brute force. Before we know it, we've been on and off the yo-yo diet so many times our wip is dizzy…So we tell ourselves that we need more discipline, like the yo-yo dieters who tell themselves they need to have more willpower.

To stop the yo-yo writer's diet you must have a success system.

As much as dieters can’t willpower themselves to a gym routine and a ten pound weight loss, writers can’t discipline themselves into getting a 1000 words a day on the page. Instead we must put a system in place that sets us up for success. It is not enough to have a goal to write. To effectively execute any goal or change, we need a reinforcing set of support mechanisms that will keep us on track even when our discipline and willpower aren’t flowing at a 10. The system is like the safety net under the tightrope - if we fall, the system bounces us right back up.

What’s in a good system (and will it cost me 3 low payments of 19.99?)

Like no single diet works for everyone, everyone’s writing system will be different, as well. But a good system will have three things in common:

  1. You system must maximize your strengths
  2. There’s a segment of management theory that says you can’t help someone overcome their weaknesses, you can only play to their strengths. We all have times when writing comes easy.  For me, the words flow easiest in the morning. I’ve found that I’m a burster who likes writing big chunks in a sitting and then not writing (or preferably doing anything else either) at all for a while. My system doesn’t include a daily word goal. Instead, I have a week’s goal based on a daily average and I arrange my day so that it starts with writing when possible.

  3. Your system must help you avoid your triggers to failure
  4. When I’m tired I can’t write and I eat too much. By the time I’m tired, I have no hope of stopping myself from eating or motivating myself into getting in the words. Part of my system is to ensure I’m managing my schedule to keep from getting too tired. And when I know I have tiring times coming up, I don't include writing in my plan. 

    To do this, you must know what your triggers are and that typically doesn't happen unless we are analyzing our failures. This can take some time to discover, but with each new discovery, should come an adjustment to your system.

  5. Your system must help you stomp out your procrastination derailers
  6. While triggers suck your will to write, derailers take your will and have it focus on something else. If you are someone who gets lost in social media, install a social media blocking app, turn off your wireless or take your laptop where there is no wifi. Are you supposed to be writing on your lunch hour but find yourself chatting with colleagues in the lunch room? Start taking your lunch and eating at your desk.

A writing system is not one thing. It is a series of things that work together to get you off the binge-purge-self-esteem-bashing cycle of the yo-yo writer.

And like with dieting, if you fall off the writing wagon, evaluate what happened, tweak your system to compensate if needed, and get right back at it.

Now, while I eat my doughnut,  hit me in the comments with what is working well for you in your writing system and what you know you need to tweak? 

Sep 16, 2013

3 Tips to a Successful Writer's New Year

Despite having been out of school more years that I’m comfortable admitting on a public blog, I am one of those people who still looks to the Fall start of school as the beginning of the new year.
In addition to the New Year being a good excuse to drink champagne, it’s also a time for reflection on the year past and time to focus on what comes next.

For those who have followed the short life of my blog you already know my last year has been filled with change and adventure.

But with the New Year, it’s time to look forward. 

As you will discover in my bio section, in my day job I am a certified project manager (or a PiMP to use my daughters lingo).  I also have four kids, three pets, two businesses,  two houses (one being sold and one new house that needs work), one manuscript on submission with publishers and two WIPs.

Translated – I am currently a task juggling fool.

Luckily, two things that I have absolute passion for are task/time management and the science of creativity with an emphasis on how these two can intersect.  The only way I have been able to survive my current load is by experimenting and finding secrets to time management and applying those that work. While there is certainly plenty of advice in the world on time management, not much of it is focused at writers and creative people. In fact, I often find that many creative people have bought into the myth that creativity cannot be managed. That is a theme worth exploring.

To that end, for the next while I will be focusing on time/task management for writers and how science can make your creativity more efficient.

So, no time like the present. Today’s post focuses on the New Year and making your writer year the best it can be.

3 Tips for a Successful Writers New Year

1. Set Goals - 

As a writer, if you do nothing else for yourself, please, please, please set a goal or goals for the coming year in writing.

Quick tips to good goals:
  •           Do not worry about how you will achieve your goal. Simply have one makes you more likely to achieve it. Your subconscious is a powerful thing. I will focus more on goal achievement in coming blogs.
  •           Your goals must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time bound) – example – will write 4,000 words a week for the next six months
  •           You must write your goals down – You’re a writer, so this should be obvious, but so many writers I’ve met don’t do this. They have a goal in their head. This won’t cut it. Science shows that one of the best ways to achieve your goals to put them in writing.
  •           You must keep your goals a secret – This is counter intuitive and flies in the face of what we yoyo dieters have been told, but studies show that when you share your goals, you are less likely to achieve them.

2. Commit to Doing Something Different – 

Many of you have tried goal setting before and failed miserably. To achieve your goal this time, you must commit to doing something different, to trying new things to get you there. You don’t have to know what those things are yet, but you must write down that you will be open to exploring and then set time aside each week, even if it’s only a small amount.

3. Write Something Personal - 

I’m in my second week of being on submission to publishers. Before that, it was the agent chase, with its countless rejections (I am now represented by the delightful Lotus Lane Literary). Before that, it was trying to finish my wip and managing beta’s and critique groups while juggling everything else, before that…before that…before that…

I am sure your writer’s story looks similar to mine. In all of the chasing it is easy to forget why we write, the power of writing and what has meaning. As I was researching something on story structure last week, I ran into a post from Larry Brooks that was a great reminder to me of the power of words:

Larry reminds us that in the pursuit for fame, fortune, glory or discovery of our work by the rest of the world, the most important things we will ever write are ones to those closest to us. As our family and friends put up with a lot for us to pursue writing, remember them in your writing this year. Adding this step to your writing routine and goals is sure to make you feel better about your writing.

And a happy writer is a productive writer.

Are you setting goals this year and have you written them down? Share your tricks in the comments.

Sep 11, 2013

A change you can believe in: 3 Tips for Managing a Move, Change or Transition

Over 40 million people in this country move each year. This year, I was one of them.

Our cat won’t poop because it’s in a strange place. 

There wasn’t room in the car on moving day for her old litter box so we bought her another and now she won’t poop.

I feel like my constipated cat. 

My house is full of boxes. My bras are all missing and I don’t know where my favorite pair of boots are. The new backyard looks like something off of that show “After Humans” with its several months of untended overgrowth.

There is no coffee joint within a fifteen mile radius.

And, then, unpacking, I found the below. It's a teapot that sits on a cup with a great message. I've had it forever, a gift from the husband from another move.

I know moving is good. Moving is best. For my physical health as well as my mental well being. 
But change is still…change.

So here are 3 tips for dealing with change for my 40 million movers-in-arms

Tip 1: Advice from Curly - Find Your One Thing

Find one thing to make "normal" for yourself. For me, I have to have one room that is completely box free and looks like someone happily lives there. For you it might be finding that one place in town that serves the pumpkin spice latte you used to get back home (if you do please share)

Tip 2: Say Hello Until They Say It Back

Every morning in Under The Tuscan Sun, the old man brought flowers. Every morning she would try to say hello, needing the connection. Every morning he would ignore her. Until he didn't. Eventually even ignoring an action becomes part of a routine signaling you have arrived.

Tip 3: Be Patient

Growing roots takes times. But with persistence and patience we can all bloom where we are planted.

How do you manage through tough transitions? Share your secrets in the comments!

Sep 5, 2013

How You May Be Like the Metal Band the Scorpions

I had a whole other blog post planned for this week, but when I saw this article about the best hair metal bands of all time, snubbing both the Scorpions and Def Leppard I had to interrupt my regularly scheduled post. 

Now, I’ve previously mentioned my borderline obsession with the Scorpions in my "10 Things About Me" section. (no worries guys, I’m Still Lovin You!) So, to me, the article was tragic on that level. What the heck was the LA Weekly thinking – Hanoi Rocks in the #1 spot, seriously! <Face palm>

But their misguided list was also a good reminder that taste in any art is so subjective. I’m currently working with several authors on their agent queries and manuscripts, many of whom are frustrated at the constant subjective nature of their rejections. When I queried I got over 30 “not right for me” responses. I also got requests to read my full manuscript and eventually offers for representation. That makes me lucky. I cleared the first hurdle of traditional publishing. I’m now back in the game, on submission, waiting for those similar “not right for me” responses to roll in from the big publishers, crossing my fingers and hoping the stars line up right for my book.

If they don’t, though, I won’t be giving up.

While cleaning out my mom’s house after she passed away,we found tons of old poems and essays. They were good. At the very least they had something to say. But instead of them being seen and appreciated, they were locked away in a box.

Thankfully, this is not my mother’s era anymore. As most of you are aware, the publishing industry is in the midst of either a revolution or a civil war (depending on your perspective). Even though I’m an avid reader, I’m new to understanding the writing market place, so I hadn’t yet really formed an opinion.

Finding my mother’s stories shifted that. With the plethora of publishing options these days, there is no reason for stories with something to say to be locked away in a box for children to find when the author dies. And if you are really committed to writing for a living, then, as Kristine Rusch tells us, self publishing is a must in your toolbox.

That’s not to say I think everyone should rush out and self-publish or that the self-published world doesn't have some things to figure out to ensure that published stories find the audience that might be out there for them. Marketing is hard. Writers have to do the right things to ensure their stories are audience ready (like copy editing for peats sake) and honing their craft.

But if you've done all of that only to find yourself without an in into traditional publishing (or singing or art) and you believe that what you have to offer has an audience, you should find an alternative outlet.
There’s this scene from Sister Act 2 between Whoopi Goldberg an a reluctant choir singer that sometimes goes through my head as I’m reading my rejections:
Whoopi: I know you want to sing. See. I love to sing. Nothing makes me happier. I either wanted to be a singer or the head of the Ice Capades. Hey. Do you know who the Ice Capades are? Don't roll your eyes. They were very cool. I went to my mother who gave me this book...called Letters To A Young Poet. Rainer Maria Rilke. He's a fabulous writer. A fellow used to write to him and say: "I want to be a writer. Please read my stuff." And Rilke says to this guy: "Don't ask me about being a writer. lf when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing...then you're a writer. "I'm gonna say the same thing to you. If you wake up in the mornin' and you can't think of anything but singin' first...then you're supposed to be a singer.
So screw the LA Times Weekly who thinks LA Guns is better than Whitesnake. Go Poor Some Sugar on It and Rock It Like a Hurricane - keep writing, painting, singing and most of all – Go find your audience, the people who love you as much as I love the Scorpions even if the LA Times (or anyone else) don't think they (or you) rate.

Aug 30, 2013

Simple Trick to Boost Creativity

Growing up, my room was a constant disaster zone. Of course, I knew right where everything was. Now that I'm an adult, my work space isn't as bad, but I'm not a picture of neat. Worse, I find myself channeling my mother by nagging my kids to clean up their mess. Turns out, while I might be inspiring them to make healthier choices with their tidy surroundings, I'm also most likely squashing their creativity. Read on for the science.

The Premise: Different Environments Inspire Different Behavior

Researchers from the University of Minnesota  detailed in Psychological Science did three experiments to test the effect of the orderliness or disorderliness of the environment on generosity, healthy snack choices, creativity and preference for classic vs. new.

The Result: Messy Matters

Want to lose weight or be more generous - clean up your space. Participants in the study in orderly spaces chose eat healthier snacks and to donate more money to charity

Want to be more creative - work messy. Those in a disorderly space, with papers strewn about on the table and floor, came up with more creative uses for ping pong balls than their counterparts in a neat, tidy room.

The reasoning behind this seemed to be hinted at in the third experiment that showed people in messy rooms are more open to new labels, whereas those in orderly spaces choose to stick to the traditional.

Read More About It

Interested in reading more info on how environment effects productivity and creativity? Try A Perfect Mess from Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman.

Having recently moved, I have disorder in spades right now. My writing juices should be flowing!

Next time your spouse or boss nags you to clean up, tell them you're busy being creative.

Aug 29, 2013

You might be a writer if...

     If you are constantly turning everyday things - stories in the news, people you meet on the street, objects you see lying about - into stories, you are probably a writer.
     For me, it’s not that I see things and try to imagine stories. It’s more of an OCD thing. Once my brain grabs hold of something, the story runs away on its own.
     Such it was when I saw my new blogger template. As I suffer from decisionitis, this was not my first choice in template. (It will most likely not be my last either, thus the picture in the post so that once I do change it, people still have a shot at understanding this post). I was going for edgy and fun, something that depicted my books, which are sexy, humorous, murder mysteries.
     As you can see, this is not that.
     But I was completely captivated by this house on the hill, with the clouds rolling by (which you can’t see in the still picture) . I instantly wanted to know who lived there and imagined the door opening and people coming out, going down the path to somewhere charming.
     Before long, I had a whole murder plot going, with Hill House (now named) being a B&B that overlooks a quaint (not yet named) town on the eve of its opening, with a haute English owner and a dead body on the floor. She has to solve the murder or she can’t open and will lose everything. Then I needed to know who died. I didn’t want to know. My brain wouldn’t quit until it had an answer.
     The Mayor, of course!
     And it’s reunion time, all kinds of characters are in town for it, some of them staying at our Englishwoman’s B&B.  
     The possibilities for this template kept coming. My first mystery is about an ex-socialite, forced to work at a morgue, who is accused of stealing the body of a murder victim for the mob. I can see the door of Hill House opening and the real body snatcher running down the path, body hoisted over his shoulder. And the holiday theme options make me giddy. That house can be decked out at Christmas brighter than the Griswolds.
     I’m sure part of it is because I recently moved to the mountains and partly because the header is animated it invites something to happen next. But until this story is done in my head,  down on paper or someone else strolls out of that door, this is my template. So let me know what you think of it.

     Writer friends – what’s the craziest thing that has given you a story?

Aug 21, 2013

Left Penned

For left handers the fountain pen poses a particular challenge. Us lefties push the pen across the page, while righties pull. That means unless we contort (and believe me, I’ve had teachers make some strange suggestions) we end up with ink all over our hand. Here's a good example.

When I saw this post from Flavorwire  on what famous people write with, I eagerly went to look, knowing that there would probably be a lot of fountain pens. Sure enough.

Despite my pen challenges and even in this era of technology, I’m still a paper writer first. There is creativity that occurs in the tactile effort of putting pen to paper. Like Kerouac, I have a stack of notebooks.

How about you, writer friends – what do you write with? Have you gone totally digital?

Live Somewhere Beautiful

When I was little we moved from Granite City, Illinois to Kingwood, Texas, courtesy of Dad’s job . For my mother, this was heaven…the warmth, the open space, the friendly people with big hats…Four years later, we were again packing the moving van to head back to Granite City. Dad’s job hadn’t worked out. Tears flowed all around.

From that time on their retirement dream was to sell the house and move back to Texas. They saved every penny toward that goal. Conversations often began with “when we retire and move…”
But a funny thing happened on the way to retirement. Moving began to seem like a large chore. The conversations started beginning with “when we retire, being close to the kids…” Eventually it became unmentioned.

One night, I came into the care center my mom stayed at, covered in the latest offering of Wisconsin’s winter. She was in the lobby, sitting in her wheel chair, watching the snow and waiting for me. I’m sure I cursed as I flicked the wetness off of my scaf. Most likely I stomped my feet as much in a childish outburst over another snowfall as to get the snow off my boots.
     “I don’t know why you don’t just leave me for dead and move away from this God forsaken weather,” she said.
     “And be deprived your charming company,” I said, snapping back to my senses and kissing her on the cheek.
     “It’s the only damn thing you really want. Who said that, ‘life is wasted on the youth?’ Got that right.”

My mom passed away two years ago last July.

Today the trappings of my life are in a box, on a truck, headed to the picture in the header of this post, in my effort not to waste my youth.

That's our 15 yr. old in the picture with the truck. She's excited to go to school with people with accents.

Are you dreaming of living somewhere else? What's your plan to get there?

Curiosity Seekers

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