Posts Tagged ‘creative’

Two crucial skills for the writing life.

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Each day, we are bombarded by the tasks we must do, by the things we want to accomplish, and by the demands of tasks and people upon our time. There is only so much time, and so often too many things to do. We necessarily must master the skill of multitasking, of doing more than one thing at a time: answering the phone and emails, scheduling meetings and signings, managing children and pets, managing a household, making time for love, tracking our books and our word count.

Writing & publishing have become a multi-skill career, especially for writers, where we must write, have a business plan, set goals, design covers, write a blog, maintain a website, and market our books. Some of us do all of these things, some of us out-source some of it. And most of us do have other demands placed on our time, like family, friends, favorite past-times, other jobs.

And all of this demands that we multitask, and that is necessary. It’s almost a survival skill.

Lost in all of this multitasking, all of this busyness, is the equally crucial skill of … focus. Being able to focus fully, for long periods, is very important. Lost too is perhaps our best work, our richest and most engaging writing, and our real potential as writers. Without focus, our work suffers, our creativity isn’t as great or as deep. The constant interruptions and distractions mean we not only do not get as much done of what is really important for our dreams (writing, for example), but what we do during those crucial hours isn’t of the quality that we could want.

What can we do to more fully apply that skill of mental focus to our work, our writing. On my blog post about writer’s block (filed under Writer’s Life), I recommend using a timer and freeing up the mind from other things that might intrude. It’s kind of like beginning to practice meditation, where other thoughts and distractions must be kept to a minimum, and where mental discipline must be continually exercised. Once you’ve decided that it is more important that you become more deeply focused when you write, then you will probably think of other ways to accomplish this.

Here are some tips on focusing from that previous blogpost:

1) Before ending the day’s writing time, write a few lines of the next scene or a few ideas for that scene, so that it’s easier to pick up at the next session.

2) As you sit there, take the first 10 to 15 minutes to read a section of a book on craft or articles on craft, to switch your mind from the daily grind to writing and craft.

3) Set up your writing time so that all you have to think about is writing. Since you have other pressing things to do in your day, perhaps schedule your day on the evening before, so that when you begin to write, all of those other things are settled, done, and you’re not thinking about all the other things you have to do that day. Instead you’re thinking about and focused on writing. (see No. 5 & 6)

4) Write in a Journal before you begin your writing time, to dump all the things that are bothering you or distracting you. Assign a maximum time for this (5 minutes), otherwise it could take over much of your writing time.

5) Set a timer for the length of time you want to write and then think of nothing else during that time–that is the time you have for writing–until the timer goes off. This allows you to fully focus on your writing, and to set everything else aside for that hour or for whatever time you’ve allocated.

6) When you sit down to write, if other things occur to you that must be done or that are competing with focusing on writing, then quickly create a list of those things you need to do or think about. And then put it aside, so that they’re all written down and will be less likely to distract you.

7) Plan–an outline or variation of one, but at least a general idea of where you’re going with the novel, whether it’s a general statement, a synopsis with the main plot points, or an outline.

And a quote on the subject:  “…when you are completely open, when on all levels you are in complete communication, completely integrated, then there is joy and you begin to create … creativeness is a sense of total self-forgetfulness, when there is no turmoil, when one is wholly unaware of the movement of thought.” — Krishnamurti.

How do you see yourself applying & balancing these skills in your life?



What to write… ?

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Coming up with a “novel” idea…but more than that…

Someone(s) once said that what you write is more important that how you write it.  But also what kind of books and what kinds of themes do you *want* to write. What themes truly resonate with you?

Here are some questions that might be worth exploring in pursuit of that answer:

First, when I wrote personal statements to apply to grad school, I was asked who had influenced me the most during my life and how had they influenced me?  Applying that to publishing…

Since what you write and your career in publishing is as important as getting into grad school, let’s apply that to writing — your writing percolates up from your life, from what you’ve experienced, from who you’ve become and therefore who and how you’ve been influenced, what you’re interested in, and how you’ve come to think about things.

So, in the interests of discovering what you should be writing, or more about what you should be writing–a game of nines:

What 9 people have influenced you the most during your life–not just the writing years or your adult years–and how did they influence you?

On those same lines, what are the 9 key things that have happened in your life that have influenced you…the most?

What are the 9 top books that you *absolutely* love (or scenes), and why? And movies, the same.

What 9 books or plots or kinds of stories or scenes would you like to see written or made into a film or have always wanted to write?

What are your top 9 interests and, of those, which are the interests that you devote the most time to?

What are your top 9 favorite characters in fiction and/or in history, and why? What do you like about them? Strong personality or character, place in history, approach to life, romantic adventures, ability to do the right thing, part of a legend, wisdom, and so on…

What are your  top 9 favorite TV shows in the past and currently, and why?

And finally, the last question (no nines), What do you like to read and what do you actually spend time reading? This is always a good question, except that many people love to read some kinds of books, say romance, but love to write and are best at writing, a different type of book, say mainstream, or thrillers, or young adult.

This is kind of a journey in self-discovery, of yourself and of you as a writer. So, I’d suggest letting the answers percolate, and then just see where this takes you. ;-D

Inspirational Women Series

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Who could not be inspired by a 99-year-old woman,  a world-class physicist and a professor renowned for her research, with a 7-decade career in the field of electron microscope technology, who still visited her lab at age 99? 

Anyone, but especially writers. Not only in her accomplishments, and her longevity and productivity later in life, but also in her persistence, through some adversity, in doing what she loved, and for being ahead of her time in her thinking.

That describes Gertrude Rempfer, who died last October, but who did her most prolific work after she retired at age 65. Known as “Gert,” she pioneered in electron optics, and her body of work includes five patents, 36 publications, and her work in developing night-vision goggles. Her most notable contribution was said to be in the improvement of electron microscopes. Her other contributions were taking what were at the time, controversial stands on important issues in our history.

She was born in Seattle, Washington. As a young adult, she enrolled at a University during the Depression, took her first academic position at a prestigious women’s college, but was passed up for tenure when a man was hired. When WWII began, Gert worked at the Naval Research Laboratory.

She and her husband, the late Professor of Mathematics Robert Rempfer, met when she was at Russell Sage, and were wed in 1942. They were part of the team that developed the electron microscope.

After the war, husband and wife encountered backlash from our nations post-war problems, including McCarthyism. They were forced out of Antioch College (1950s) when they tried to prevent the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, and then lost their teaching positions at a black institution, Fisk University, when the couple supported racial integration–this was before the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was illegal.

Then in 1961, she joined the Portland State University (Oregon) Physics department as faculty, and for 25 years, worked closely with University of Oregon biologist Hayes Griffith doing cutting-edge research and developing applications for photoelectron microscopy.  Her last collaboration was with physicist Rolf Koenenkamp and his research team, to build “the best microscope of its kind” based on her designs.

Described as soft-spoken, unassuming and brilliant, she was dedicated to helping graduate students, and sharing her knowledge.  She continued to work until the last year, taking the bus into Portland and then back in the evenings to her beloved farm in Forest Grove, Oregon, where she still did the heavy chores.

Who,  in history or currently, writer or otherwise, particularly inspires you?

The New Year of Writing

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

It’s the New Year, a time for resolutions, a time for renewal, and a time for renewed commitment to writing.

Here are some books that have inspired me or helped me:

One of the first books in my writing life that inspired me is Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. Chapters that may be particularly good are “Interlude: On Taking Advice,” “The Critic at Work on Himself,” and “The Source of Originality.”

Another great book for writing, for setting goals and for achieving successful  as a writer in the publishing world, is Write it Forward: From Writer to Successful Author by Bob Mayer, NY Times best-selling author of over 50 books.  This is an excellent book. It takes you through a unique process of setting goals, a process he adapted to writers and writing from his experiences at West Point and in Special Forces as an A-Team leader, and then as a best-selling author.  He is also one of the top indie published authors in the country, and speaks at workshops and conferences around the world. This process works. His website is:

A more general book about setting goals, but one that is also excellent is Work With Passion in Midlife and Beyond: Reach Your Full Potential & Make the Money You Need by Nancy Anderson. Nancy cofounded two career counseling firms and then established her private practice. She has hosted her own radio show, appeared in numerous television and radio programs, and spoken to civic, business and professional organizations.  Her website is:

One more very good book on creativity is Freeing Your Creativity: a Writer’s Guide by Marshall J. Cook.  Some especially very good chapters for getting yourself motivated are: “What’s Getting in Your Way?” “Creative Procrastination” and “Keeping That Writing Appointment.”

And of course, there’s Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for artists of all kinds.

Are there books that have helped you as a writer or inspired you?

Welcome to The Smart Writer!

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

If you’re here, you’re interested in writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, but also share an interest in the creative. This first blog post represents a beginning, and the blog will undoubtedly grow and change. 

Who am I? I’m a Book Editor but also a freelance writer, budding novelist, and budding artist. 

This blog will focus on the craft of writing, fiction or nonfiction, and publishing in general — marketing, self-publishing, copyright, trends, platform, the writer’s life, and submissions. And since my WIP is a thriller/romantic suspense novel (emphasis on the “IP”), I will likely be sharing about writing my novel, and any fun facts that I find in my research. I read, enjoy and edit a variety of books, a variety of genre, so this won’t just be about thrillers or romantic suspense.

About twice a month, I’ll be doing reviews of books, and intermittently having a few guests talk about their books, their writing process, what excites them about writing, about life and creativity, etc.

This is a new thing for me, so I’ll see where it takes me. Beyond here… be dragons.

What is your creative process? What gets you excited about writing?