Showing posts with label creativity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label creativity. Show all posts

Creativity Goals

Creativity is a foundational element for any business. This is true for writers, marketers, entrepreneurs, consultants, and/or all of the above. To keep things fresh - your projects, your perspectives - it is extremely important to try different things. That's why you want to set set Creativity Goals.

On a recent GoalChatLive, cartoonist Chari Pere and creative producer Damion Taylor joined me for a conversation on creativity. Chari and Damion shared their backstories, what stops people from being creative, how to tap into and/or replenish your creative spirit, and so much more.

Tapping Into Your Creativity

  • Damion: Work on the things you can control and stop worrying about the things you can’t. You may come up with solutions when doing other things 
  • Chari: Get outside of your head. Try running, exercise, brainstorming 
  • Damion: Spend time alone, even if it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes 
  • Chari: Give yourself permission to explore. Curiosity and collaboration are also super-helpful     

Creativity Goals 

  • Damion: Challenge yourself. Find 15 red things (or green things or blue things) and write down why are they connected. See how they tell a story about you 
  • Chari: Take 15 minutes to do what you want to do for yourself

Watch our conversation.

Final Thoughts 

  • Damion: It’s okay to give yourself permission to enjoy things. It's such an important part of the creativity process.
  • Chari: Just do it!
Even if you consider yourself creative by nature, there are always new mediums to try. Are you a creative writer? Paint a picture. Are you a fine artist? Take an improv class? Do you have lots of "creative" pursuits, try cooking, gardening, or a new sport.

Taking the time to develop your creative muscles, makes it a win-win for you and your audience/clientts.  

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For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin! 

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How do you explore your creativity? Please share in the comments. 

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Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A goal-strategist, corporate consultant, and project catalyst, Debra offers personal and professional planning, event strategy, and team building for individuals, businesses, and teams. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; host of  #GoalChatLive aka The DEB Show podcast and Taste Buds with Deb. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

3 Ways to Spark Your Creativity

As a writer, sometimes I just don’t feel like writing.

It’s as if all creativity has drained from my brain, and I can’t seem to get a single word on paper.

When that happens, I know it’s time to do something totally different from writing, yet something I enjoy.

Here are 3 ways I spark my creativity when I need new ideas.

These fun activities should work to spark your creativity, too.
1. Turn on some inspiring music and relax.

I happen to love the theme music from the movie The Duchess (you can listen to it on youtube).

It evokes all sorts of emotions that help me relax, and when I relax I am much more creative.

You don’t have to do anything while you listen to the music.

Sit and stare out the window or lie down and daydream.

Feel your body unwind and your mind start to wander—both of these things are good for creativity.

But, if you like, choose one of these other activites to do while you listen to some inspiring music.
2. Paint, color, or draw.

If you’re a visual artist, as well as a writer, you already draw or sketch or paint all the time.

But many writers never try to paint or color, or sketch, and they are missing out.

It isn’t the end product (you don’t need to produce a lovely painting or drawing) that matters here.

It’s the process of letting go, relaxing, and just allowing your imagination to take over.

If you can’t draw a straight line, start with a coloring book for adults and simply color in one of the pages.

I love to use colored pencils and colored markers for this.

But watercolors also work well (if you are careful not to use too much water, so the colors don't run).

If you feel a little braver as far as drawing something on your own, next try doodling.

Get a special notebook to devote to just your doodles.

Then, check out some of the doodling boards on Pinterest for some fun doodling tutorials, and then doodle away.

Again, I like to use fine-tipped Sharpie markers for my doodling.

I use black ones to create the doodles, then fill them in with colored markers.
3. Create a decorated journal.

I find this to be really fun and relaxing.

And, once I have completely decorated a journal, I can use it for writing.

To create a decorated journal, buy a plain spiral notebook or just a plain lined journal.

Get some colorful stickers that are designed for planners.

I usually get some of the Create 365 series at Michael’s and start with those.

But I also use other stickers that I find at Dollar Tree, Target, and Hobby Lobby.

Start decorating your journal by putting several stickers on each page, leaving room for other stuff on the page later.

Note: It takes a while to design each page the way you like it, so don’t try to decorate an entire journal in a few minutes. Give yourself several sessions to do this.

I schedule a few minutes for at least one of these activities every day—even just a few minutes is good—to spark my creativity and just have fun.

You should, too.

Try it!

And for more tips for awakening your creativity, click here!

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 35 published books, a writing coach, and editor at

Looking for more ways to spark your creativity?

Join her Facebook Group for Creative Writers!

Creativity & Work-Life Balance

Creativity & Work-Life Balance
When was the last time you did something creative just for fun? 

If the answer doesn't come to you immediately, you are missing out.

There are many benefits to being creative. Among other things, it helps with critical thinking, relieves stress, and is just plain fun. Whenever you are having a particularly stressful day - or even if you are not - a creative endeavor will add much needed adrenaline, motivation, and spark. And just a few minutes can make a huge difference.

Here are ten creative things you can do today or any day.

1. Doodle or Sketch. You don't need to be artistic to make art.

2. Take Photos. Just about everyone has a camera on their mobile phone. Take a walk and take some pictures.

3. Write a Poem. April is #NationalPoetryMonth. Celebrate.

4. Turn on Music and Dance. Regular dance breaks also help with your physical health. 

5. Write a Story. Just for Fun!

6. Garden. The bonus: flowers to beautify your home or something good to eat.

7. Cook. See what you can make with the ingredients in your fridge or pantry. 

8. Bake. Yum. 'Nuff said.

9. Craft. Sew, scrapbook, knit. The options are endless. 

10. Write a Letter. This is a fun exercise. Plus it will make someone's day. 

For more on the power of creative pursuits, check out the recap from my #GoalChat on this topic.

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How do you incorporate creativity into your work-life balance? Please share in the comments.

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Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of The D*E*B Method: Goal Setting Simplified and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat. Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

5 Things to Write During a Power Outage

I don't know about your part of the world, but it is super-hot in sunny Southern California. There have been power outages throughout the city, and last night it was my neighborhood's turn. 

This got me thinking ... what can you do during a power outage ... aside from hoping your food doesn't spoil or you don't melt.

As I was waiting for my lights - and air conditioner - to come back on, I came up with this list. I wanted to save the battery on my computer, so I grabbed pen, paper, and my Huglight flashlight.

Here are 5 things you can work on when the power goes out.

1. Draft an Article. Whether you're on a deadline or there's a story or essay you've been meaning to write, draft it out on a piece of paper. You can do an extra edit when you transfer it to your computer later on.

2. List Ideas. Let your mind run wild. Brainstorm ideas for upcoming articles, stories, books, screenplays, poems, etc. Or start writing them.

3. Outline a Story. Did you just come up with a fabulous idea for a plot? Write it out in as little or much detail as your want. 

4. Work on Character Development. I think the most fun part about writing fiction is creating new characters. Spend some time and really get to know them.

5. Journal. My favorite go-to writing activity is journaling. Get everything - good, bad, fiction, non, ideas, issues, etc. - out of your head and onto the page. Then you can reboot and revisit, or not, at a later date.

There are plenty of creative things you can do when you waiting, whether it's for an appointment, standing in line, or for your electricity to come back on. Besides the time passes much more quickly when you are being productive.

What do you do when your power goes out? Do you spend it being creative? Please share in the comments.

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Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group

She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the Guided Goals Podcast.

Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Be More Creative

If you’re like me and you occasionally feel stuck creatively, you might be searching for ways to get those juices pumping again. Well, my fellow writing friend, you’ve found some great tips that you can do today.

1.       Infuse Your Diffuser—Are you in on the latest essential oil craze? I’m not here to sell you essential oils, but I can tell you that smells matter. Research has shown that smells stimulate your brain quicker because of the olfactory senses being so close to your brain. That’s why a smell can bring back a memory quicker than anything. Hmmm, I wonder if there’s been research with people who have Alzheimer’s? Anyway, I digress.

My point here is if you use a particular smell in the area where you write and use it consistently, it will trigger your brain to know this is our creative time and if you choose the smells that are associated with more alertness and stimulation, you’ll get a two-for-one deal. I like peppermint and cinnamon. Maybe I’m a foodie at heart. I’m still experimenting with my diffuser but you could use a room freshener. There are some really pretty plug-in’s I’ve seen lately. If you used scents to help you write, please let me know what scent is your favorite. I’d love to hear about it and give it a try myself.

2.       Less is More—Have you heard this? Well, I know it’s a great motto for living and leaving less of a carbon footprint and I’m on board with that, but for creativity, less is not more. You see, when we have nothing around us, no colors, no chachkies with sentimental value, no stuff—well, our brains just aren’t as creative. Our brains need, no crave, stimulation. If you’re in a boring bland empty colorless room, you’re going to get what you put it, nothing. You’ll be staring at a blank page quicker than a tick latches onto a hound dog. Now, I’m no friend of clutter. I grew up with an OCD (that’s obsessive compulsive disorder, for those non-psychology majors) mother who wanted everything in its’ place. I mean there was no clutter anywhere, not even our bedrooms, no closets stuffed with stuff, nothing hidden under our beds. I’ll stop before you start feeling sorry for me. She didn’t really have a disorder, she just didn’t like clutter so you can see why I don’t either. However, my writing office, it’s become, ahem, sorry Mom, cluttered. I have all kinds of article clippings (yes, I still do that) and stuffed shoved on shelves and actually spilling out onto the floor and bags hanging from hooks that are also stuffed with stuff and drawers filled to the brim.

Oh, and I have a problem with collecting pillows. I can’t seem to find just the right one, so I’ve bought quite a few. The guest bed in my writing office has become the holding pen for all the pillows I have rejected. It’s a great place to take a break from writing (which I never do because I’m a writing machine. LOL). But, I also have beautiful French doors that open onto my large porch and overlook our lush tropical backyard and pond brimming with life. This is a place of great inspiration for me; my writing “stuff,” my collection of pillows and the beautiful great outdoors. So, surround yourself with what you love—make it colorful, fun, whimsical is even better, and filled with whatever inspires you. Please share with me what things you like to have around you when you’re writing, I’d love to hear it.

3.       Computer typing or pen-holding writing?—I know we love our computers. I do too. I’m so productive. I can type really fast because I grew up in an age where we were taught typing. So, I don’t have to look at the keyboard and I don’t even think of letters, I think in whole words and my fingers know where to go. I, however, cannot type with my thumbs. We’ll leave that up to the younger generation. Wouldn’t it be funny if we grew extra thumbs to help us type more? Okay, okay, I know--a total digression. However, when you type, there is research that shows, you do not use your most creative part of your brain.

There are two sides to your brain—a right side and a wrong side, I mean left side. Your right side is the creative side and the left is your more rational side. When you type, you are using the left side of your brain. To stimulate the right side of your brain, the creative side, you need to use your hands. Research has shown that when you write, the act of transferring your thoughts to your hands and onto the paper actually stimulates the right side of your brain thus causing you to be more creative. If you haven’t actually hand written something in a while, I dare you to try it. You might just remember why you fell in love with writing in the first place. Please share with me your experience, I’d love to hear how this goes for you.

Wanda Luthman has her Masters of Arts in both Mental Health Counseling and Guidance Counseling from Rollins College located in beautiful Winter Park, Florida. She has worked at the local Community Mental Health Center, the local Community College, Hospice, and is currently a Guidance Counselor. Her calling in life is to help others be their best selves. She writes magical, whimsical, adventure books that delight and inspire children. She has always loved reading and writing and wrote many books and poems as a child growing up in Missouri. She presently resides in Brevard County Florida with her husband of 22 years and 2 dogs.

Follow her blog at Wanda Luthman’s Children’s Books (


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The Importance of Imagination

In case you've never seen the TV show Castle, Richard Castle is a mystery writer and kid at heart, lover of aliens, zombies, conspiracy theories, ninjas, magic, and ancient curses.

Once, after being rather disparagingly called "reality-challenged," he said,

"I prefer fantasy-augmented"
                                     --from Castle

So, if anyone ever disparages your imagination, ignore them.  Or pity them.  Your imagination helps make you a great writer, even if you have no zombies, aliens or conspiracy theories in your work.  And if you ever start to feel stuck, it may be that you haven't been nourishing your imagination enough.  It's like a muscle.  Keep it exercised!

Melinda Brasher currently teaches English as a second language in the beautiful Czech Republic.  She loves the sound of glaciers calving and the smell of old books.  Her travel articles and short fiction appear in Go NomadInternational LivingElectric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and others.  For an e-book collection of some of her favorite published pieces, check out Leaving Home.  For something a little more medieval, read her YA fantasy novel, Far-KnowingVisit her online at

5 Pursuits to Inspire Creativity

When was the last time you stepped away from the computer and got creative? If you have to think about it, then it has been too long.

A regular dose of creativity will keep the inspiration flowing, when it's time to put pen to paper.

Here are 5 things you can (that aren't writing) to spark your creativity,

1. Make Art. Draw, sketch, doodle. Paint, papier-mâché, crochet. Design a tree-house. Or build one. Even if you don't consider yourself an artist, step out of your creative comfort zone and make something. As your hands are occupied, allow your mind to wander. You could solve a creative problem or imagine something new.

2. Get Outside. There are plenty of things outside that inspire creativity - you just need to open your eyes and look around. Go for a walk, a run, or a bike ride. Or plant and tend to a garden. Fresh air is invigorating, not to mention healthy. 

3. Go Dancing. There are social, physical, and mental benefits to going out dancing. And I certainly recommend it. However, you can get the latter two without leaving your home. Schedule a daily dance break. Set an alarm, and when it goes off, put on your favorite radio station or song, turn up the volume, and dance.

4. Cook or Bake. Cooking and baking are two of the most creative things you can do. And, as a bonus, you get eat the fruits of your labor. Whether you follow a recipe (which you have to do to some extent when you bake although decorations are up for grabs) or create as you go, remember to have fun.

5. Have an Adventure. Enjoy the creativity of others. Take a field trip to a museum or art gallery, go to a booksigning, or see a show. Support other artists. At least for me, nothing is more inspiring that seeing and appreciating the creative work of others. 

A few months ago, I shared some tips on how to get unstuck when writing. Well, you don't need to find yourself at a loss for words as an excuse to get creative. You can't avoid getting stuck all the time, but you can decrease the likelihood.

Schedule (yes, schedule) time to be creative to remain inspired as much as possible. 

What creative things do you pursue in addition to writing? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Guided Goals and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. 

She is the host of the Guided Goals Podcast and author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. 

Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Five Ways to Unlock those Creativity Muscles

"Why is the moon in the sky?" "Why don't the stars crash into each other?" "Why did God make me your first child?" (You've wondered that too, right?) "Why do I have to bath every day? The dog doesn't."


Why does he keep asking questions? Because he's born to be creative. And what do we do as adults? Stifle his creativity! "Just because!"

To be honest, often it's because we don't know the answers. And why don't we? Because someone stopped us from finding the answers in the first place.

A good comedian trains his mind to look for the "different angle" on everyday things. In the same way, as writers, we can train our minds to look for different angles to everyday situations. Truly creative minds not only come up with the answers. They also come up with the questions.

This is why a young child can drive an adult crazy.

So how can we, as writers, re-kindle our creativity? Here are five suggestions:

1. Change your perspective. Look at your life from a child's point of view. Or through your dog's eyes. You may gain ideas on a new way to tackle a problem. Look at your writing from your reader's point of view. Are you satisfying his or her needs? Does this meet the requirements of the publication?
  • Don't stop at one idea. Look at your way of life from many different perspectives. I once listened to an LP record (which gives away my age) in which an intelligent man is trying to explain a game of golf to a totally uneducated bushman from Central Africa. Hilarious! But also thought-provoking.
2. Challenge your assumptions. You go out to dinner in a posh restaurant. You just assume they will have staff to wait on you. But what if they don't? How would that work? Imagine the scenario. Play it over in your mind. 
  • I once read a signboard sticking out of the lawn of a bowling green. "Keep off the grass," it instructed. Is that possible? Could you play bowls without stepping on the grass? How would you get the bowling balls to run on the grass if you kept on the path? Think it through.
3. Let your ideas run wild. One of my favourite story series as a little girl was Enid Blyton's Wishing Chair. For those deprived readers who have never read these stories, two children, Peter and Mollie, find an armchair that grows wings when they rub the legs. Together with their pixie friend, Chinky, they take off on many wonderful adventures. Be honest. How would you react if you were polishing a chair one day and it grew wings? Would you sit on it and wish yourself to an exotic destination? Or would you run out the room and scream for someone to come and help, because "chairs don't fly"? 
  • Look at your favourite armchair and visualise yourself sitting on it as you soar out of the window and across the fields. Imagine the expression on your neighbours' faces as you wave to them. Think of all the advantages. No parking problems. No emission of toxic fumes. Don't stifle your creativity. Relax, and let ideas come. You may never use them in your writing (although who knows? Enid Blyton did!) But you'll have fun.And you'll be building those creativity muscles.
4. Rethink your needs: For example, instead of thinking, "How can I attract more people to my blog, ask yourself, "Do I really need more readers on my blog?" The question suggests other creative solutions, like finding ways to make your blog more interesting to your present visitors. This may in turn help you come up with more profitable ideas.
  • Instead of, "What should my character do to solve this problem?" try "Do I really need this character?" Instead of, "How can I think of six suggestions on how to strengthen my creativity muscles?" ask, "Do I really need to have six?"
5. Connect the dots: Look around and choose objects near you, then ask how they may be connected. Connect the sight of a police car speeding down the road with the spate of robberies you read of in the newspaper. Will the criminals get caught? Possibly not. So does crime pay? Maybe it doesfor the guy who gets away. Notice an elderly lady crossing the road, her purse hanging over her arm. Connect the dots. Could a criminal snatch that bag and get away with it? What chance would the old lady have of stopping him? 
  • Can you write an article for a senior's magazine on security measures? How about "Safe ways to go shopping"?
If you train your brain to habitually use these and other training ideas, you really can strengthen those creativity muscles. It won't happen in one day, and you won't get a best-seller idea the first exercise you try. Remember that it takes time to develop new muscles, and that includes creative muscles. However, if you follow these exercises regularly, you will become more creative. 

OVER TO YOU: When you hit a blank screen, what do you do to spark those creativity muscles back to life? Please leave a comment below.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer has created a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Please visit Shirley through where she encourages writers, or at where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Sign up to receive a short devotional message from Shirley in your inbox once a week.

Break Up the Routine, Write Something New

Here we are at the end of another year. As usual, we wonder, where did the time go?

Photo credit: Unhindered by Talent / Foter / CC BY-SA
It is typically a time to reflect on our successes and get ready for a new year with fresh goals.

Before you start scheduling for 2015, I would like to throw an idea at you that will help break up the monotony that comes with routine. It could be a fun idea to spark creativity and show you there is more in you than you thought.

I'm finishing up a free online course 
through the University of Iowa, "How to Write Fiction". Even though I rarely write fiction, I thought it was worth my time to try something new. I learned to be challenged and stretched in areas that were not familiar - kind of like snorkeling or yoga for the first time. 

One lesson was on constraints and styles. The assignment was to write a scene of 10 sentences and include a numeral in each sentence (and continuing with patterns of 20, 30 sentences if desired). Or, write a scene with sentences containing the same number of words.

I chose the latter. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed doing this assignment! 

It happened that day I was aware of how it looks when colorful, autumn days suddenly shift to cold, blustery weather. It ended up having a poetic feel and totally out of my writing style.

Kathleen Moulton

Brown, shrunken mums in containers. Soggy jack-o-lanterns with misshapen faces.

Skeletal remains lost their splendor. Faded jewels of red and gold.

The man tries to collect. Let the wind take them!

Queen Anne shivers and shrivels. Canada goose watches the sky.

Pull back the royal curtain. See the river once hidden?

Happy dogs walk with women. Knitted hats and mismatched scarves.

The sun has a secret. It is cloaked in mystery.

Drops of rain turn white. Mums are hideous remnants lost.

And jack-o-lanterns seem to cry. The man’s leaves are gone.


Try something new this year. Let yourself get side-tracked just a bit. You will find there is more inside of you than you thought. If it doesn't develop further, the process will definitely clear out the cobwebs!

Have you had an experience similar to this? When you were pleasantly surprised with something you wrote?

After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts

Great Books 101 - Ancient to Medieval


I love that word when it comes to anything, but mostly when I can learn something new.

Hillsdale College is offering a free online course, Great Books 101 - Ancient to Medieval. If you need a refresher course or are unfamiliar with some or all of these classics, consider digging into some writing from our past.

Along with video and audio lectures by Hillsdale's professors, you will find the reading excerpt, a short quiz, and discussion opportunities with fellow students. After a final exam at the end of the course you will receive a certificate of completion.

The books offered are:

Homer, The Iliad

Homer, The Odyssey

Sophocles, Oedipus Rex

Virgil, The Aeneid

The David Story

The Book of Job

St Augustine, Confessions

Dante, Inferno

Chaucer, Canterbury Tales

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Our minds are like sponges and sometimes they get a bit dried up. When we find the time to keep learning, our minds are refreshed. Who knows where it will take us? A word, a thought, or perspective will expand our knowledge base and creativity. As I have been reading these classics, I have had fresh ideas for my own writing.

I hope you take time to get a little learning in this year and reap the benefits!

  After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts

On Point of View, Political Correctness, and Creativity

Guestpost from Carolyn Howard-Johnnson

Many of you know that in my other writing life, I take up serious themes like discrimination so I’m especially sensitive to it when I see in the publishing world.

Not long ago, my writing friend Leora Krygier was asked by a reporter for the Orange County Register if she felt qualified to write from the point of view of a young Vietnamese girl in her book When She Sleeps. Having once been in journalism and been in a position to do some interviewing of my own, I was a bit incensed. It seemed amazing to me that someone would presume to tell a writer they couldn't or shouldn't write from any point of view they so choose  or suggest that doing so would cause resentment. How could a reader (or a reporter) possibly presume we couldn't write from the point of view of someone of a different race, a different religion or culture. And why would they tinge that question with a hint-of-haughty in the voice, a bit of a look-down-the-nose demeanor.

My daughter, a cultural anthropologist, suggested that such ideas were a function of our intensity to be as politically correct as possible and The Register did have a large Vietnamese population, which was probably one reason they were doing the interview in the first place. Because I believe that being politically incorrect in most instances, simply promulgates bigotry, I tried to put all my arguments—arguments in favor of creative writers—aside and forget about it.

Then I ran into another instance of this kind of question in Time magazine. There is was in my face again:

Belinda Luscombe put on her snarkiest interview hat to interview Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Michael Chabon. It went something like this: "A central character in your book Telegraph Avenue, Arcy Stallings, is the black co-owner of a record store. Did you feel anxious writing from the point of view of a black guy?" In addition to the haughty and snooty tendencies listed above, her question smacks a bit of the passive aggressive.

I admit it. That got me a little riled. But the interviewer persisted: "But race is a charged subject. In the book, there's a white lawyer, Moby, who talks like a black guy. Didn't you worry that that was you?"

Then I went on a full scale rant, albeit a quiet one to myself. Exc-u-u-se me! But don't writers of fiction always use something of themselves when drawing a character? None of us can pull any character trait that we haven't personally seen, experienced, or read about from thin air! I sniffed! But it doesn't have to be us.

And doesn't fiction work—especially great fiction—because at our cores we are all the same? Sentient human beings who share needs and feelings? When I suffer under one kind of prejudice, as an example, isn't that at some level very similar to what someone else suffers under another? So wouldn't that qualify white-girl me to write from the point of anyone I so chose—if I took care. If I had a worthy subject and theme. And isn't that the job of the artist to decide?

And, (I actually huffed! Almost aloud!), haven't these reporters ever heard of research? Or imagination?

And what about that idea of getting too close to something, so close that we may feel responsible or fear we're putting our souls in danger? Or that someone might mistake sincerity for satire? Of vice versa? Wouldn't any thoughtful person understand that every time an author picks up a pen he or she puts herself in some kind of emotional (philosophical?) danger? And don't readers understand the difference between fiction and reality? Do they really think that every character in our books is us rather than seeing that every character may be us, but may also be a reflection of someone we've observed? Or read about? Or devised by mixing traits of many people we've met?

And this is the answer I came up with.

Apparently not.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson occasionally contributes to AuthorsOntheMove. She is the author of award-winning books This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a series of chapbooks of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

Letting Go of the Novel: How to Deal with Empty Pen Syndrome

Novels take such a long time to gestate. For me, that period is longer than the time it takes to gestate a child.  In fact, my first novel was conceived (that is, begun in earnest) while pregnant with my first child, and born (that is, finally finished), around the same time as my third child was born.  So the gestation matches the time frame of all three of my children.  And now, published, out in the world, it’s like a 20 year old who has flown the nest (while my real children are still here).  There have been other books since then - some that have taken less than a year and others that have taken three or more years.  My current WIP is celebrating its second year of gestation and I'm thinking that I still have at least six months of work to go. So these are long term projects that live with you and change, grow and develop. There are plenty of guides providing excellent information on how to best gain publicity for your book: how to promote it, sell it, flaunt it.  You'll get lots of information on that here, and some of it from me, but I’ve yet to see a guide for how to let go.  A finished novel is often something with only the most tenuous connection to those words which you held inside – your name on the cover and your photo inside perhaps.  Your book now belongs to your readers.  You can (and should) promote the heck out of your book. You can glory in the good reviews, and cry over the bad ones. But you no longer have much influence over that.  The book’s on its own.

 There has to be a way to deal with that hollow feeling you get when someone reads and interprets (often in different ways than you intended) words that were internal and private for so long.  There has to be a way to stop promoting for a bit, and move on to the next project.  So here are five tips, I’ve gathered together, as much for myself as you. 

  • This is the most obvious, so I’ll start with it.  Move on!  Sounds easy, right?  Begin getting into your next book.  All that plotting, characterising, researching will help you with the all important bonding process you need. 
  • Set a limit to your promotional work.  I know this is exactly the opposite of what everyone (including myself) tells you, but it’s easy to become obsessive.  Do one thing a day, and then, maybe after six months, one thing a week.  Otherwise you can spend hours checking those Amazon stats (and feel flat when they don’t move), panic about whether you’ve done enough, and feel like you've wasted your time when your quarterly sales figures don’t match your expectations.  Keep promoting by all means, but don’t go berserk.  You've got another creation that needs your attention.
  • Allow your book the space to be itself.  All art reinvents itself for the person experiencing it.  Allow your readers that freedom.  Not everyone will review, or talk about your book in a way that matches your vision.  But alternative perspectives are not only valid – after all, the symphony of your book only plays when it meets a set of receptive ears – but also rather lovely, even when it's at odds with your intention.
  • Harden up.  Your book really is a commercial product now.  You may not even be living off the proceeds (thank goodness, unless you’re Rowling), but your publisher probably is.  Your book is now a concrete piece of merchandise, and talking about it in terms of things like return on investment, shelf space, and merchandising may help cure that romantic sense of it being your own little baby.
  • Finally, enjoy the freedom.  You’ve done your bit.  You’ve finished what you started, and there’s a sense of real accomplishment in stopping and saying that.  So go on, say it.  Nice and loud.  I’m done.  It isn’t that hard.  At least with a bit of practice. 
These tips probably won’t stop you from feeling just a little overly sentimental about your first novel – the learning curve is so large, and the sense of intimacy so strong the first time around, that, like any ‘first,’ your first novel will always be just that little bit special.  It gets a little easier after that, but it's always difficult to move on and stop focusing on it so heavily so you can go back into creation mode.  However, with a little effort, you can learn to accept the totality of your career – there will be other novels – better than the first.  There will be readers, with their own histories, and perspectives, taking your words into their hearts and making them their own.  That’s why we do it, after all. 

Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at

Write on... don't give up the dream!

Do you dream of being a writer?

If you want to be a writer, the only thing required is to put your butt in a chair, place your hands on a keyboard, pen, pencil or whatever you use to write, and write, write, write.

Consider writing as your job. If your dream is to publish, remember writing is a business, and treat it as if you’re an entrepreneur, because you are.

It doesn’t make any difference if you are young, old, or in between.

Don’t let anyone; including yourself talk you out of your dream of writing. Just write what subject you want to write about.

It doesn’t make any difference who you are, what sex you are, or anything else. Determination and persistence is will make you a writer.

Every writer can come up with myriad excuses not to write. The writer doesn’t use them, but writes in spite of them.

One major excuse is not having the time. This is a cop-out  If you want to be a writer, you’ll make time by going to bed later, get up earlier, or turn the Television off instead of watching some inane program. If a movie or some show is important to you, record it for a later time.

For the novice writer, the internal editor is a major problem. Overcome this by just writing, and then edit it.
It’s simple, writers write and that’s it, period.

If you want to be a writer, sit down and write the darn book; it won’t write itself.

Now is the time to organize your thoughts, notes, research, or outline and begin telling your story as only you can.

Today is the day you become a writer.

Robert Medak
Freelance Writer, Blogger, Editor, Proofreader, Reviewer, and Marketer
Find me on the Web

Right-Brain / Left-Brain - Which Controls Your Writing?

Right-Brain - Left-Brain

Which Controls Your Writing?

In 1981, Roger Wolcott Sperry--a neuropsychologist and neurobiologist, together with two others, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on the split-brain theory. Extensive research has shown that where we both make use of both right-brain and left-brain ability, we all tend to favour one or the other.

This can show up way back in early childhood, where one child may be logical and well-organised, while the other is a disorganised dreamer. In a family of logical people, there can be pressure on the one child who is predominantly right-brain in his approach to life, to conform to his family and society's mainly left-brained approach. Where obviously the dreamer has to be able to fit into the (usually) organised world where he lives, his brain preference should nevertheless be encouraged.

One of our three children fits this category exactly. He was the dreamer of the family. While everyone else in the class tackled their maths assignment, he stared out the window. He spent several long stretches in bed, due to a couple of unusual illnesses. During his first attack of Rheumatic Fever, he spent nine months in bed. Yet we never had a problem with boredom. He always found new, creative ways to entertain himself.

Without going into complicated explanations, it is sufficient to say that the left-brain is responsible for logic. It is analytical, fact-based, and organised. The right-brain on the other hand is emotional, intuitive and creative. 

Writers need the left-brain approach, to be able to turn out manuscripts that readers can understand. But without the right-brain, their work is likely to be dry and uninteresting. So when you're looking for a more creative approach to a story or an article, look for ways to switch your brain into "right-brain" mode.

The traditional methods of making a list, or writing down ideas one after the other, rely on the left brain, using a linear method. These emphasise logic and order which can prevent the flow of way-out ideas. 

Put On Your Thinking Cap . . . and other safer ideas.

For years, parents and teachers have been urging their young charges to "Put on your thinking cap." It would appear that scientists have actually developed a “thinking cap”. This zaps the brain with electricity, thus suppressing the left side of the brain, and allowing the right brain to develop. (I've searched for an available photograph to share with you, but without success. You'll have to imagine it for yourself.) I admit I don't like this idea one bit, but I've found a few other ways to stimulate the right brain, without having to light up your eyes.

Here are six ways to put your right brain to work.

1. Create a mind-map. The old way of coming up with a list of ideas was to do just that: Make a list. A far more creative method is to get your right brain to do the work as you create a mind-map. See here for detailed instructions.

2. Sing. Singing is a right brain activity. So if you sing your ideas out loud, you are encouraging your right brain to get involved, which may bring some creative ideas to the fore. (It'll probably bring some strange looks to the fore as well, so I suggest you do this on your own!)

3. Listen to music. Students through the years have tried to convince their parents that listening to music helps them to concentrate. It actually involves their right brain, thus making them more open to new ideas. Experts advocate Mozart for this, but probably any music will work. The trick will be to find something which allows your brain to work, and not shut down because of the sheer volume.

4. Play music. If you play an instrument, think about the issue you want to explore, then sit down at the piano or pick up your guitar, and allow your mind to wander.

5. Draw. Drawing relies completely on the right brain. You might want to draw the problem area, or just doodle on a piece of paper or a chalkboard. As you draw, picture the issue you're wanting to explore, and you may find new ideas filtering into your mind.

6. Write. Without doubt, this is the best way for a writer to increase activity in his/her right brain.
  • Establish a regular routine of writing. This trains your right brain to be in charge and not allow the left brain to take over and produce excuses for not writing.
  • Write through writer's block. Pull out a fresh piece of paper, or open a new document in Word, and write freely without lifting your pen. If you're a reasonably fast typist you can do the same on your computer. Another name for this is stream of consciousness.
  • Write with your non-dominant hand, or even with both hands at once. You probably won't be able to read it back, but it will give your right brain a chance to explore all it likes, as your left brain cannot interfere with this exercise.
How about you? What do you do to kick-start that right-brain into coming up with fresh, creative idea? Please share your suggestions in the comment section below.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer, launching on October 1, or available now for pre-order at or at Barnes & Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions internationally. 

Visit Shirley on her website to inspire and encourage writers, or on Rise and Soar, her website for encouraging those on the cancer journey. Follow her on Twitter or "like" her Author's page on Facebook. 

Using Personality Typologies to Build Your Characters

  Contributed by Margot Conor People often have asked me how I build such varied and interesting character profiles. I’m fond of going into ...