Tag Archives: Creativity

#FlashFictionFriday: Mind Wandering (short essay)

I love this image. I found it at Wikimedia Commons and fell in love with the symmetry and the way the colors complement each other, so opposite and yet so pleasing. It inspires my creativity, pushes away the subconscious boundaries we set for ourselves in our daily lives. It makes me wonder what lies beyond the borders. What mysterious thing could be waiting there for me to discover?

When people first learn I am an author with no day job, the first thing they ask (after what the heck are you thinking) is where I get ideas for my tales.  I usually give them some song-and-dance about adapting modern relationships and values to mythological world situations, and while it’s true, it’s not the whole truth.

The truth is, these things just pop into my head, and I think “Wow – that would be a good story.”  I will be riding in the car listening to music, not thinking about anything in particular, and have a flash of brilliance – What if the dark ages never happened? Or How would Europe look if the Druids had conquered Europe instead of the Romans?

If I am smart, I will write the idea down, because I’m 64 years old and the old harddrive is full—too many cute kitty pictures and Weird Al videos, with no room for anything else.

The flow of random thoughts really is the river of creativity for me. Having the time to just sit and daydream is as rare as the March sun around here, but it does happen, and that is when my ideas come to me.  Letting your mind roam free and allowing the possibilities to enter your stream of consciousness (or not, as they will) is good for you.  Fifteen or twenty minutes a day of simply watching the world go by will rejuvenate you.

Some people will say, “I don’t have time to waste daydreaming,” and that’s all right for them. I personally need to throw open the windows of my mind and let the breezes clear away the musty ideas which get in the way of my creativity. For me, the path to writer’s block is paved with “I don’t have time to relax!”

Don’t get me wrong, I get up at 6:30 am and immediately begin blogging. After noon I read for several hours and then I do revisions or work on my current Work In Progress. I read before I go to sleep.  I do two weekly book review blogs besides this blog and all in all I work 10 to 16 hours a day at this job, but it is interspersed with various household tasks and errands.  I also take the time to let my mind rest, simply watching the town go by from my porch.

Some people call it meditation, and some people call it a waste of time. I call it necessary.  I think of my mind as if it were an ‘idea farm.’ Just as a wise farmer allows his fields to occasionally lie fallow, it’s important to let your mind rest. Letting farmlands lie fallow is one of the best ways of allowing the land to replenish its nutrients, and regain its fertility. Letting your mind roam with no particular direction is essential in lowering your stress levels (!) which immediately improves your health and your thought processes.

So I suppose when I am asked where I get ideas for my tales I should tell them the truth:

I don’t really know!


Credits and Attributes

Bruges, View from Rozenhoedkaai, blue hour. By Arcalino / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Bruegge View from Rozenhoedkaai.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Bruegge_View_from_Rozenhoedkaai.jpg&oldid=198969137 (accessed July 28, 2017). Photo: Arcalino / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

4 Comments

Filed under #FlashFictionFriday

#amwriting: mindwandering and the creative muse

kleenexI’ve been suffering from a heavy cold all weekend, and doing my work from bed. Me and NyQuil are once again best friends. So, imagine my surprise yesterday when I wrote what was supposed to be today’s blogpost and instead of pressing the “save as draft” button, I hit “publish.”

Oops.

So that meant I didn’t have a post for today. Thus, I have gone to the archives, and pulled up an old post, updated a few thing and voila! I have a post for today. Yesterday’s post  still there, so check it out!


When people first discover I write fantasy tales, the first thing they ask (after what the heck are you thinking) is where I get ideas for my tales.  I usually give them some song-and-dance about adapting modern relationships and values to mythological world situations and while it’s true, it’s not the whole truth.

The real truth is, these thing just pop into my head, and I think “Wow – that would be a good story.”  I will be riding in the car listening to music, not thinking about anything in particular and I will have a flash of brilliance – What if the dark ages never happened? or  How would Europe look if the Druids had conquered Europe instead of the Romans?

If I’m smart, I will write the idea down, because I’m 63 years old and the old main-frame ain’t what she used to be, memory-wise.

The flow of random thoughts really is the river of creativity for me. Letting your mind roam free and allowing the possibilities to enter your stream of consciousness (or not, as they will) is good for you.  Fifteen or twenty minutes a day of simply watching the world go by will rejuvenate you.

Some people will say, “I don’t have time to waste daydreaming,” and that’s all right for them. I personally need to throw open the windows of my mind and let the breezes clear away the musty ideas which get in the way of my creativity. For me, the path to writer’s block is paved with “I don’t have time to relax!”

Don’t get me wrong, I get up at 5:30 am and immediately begin blogging. After noon I read for several hours and then I do revisions or work on my current Work In Progress. I read before I go to sleep.  I do two weekly book review blogs besides this blog, and all in all I work 10 to 16 hours a day at this job, but it is interspersed with various household tasks and errands.  I also take the time to let my mind rest, simply watching the town go by from my back porch.

Some people call it meditation, and some people call it a waste of time.

I call it necessary.

I think of my mind as if it were an ‘idea farm.’.Just as a wise farmer allows his fields to occasionally lie fallow it is important to let your mind rest. Letting farmlands lie fallow is one of the best ways of allowing the land to replenish its nutrients, and regain its fertility. Letting your mind roam with no particular direction is essential in lowering your stress levels (!) which immediately improves your health and your thought processes.

So I guess  when  someone asks me where I get ideas for my tales I should tell them the truth:

I don’t really know!


mindwandering and the creative muse was first published on Life in the Realm of Fantasy on July 11, 2012 under the title The Idea Farm.

Leave a comment

Filed under writing

#MindWandering: The Power of Downtime

Veneto,_Bartolomeo_-_Lucrezia_Borgia_(alleged),_detail_of_portraitDaydreaming…wasting time…selfish indulgence, or fountain of creativity?

WebMD says, quote:  “Daydreaming is looked upon negatively because it represents ‘non-doing’ in a society that emphasizes productivity,” says John McGrail, a clinical hypnotherapist in Los Angeles. “We are under constant pressure to do, achieve, produce, succeed.”

Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge, describes Daydreaming as “a short-term detachment from one’s immediate surroundings, during which a person’s contact with reality is blurred and partially substituted by a visionary fantasy, especially one of happy, pleasant thoughts, hopes or ambitions, imagined as coming to pass, and experienced while awake.”

Apparently we daydream less as we get older. I wonder, is this nature, or nurture?

What really happens when we allow ourselves to just sit and think about nothing in particular? What happens on a neurological level when we let our minds off the leash, to run free and unencumbered?

One interesting fact is that apparently, if we daydream about the past, we tend to forget what we were doing before the daydream started. This happens to me all the time.

But most people don’t ponder the past. “Daydreaming is often about anticipating the future, especially in a fantasy context,” noted Peter Delaney, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, in the July 3, 2013 issue of National Geographic.

'A_Girl_Copying_a_Drawing'_by_Martin_Drolling,_Pushkin_Museum PD 100 via wikimedia commonsAnd according to the Daily Mail, Prof. Moshe Bar, of the Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, said, “Over the last 15 or 20 years, scientists have shown that – unlike the localized neural activity associated with specific tasks – mind wandering involves the activation of a gigantic default network involving many parts of the brain.”

Also, I have just learned that daydreaming turns off parts of your brain. It’s true–our brain has an analytic part that helps us make reasoned decisions, and an empathetic part that allows us to relate to others. Researchers have discovered that when you are daydreaming, your mind naturally cycles through the different modes of thinking, analytic and empathetic. Apparently, during this time the analytic and empathetic parts of your brain tend to turn each other off.

Another intriguing thing I have only just found out is that the physiology of the brain itself, and not the “mind” controls our daydreams. Anthony Jack, a cognitive scientist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio says, “How we daydream and think depends on the brain’s structure. …(That) structure is constantly changing in small ways—as we learn new things the connections between nerve cells change.” (Read “Beyond the Brain” in National Geographic magazine.)

We have long known that creative people are often guilty of daydreaming, but researchers have shown that daydreaming makes you more creative.

“Many times the ‘dialogue’ that occurs when the daydreaming mind cycles through different parts of the brain accesses information that was dormant or out of reach,” notes Eugenio M. Rothe, a psychiatrist at Florida International University. “Likewise, the daydreaming mind may make an association between bits of information that the person had never considered in that particular way.”

Autumn_Landscape_With_Pond_And_Castle_Tower-Alfred_Glendening-1869According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a wandering mind can impart a distinct cognitive advantage.

This means that daydreaming is actually good for you. It boosts the brain, making our thought process more effective. Apparently letting the mind wander allows a kind of ‘default neural network’ to engage when our brain is at wakeful rest, as in meditation, rather than actively focused on the outside world. When we daydream, our brain is freed up to process tasks more effectively.

This is good to know, because as an author I spend an astounding amount of time daydreaming, and I would hate to be simply wasting time!

(This post was first published September 15, 2015 on Edgewise Words Inn)

9 Comments

Filed under Publishing, Uncategorized, writer

When inspiration fails…

276px-Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_ProserpineThere are days when I just can’t come up with a new idea. The creative juices are flowing, but they’re moving  more like unimaginative sludge. I don’t see these moments as writer’s block—the ideas are lying dormant. They just don’t want to bloom quite yet.

This is when I clean the house. For some reason, inspiration always strikes when I am doing some mindless task, and though you wouldn’t know it from my office, I work better when the house is in order. If that hasn’t jarred an idea loose, I put on some Loreena McKennitt or Blackmore’s Night and go out to the internet and search for ideas, by looking at fantasy images from Canstock or Dreamstime.

Sometimes I just peruse the old masters from the renaissance era out on Wikimedia Commons, like Dante’s Persephone.

Then there are times when I have a cornucopia of ideas. They can’t all be used, there are so many of them. I try to write them down for use later, and that helps when I have a temporary dry spell.

That is, they help unless I forget to make full notes about the whole idea—random notes like “Give the dog a biscuit” are just a bit too ambiguous to be really helpful. Know what dog would have been helpful–however that random note did inspire me to give Billy Ninefingers a hilarious sidekick, a dog named Bisket.

Sometimes I get going on a tale and all of a sudden my enthusiasm just sort of faints somewhere along the line and I don’t know why. It turns out that idea really wasn’t a novel—it was a short story and it just wanted to be done and over with.  Short stories are wonderful exercises for writing longer pieces. If you can, you should try to build up a backlog of short pieces under 7000 words in length, because you never know when a call for short stories will come along and you might have the chance to be published in an anthology.

Old Restored booksAlso, writing short fiction helps you get the hang of using a story arc in smaller increments, to help the layers of your longer pieces.

Sometimes I get stuck in the middle, and don’t know what is going to happen next. That is really frustrating, but I just set is aside to come back to it later. Other times I get a little bit of a jump-start by talking to members of my writing group.

But there are times the piece just has to be shelved for a while.  That’s okay, because when I pull it out, I will say, “Hey! This is awesome—I love this story.” I never fail to find that spark when I run across a tale I forgot I had half-written.

I never get bored with my characters, but I sometimes get bored with the drivel I write for them to do. That is why sometimes walking away from a stalled story for a short while is a good idea. At that point I am beating a dead horse and it’s a waste of time. Later I will see the manuscript through new eyes and a better way to get my heroes to the final battle will strike.

When I am stuck on a paragraph that I just can’t get right, I email a writing buddy and run it past them. We bounce it back and forth until it conveys the idea I think it needs to–or I throw it out.

I’m always happy to talk with them when they are stuck, so it all balances out.

GrandmasNoBakeCookiesMy point is that we all suffer from occasional lapses of the creative muse. I never let lack of inspiration for one project stop me from pushing forward—I just find something that does interest me and do that for a while until I have my fire back.

Sometimes I just have to make cookies for a while. Chocolate no-bakes...yummy….

4 Comments

Filed under Adventure, Battles, blogging, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Self Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Death Valley

Extreme-Heat-Death-ValleyEvery artist who has successfully created works other people enjoyed is a slave to the creative muse. Each artist endures those horrible moments when they question their choice of career–they have a series of bad days and inspiration is far from their grasp. Every note they play, every word they write, every picture painted is dead and dull. Forcing it doesn’t help, and indeed drives it further away.  These are the moments when we are walking in the Death Valley of creativity.

I have no magic bullet, no super-human powers of creativity to bestow upon you.  For me, the joy of creativity in music, art, and writing is the rebellious feeling of stealing the time to do it. I make music, I do graphics, and I write, doing each whenever the muse strikes me.

In the old days I would come home from work with a small notebook full of ideas and after I had fed the masses, everything else would fall by the way while I put those ideas to paper. Even when you must earn a living, creativity must be allowed to flow when you feel it, because it is a finite commodity.

But I will tell you this: You Are Not Alone. Margaret Mitchell only published one book: Gone With The Wind.

gone with the wind 2Quoted from the fount of all knowledge,  WikipediaMargaret Munnerlyn Mitchell (November 8, 1900 – August 16, 1949) was an American author and journalist. One novel by Mitchell was published during her lifetime, the American Civil War-era novel, Gone with the Wind, for which she won the National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel of 1936[1] and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. In more recent years, a collection of Mitchell’s girlhood writings and a novella she wrote as a teenager, Lost Laysen, have been published. A collection of articles written by Mitchell for The Atlanta Journal was republished in book form.

And did you know that Edgar Allen Poe and Oscar Wilde each only wrote one novel in their careers?  I am assuming this was because they suffered from long periods of having nothing they thought was worthy to show the world.

Poe understood the value of writing the short story. While he is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre, his body of work consisted of–wait–how many short stories did he write? “Almost eighty” it says on page 373 of the official volume of the Big Read. The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore says the number is sixty-nine – counting “both short fiction and novels.” This appears to be the most widely published number.
So how many short stories did Edgar Allan write? By all reports he was a troubled man, and it’s possible that not even he knew for sure.

Poe is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. Are we surprised? I don’t think so.

narrative of arthur gordon pym edgar allen poeBut though he is considered by many to be the most famous of our American authors, he only published one novel: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) is the only complete novel written by our famous man, Edgar Allan Poe. The work relates the tale of the young Arthur Gordon Pym, who stows away aboard a whaling ship called the Grampus. Various adventures and misadventures befall the protagonist, Pym, including shipwreck, mutiny, and cannibalism, before he is rescued by the crew of the Jane Guy.

Indie author Mary W. Walters has written a wonderful blogpost on the subject of turning writers block into building blocks, available here.

So even if you feel the stream of creativity has run dry, it’s frustrating, yes–but nothing to get to worried about. At some point, when it is least convenient, that muse will strike again. You will once again feel that divine energy, that spark of madness that is the breath of life for a poem, a song, a novel or a painting. When you feel it, go with it.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Adventure, Battles, Blogger, blogging, Books, Fantasy, History, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Self Publishing, Uncategorized, WordPress, writer, writing

Nurturing the Muse

photo ©Leah Reindl 2014 used by permission

photo ©Leah Reindl 2014 used by permission

I come from a family whose creative muse is frequently expressed in music or in art. Musicians and artists dot the landscape of the old family tree. So far as I know, other than my daughter Leah, I am the only one who writes novels, but it may be that I am the only one who ever had the time to spend on such an endeavor.

When I watch children at play, I see the creativity that all musicians and artists know, that wonderful sense of “Ah ha! This is fun!” that comes with making something that exists only to bring pleasure to those who hear or see it. I see this sense of “I can do it!” in all the children, but by the time they are teenagers, much of that joy in creativity has been trained out of them. I wonder why and how it happens.

When I was young and working at dead-end jobs, I would come home and while my children did their homework or played, I would write, draw, or play the guitar. It was selfish, yes–in that it gave me pleasure. But it was not selfish, as it didn’t take me out of their world, and was something we could share. It taught them that they could take the time to be creative.

If there is any advice I would give young parents, it is to be creative in the presence of your children. You go to work every day, and by that you are teaching them that one must earn a living, yes, but the reward of earning that living is a life of love and creativity.

Some people will say bitterly that their job has burned all their energy and creativity from them. I say this is not necessarily so–you must take the time and energy you expend on hating your circumstances, and convert it into something creative. It’s amazing how many people I know who tell me they aren’t creative, but they doodle the most amazing  little pictures on the handouts during those requisite boring meetings-to-nowhere that we all endure in Corporate America.

That is creativity trying to get out.

The reason children are so creative is that they don’t do it for other people, they are doing it solely for the fun of it. Get out the crayons and a blank sheet of paper for a child who hasn’t been to school yet, and watch what happens. Add old magazines, round-end scissors, and mix up some flour & water paste, and the possibilities are endless. But once that child gets into a social environment where he begins to feel less talented than the child next to him, he shuts that creativity down.

science of relationships dot comInside every adult at the water cooler is kindergartner with a picture to draw, a song to sing, or a story to tell. Somewhere along the line, they began to fear they weren’t good enough and put it aside. Soon they have an “I can’t do it” attitude, because they fear failure and embarrassment. They have forgotten the joy of making a good, creative mess. They don’t remember how they learned as much from the failures as they did from the successes.

Don’t let the fact you have no money stand in your way. It takes very little money to draw a picture, or to write a story. You don’t need an expensive computer program–all you need is a pencil and paper.  And music?  You don’t need to play an instrument to sing. If you always wanted music lessons but couldn’t afford them, a great way to learn is to join a community choir. It’s free, and takes a little time away from your TV, but it is a way to jumpstart your joy of making music.

Our children are all artistic and creative in the most amazing (to me) ways, and I think that is because I never stopped making art or music.  They all sing or play instruments, or create art. Our older son, Billy, and youngest daughter, Meg, are working musicians. Billy is a drummer in a band with my ex-husband and my brother. Meg is a young mother and a working musician with several mp3s to her credit. If you are curious, here is her Facebook page where you can hear her work: Meg is Singing.

Meg and Billy are both incredible musicians, playing the drums, the guitar, keyboards, and in Meg’s case, the flute. Music is their passion. Son Dan is a guitar virtuoso, but he plays for his own pleasure. He is an incredible sports photographer, and his work can be seen here: SpotKazu

Christy and Leah express their art in other ways. Christy is an engineer who deeply loves her craft, and brings her sense of beauty into her home, designing an environment that is both serene and filled with color. Leah is an artist, one of her pictures can be seen at the top of this page, and a hair-dresser. She loves her craft as much as Christy does hers. They go to work, and art is expressed in their daily lives, enriching the lives of their children.

This is why I am and have always been a happy person despite the bumps and hardships of life–I did what I had to do to put food on the table, but I played and sang and wrote poems and goofy stories in my free time. My children were my audience and my co-creators. My husband’s children were raised in the same sort of environment (he is a trumpet player and she is an actress) and all 5 of our kids are sheer genius to me. They far outstrip me with their talents and abilities, and with their drive and ambition.

Tower of Bones Trailer, Music by MEG

2 Comments

Filed under blogging, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Music, Publishing, Self Publishing, Spirituality, writer, writing