Ghostwriting

9 01 2011

I began a totally new project in December–ghostwriting a romance. I’ve ghostwritten nonfiction, but this is my first attempt at working from someone else’s synopsis. That’s been a challenge.

I find that my brain starts popping out kernels of ideas until I have bowls full of popcorn, but I have to sweep more than half of it in the trash because it doesn’t fit the outline I’ve been given. I’m convinced that my additions would make for a better, stronger story, but they’d take the book in a totally different direction.

I guess writing to a preset outline is good discipline, as is setting aside several hours a day to work on fiction writing, but I wonder if my creative brain will suffer if I constantly ignore its ideas and directives. Any thoughts?





I’m Jealous of Snooki…

7 01 2011

Seeing Snooki publish a book with a big New York publishing house when she only read her first book less than a year ago, has me green-eyed. To be truthful, though, I’m not envious of her publishing deal–although I’d love to snag an advance like that, of course.

I’m actually jealous of her prose. In this excerpt, for example, she’s describing a guy’s toned abs: “She could pour a shot of tequila down his belly and slurp it out of his navel without getting splashed in the face.” Wow! Talk about creative. Never in a million years could I have come up with a description like that.

OK, so most of my books are for kids or teens, which means I probably wouldn’t even be thinking along those lines. But it does inspire me to come up with unique twists and turns of phrase for my works in progress. Maybe I could beat Snooki at her own game. One of them, that is.





New Year, New Projects?

5 01 2011

Baby Looking Upwards So the new year has begun. I once read that the number 11 signifies creativity, so this should be a great year to work on all my creative projects. Just wish I didn’t have so many going at once. Dreaming of babies is also connected with new projects, and I’ve been dreaming a lot about babies too.

I managed to finish my WIP on December 30, which means I can get started on a new book. I also have plenty of manuscripts languishing in the To Be Revised drawer, but a new year seems to call for a brand new start. I have lots of ideas hopping around in my head. It’s just a question of getting them down on paper. And how do I choose which one to start on first? I have several ideas for a romance series and a few for YAs. I also want to tackle a totally new genre–writing a thriller that’s been nagging at me for several months–but am not sure it’s quite ready to be born yet. Or is that fear speaking?

Anyone have any advice on how you choose new projects?

 





Why Do Artists Live Longer than Politicians?

30 11 2010

Recently, I’ve been working on an assignment that requires a series of bios of famous and semi-famous people from around the world throughout history, and I discovered something interesting. Almost invariably, the artists, composers, moviemakers, and writers lived well into their 90s; an amazing number even made it past 100. Many politicians, kings, and government leaders died young.  Of course, coups and assassinations cut some of their lives short, but even those who died of natural causes lived a much shorter time than those who were involved in the arts. Even during eras when living to 40 was considered normal, artists generally outlived their contemporaries by 20-30 years. When artists died young, it was often because they took their own lives, so it’s hard to know how long they would have lived, if they’d given themselves a chance.

So what it is about the arts that leads to longeviety? I’ve pondered this and wonder if it’s because artists approach life differently. Politicians often have driving needs to compete, to be first, to get to the top of the heap. Once there, they have additional stresses heaped on them. Artists spend their time creating more often than competing. That’s not to say there isn’t competition in the arts, but given a choice between winning or creating, most artists choose the latter.

I suspect, too, that artists’ angst and stress often get expressed through creative work, so although many artists struggle to make a living, they transform their problems into something outside themselves. When they lose themselves in their work, many of those stresses disappear, even if only temporarily.

Creativity may also give artists an edge in solving problems; they’re usually willing to think outside the box. And the act of creation is life-giving and energetic, so perhaps artists benefit internally as they share their gifts.  Art renews the mind and the spirit. So every day artists may be renewing themselves as they work.

But I think the real secret is the childlike wonder and unique approach to life that many artists have. Most keep their youthful and innocent eye as they age, so their internal age is much younger and more vibrant than their external age. Have you ever noticed that many artists have an aliveness and a sparkle to their eyes, their features? They think and speak excitedly about their next projects. Perhaps they’re less likely to give up on life because they have another project they’re just dying  to do. (or maybe not…perhaps it’s a project they’re just living to do.)





Rethinking Goverment

3 10 2010

I’ve been exploring the concept of holacracy—a new form of company and leadership dynamics. If I understand it correctly, it’s based on the principles of holism, where the whole is greater than the parts. It also involves being in harmony with something beyond yourself. It may be a social unit (family, nation) or an ideology, or even creation (or perhaps beyond that to the creator).

I’m excited by the possibilities of applying these ideas to business. Management expert Gary Hamel, ranked as the #1 most influential business thinker in the world by the Wall Street Journal, believes that to build a company for the future it must excite passion in its people. People who care about the company and are invested in it will be its greatest resources. I believe a company can harness that passion by freeing those who work there to find their unique purpose and to follow their higher calling.

Holocracy frees a company to evolve beyond the limits of set values. Rather than polarizing toward one value, say innovation, which then automatically excludes its opposite, stagnation, this construct embraces both values. Redefining stagnation can mean maintaining the status quo and retaining ideas and systems that have worked well in the past. It may encompass stillness, reflection, and stability. Innovation without balance can result in exhaustion and instability, and change for change’s sake. By allowing room for both values, the company can make the wisest decisions.

That also means a diversity of personalities and backgrounds are vital within the company. Each person brings a unique take on the world, with varying ideals, values, and thoughts. A company that appreciates these differing viewpoints and integrates them into a meaningful whole greatly benefits from the expertise of each person. It also means doing away with the top-down structure and empowering people to work autonomously.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could apply these principles to government? Perhaps a blend of the best of the traditional political parties would work wonders for balance, unity, and harmony.





Overcoming Procrastination

29 08 2010

My Muse--Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I just stumbled across a blog called “Getting Jump Started” that has what the author, Sarah  Bush, calls the 20 Minute Technique. To get moving on projects (especially creative ones) that you’ve stalled on for a while, set a timer for 20 minutes and do something–anything–related to the project. Sounds easy, right?

It is. I’ve been using this technique for years, only I set the timer for 10 minutes. The results are the same. It shoves me out of my complacency and gets me moving in the right direction. Even if it’s only a tiny step, I’m one step closer to finishing than I was before. And it works for writing a novel, painting a picture, cleaning the house, or any task that I’ve been avoiding.

One of the reasons it works so well is that, for a perfectionist like me, the critical part of my brain shuts down. It dismisses those 10-minute efforts.

“Ha,” it says. “There’s no way you can do anything productive in such a short amount of time.” And it stalks off.

Yay! It’s amazing what a great creative start I get before it realizes that I’m actually getting things done without it. By the time it comes storming over to demand that my creative half pay attention to its directives, the work’s well under way. And even it can see that the creative side’s doing a super job. Sometimes it stalks off to sulk; other times it points a finger at all the mistakes, but by then my creative side is strong enough to handle the barbs.

Most of the time procrastination is fear of failure, so the 10- or 20-minute trick helps. No one can write a perfect novel in that short a time, so for a little while, my muse can play freely without the pressure of producing a perfect product.





Creative Commons

9 08 2010

In keeping with the theme I’ve been discussing of free intellectual property, I thought I’d mention Creative Commons. Their slogan is:

Share, Remix, Reuse — Legally

Here’s what their website says about this nonprofit organization:

“We work to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in “the commons” — the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing.”

They provide “tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. The Creative Commons licenses enable people to easily change their copyright terms from the default of ‘all rights reserved’ to ‘some rights reserved.’”

If you’re into sharing, it’s a great place to go. You can get a license (or should I say a licence, which is the British spelling for the noun?) for your work to allow others to use it and share it. Not only can you donate work, but they have many things available to use. Check it out. Best of all it’s global.

Creative Commons licenses are available in the following languages:




The Secret to Publication

5 07 2010

Now that I’ve been published, people often ask me how to do it. Learning your craft is important, of course, and so is having creative ideas, but the most important tip I can share is to connect with other writers and form a critique group.

Years ago, when writing was only a glimmer of an idea in the back of my mind, I sat at a banquet table next to an author who was receiving an award. During the meal, I listened with awe as she discussed the members of her critique group–all famous authors.

No wonder she got published with connections like that, I thought.

When I suggested that she was lucky to have such stellar critique partners, she laughed. “We all started out as unpublished writers. After we’d been together about five years, one by one we each got a book contract. Then over the next few years, we started winning awards. Now most of the group members have gone on to become famous, but we actually learned to write together.”

Little did I know that I was soon to follow her path. Last weekend I had the joy of attending a book signing at the Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg, PA. It brought tears to my eyes to know that the members of my very first crit group were there signing their books too. In fact, all of us have more than one book published. And, yes, we did it together. I’d venture to say that without sharing our combined knowledge, we would never be where we are today.

But the story doesn’t end there. I moved to a new state and a new crit group. Of course, I didn’t leave my old group behind. We still crit each other’s work via mail. But I’ve been with my new crit group for several years, and now that group is on the path to publication as well. One of my friends from that group joined me for this Harrisburg booksigning with her first novel in a series of three. And as for the other members of that group, all of them are close to publication. I’ve watched in delight as the submissions for each crit meeting move to ever higher levels of quality. I know that soon all of us will be doing group signings together.

In a few years, some of my CPs (or many of them) may be household names. Then I can say I knew them when. In fact, one member of a crit group I belonged to made the NY Times Bestseller list for a book I helped to critique.Very cool! And other CPs are now winning writing awards and contests. So it won’t be long until I’ll be able to say the same thing as that famous author: “We all learned to write together.”

Moving up the ladder of publishing success often seems to be a painstakingly slow process–one rung at time. Many times you wonder if you’ll ever get high enough off the ground, but when you look down, you can see how far you’ve come. Even better, though, is watching those around you reach that pinnacle of success.





Stimulating Creativity

1 07 2010

Picture by Clare Bloomfield

Whew! Back from ALA and glad to be surrounded by trees and green again. Guess I’m not a city person. I found the heat, humidity, and press of the crowds draining. I suppose many people find the city exhilarating, but if I lived there for any length of time, I’d miss the black sky spangled with stars, the treetops swaying in the breeze, and the laundry-fresh air after a rain.

Quite a contrast to the city, where neon lights pulsed all night, concrete towers hemmed me in and obscured the sky, and rain swirled oily puddles into the gutters and made the air stink of old urine. I admire those who can live amid the clanking, banging, and exhaust fumes and still remain creative. I wonder if the city sparks a different kind of creativity–a pulsating, in-your-face kind of story. Perhaps my writing needs a jolt of that high energy.

What setting stimulates your creativity?





Have You Heard of Prezi?

21 06 2010

I love discovering new things to enhance my presentations, so I was intrigued when I read an article in School Library Journal about it and was intrigued enough to trek on over to the Prezi site. It’s advertised as intuitive and easy to use. And supposedly it beats PowerPoint hands down.

I see that it could be fun to jot down ideas and play with them. Make them larger, draw paths, make sense out of random jottings, but I think right brain and left brain functions are two different things. I wonder if all the creative people end up with fabulous ideas that are messy and disorganized as they bounce from idea to idea with no clear path for others to follow.

My guess is that the super-organized will be so busy lining their jottings up in outline form or alphabetically or some other linear format that they’ll miss the fun of brainstorming, and the scattershot approach will totally pass them by.

So who is Prezi for? Probably those people who don’t mind making an initial mess, then have the ability to edit, organize, classify, and categorize random thoughts. Writers, perhaps? Isn’t that we’re expected to do? Throw creative ideas down on paper without censoring them, then go back and turn them into coherent stories?

Believe me, I wondered about writing a novel on Prezi. Think it would work?

Lesson 1: Prezi in 3 minutes