Sunday, March 25, 2012

Writing With Joy!!!

A few years ago I bought an oil painting at a local consignment shop. It was $15, on the stretcher bars but unframed. It's a lovely depiction of pink and white striped tulips in a clear glass pitcher, and named 'Peppermint Candy'.

I know the name because the artist, Helen Evensen, wrote it on the back of the canvas. Beneath the title she also wrote, in pencil,

Tulips: Red, pink & peppermint stick!! Painted with much joy in May, 1999 by Helen Evensen, painter!!! Cedar, Michigan.

All those exclamations are Helen's. If you are of a creative bent you can't help loving her enthusiasm. She painted something, she was proud of it, she was proud and excited to BE a painter!!!

The tulips hang on the wall across from my desk so that, everyday, I am reminded to take joy in the process, as Helen did. Even the unfinished work--and there is one tulip that looks not quite complete to me--is a beautiful thing. A thing to take pride in.

The writing community nurtures each other, and that is a good thing, because we are all of us, a great deal of the time, working on something that's not quite done, never quite finished or perfect in our eyes, even once it's published. But it's still beautiful and deep down, even the most jaded among us must treasure those little joyful moments when we say to, and of ourselves, Author!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Science of Creativity

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, How to Be Creative, explored the unlikely influences that have been found to spark creative juices and genius. The author explains that sometimes what seems like a sudden, magical leap between a stubborn spot on the blank page and the words and thoughts that come out of the blue to fill that spot aren't so much magical, as lurking in the back of the brain, waiting for you to put your guard down and let them through.

The science of creativity has found that the answers often come in the oddest, most disconnected ways. Putting the problem on the back-burner and letting the brain relax a little can actually allow it to plumb the depths wherein the answer lies!

This probably explains why I get some of my best ideas while driving the car, blowing drying my hair, or...reading an article on creativity! This is not to say that good old fashioned sweat and editing aren't also necessary, but the match that lights the brilliant idea in the first place is often fueled by what might seem like unusual circumstances and activities.

The author, Jonah Lehrer, lists 10 quick creativity 'hacks' to get you going. Some might ring a bell for the creative type. Daydreaming, for instance, is probably high up on my list. I'm sure my family often thinks I'm doing nothing in particular when I'm actually working my way through a plot or crafting a scene in my head.

Not surprisingly, being a little drunk...or high, I imagine, brings out the creativity. I'm sure plenty of police officers would agree with this. Still, while intoxication clearly did wonders for Samuel Coleridge when he wrote the classic poem Kubla Khan, I wouldn't recommend this as a daily writing practice. Especially if you're a one-drink kinda person, like yours truly! So, my advice on this one is to take advantage of it when it comes along, but pass it up as a lifestyle.

Other tips include getting out of your comfort zone and traveling, meeting new people, exchanging new ideas. Those all make sense to me!

Another is surrounding yourself with the color blue, which leads to 'relaxed and associative thinking.' Great idea...if I hadn't just painted my office sage green...that's a lotta wall space to paint again. Of course, I could do a lot of daydreaming while I paint!

photo courtesy of

Friday, March 2, 2012

Wine Country Inspirations

If you've been following my blog you know I'm currently tackling a writing challenge. When I first took this on I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to work on. I had a couple projects in the works, plus final edits of Framed, my upcoming mystery that I hope will be the first of the Kay Conroy mystery series! (check out the cover in an earlier post!)

But the gauntlet of a writing challenge called for just that, a challenge. In the back of my mind I'd thought that I might like to tackle a sequel to The Shell Keeper someday, but that seemed a little presumptuous considering I'd only just published it. Then came the wonderful reviews and, even better, readers who kept asking what happens next?

Pretty soon, I was doing the same thing, and when the challenge came along, I started to give my ideas more than a passing thought. I kinda/sorta knew where I wanted to go, but research, I found, can be a very inspiring thing. While The Shell Keeper was set in a fictional town inspired by Dillon, Colorado, the reservoir, and the lovely little town of Breckenridge, the sequel moves the story west, to where the Rocky Mountains give way to mesas edged by the Colorado River, and the earth and climate form a magically nurturing mix conducive to lush vineyards and ripe peach orchards.

The area around Palisade, Colorado offers much inspiration for the book's fictional location, but I have to admit the research is too much fun. Years ago I had friends who moved to the area to start a very successful winery. We've lost touch over time, but their adventure, and my brief excursions in the area left indelible memories that obviously tempted me to revisit it in fiction.

Of course, I hope my research will actually take me there in person someday soon. I'm thinking a visit to the vineyards, perhaps for the next harvest and Winefest, would be very inspiring...and tasty, too!