Winter’s Creative Gift

image: pixabay

pixabay free images/ Anja Osenberg

The holidays come to a hectic close and my favorite time of year ambles in. Here in Oregon, if you gaze out the window at the January weather, you’ll find a misty, drippy, icy, foggy-soggy mess, at least through May. That gives me five whole months of lighter obligations and a complete lack of guilt for not “enjoying the weather.” In a climate boasting only four months of sunshine, the Vitamin D police are checking every household for us slackers.

For quite a few creative sorts, our pursuits get back-burnered by other more pressing responsibilities – jobs, violin lessons, soccer practice, staining the deck, grocery shopping, sorting socks…it’s amazing that anything in the world ever gets painted, composed, sculpted, or tapped out on the keyboard.

We, who aren’t independently wealthy or already famous, squeeze precious moments for inspiration from the cracks of our crowded lives. We hide in our cubbyholes, our converted attics, our bedrooms and garages. (Oh, I’ve written in the bathroom too). We rise before dawn with a steamy cup of coffee, kiss our lovers goodnight and stay up with the stars. A weekend alone isn’t a time for melancholy wishes; it’s a little taste of heaven with a neglected muse.

Creative time is sacred time, hours marked with inky conviction on the calendar that can’t be erased. As artists, we need to cultivate a belief in the importance of what we do, even when other duties jostle for our attention. We need to believe in the intrinsic value of our art, even when no paycheck arrives in the mail. We need to honor our creative calling and spirit of inspiration, even when the doubters tell us how nice it is we have a hobby to fill our free time!

In Oregon, the winter weather comes bearing the creative gift of unassigned hours. No matter where you live, dedicate a few empty squares of your calendar to nourish your creative soul and save the dates as you would for your child’s wedding. Be resolved.

Guest Post: Hannah Blatter – Dreams of a writer/illustrator

Hannah Blatter is beginning her journey as an author of children’s books. I was enamored with her personal story and hope it warms your heart too. Over to Hannah:

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Hannah Blatter

In early 2019, I was diagnosed with panic disorder. It took me 10 years to make that step to seek help and receive an official diagnosis. When this happened, I felt like I was inferior, as a mother, as a wife, as a human being. I had these moments, hours, weeks, when I didn’t think I would ever reach my goals. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Like other people can handle this, but I can’t.

My son was 6 years old at the time, and I did not want to feel like I failed him. I didn’t want him to have high hopes and dreams and not go after them if he ever had a mental or physical illness. I never wanted him to feel like he was not good enough no matter what diagnoses he carried.

“In Colorado, you can ride a dinosaur with a saddle”

 

“You could also raft the Zambezi river with a paddle”

I have always had a background in art, working with design and illustrations. I wanted to give my son something, to show him that if there is something he wants to do, it’s possible. I had this idea stirring in my head from working with young children in my job.

When you ask them what they want to do when they grow up, they always say “a firefighter, doctor, mermaid!” and so on. Well, it’s wonderful that they have headway on their careers, however, what about what they want to see? Where do they want to go? There is so much in this world, why not open up their little minds to how much more there is.

I want my son to get the message that if you want to write a book or direct a movie, you can find resources to help you do that. If you want to drive on the longest bridge on earth, there are things you can do to make it happen. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be scared to do these things. It’s okay to say you’re scared to do these things. And most importantly, it’s okay to ask for help.

“You can go sing on Broadway and learn how to dance”

 

“Or, you can feel like royalty when you stay at a castle in France.”

We all have our limitations, mentally, emotionally, physically. We have limitations in our knowledge, in our relationships, and in our environments. If we all gave in to our limitations, nobody would ever get anything done. It’s okay to accept these things and ask for help to work with them and around them.

So I am asking, graciously, for help to gain access to tools that will give me the ability to show my son that these things I say to him are true. I want to walk into a bookstore with him and see our book. I can say “Look, I get scared, I get upset. I am different. But, I can still do this, and so can you.”

“You could just watch the stars from a Cappadocia hot air balloon”

***

A question from Hannah for any children’s authors and illustrators:

What was the most difficult roadblock you overcame in publishing your first children’s book?
I’d love to hear your tips or advice.
Thank you!

Connect with Hannah on Instagram: @blatterhannah

And Merry Christmas!

pixabay

 

A visit from the bossy muse, a free book, and a couple of awards

The muse’s latest look (pixabay compilation)

Way too early in the morning, my muse drops down beside me on my couch and tosses her hat onto the coffee table. The howler monkey that’s been riding her shoulder for a year leaps onto my kitchen counter, curls back its rubbery lips, and flashes a yellow-toothed grin. The muse hands me a latte. “Nice progress on the draft… finally.”

“Thanks.” I’m still leering at the monkey but manage to sip my latte. Yum. “So, why the visit?  You know I’m under NaNo pressure.” I somehow forget to mention that yesterday I logged zero words.

She arches an eyebrow but for once shrugs off her annoyance. “I’m running a promotion for a couple of days. Catling’s Bane is free today and Wednesday. Your sales blah blah blah…” I’m not listening. The howler’s opened my refrigerator and taken a bite from a head of lettuce. He’s going for the orange juice.

I bolt up. “Hey! Out of there!” The beast roars at me, a sound capable of bursting eardrums. He grabs a tuna sandwich I made for my husband’s lunch, darts across the cabin’s single room, and climbs halfway up the stairs. Suspended from the banister, he gobbles and spills bits of sandwich on the furniture below. UGH. I sink back onto the couch and glower, afraid any further intervention will make it worse.

“What else,” I ask, wanting to get this over with as quickly as I can.

She smiles at me. My muse never smiles. “Two of your books were semi-finalists in the 2019 Kindle Book Awards.”

“What?” I’ve now forgotten all about the howler and the globs of tuna sprinkling my floor. I’d also forgotten that I submitted books. “Both of them?”

Sunweilder and Soul Swallowers.” She tips back her latte, stands, and snaps her fingers at the monkey. Not two seconds later, the creature swings from the banister onto her shoulder. My muse heads for the door, her familiar bossy ill-humor sliding onto her face. “Get to work.”

“I plan on it. After I clean up this mess.” As she walks out the door and into the forest, I call after her, “Hey, if I finish my first draft, can we lose the monkey?”

She glances back and slips me an evil smile.

***

I guess the muse’s visit could have gone a lot worse.

Click on the cover if you’re interested in a free kindle of Catling’s Bane:

 

And here are those semi-finalists:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Writing!

Ninny Rhino Celebration

Pixabay compilation

Back at the beginning of March, I kicked off a Mini-WriMo, which fondly become known as a Ninny Rhino. Everyone was invited to join in. We each were free to establish their own writing-related goals.

I had high hopes, but life got in the way. So after a week of not reaching my number, I lowered my goal by half. That’s how this works. Gentle goals and being kind to ourselves – a nudge to write without getting impaled.

If you responded to the slightest nudge, wrote one word more than you would have otherwise, organized your writing space, read an ignored article on marketing, sat for an extra hour of editing, etc., YOU WON the Ninny Rhino badge! (You’re free to download the above badge).

To celebrate, please share your accomplishment in the comments as well as a link to one of your favorite posts (any post and open to all writers and poets).  I encourage everyone who comments to visit a few other Ninny Rhino enthusiasts.

And if you want to do it again (or for the first time)… there’s always May. 🙂

Happy Writing!

 

 

 

 

Crutch Words – the Word Police

wikimedia commons: keystone cops

The Word Police are back at it, rapping on my door and handing out citations. I plea-bargained my way out of jail by agreeing to publically share some of my past transgressions. The hope is that other wayward writers will take heed and avoid my mistakes. Crutch Words is the first in a series of writing tips from the coppers.

What are Crutch words?

Crutch words are words that add nothing to the meaning of a sentence. They’re hollow words that we automatically insert and frequently don’t notice. We want our writing to be tight and sharp. Too many crutch words will slow down the pace and dull the impact.

An interesting thing about crutch words is that we often have favorites. You may never use some words from the list below and use others more than you want to admit!

As a condition of my parole, I provided examples of these sneaky words. And I remind you that it would be impossible to remove every one. Sometimes you need them (in which case they aren’t crutches at all). Simply be aware of yours and edit when appropriate.

Here’s a list of some common crutch words:

that, then, next, just, actually, really, still, yet, only, so, even, began, started, going to…

Below are some examples of these sneaky words used in sentences. Notice how they nothing to the meaning.

She missed all the targets he’d lined up for her.
She missed all the targets that he’d lined up for her.

He grabbed the towel hanging over the rail.
He grabbed the towel that hung over the rail.

Mary knelt in the garden, yanked on her gloves, and spent the day weeding.
Mary knelt in the garden, yanked on her gloves, and then spent the day weeding.

Burt finished his breakfast. He delivered the packages and stopped at the market.
Burt finished his breakfast. Next, he delivered the packages and stopped at the market.

I’m trying to push the boat from the dock.
I’m just trying to push the boat from the dock.

If he intended to use the knife, he’d need to sharpen it.
If he actually/really/still intended to use the knife, he’d need to sharpen it.

He didn’t know whether he’d attend the wedding.
He didn’t know yet whether he’d attend the wedding.

If she could read the sign, she’d know which way to turn.
If only she could read the sign, she’d know which way to turn.

Teenagers rarely wake up early.
Teenagers so rarely wake up early.

He tried to climb the tree, but couldn’t reach the first limb.
He tried to climb the tree, but couldn’t even reach the first limb.

I chatted with Betty as we walked down the path. The lake sparkled in the distance.
I chatted with Betty as we began/started to walk down the path. The lake sparkled in the distance.

This will be the best day to hunt for shells.
This is going to be the best day to hunt for shells.

Next from the Word Police: Vague Words.

Happy Writing!

8 Reasons to love a Ninny Rhino

I told my husband it’s time for a mini-WriMo.

A ninny rhino?

No, a mi-ni-wri-mo.

He lost interest at that point, but maybe you want to know more.

What is a Mini-WriMo?

I first heard the term Mini-WriMo years ago after nearly collapsing from exhaustion after a full-fledged NaNoWriMo. And since that mention, I do various versions of mini writing bursts throughout the year.

It’s basically a time-limited, personal challenge to focus on writing. The best part? You set your own goals based on what’s achievable for you and what you want to accomplish.

Why does it work?

1. Because it’s supremely flexible. What we write, how we write, and the needs of our projects are all different and constantly evolving. A mini-WriMo can be whatever you wish based on your goals.

2. You pick the time period – a week, two weeks, a month.

3. You decide on the measure – a certain number of words, a finished outline, completed character bios, or an hour of writing 3 times a week. Perhaps daily journaling to brainstorm ideas. You can write a paragraph a day, or give yourself editing or blogging goals. How about developing a marketing plan (something I’ve been meaning to do for 10 years!).

4. You can under-promise and overachieve. If you think you can consistently write 1K words a day, make your goal 500. If you go over, that’s just fine. You want to make your goal easy to accomplish.

5. No one needs to validate your efforts – you’re only accountable to yourself, your muse, and the writing gods.

6. It can loosen a block. If you’re feeling blocked, it forces you to write at least a little bit, and sometimes, that’s all it takes to get the keyboard clacking.

7. It’s “official!” You get to explain to your family your “official” and “very important” challenge that you committed to as well as your “critical” time requirements.  This is extremely helpful in my family. If I simply want to write, I don’t get the same kind of time and space as when I sigh and inform them that I’ve made an “official commitment.”

8. You get a badge – even for an attempt to meet your goals. Here it is for your downloading pleasure (pixabay images):

Why am I telling you this?

Because I’m tending to a Ninny Rhino for the month of March. Want to join in? At the end of the month, I’ll set up a post so we can all share our successes in the comments. 🙂

 

 

Procrastination Plus!

Arrgh!

I’ve been procrastinating regarding my writing for the first time in 10 years. Why? Partly because of this dang speculative fiction prompt challenge I started. It’s not the busy-ness that’s holding me up. It’s that the responses are so creative and fun, and I’m all over the blogosphere reading and visiting old and new friends.

In terms of writing, my most productive time of day is first thing in the morning when I can indulge in big chunks of creative time. And here I sit at 5:00 AM writing this post… procrastinating!

I did finish the first draft of Book 2 in my current WIP trilogy, but it took me a month to write the last three chapters – instead of a week – ugh.  It was more fun to play with cover ideas. I can do that for days on end.

I don’t know the titles yet  – these are place-holders – and I’ll probably have covers done professionally, so this very likely is just more procrastination!

(I haven’t purchased these images, (thus the watermark). I certainly will if I decide to use them).

Okay, enough procrastinating, Diana. Time to start on Book 3. Knuckle under and get cracking! Or maybe I’ll quickly check on the blog first… See what I mean? Arrgh! Lol.

How do you procrastinate, and however do you get back on track?