My Mission Statement

I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.


Monday, May 7, 2012

The Creative Process

Today marks the end of the National Picture Book Writing Week. I wrote at least one new picture book manuscript every day for a week. Some of them were pretty good. Some of them were pretty bad (like today). But all of them had a beginning, middle and end. They all had character arcs and story arcs and twists at the end and all the things that make for a good picture book. However, some stories work and some don't. There was a time when I would say that I knew right away if a story would work or not, but I no longer subscribe to that theory. Sometimes I'll launch into an idea half-heartedly and something in it sparks and flame, and BAM, I'm off and running. Which means--don't rule anything out! Give every idea a fair shake. Don't throw anything away. Keep all your notebooks of art pages. An idea that doesn't catch hold on one day might just need a little time to marinade. Last week an artist friend asked me this question: What do you think is the key to tapping into the creative process? I hadn't thought of it like that. She complained that sometimes she'd stare at an empty canvas with nothing, no ideas, no inspiration. It discouraged her. She was prone to think she'd be 'wasting her time' if she didn't have an idea before she sat down. I told her if I waited for an idea, I'd never have ANYTHING because my ideas never come until I sit down and let the quiet take hold of them. But then I got to thinking that it was a bit more than that. And then the more I thought about it, I decided that the keys to the creative process are much like the keys to good study habits. So here are my tips: 1. Pick a good location to work. Keep a clear workspace (even if, like me, you have lots of 'activity' in your office). 2. Make sure you have good lighting and lots of sharpened pencils or pens. You never want to have to leave your workspace for supplies. 3. Try to work in the same place at the same approximate time every day. There's something Pavlovian about going into my office in the morning. Since I write in the same place daily, my brain automatically goes into 'writing mode' when I enter my office. 4. In order to keep the whole Pavlovian thing pure, don't eat or watch TV or go on facebook or read for pleasure in your workspace. Just CREATE. 5. Have a routine. I write at least three 'art pages' every day (a la Julia Cameron) . Rarely, do I stop at three because in the span of three pages, I always launch into an idea or story or poem or something, and I run with it. If I don't have time to develop it, I put it somewhere to come back to. And believe me, when I sit down at my desk every morning, I RARELY have an idea in my head. It takes picking up the pencil and actually writing before my story flows. 6. Set goals. In the span of a week, I will do x, y, and z. Or I will submit at least one piece of fiction to a magazine weekly. Or I will write 2500 words a day, five days a week. Or I will write a chapter a day. 7. Be inspired. Subscribe to blogs of writers who inspire you, and keep books about your craft close at hand. My favorites are BIRD BY BIRD, ON WRITING, and THE WAR OF ART. I try to read at least one chapter from each of them daily. 8. Help and encourage others. Pass it on. Send notes to favorite authors. Give great reviews. Retweet and share excellent blog posts. In this behavior, you develop a community of artists. We all need community. 9. Don't limit yourself to your art of choice. For example, I am a writer, first and foremost, but when I get stuck on writing, I will often paint. Or compose a song on the piano. Or invent a new recipe. Anything creative will fuel your creativity in other areas. Then when you return to your original project, you will have a fresh new perspective and lots of creative juices flowing. 10. Share your art. Put yourself out there. Join a critique group. Post a blog. Send your work to a friend. It reminds me of a song we used to sing in kindergarten "Love isn't love until you give it away". Is it possible that "Art isn't art until you share it"? God created us to be creative. That's why the creative process feels so good. Have a great and creative week!

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