Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Let's Play Catch

by Tamara Passey

This is a series I've been posting on my personal blog & wanted to share here, too. Have a great writing day!

Exploring Creativity Series - Part Three

If you are just joining the fun - here's a recap.

Part One - Creativity is within every one's reach -posted here.

Part Two - Busting myths and beliefs that can hold us back -found here

Now that we are past the introductions - let's get to the exciting part.
Do you want to improve, boost or enjoy more benefits from your creativity? There are skills proven to help you do so. Do you remember playing catch as a child? Did you ever go fishing? Did you ever try to catch a frog, lizard, snake - or any animal? What did you use to help your 'catching' ability? A mitt, a hook, your bare hands? Did you need to be fast, patient or both?

Before we can act on any of our creative ideas, we have to capture them first. Why? If we don't record or capture an idea, we'll forget it. Even if we think we have a great memory. Even if the idea is big, or so totally awesome we think it's impossible to forget - it is possible to forget. The better the idea, the more important to record it. This is what Dr. Peek (BYU Humanities Professor) had to say about creativity and memory:
“In Greek mythology, Mnemosyne*, was the personification of memory. She was the mother of the nine muses. The muses in turn, were the goddesses who inspired literature and the arts. They were considered the sources of the knowledge that was contained in poetry, myth, and history. And that was, for many centuries, celebrated and disseminated orally. The types of work inspired by the muses were the artistic, the creative. Memory, is therefore, the grandmother, so to speak, of almost all creative endeavors and a critical component in the relationship between the creator and the created. In part, this was so because of the profound orality of the ancient world, where even when anything was preserved in writing, the average person did not have access to copies of that writing. The memorization of long passages of poetry, drama, and oratory was the presumed activity of educated artists and citizens. All literature, indeed arguably, all language, knowledge and skills were preserved and transmitted orally. For the created work to have any value it must be remembered. If it is not remembered, it cannot exist.
"Yea, They May Forget, Yet Will I Not Forget Thee", Peek, Cecilia M.**, November 09, 2010 italics added for emphasis! & a really great devotional message, too.
We have to find some way- whatever way works best for us- to record and preserve the idea so we don't forget it. 
"New ideas are like rabbits streaking through consciousness; they're fleeting. If you don't grab them quickly, they're usually gone forever.
The main thing that distinguishes "creative" people from the rest of us is that the creative ones have learned ways to pay attention to and then to preserve some of the new ideas that occur to them. They have capturing skills."   
"Capturing is easier in certain settings and at certain times, so we improve our catch by identifying the settings and times that work best for us. For some people, the Three Bs of Creativity--the Bed, the Bath, and the Bus--are particularly fertile, especially if you keep writing materials handy in those locations. . . Others need to sit by a pool or on a cruise ship or in a lonely cabin in the woods."
"People who are serious about exploring their creative side develop and practice various methods of capturing new ideas. Artists carry sketchpads. Writers and advertisers carry notepads or pocket computers. Inventors make notes on napkins and candy-bar wrappers--especially inventors of new foods!" ~By Robert Epstein, Capturing Creativity,  July 01, 1996 
So take a minute and think about what you do when you have a 'new' idea. 
Do you dismiss it? Do you write it down? Do you pick up the phone and tell your best friend who then patents it and makes millions? 
Do you want to discover how creative you really are?
Try the Capture Challenge.
For the next forty-eight hours (that's only two days, right?) decide to take every new idea seriously. Each new idea gets the right to be captured or recorded in some way. Not dismissed. Not judged as crazy, worthless, or useless. If it is new - it gets to be captured. There will be time for evaluating later. And what counts as a new idea? If it is new to you, record it. If it's a new idea for your book, record it. If it is a new idea for a gift, a talk, how to fix your garbage disposal, write it down! 

Be prepared for a couple of things to happen when you take this challenge. As you back off critiquing your ideas before you write them down - you will begin to have more ideas. Also, new ideas may come when you are not in a very good position to capture them. It turns into a game, 'catch me if you can'. So, yes, I'm about to utter (okay, write) the phrase I've never really liked, but happens to apply here, 'expect the unexpected'. Here is a little example. (I don't think Otto new about my creativity challenge, but it fits!)
The scientist Otto Loewi had struggled for years with a problem in cell biology. One night, a new approach to the problem occurred to him in his sleep. In the dark, he grabbed a pen and pad, recorded his new ideas, and went back to sleep. Come morning, he couldn't read his writing! Had he imagined this great solution, or was it real? The next night he was blessed by the same flash of insight. This time, he took no chances; he pulled on his clothes and went straight to his lab. He won the Nobel Prize for the work he began that night.~By Robert Epstein, Capturing Creativity, July 01, 1996
I think Otto was blessed to have the same flash of insight two nights in a row. Most of us do not get that opportunity. However, if we practice the skill of capturing, we can be ready for the ideas the first time they 'streak' through our minds. Good luck. Tell me what you already do to capture your ideas & let me know if you take the challenge. Of course, I cannot be held responsible if you have a flood of new ideas - although if you have any dreams that lead you win a Nobel Prize . . . I wouldn't mind a little shout out!

Up next: How to accelerate the flow of your new ideas.
*(nem-o-soon-ay) Greek goddess of memory, in Greek mythology, the goddess of memory and mother of the Muses ] 
**Cecilia Peek is an associate professor of humanities, classics and comparative literature at BYU. Her research interests include Hellenistic and Roman history, Greek and Latin prose literature and classical historiography. She received a bachelor’s degree in classical literature, from BYU; a master’s degree in ancient history and Mediterranean archaeology from the University of California–Berkeley; and a doctorate in ancient history and Mediterranean archaeology from University of California–Berkeley.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gorgeous Words

This past weekend my son's children's choir sang in a community Christmas program. I went expecting to be, well, bored. I've avoided all thoughts of the coming holidays, mostly because we have no money for anything, including Christmas. So I avoid thinking about the holiday all together, so I wouldn't dwell on the fact that this Christmas is so different from all that came before.

So yes, you could say I had "hardened" my heart, stiffened it with bits of wood scavenged from the pebbly coasts of my life. And in one evening, the tide of music and beautiful readings washed that away, leaving my softened heart beating reverently once again.

The music provided was soaring and glorious, bringing the Spirit of God as only some music can. It was interspersed with readings, some scriptural, some poetic. And for the first time, I felt truly touched by the poetry shared that focused so poignantly on the Savior and His birth.

In all that was shared, one phrase stuck, and I've rolled it around and around in my mind, a shiny nugget of golden words. It may not strike you as it did me, but let me share it: "...give our sin the shape of kneeling." Obviously I was so drawn to it because I had some bending to do, some repentance to show, but it was more than that.

What I liked so much about the poetry chosen was the crafting of them showed a thoughtfulness, a profound respect for the words and the pictures they create.

Words are power. May your quest to wield that power be successful.

Here is a gorgeous song with beautiful words to get you into the spirit of the Season.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mormon Writer Onboard!

We are rising.

I've heard that many published authors are rising from Utah. We are also known as LDS people.

We let our faith shine through our work. Sharing the love for others we hold, through the way our characters interact with on another. Sharing that one can overcome a great deal of trials if we are true to ourselves and the Lord. Sharing that good books don't need sex, violence, crude language or drugs.

Sure there are other Christian writers out there.

But who gets picked on the most?

We do.

So let us be strong and faithful and enduring. It won't be easy being a Mormon Writer because we are under careful scrutiny and there are those who will criticize us only because of our faith. Let them, for we are warriors of our Heavenly Father.

And it is only the beginning.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Stories, Jolene Perry

For my first guest on Saturday Stories I've chosen to highlight a friend of mine. We met through the Mormon Mommy Writer's blog and I must say I feel blessed to have her "in" my life.

Jolene is a talented writer with the much sought after attribute of an open mind. Not only can she take a critique and use it to improve her writing, but she can return the favor and offer wonderful insight to help a writer's story improve.

Jolene's writerly ramblings can be found over at Been Writing.  Her blog is a mix of humor, thoughts on writing, life experiences, and a constantly changing blog design. (Check out the header of her blog to get my joke.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce Jolene....

A little background on our guest...

I got married at nineteen to a guy I knew in high school after promising myself I wouldn’t marry until 25 which often prompts the question of why on earth would I promise myself something so silly?

Growing up in Alaska gave me lots of opportunities to be outside.  I can set up a fishing pole or a tent with the best of them but don’t ask me to light a fire without a can of gas (I fault my father for that one).

I taught myself to play the guitar about ten years ago when my husband was deployed to Egypt and I still play – I’m actually the music for our ward’s Christmas program which will start keeping me awake at night in about a week.

I was baptized at nineteen, shortly before getting married.  Coming from a family who is completely non-religious, it was life changing but that’s a whole different story.

I taught Math, History and French to Middle and High School students before kids came along. When my husband and I were told we weren’t able to have kids, we sent him to law school.  I was pregnant two months later.

I have two kids, a daughter, Emma, who is seven and a son, Jack, who is four.  My daughter has Moebius Syndrome which is incredibly rare.  It affects mainly the muscles in her face.  My husband was an only child, adopted through the church, and he claims that two is all he’s qualified for.  He works as a prosecutor so while you’re writing, if you need to know anything about being a good criminal, bad criminal… he’s your guy.

Q--When did you begin writing?

A--I wanted to be a writer when I was in elementary school and it somehow phased out.  Mostly I chickened out.  I wrote a few songs for Young Women’s activities about six or seven years ago but didn’t sit down to really write until early fall of 2009.  We were in the car and I was spacing out while we drove down the road and after a short conversation about where my brain had wandered to, my husband said the simplest thing, “You have a great imagination, why don’t you start writing some of it down?”  I have 7 full-length novels that are “complete” I use quotations because Lisa can tell you how messy my complete novels are. 
     Lisa's comment...I don't think so.

Q--At what point did you start considering yourself a bona-fide writer? Was there a moment or an event that helped you come to this realization?

A--I don’t consider myself a bona-fide writer.  I have submitted nothing to be published aside from poems (from my phase of songwriting – they were published in a small anthology) I want to consider myself a bona-fide writer so that counts for something.  In my mind, I need to be published which is silly since I hold NO ONE else to that standard, but we all do that to ourselves, don’t we…?
     Yes, Jolene, we all do.

Q--Describe your writing process. Do you have a routine or are you at the whim of inspiration?

A--I am at the whim of inspiration.  I have only started ONE project at the beginning.  I write in scenes.  I title them and put them either before or after other scenes I’ve written.  

When I write it’s character based.  I have a general idea of what should happen or a basic premise but I don’t know details until I know my characters better.  I could never outline before I write.  I outline at about 30,000 words.  That’s the point where I feel confident in knowing my characters well enough to make decisions when I’m not writing a scene.

Q--Computer or Notebook (what is your preferred method of writing)?

A--COMPUTER.  No one can read my scratch if I’m trying to keep up with my brain.  Not even me.  Even my fingers on the keyboard can’t keep up much of the time.  

Q--What is the strangest thing, person, place, or event that has inspired your writing?

A--An old pregnancy test that I took when I learned I was pregnant with my son.  I wasn’t at home when I took it and I remember putting it in a bag so I could slide it in my coat pocket.  I drove to my husband's work to tell him and the test was forgotten.  I put on the coat about six months ago and BAM.  Story.

Q--What do you love about writing?

A--I will get to have lifetimes of experiences through the people I create.  It’s humbling.  I get to explore faith through the eyes of someone I am not.  Even if I’m able to eventually be published, I don’t expect that I’ll make much off my LDS fiction but I’ve learned so much, I’ve done some introspection on things that I haven’t personally been through.  It has deepened my faith and given me an even greater appreciation for my brain that seems to have an endless supply of stories to tell.

Q--How do you find a balance between family, obligations, and writing?

A--I have no idea.

I’m a jump in with both feet kind of person.  When I look around and realize my house is literally falling apart around me, I close my laptop and give myself a time limit or a room completion before I’m allowed to open it again.  It works for planning Sunday School lessons, getting laundry done (not folded and put away) or making sure there’s something for dinner. 

I will write frantically and do only the minimum in everything else for a week or two and then it’ll switch.  It allows me to keep my feeling of immersing myself in what I’m doing.  I enjoy cleaning my house if I’m immersed in it OR if I’m in a writing fit, it’s not terrible if I set the timer and know it’s only 20 minutes.

When my fingers pause over the keyboard because I’m not exactly sure what’s next, I close it and do something else.

My kids are sometimes good about me behind my computer, and sometimes not.  If they’re not it means the computer needs to sit for a while.  I don’t hide in a corner on my computer, I never lock a room, if I can’t write with my family crawling on me and asking for help with homework then I need to wait until they’re asleep.  It seems to be working, though my husband’s phone pic is me behind my computer so it would seem that I’m still in the struggle for balance. 

Thanks, Jolene!

If anyone out there is interested in being highlighted on Saturday Stories, please make sure to drop a comment here or over on my blog.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Today is the Day to Prepare

I live in Northern Utah. We see snow here. Sometimes a lot, sometimes not so much. For the first time in a very long time (so long I don't remember), they are predicting a blizzard. White out conditions. Stay home, keep warm, and pray the power doesn't go out conditions.

As we have prepared as a family for this possibility, I can't help but draw comparisons to our mortal existence and how often we are counseled to prepare, and how few of us actually listen.

My hubby's been out of work for a few months now, and our food storage is pretty much gone. We have our 72 hour kits ready, so thank goodness for that. But there are other things, like the fact that I have three 55 gallon drums sitting empty of water in my garage. And even if we did have water in them, I never bought the little spigot thingy to get the water out. But I will learn from this experience, and hopefully have the opportunity to try again to be prepared for the next time.

I've discovered that it's the same with my writing. I have to prepare. I can have this grand idea for something, but until I prepare an outline, even a rough one, I can only get so far before I get caught in the storm of confusion.

So even if you are a confirmed panster, what do you do to prepare before you write? How do you avoid unhappy consequences in the storm?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Woman's Heart

Morning comes and finds her on her knees
The Spirit speaks and she is listening
She offers everything her soul can give
To make a difference through the life she lives

Her faith holds her family close
She understands what matters most
And her gentle touch is where love starts
That’s the way of a woman’s heart

She’s a keeper of the vision
She’s a beacon in the night
A teacher and defender of the truth
And everything she touches bears the traces of her light
She’s faithful to
What God Himself would do

She’s a friend to the lonely and the lost
Everyday another bridge to cross
Her hands of mercy know the healer’s art
That’s the way of a woman’s heart


Evening comes and finds her on her knees
She softly speaks and He is listening
With sweet assurance that she’d done her part
She weeps
In His peace
And that’s the way of a woman’s heart

when you're inner peace is at one with the Lord, great things will happen.


Monday, November 22, 2010

If At First....

I bet you can all finish that phrase, can't you. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." I used to hate that saying. It meant that I didn't get things right the first time. And I hate being wrong.

But life is full of these little lessons, pointing out to us over and over again that we can't do everything perfectly all of the time. There will be ups and downs, good days and bad, peace and struggles.
Think about this while I share a little experience.

My oldest daughter is very bright. She got her math brain from her equally brilliant father. So as a 9th grader, she is taking Algebra 2. She's had this teacher before, and didn't like her. The teacher's "teaching style" and my daughter's "learning style" don't mesh. But since this is the math track my daughter's on, she has to take this class from this teacher this year.

She came into me yesterday evening, frustrated beyond belief. She'd been sick last week and had missed one day of class, which meant that she was simply handed the missing assignment and expected to catch up. But she didn't understand what they were covering because of this miscommunication between styles.

At first I didn't know how to help her. I have not done any serious math in YEARS. YEARS, PEOPLE! I was in a quandary because she was talking about wanting me to sign her out of class so she wouldn't have to take the test on Monday. I couldn't let her do that, but I didn't know how to help her. Eventually it dawned on me that there had to be something, somewhere on the Internet that could help explain things so my daughter could do her assignment. After a few misses, I found a site that explained how to solve and graph parabolas (yeah, I didn't know what they were, either) so well even I could do it now, if pressed. So now, even though it's after 2 am, I'm blogging while she finishes her assignment, because she was so excited about actually "getting" it, she wanted to get it done right away.

It was an epiphany for me. There are so many things in life that require perseverance. Anything worthwhile, in fact. Thinks of worth take work, dedication, and a willingness to go through the briars to get to the berry patch on the other side. But sometimes it takes an outside view to point us through the pokey bits.

So ask yourself this question: where in your life could you use a fresh perspective? Maybe have an outside person help you see where you can improve? Are you ready for a critique group, maybe? Or perhaps you just need your BFF to tell you the truth about your weight. It doesn't matter what part of life it's in, writing related or not. There's probably something you're procrastinating doing because you're stuck in the maze, and don't know which way to turn.

Find a new perspective, a fresh pair of eyes. We all need it, now and again.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Gratitude . . .

I am grateful for snowflakes dancing in the air so soft,

the leaves whirling and flitting and twirling.

I am grateful for round fuzzy kittens, so warm and sweet,

the puppies nibbling and playful and fun.

I am grateful for writing and its worlds so magic'ly real,

for the power of thought and wit to share.

I am grateful for friendships unjudging, open and so true,

the love, the secrets, the times most pleasant.

I am grateful my children so lovingly carefree to be,

their heartfelt warmth and the kisses and hugs.

I am grateful for life pleasant yet harsh, choices left to me,

the sadness and joys and trials, I grow.

Thank you, dear Lord, for all things weak and strong--

for everything granted, for wisdom, my guide . . . the great beyond.

by Elizabeth Mueller

photos found at Photobucket.com

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's time to introduce yourselves!

by Lisa Turner

      Have a seat so we can talk.

Every time I log onto Mormon Mommy Writers I see this little box filled with faces in the right hand corner. I find myself wondering who each person is. Are they writers? If they are, how long have they been writing? What is their favorite genre? Where do they live? Are they a dog or cat person? I could keep going with my questions, but I think you get the picture.

So, I've decided to do something about this curiosity of mine. I'd like to extend an open invitation to all our readers. I'd like to highlight someone each Saturday. We'll call it Saturday Stories. We can talk about whatever you want. If you want to talk about your cat, that's what we'll do. If you'd prefer to discuss writing and your journey through this world of words, that's great. So long as we get the chance to learn more about you and you share a personal story (hey it isn't called Saturday Stories for nothing), it doesn't matter.

If you're interested in being a guest on Saturday Stories drop me a note in the comments box or stop by my blog and let me know. If I don't get any comments then I'll start hunting you down on your blogs and Facebook. Is that a threat? Perhaps. I'm quite motivated people.

Stay tuned next Saturday to see who my very first victim, I mean guest will be.

Until then, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Image courtesy Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, November 19, 2010

What are you Seeking?

While chatting on facebook with Author Jenni James, I was amazed by her ability to be both humble in her success and confident in her purpose.  Her attitude was a slight eye opener for me.  I couldn't help but think this is what Jesus's words in his Sermon on the Mount. "Seek ye first for the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all things shall be added unto you."   

I am a firm believer that our Lord wants righteous writers out there.   There is a need for wholesome entertainment and for books with values.  But even with this knowledge it can be hard to accept that I could be one of those writers to aid in this cause.  Who am I?  I am no one.  Yet when I turn to the Lord, He reminds me that I am His daughter, and that title alone should erase my self doubt.

Even with the knowledge of my divine heritage, I still find myself struggle as I am working plots and story lines.  After my chat with Jenni (I hope I'm not giving her a big head.. not that I think that is possible), I can see that the times I struggle the most are the day/weeks/months that I have let myself go spiritually.  Maybe I pushed my scripture reading aside for some extra time to writer, or I decided my visiting teaching could be put off this month.   It is now that I realize the importance of this question...Why would the Lord put His trust in me, if I refuse to put my trust in Him? 

As I allow my Lord to guide, my life and my writing I know that things will succeed.  Who am I? I am His daughter, His servant, and His clay to mold as He will.  Heavenly Father is a caring patriarch.  I am certain that when I allow Him to carve me as I should be that I will become more than I thought I could be.
The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath

Thursday, November 18, 2010

To Lift Others Up

Our Stake Conference this week was a broadcast from Salt Lake that was sent to all 90 Stakes in Arizona.  The talks were amazing and I gained so much insight for myself and for the LDS self-help book I am writing.  To say that it was exactly what I needed to hear is an understatement of immense proportions.  But the speaker I'm going to focus on is the prophet, Thomas S. Monson.  I know one of the reasons he is prophet today is for our benefit.  There is a big movement in the LDS community to produce writing that is pleasing to our Heavenly Father.  Pres. Monson is such a literate man, in fact everything he says and writes has almost a poetic lilt to it.  We can learn much from him in just the way he paints pictures with nothing but words and fills in the gaps with the Spirit of the Lord.  As writers, we can definately look to him to be a teacher in not just the gospel but the writing parts of our lives.  Today, he spoke on lifting up others around us and his words elicited such profound feelings that I can't help but internalize his words and want to act on them in every facet of my life.  I am learning that I can do that by first visualizing the desired results and then allowing myself to feel the emotions of the desired results, then determine to reach those results.  Then, instead of bullying myself to get it done, I step back and allow my body to take the actions needed to reach the results.  It's working in my writing, and I am anxious to put it to work in every aspect of my life.  I have been nanoing and am on target and still going strong.

Now back to the Prophet's words today.  He said that we need to recognize our eternal potential and then determine to reach it.  He spoke of lifting each other up out of the depths of fear and loneliness.  I don't know about you guys, but I feel lots of fear and loneliness when trying to reach my writing goals.  It is our job to reach out to each other and by lifting each other out we get lifted ourselves. 

We have felt the call to reach our potential as writers for our Father in Heaven, now we must continue to act on this feeling.  In James 1:22 it says, "But be ye adoers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."  Let's act on the feelings of the Spirit that we get, be it in our writing or our everyday lives and extend a hand out to those who need a lift.

(I'm not sure any of this made sense, just remember my brain is focused on my Nano story and not running on all cylinders!!  LOL!)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Double, Double Toil and Trouble"

This classic quote from Shakespeare's Macbeth is indicative of my topic today..."(Lead)Read on, MacDuff!"

Yesterday during a chat on fmwriters.com (come join us anytime, Nanoers or not!) I was complaining about how the "in between" scenes give me major stress. I know the major plot points of my story, where the story makes right turns in the action and character development, but how they get from point A to point B is sometimes a struggle.

And someone reminded me that when you have a scene that feels stagnant, like the action isn't moving the plot forward, ratchet up the tension. Add something to story to bring another aspect of your story to life. And it reminded me of a writing book I'd purchased last year, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, by Donald Maass.

I bought the workbook instead of the book so I could write in it, and use the exercises that he uses in his workshops. It's been so instructional to me, helping me break down the different aspects of my novels, and polishing up each individual part.

I wanted to share some of the things I'd gleaned from it, in terms of tension. He broke "tension" down into three problem areas to identify in your writing and fix.

First, make sure that any scene that happens in a kitchen, someone taking a shower, drinking and thinking, or driving a car from one place to another, is actually necessary. Especially look at the first 50 pages. If you have such a scene, CUT IT.  And if you can't cut it, add tension to it...make the scene about the underlying tensions between two characters, add critical information to the scene that the reader needs to make them want to keep reading.

Second, backstory. Telling us how your character was born, and basically sitting them down on the therapist's couch and letting them spew their issues isn't compelling reading. So Mr. Maass's suggestion is to find somewhere in the first 50 pages, any scene that establishes setting, sets up the situation, or is otherwise backstory. Then cut and paste it into chapter 15, or the chapter past the midpoint of the story. Does it belong here? If not, does it belong in your story at all? Could you find another place for it, also after the midpoint of the story?  These scenes should remain in the novel only if it answers some long standing question, something that illuminates some character that can't be answered any other way.

There's one more element to adding tension to your story, but it's a doozy, so I'll leave that for next week. Think about it, about your story. Where can you add tension? Where are you diluting tension by having your characters do unnecessary things? Rehash things the reader already knows? Telling us how cool your world is, when all the reader cares about is what happens next?

Think hard, 'cause the next part is a killer.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Myth Busting 101

This is the next installment of my series on creativity.
I really thought I posted it this morning here and on my personal blog.
That's what I get for really thinking!

Myth n. a widely held but mistaken or false belief

I'm excited by research that sheds light on what creativity is and isn't, how the process works and how to improve your creative abilities. Before I get to the specific skills that Epstein suggested to boost 'novel behavior', I'm devoting this post to myth-busting. Why? It occurred to me that many of us may not take the time to be creative, or work on creativity-enhancing skills if we are held back by certain myths.  It's important every now and then to check our beliefs about our creative abilities to make sure we are seeing things as they really are.

“Myths about creativity are deeply entrenched in our culture. Myths have enormous power to shape everyday behavior, often to people's detriment. When people believe the world is flat, for example, they're unlikely to venture out to sea very far and "lands away" remain undiscovered. When it comes to creativity, myths keep most people firmly shore bound”. Epstein, Capturing Creativity, Psychology Today, July 1994

What "creations" are waiting for you to create them? Are you 'shore bound' thinking that only artists are creative, or you are not a 'right brain thinker' so why try? It's time to replace those myths with the truth about creativity.

Myth # 1- Only Right Brain Thinkers are Creative

I was surprised to read what Epstein had to say about right-brain research. It is certainly different from what I've 'heard' and even read in other places. I'm not trying to stir up controversy here, but I think having accurate information about ourselves and our brains helps us to make the best use of them.

"The brain hemisphere distinction is based largely on clinical studies of about 40 "split-brain" patients--people whose brains were severed surgically in order to treat seizures or other neurological problems. The initial studies of such patients, conducted in the 1960s, seemed to show significant functional differences between the left and right cerebral hemispheres. In the 1980s, however, scientists began to reinterpret the data. The problem is split-brain patients all have abnormal brains to begin with."

"As a practical matter, the right-hemisphere myth is nonsense because virtually no one has a split brain. The two halves of our brain are connected by an immense structure called the corpus callosum, and the hemispheres also communicate through the sense organs. Creativity has no precise location in the human brain, and people who promise to reactivate your "neural creativity zones" are just yanking your chain." Epstein, Capturing Creativity, Psychology Today, July 1994

Myth # 2 - Creativity Comes From Creative Types

This myth is a close cousin to the right-brain/left-brain thinking. The following research is about creativity in the workplace but I think you will notice it has applications to other settings.

"Teresa Amabile . . . heads the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School and is the only tenured professor at a top B-school to devote her entire research program to the study of creativity. Eight years ago, Amabile took her research to a daring new level. Working with a team of PhDs, graduate students, and managers from various companies, she collected nearly 12,000 daily journal entries from 238 people working on creative projects in seven companies in the consumer products, high-tech, and chemical industries. She didn't tell the study participants that she was focusing on creativity. She simply asked them, in a daily email, about their work and their work environment as they experienced it that day. She then coded the emails for creativity by looking for moments when people struggled with a problem or came up with a new idea."

"When I give talks to managers, I often start by asking, Where in your organization do you most want creativity? Typically, they'll say R&D, marketing, and advertising. When I ask, Where do you not want creativity? someone will inevitably answer, "accounting." That always gets a laugh because of the negative connotations of creative accounting. But there's this common perception among managers that some people are creative, and most aren't. That's just not true. As a leader, you don't want to ghettoize creativity; you want everyone in your organization producing novel and useful ideas, including your financial people. Over the past couple of decades, there have been innovations in financial accounting that are extremely profound and entirely ethical, such as activity-based costing."

"The fact is, almost all of the research in this field shows that anyone with normal intelligence is capable of doing some degree of creative work. Creativity depends on a number of things: experience, including knowledge and technical skills; talent; an ability to think in new ways; and the capacity to push through uncreative dry spells. Intrinsic motivation -- people who are turned on by their work often work creatively -- is especially critical." The 6 Myths Of Creativity, by Bill Breen, December 1, 2004 (italics added for emphasis)

Myth # 3 - Time Pressure Fuels Creativity

The research on this myth might be more controversial to writers than any other myth. I can already envision lots of comments from writers pointing out that without a deadline from an editor or critique group they would not get words on the page. I think the important distinction here is that time pressure may fuel productivity but not always creativity.

"In our diary study, people often thought they were most creative when they were working under severe deadline pressure. But the 12,000 aggregate days that we studied showed just the opposite: People were the least creative when they were fighting the clock. In fact, we found a kind of time-pressure hangover -- when people were working under great pressure, their creativity went down not only on that day but the next two days as well. Time pressure stifles creativity because people can't deeply engage with the problem. Creativity requires an incubation period; people need time to soak in a problem and let the ideas bubble up."

". . . it's not so much the deadline that's the problem; it's the distractions that rob people of the time to make that creative breakthrough. People can certainly be creative when they're under the gun, but only when they're able to focus on the work. They must be protected from distractions." The 6 Myths Of Creativity, by Bill Breen, December 1, 2004 (italics added for emphasis)

Myth # 4 - Fear Forces Breakthroughs

Do you have to be the moody, brooding, starving-actor-type person to be creative? The answer is a resounding, NO!

"There's this widespread notion that fear and sadness somehow spur creativity. There's even some psychological literature suggesting that the incidence of depression is higher in creative writers and artists -- the depressed geniuses who are incredibly original in their thinking. But we don't see it in the population that we studied. We coded all 12,000 journal entries for the degree of fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, joy, and love that people were experiencing on a given day. And we found that creativity is positively associated with joy and love and negatively associated with anger, fear, and anxiety. The entries show that people are happiest when they come up with a creative idea, but they're more likely to have a breakthrough if they were happy the day before. There's a kind of virtuous cycle. When people are excited about their work, there's a better chance that they'll make a cognitive association that incubates overnight and shows up as a creative idea the next day. One day's happiness often predicts the next day's creativity." The 6 Myths Of Creativity, by Bill Breen, December 1, 2004 (italics added for emphasis)

There you have it. Exposed myths to free your creative energy and allow you to 'set sail' and explore your creative potential. As always, I love to hear what you think. And I know there are more myths out there that need busting - so comment away!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Word Wars!!!!!

All right, all you lurkers.  We have a challenge for you. How many of you are NOT doing NaNoWriMo? Go on, raise your hands. Go on, I'm waiting....okay...I see. Well guess what...that's okay. But are you feeling left out, like you're not part of the "in crowd"?

Then come join us at fmwriters.com!!!!!! I am not doing Nano for real this time, but I am participating in chats, word wars, and submissions of snippets of everyone's stories as we write like crazy people...for 10 minutes at a time. I have 10 minutes. I might even have 30 minutes. And who knows what damage I could do to my WIP during that time?

To be honest, it's only been doing these Word Wars that has kept me moving forward at all. If left to my own devices, I would languish, lost in the computer and facebook, avoiding getting started because it always takes too long to write. I don't have 2 hours at a time to dedicate to it. But 30 minutes...yeah, I do.

Come on...join us...you know you want to...

Join the MMW yahoo group, then read some of the past emails to find out how to join us on fmwriters.com. We have our own private chat room, where we can word war and chat and cheer each other on!

Today, at 3:30 pm AZ time (that's the same for Mountain Standard right now, and 5:30 Eastern, 2:30 Pacific), we'll be there, at least Nikki and I, along with a few other friends. Come join the word wars, and beef up your word count, just a few words at a time. It'll be good for you, I promise!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Last Day

~Elizabeth Mueller

Supposing today were your last day on earth,

The last mile of the journey you've tread;

After all of your struggles, how much are you worth

How much can you take home to God?

Don't count as possessions your silver and gold

Tomorrow you leave these behind

And all that is yours to have and to hold

Is the service you've given to mankind.

~author unknown


Happy Sunday!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Do We Bother?

This month I'm participating in Nanowrimo and am spending every available minute I have thinking about or writing my book.  When I think about the amount of time that goes into writing a book, it can get a little depressing.  Especially since I watched my daughter read a long book in three days this week.  All I could think about was how long it took the author to write the first draft, then to edit it, then edit it again, and that says nothing about the publishing process of querying, finding a publisher, copy edits, marketing, and everything else that goes with it.  I began to think to myself, why bother spending all this time when people will just read it in three or four days and be done with it?

Then I heard my daughter laugh next to me in the car as she read her book on the way to school.  The way her eyes lit up at certain parts.  The way she kept telling me that she couldn't wait until I read it too, so she could share her favorite parts.  It filled my heart with joy to see her loving to read this book.  It wasn't a book that I had written but I could suddenly picture people like her reading and enjoying a book of mine and suddenly all the work seemed worth it!

(BTW just had to share a link to the book that brought a smile to my daughter's face.  She loved the Percy Jackson series and this one promises to keep her attention just as much!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

IMing Your Way Into Your Character's Head

(This is a repost from my own writing blog...we've got a bit of illness going around, and Mom caught it, but this is a great writing tip I hope comes in handy, especially for those of you that are doing NaNo or struggling with knowing your characters. Write on, my friends!)

So I have a great writing pal that is taking an online writing course. For one of her assignments she had to have a conversation with someone as if she were the character. She asked for volunteers, and we had a two hour chat, via IM (instant messaging) this morning, me as my character, her as hers.

Wow. I mean I knew my character pretty well, but I discovered things about her that I didn't know as we talked. How she comes off as icy and a control freak, but inside she's a mess. She has doubts about her current relationship that I (as the writer) didn't know. She's also afraid she's too damaged to ever have true love, or be truly open with someone.

I got to know more about her motivations and internal feelings than I had after all this time working with her. It was fabulous. Thanks tons, Anne!

"If you have the means, I highly recommend it." Ferris Bueller

Seriously, if you're struggling with getting to know a character, find someone who can do this with you. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's About Time

by Tamara Passey*

Well, not really - this post is about Creativity. I've been thinking about it and talking about it and it's about time I sat down and started it. Started what? My series on creativity. I am fascinated by creative people and the creative process. I'm convinced all of us have an inner artist and so many of the myths surrounding creativity -are just that- myths. I came across this article a while ago and loved the research. Here is a little of what Epstein had to say:

The very good news is that, with the right skills, you can boost your own creative output by a factor of 10 or more. Significant creativity is within everyone's reach--no exceptions. What's more, greater creativity breeds greater happiness. The creative process is itself a source of joy for most people. And with new creative powers we're also better able to solve the little problems that beset us daily.
~"Capturing creativity" By Robert Epstein, published on July 01, 1996

Did you catch that? 'Creativity is within every one's reach - no exceptions' In the words of my four-year-old, that totally rocks! And who couldn't use another source of joy in their life or extra help solving problems? I'm so excited about it that I decided I wanted to do a series. Mark your calendar (I usually post on Tuesdays), become a follower and stop by for upcoming blog posts. I'll be exploring each of the suggestions Epstein has to boost creativity, sharing interviews of some of the really cool, creative people I know. And I might even have a contest before I'm done.

*Also appearing on my personal blog http://www.whyigetup.blogspot.com/ - and I'm not sure why the pictures didn't copy over - but they are part of a little creativity exercise.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Clean Reads--coming soon

If you love to read books, but don't care for questionable content, you'd love this new blog that
Tristi Pinkston and a few of us are working on.

It's a list of all clean books under all genres with links to Amazon. Everyone welcome!

I'll keep you up-to-date on our "grand opening".

Till then!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Press On

"A professional writer is an amateur who did not quit."
Richard Bach

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Working the Words

At this time of NaNo, it brings out into the open the dirty underbelly of writing. Internal editing, that horrid little voice inside our heads that keeps us from putting anything down because we're sure it's all trash.

But writing 1600 to 2000 words a day means that we have to write, write, write, and refuse to allow that nasty internal editor to come in and camp out.

I have to admit, I have a penthouse apartment for my internal editor. She comes and stays for months on end. I've been trying to evict her for years, but I keep forgetting that she has a spare key to the back door.
But today Nikki, as part of the Mormon Mommy Writers yahoo group, issued a word challenge. Write as much as you can in 20 minutes. Set the time and just go.

So even though I'm not officially doing NaNo this year, I am working on a new project and I thought as long as life is holding steady in limbo, I could try to work some on it using this challenge. So this morning I gave it a shot. (I have to confess here that even though the writing was all in 20 minutes, that period of time was interspersed in about a 2 hour period as the demands of motherhood interfered, but I didn't go out of that 20 minute allotment.)

It was HARD. I wanted to fiddle and fix, and when I wasn't sure about a fact I wanted to go and do some research. My internal editor (her name it Mitzy, by the way. Don't ask me why.) was screaming the whole time to slow down, examine things, noting how many times I used the word "looked" and shouldn't I go and find a better word and rework that sentence, shouldn't I be trying harder to vary sentence length and I definitely had to add some more description here so better go back and fix it.

But when I was done, I had over 750 words on the page. And I could fix and fiddle all I wanted with them...so now I just need to kidnap Mitzy and secure her with copious amounts of duct tape until the 1st draft is done. Then she can edit to her heart's content.

So even though I'm sure you've heard this before, give yourself permission to write page after page of garbage before you let your editor loose (whatever his or her name is.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Primary Presentations

 Oops!  I was trying to schedule this for Thursday.  I'm too busy working on Nano for my brain to work properly!!  So this is Nikki not Megan today!  I'm sorry for the confusion!!

The primary presentation for our ward was this past Sunday.  Only my two youngest children were in the program this year.  It caused me to wax nostalgic of the most memorable primary program my children were in.  Because it's Nanowrimo and all, I'm going to use my blog post from my family blog from two years ago.  It still makes me laugh until tears come out.  Hopefully it will bring a smile to your face too.

It was a very busy and emotional Saturday in October.  The kids and I were at the yard sale at my grandpa's house selling the things of my recently deceased grandmother.  Everything brought out to sell evoked another memory and I had to keep tears from falling.  In the midst of this emotional, hot, and physical task of holding a yard sale, I needed to get my children to that all important primary activity where they practice for the program the next day.  My kids were having such a good time that they didn't want to leave which is when they began begging to skip the practice. I had a conversation with Jessi, (my 9 year old at the time) where I asked her if she knew her part for the program. She said, "I just need to tell my favorite Book of Mormon story which is easy. My favorite one is where Nephi gathers his sons and asks which of them want to be king. They all say none of them because they want to go on a mission." She says confidently. I then correct her and say, "That wasn't Nephi who did that." She says, "Oh yeah, it was Alma." Again I say, "NO, it was King Mosiah and one of his sons was named Ammon. Is that who you are doing the story on?" She smiles and says, "Yeah, that's what I meant." I then told her we would talk about it later as the hot AZ sun didn't seem to own a calendar to remember that October shouldn't have weather near the hundreds. The sun was frying my brain, and I was too tired to deal with it all at that moment. So I blew off the primary practice and stayed at  the yard sale. There we stayed helping as long as we could. Going home I was too tired to deal with anything. Did I even remember my conversation with Jessi earlier? No of course not! When did I remember that conversation? Oh, how about when we are sitting in the pew at church, the program had already started and a little boy got up to talk about his favorite bible story. His story was written out and beautifully rehearsed. I could tell his mother had spent plenty of time preparing such a great little talk. I was feeling quite relieved that I hadn't had to do that with any of my children when the conversation with Jessi from the day before popped into my head. NO!!! I must have looked like a deer in the headlights as the children began to sing "Book of Mormon" stories. I turned to Mike and told him in my most terrified voice what was about to happen. Because we both know Jessi well enough to know that she wouldn't be daunted by the fact that she hadn't practiced what she was going to say. What was his loving, supportive response? He laughed. Before she even said a word his face was beet red from laughing. The singing stopped and I look up to see my Jessi at the microphone glorying in the moment. I put on my best I'm the mom and I know exactly what my child is going to say face. Then she began to "wing" it. "My favorite Book of Mormon story is when King Mosiah's sons went on missions to the Nephites. Then when they came home their dad asked them who wanted to be King." So far so good, she even got King Mosiah's name right. I'm starting to breath easier and even gave her a thumbs up. "They told him that they didn't want to be king because they wanted to preach to the Nephites." At which point I mouthed the word Lamanites. "Oh, I mean Lamanites. So Ammon went to the king of the Lamanites and asked if he could be his servant. He said yes and Ammon watched the sheep. So he was watching the sheep and everything and these people came and ran at the sheep and made them go here and there." She was using hand gestures at this point to show the sheep being scattered. "So Ammon told his companions to gather the sheep, but then the guys came again, so Ammon got out his sling" She starts swinging her arm around in circles to show how he would have used the sling. "And he threw rocks and stuff at them" please don't talk about the cut off arms, please not the cut off arms... was going through my head. "Then the brother of the leader of the other guys got killed cuz, well Ammon killed him." well at least she didn't mention the cut off arms. "So what happened was a while later the king was sleeping for like two days" I really have to apologize to those people reading who have never heard this book of mormon story before, because this is no way an accurate telling. "Everyone thought he was dead, they were saying 'he's dead' and all that stuff" I no longer am looking at my daughter at this point, my head is bent down with my hands over my face laughter shaking my body like an earthquake. "then the other people fall down on the ground like thier dead too. And the the leader of the sheep guys wants to kill Ammon because he's on the ground but he couldn't." The whole congregation is laughing, no one can help it, politeness can only go so far. She looks out at the laughter and starts laughing herself. "Well, I guess that's all." She says then she walked off. The whole bishopric was red with laughter and everyone of them was looking right at me! Of course they were, I'm the mom after all, I should have known what was coming. I know they probably thought it was just cute and endearing, and if it was someone else's kid I would have thought the same thing.

So the moral of the story is when your children comes home with their parts for the primary program, read them (I know I'm a slacker.) Don't assume that they can just read their perfectly scripted part off the paper on the podium (I bet you she gets a scripted part next year.) And DON'T, I repeat, DO NOT believe your kids when they say "My part's so easy mom I don't need to go to the practice."


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