Tuesday, February 19, 2019

(February AuthorToolBoxBlogHop) 100 Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

Let us all rejoice for reaching the third week of February! I say rejoice because it's almost over and because February is the month I've come to refer to as the "blah" month. At least where I live, it's the month where the temperatures reach their most frigid and all that beautiful snow you were hoping for at Christmas time now finds its way to earth. Only now you don't get a White Christmas, you get slick roads without a merry excuse to stay home.

What I find most interesting at this time of year is how motivations begin to decline. Goals that a lot of us set at the end of last year begin to lose their luster. For me, February weather has an especially powerful effect on my creativity. This time of year, I just don't have the same kind of creative mojo and motivational energy that I feel in the warmer months.

When you think about it, it kind of makes sense. When the weather gets crummy we hole ourselves up for protection and as a result we can get a little too comfortable. Maybe you're not attending that coffee shop that you habitually write in anymore or you're no longer attending your writing group. It could also be that you just aren't feeling like your best self (when does yoga in the park resume again??).

Whatever the reason, if you're in a creative funk then I have a list you just may find useful: 100 ways to spark your creative energy. Hopefully these ideas help inspire that little bit of mojo to help get you on track to reach your goals and make you feel like you again.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

  1. Take a walk in nature (without your phone).
  2. Read a book that inspires you.
  3. Write down 3 positive affirmations & meditate on them.
  4. Go to a crafts store and browse.
  5. Sit in a coffee shop.
  6. Color in an adult coloring book.
  7. Buy a new notebook.
  8. Doodle something.
  9. Read a guilty pleasure book.
  10. Make something out of play dough.
  11. Take a nap.
  12. Journal about a happy memory.
  13. Watch your favorite tv show.
  14. Declutter your closet.
  15. Sing in the shower.
  16. Create an inspiration/vision board.
  17. Watch YouTube tutorials on your craft.
  18. Burn your favorite candle.
  19. Organize your work space.
  20. Do a puzzle.
  21. Host a dinner with friends.
  22. Watch the clouds.
  23. Play a board game.
  24. Cook a meal you've never made.
  25. Take a bubble bath.
  26. Create a collage.
  27. Blog.
  28. Keep a dream journal.
  29. Try the Bob Ross challenge.
  30. Read a book on your craft.
  31. Try an at-home facial.
  32. Watch funny videos on YouTube.
  33. Go to a museum.
  34. Sign up for a class at a community or vocational college.
  35. Do a puzzle.
  36. Learn to play a musical instrument.
  37. Bake something and decorate it.
  38. Scrapbook.
  39. Watch your favorite movie.
  40. Take pictures of your surroundings.
  41. Fly a kite.
  42. Create a list of places you want to visit.
  43. Create a brand new beverage.
  44. Watch the sun set.
  45. Read a magazine.
  46. Go watch a musical.
  47. Buy some new clothes.
  48. Go hiking in the forest.
  49. Build something.
  50. Create a photo album.
  51. Go to a concert.
  52. Rearrange your furniture.
  53. Listen to your favorite song.
  54. Repaint a piece of furniture.
  55. Ask a friend to be your photographer and have a photoshoot.
  56. Play with your pet.
  57. Read the Bible and/or pray.
  58. Learn origami.
  59. Do yoga.
  60. Go camping.
  61. Create a list of your favorite places.
  62. Plant a flower garden.
  63. Create a music playlist that inspires you.
  64. Try a new hair style.
  65. Put together your family tree.
  66. Read your favorite blog.
  67. DIY a present for a loved one.
  68. Play a sport.
  69. Get a planner and fill it up with goals and ideas.
  70. Visit an art gallery.
  71. Start a podcast or record one just for fun!
  72. Give yourself a manicure.
  73. Buy some frames and fill them with your favorite photos.
  74. Create a list of your favorite people.
  75. Browse motivational quotes on Pinterest.
  76. Learn to basket weave.
  77. Repurpose an old piece of clothing into something new.
  78. Listen to a podcast.
  79. Build a bird house.
  80. Learn how to make a candle.
  81. Plan your next Halloween costume.
  82. Listen to a new music album you haven't heard before.
  83. Pull out random items from your pantry and create a meal using those items.
  84. Buy some fresh flowers.
  85. Go to an art festival.
  86. Do a crossword puzzle.
  87. Make your own perfume.
  88. Draw a picture of a family member.
  89. Create a list of all the things you're grateful for.
  90. Go see a play.
  91. Start your autobiography.
  92. Plan a Christmas party.
  93. Research one of your ancestors.
  94. Plan a vacation.
  95. Learn to knit.
  96. Build a reading fort.
  97. Sew a pillowcase that is meaningful and stuff it.
  98. Research new places to visit in your hometown.
  99. Go stargazing.
  100. Do whatever it is that you're putting off doing. You've greased the wheels and eventually,
    you just have to ease back into it and get them turning again.

Monday, January 14, 2019

(January AuthorToolBoxBlogHop) Connecting the dots in 2019

When I was a kid I used to enjoy drawing lines between numbered dots and marveling at the way the image transformed in front of me. As I progressed to more advanced puzzles, I found that I often couldn't tell what the image would become until at least half-way through. It's recently occurred to me how similar our choices are to dots on a puzzle.

For me, this year is all about connecting those dots. My mantra, more specifically, is connect.

Have you ever attached your intention for the year to a single word? My first experiment with this exercise happened last year, in 2018. After having taken some serious down time from writing, I had set aside a lot of the personal goals and creative hobbies that I truly loved to focus on other areas of my life. This eventually became the new norm to the point where I even forgot how integral these had once been to my identity. Only once I realized the emptiness I was feeling from the lack of my creative passions could I understand how to solve the problem. Thus, my intention for 2018 became fulfillment.

After I established my word for the year, it's funny how so much changed. Writing became a priority again and I even began to pursue life-long goals I never thought I would. It's as though with every decision I asked myself if it aligned with my purpose for the year.

Now at the beginning of 2019, I find that while I have found much fulfillment in engaging with my goals and creative passions, some of them have begun to seem a bit like randoms dots that don't quite make sense in the greater picture.

So this year is about drawing the lines between the dots and discovering what they all mean together. I strongly believe that our lives don't have to fit a perfect mold and that it's admirable to pursue unrelated goals, but I'm also staying open to the possibility that I may not have solved the puzzle just yet. And that's okay too.

I realize this month's blog is not directly related to writing, but I'm hoping perhaps to inspire others in a similar position to reflect on their own goals for the year and maybe even create your own word. At least for me, writing is so connected to my mental wellness and I find that if I'm feeling insecure about my writing, it usually stems from an issue in my mindset that requires my attention.

So if you're like me and you're setting an intention for the year, what's your word for 2019?

Monday, October 15, 2018

(#AuthorToolboxBlogHop) Monitoring Your *Creative* Bank Account

As we are now approaching the month of November, a lot of us in the writing community will begin to hide ourselves away in the pursuit of drafting a 50,000 word novel. I'm talking of course about NaNoWriMo. This time of year can either be exhilarating or terrifying as you take on what is anywhere between your first and your 50th rough draft. This time of the year can be a great jump start to a new project and a wonderful way to network with your peers and gain insight into the methods of others.

Well, there's no easy way to lead into this. Today I feel compelled to write about burnout. Maybe it's because, frankly, I'm a bit burnt out. Hold that NaNo thought for a second, I'll swing back around.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to pick up my current project after having given it a solid rest. For years, I have been saying that I would pursue my writing as a business and this was the year I would make that dream a reality.

Since then, I have elaborated my outline and completed a much more cohesive second draft of which I am extremely proud. In the pursuit of marketing my brand and my writing projects, I started to build my platform and launched a Youtube channel where I would discuss my writing journey and writing advice for other creatives. I expanded this platform to social media and started a daily routine of posting every writing-related whim and fancy.

As I was tackling my side business on three different fronts, my husband of course counseled me not to invest too much of myself. He worried that I was biting off more than I could chew. But I was so in love with my startup that spending hours and hours online didn't feel like work. At least, it didn't at first.

Flash forward to today, when I am biting my nails as I post my first tweet in two days. My dread is that I'll again lose another 4 followers for this one. Lately it seems that every time I tweet anything, someone is compelled to unfollow me. Are my tweets that bad? Are people that judgmental? I'm compelled to think it's actually better for my platform to not post anything at all. But just when I'm about to give up tweeting all together, someone somewhere follows me.

Social media is a fickle thing.

In all the hubbub and all the joy I'd poured into my writing, I hadn't had a clue that I was slowly draining and depleting my bank account. Not my real one -- thank goodness -- I'm referring to my creative bank account. My well of inspiration.

I thought that burnout was an obvious and gradual progression and that if I started to feel it, I would be able to nip it in the bud. But what I discovered is that burnout works like a sprained ankle. Once it happens, you're a bit out of commission for awhile. Once the body (or the brain) makes it very clear that there is a problem, all you can do is rest up and wait patiently for your stamina to return.

Which brings me back to NaNoWriMo. See, I told you I'd come back.

If you're prepping to participate next month, I urge you that in addition to planning out your writing schedule, you also work in a scheduled "me" time. No, not me. You. I mean a scheduled "you" time. You probably got it the first time, didn't you?

It doesn't have to be long or elaborate, just find some time in all that busyness when you can make a deposit to your bank account. It may seem plentiful, like it could never run out, but it's not. And if all you're doing is withdrawing, well, you end up like me now: fear-tweeting.

So think of the things that bring you pure joy, like going to the movies or knitting or scrap booking. Whatever it is, it may seem less important than your writing, but it isn't. The things that spark your creative energy are equally as important as the writing itself because without them, there isn't much writing at all. There isn't much good writing, anyway.

Another tip to avoid burnout during NaNo -- be super specific with yourself about what your own personal goals are. 

This one is highly important, because you will see so many writers from all levels of experience posting their progress. If you don't have your blinders on with your own project, it's easy to feel like you're not measuring up. Speaking from experience, comparison is one of the least-satisfying methods to drain the account.

So if you are participating in NaNoWriMo next month, I wish you the very best of luck! Take good care of yourself and just remember that even starting that project is an achievement and you should be proud. As for me, I'm going to be taking some time through the end of this year to replenish my account and hopefully return to social media with a new zeal.

Thank you so, so much for following my blog. I hope all the blog hoppers enjoy a wonderful holiday season. Until next year, happy writing!

Monday, September 17, 2018

(#AuthorToolboxBlogHop) Why perfectionism is killing your writing

Hello, fellow writers! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. Today I wanted to talk about perfectionism. More importantly, I wanted to talk about why it's killing your writing.

I don't know about you, but I've always had a positive connotation with perfectionism. To me, it meant a person that would strive for the best of their ability. It meant dotting your I's, crossing your T's, and never sending an email that you haven't reread at least three times. So if perfectionism means striving for the best your work can be, then how could it possibly be bad for your writing?

Let me bring you in a bit closer, to a more intimate look at some of the more debilitating moments of my self-proclaimed perfectionism. Like four years of countless revisions of my first novel because there was always something that needed changing. Throwing out entire characters because I hit a road block in developing their personality profile. If it wasn't perfect, I threw it out. All that time, all that energy, just...gone. All the while, other authors are publishing their debut novels and mine is half-finished, collecting dust in a drawer.

Perfectionism is a sneaky and silent killer of words, because it masquerades as a positive. It's that feeling in the back of your mind that says, "you can do better." And you believe it, because why wouldn't you want to do better? But when you begin doubting every word you put down or your writing shrivels up like a dried piece of fruit, it becomes less of a cutesy little quirk and more of a dangerous threat to your very well-being.

So if you're reading this wondering if you fall into this category, I've put together a little quiz based on my personal experience:

  1. Your perfectionism is causing you to throw out work altogether instead of asking yourself what is wrong and how could you possibly fix it. 
  2. Your perfectionism is causing you to stop writing because what you're coming up with is garbage anyway.
  3. You have had a full day of tasks but you still don't feel productive. Nothing seems to be enough to produce that feeling of accomplishment.
  4. You're afraid to write because you fear you won't produce anything valuable. Everyone will hate it. More importantly, YOU will hate it. 
  5. You expect every piece of work you produce to achieve the same level of success. 

If you're nodding your head at even a couple of things, it may be time to re-evaluate.

Having perfect work doesn't matter if it never sees the light of day. As Marie Forleo says, "If you wait to get it perfect, you'll never get it out there."

I was actually listening to one of her podcasts recently and she had some interesting thoughts about the show SNL. Have you ever noticed how some of their skits go viral and everyone is sharing with friends because they are so laugh-out-loud funny while others sometimes are simply....meh. The reason is because they constantly producing content. And the more content you produce, the more you're going to begin to see a contrast between your best and least-best work. And that's okay. Because with all that content production, you're learning and growing as a writer. You're figuring out what works, what audiences respond to, and what you enjoy writing! Without the act of completing your work, it's impossible to attain these things. 

And this may just be a personal preference, but I would rather have a vast collection of humanly flawed work throughout my lifetime than a single perfect masterpiece. 

So that leads me to this. The first step. Start by acknowledging everything you are doing well. Or heck, just acknowledge the things you're doing. Because perfectionism can make us feel like it's a crap-ton of nothing. And it's easy to feel like you've accomplished nothing when your expectations are EVERYTHING.

You're doing great, just by writing. So keep at it. The community of writers is here to help. You'll make some mistakes along the way. That's okay too. In fact, it's perfectly, perfectly okay.

That's all for today, hoppers! Thank you again for stopping by my blog and I hope to see you again next time!

Monday, August 13, 2018

(Author Toolbox Hop) What is your ideal day and do we have to write?

I was recently listening to a meditation that posed the question, “What is your ideal day?” It asked you to picture from morning to evening, the series of events that would take place. Picture yourself waking up to do the thing you most want to do. What happens next? How do you picture yourself
going to sleep at night?

It made me question how often we ask ourselves this question, what would I like to do today? What would make me happy? I don’t know about you, but for me, the answer is almost never.

Of course, there are a gazillion different places I could go with this, but for this blog I’ll just stick to category of writing. I’ll admit, there have been times when I straight up did not want to write. Truth be told, it isn’t always fun having to wake up that much earlier in the morning to write before my day job or isolating myself in my office at night when I could be spending time with my husband or playing with our dog. Sometimes, it just feels like work.

What was interesting in the exercise of creating my ideal day is how excited I was to write, to create. If writing makes me so happy, then why is it that so often I am forcing myself to my writing chair?

I realized that the simple act of telling myself that I have to write, and that added pressure of self-inflicted guilt if I did not, was making me feel resentful toward a thing that I actually loved doing.
So what I did was change that simple little word from have to want. Because it's true. I don't have to write.

I want to write. 

I am thrilled to write. 

This subtle, yet extraordinary shift in my mindset has been so beneficial to me. After all, writing is supposed to be fun! I had to remind myself that writing is not that second job that you force yourself to do for the extra income. And if it is for you, then you might want to take a moment and reconsider.

Raise your hand if you’re writing for a living. If that’s you, then I applaud you and that is amazing. I hope that one day I can also be in those shoes.  But for the vast majority of us who are writing in the wee hours of the morning or late into the night, striving to fit writing into the crevices of our busy lives, we do it because we just love it that much.

Speaking as a yet-to-be published author, we all hope for that huge book deal and advance that will buy us the Clark Griswald backyard pool. But the hope in this alone is not going to carry you through the trials and tribulations of redrafting, editing, queries, rejections, more queries and more rejections. Without a love of writing, we'd eventually throw in the towel.

We don’t just write, we are writers. It is a passion and an impulse.

If you’re also suffering from a dry spell or feel like your only motivation to write is that self-inflicted shame for not doing so, then I urge you to try this very simple technique. I don’t have to write. It certainly doesn’t pay my bills and truth be told, not a lot of people would notice if I didn’t.

I want to write.

It’s simple and sweet, but this affirmation is what I now tell myself before going to bed at night and in the morning again when I wake to write. It is a reminder that (at least in this category) I am living my ideal day, every day. And that makes me feel awesome.

That's all for today, hoppers! Thank you again for stopping by my blog and I hope to see you again next time!

Friday, August 10, 2018

How to Outline Part 2 | The Flexible Outline (for Pantsers!)

This is part 2 of my How to Outline video for plotters and pantsers. This video focuses on writing a flexible outline for writers who prefer a less structured decision making process before they begin writing. No matter what type of writer you are, I find outlining your novel to be so beneficial for multiple reasons.

Thank you so much for watching and let me know your thoughts on outlining! Do you make all of these decisions before you begin writing? Do you prefer to write your rough draft off the cuff?