Know that you have talent, are original, and have something important to say. - Brenda Ueland

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Planting the seeds

Great piece at the Gotham Writers Workshop web site by Alexandra Steele about finding ideas for stories and sowing those ideas.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Revel in it

This weekend I painted a picture, a big off-centered flower. Each time I walk in the kitchen and see the painting, I get a little lift. The canvas has an energy to it - the bright colors and how they swoop.

I loved listening to the instructor, Celeste Zepponi, talk about creativity and art. She had this contentment and energy about her, like she is living the life she’s always wanted.

My favorite creative types, whether they are writers, sculptors, dancers, or songwriters, are those who see themselves as an artist and treat it as a privilege. Creating is serious because it’s wondrous and full of joy.

Celeste encouraged us – all beginners, all a tiny bit nervous - to think about how much fun it is putting paint on the canvas. Revel in the color and the brush strokes. Remember what it was like as a child to play.

I love that.

My painting is propped up in the windowsill in the kitchen. I like it. I keep thinking, “Maybe it's not Great Art, but … then I stop and think, “Who gets to say what is Great? Who gets to say what is Art?”

I associate that big, bold flower with all the good thoughts and feelings that came from the class, the reminder of how fun it is to be creative, that the fun is in the doing.

It's like the painting absorbed the happy energy and thoughts from the session. I love having that in our home.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why we do this

When I sit down to write I want to remember this: that it is fun. That writing is a joy. That the act of writing is the fun part. The outcome matters, sure it does. But it's the writing, that's the thing.

This blog post by writer Cheryl Ossola was a lovely reminder of that. She writes that we all need a sense of wonder to fuel the creative drive.

"If a sense of wonder is requisite to creativity, we need only make the choice to find it. The real work comes in clearing away the clutter, the self-doubt, the excellent arguments we all can make for staying our course, the negativity."

Please go read the post and be sure to click on the links within. They are excellent.

Isn't it something how the little nudge, the encouragement, just the little thing that feels like a present arrives when you need it? Love that.

Monday, February 14, 2011


In mid November, when I finished writing my novel I knew that by February I'd be enjoying editing and polishing it up. Making it shine.

But what I've realized that while writing writing writing, I didn't include a few things. Like tension. Or conflict. Or the story.

I've written the world's most boring 84,000+ words.

What needs to happen next is rewriting. Major rewriting. It would be more accurate to say throw the whole thing out and start over but that makes me want to do a face plant on my desk and stay that way for a very long time. Instead, massive, major rewrite.

I'm disappointed in myself, that I didn't do it better. Not that I didn't do it well but that I didn't even do it sorta okay.

It's hard overcoming that to dig in and do the work, more work on the same project.

So it was fortuitous and wonderful that last Friday was the day when my daily read was Elizabeth Gilbert on writing.

As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love).

I needed to hear that. My writing disappointed me but that's okay. That's how it may be. Keep going. Keep writing.

This is the precise reason I bookmark blog posts like that when I come across them. I hang on to them and re-read them. It's uncanny how often what I need to hear, what I need to be reminded of most, comes at the exact right time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Allow me

I keep meaning to post an introduction of sorts, then couldn't think of anything "good enough" to write. Sound familiar?

I collect blog posts about writing, about creativity, about doing it - writing. I bookmark them and schedule when to read them. I send myself a Google alert around 9:00 most mornings, to remind myself that it's the first Monday, time to read All for One, or it's the third Thursday and time for the post about How Serious Are You About Writing. That's what the links in the sidebar are about - posts and articles and essays I've come across that help; help me stay motivated, remind me that I am a writer, that give that gentle nudge to keep on.

A friend of mine, a close friend who is also a wonderful writer, big reader, and a great editor, suggested I think about starting a writing blog. Thanks, Camellia!

What are your favorite web sites and blog posts? Please check out the ones in the sidebar and let me know what you think.

Monday, February 7, 2011

If You Want to Write

12 pieces of advice from Brenda Ueland:

1. Know that you have talent, are original and have something important to say.

2. Know that it is good work. Work with love and think of liking it when you do it. It is easy and interesting. It is a privilege. There is nothing hard about it but your anxious vanity and fear of failure.

3. Write freely, recklessly, in first drafts.

4. Tackle anything you want to - novels, plays, anything.

5. Don't be afraid of writing bad stories. To discover what is wrong with a story write two new ones and then go back to it.

6. Don't fret or be ashamed of what you have written in the past...Go on to the next. And fight against this tendency, which is much of it due not to splendid modesty, but a lack of self-respect. We are too ready not to stand by what we have said or done. Often it is a way of forestalling criticism, saying hurriedly, "I know it is awful!" before anyone else does. Very bad and cowardly. It is so conceited and timid to be ashamed of one's mistakes. Of course they are mistakes. Go on to the next.

7. Try to discover your true, honest, untheoretical self.

8. Don't think of yourself as an intestinal tract and a tangle of nerves in the skull, that will not work unless you drink coffee. Think of yourself as incandescent power, illuminated perhaps and forever talked to by God and his messengers. Remember how wonderful you are, what a miracle!

9. If you are never satisfied with what you write, that is a good sign. It means your vision can see so far that it is hard to come up to it. Again I say, the only unfortunate people are the glib ones, immediately satisfied with their work. To them the ocean is only knee-deep.

10. When discouraged, remember what Van Gogh said: "If you hear a voice within you saying: you are no painter, then paint by all means, lad, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working."

11. Don't be afraid of yourself when you write. Don't check-rein yourself. If you are afraid of being sentimental, for heaven's sake, be as sentimental as you can or feel like being! Then you will probably pass through to the other side and slough off sentimentality because you understand it at last and really don't care about it.

12. Don't always be appraising yourself, wondering if you are better or worse than other writers. "I will not reason and compare," said William Blake; "my business is to create." Besides, since you are like no other being every created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable.

This list hangs on the bulletin board by my desk. I try to read it every day.

Is there one of these that you particularly like?

They make me smile. #s 1, 2, 10, and 12 are my favorites. Then again: I like them all.