Monday, June 12, 2017

#MondayMotivation -- Embrace Your Structure

When I start a new job for a client, the first thing I do is create a header:
Draft 1/ Job Name/ Date

This will amaze you but, now and then, the first draft isn't the final draft. Yeah. It's true. When that happens, I change the draft number and the date as the project moves forward. The process helps with version control and communication with multiple clients/editors. 

That's great, but here's the primary benefit: 
Creating the header provides a structure that works for me -- it marks the moment my brain shifts from one client to another, from one job to another, from doodling copy in my head to putting words on paper. 

On the other hand, outlines don't work for me and they never have. When I was in school, and a teacher expected an outline before the full paper, I had to write the paper first and then create the outline from it. 

Now, maybe outlines work for you. Maybe thought clouds help you write. Maybe your desk has to be absolutely clean. Maybe you need to turn email off, or have music on. 

The right structure boosts creativity. This week, embrace your structure!

P.S. As it turns out, the Table of Contents for my book -- a necessary part of the book proposal -- feels like a damn outline to me. I'm now writing what I want for the book, and will go back when I'm done and structure it. Woot! 


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Lost: One Creative Mojo

Dear Readers,

For the past year-and-a-half, I've been working with a book agent on the East Coast -- hammering out a book proposal. The project started as a longer version of my ebook and morphed into a real book, Thank God It's Monday! A week-by-week guide to banishing the Monday morning blues.

Unfortunately -- and despite the fact that several editorial boards liked the book and my writing -- the consensus was that I don't have the platform to sell 20,000 books. Basically, I haven't been on Oprah. I haven't delivered a TED talk.

The agent told me he was regretfully "throwing in the towel" on May 2. I sent the appropriate, and heartfelt, thank you note to him for all his work; we had a lovely farewell chat on the phone; he strongly encouraged me to finish writing the book and self-publish; I thanked him, hung up and gave up.

That's right. The creative instigator's creative mojo meter plummeted to zero. I told the family and a few of my closest friends -- and they were all wonderfully supportive and encouraged me to keep going; this was just a bump in the road.

I heard them, and I tried to believe them. Whenever I gave someone the disappointing update, I purposefully added encouraging comments about self-publishing.

"It's fine! It's all fine!"

But it wasn't. I couldn't even bring myself to tell everyone who knew about my work with the agent that it was over. I still haven't (so if you're on the "didn't know" list, consider this post your update).

One of the people I couldn't stand to tell was Jody Summers. Jody and I worked together years ago and have remained close. She's an incredibly talented writer, understands my writer's mind, and had been a huge cheerleader throughout the months of work on the book proposal. I knew she would be disappointed for me. I didn't want her to be disappointed in me.

Basically, I felt like I had failed at something really important and I just didn't want her to know.

Finally, two weeks after the talk with the agent, I put my big-girl panties on and sent Jod an email update. She immediately responded with kindness and encouragement:

Hi, Jannie:
They are wrong. It’s a great book idea and it deserves to be born. Want to schedule lunch?
This is only a step in the journey, Jan. Don’t give up. Get some time away from it, but don’t let it go.
Jod

My creative mojo meter inched up a bit. Jody still believed in me and the book. Everyone else I had told still believed in me and the book -- including the agent and several editors at prominent publishing houses. Maybe I should press on.

I went online, reviewed Amazon CreateSpace, and got to work formatting the existing copy. Heck, knowing that I had a lunch date with Jod (deadlines are wonderful), I even started writing new copy.

The mojo meter moved minutely in the right direction. I'd write, but then I'd chop it apart. The words weren't flowing. And my words typically flow.

Then, yesterday, Jody and I had lunch. I brought pages from the CreateSpace site as proof that I was doing something. But, God bless her heart, she wasn't concerned about the copy. She was concerned about me, my reaction, and whether I was taking care of my own creative soul.

And, since she knows me and knew the answer to that question, Jod also:
  • Gave me the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert to read for guidance. 
  • Reminded me of the value of morning pages -- I am always at my most creative when I do them every morning, and I haven't done them for some time. 
  • Suggested that I be kinder to myself, and go on solo artist dates. Alone time, in new environments, is inspirational. I know it. I forget to do it. 
The waitress brought our check nestled inside a book -- a hardback that guests can inscribe if they want. I wanted. 


I haven't started reading Big Magic yet, but I'll tell you what the magic is for me: It's you. It's Jod. It's everyone who reads my writing, and encourages me to keep going. You are the magic -- and you are the reason my creative mojo is coming back.

So here we are, my friends. I'm going to do the morning pages and take myself on artist dates. I'm going to read Elizabeth Gilbert's book -- and write my own, at my pace, when it's fun. I may finish it this summer, this year, or next year. But I will finish it. 

Why? Because I believe with all my heart that this book can help people. It's 52 quick chapters of stories and inspiration and ideas and exercises that can make life happier and help people regain the creative spark we all had as children. It's a wonderful reminder of our own wonderful potential. And I'm a damn good writer, so it will be a fun read. 

Lunch with Jody reminded me: One person can make a huge difference. Today, she was that person for me. With the book, I hope to be that person for many others. 

Hugs and happy day,
Jan 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

#Creativity Tips: Instant (Creative) Gratification

When was the last time you went on a completely new creative adventure? I recently veered way off my usual path to take part in the first InstantlyKC Instant Film Workshop – and it was amazing.


I went with Kate, who takes gorgeous photos with digital and instant cameras. So, naturally, I started by telling the instructors – Leslie Adams and Anne Hollond – that Kate was the photographer. I was just there for fun.

Well, by the end of the workshop, I was singing a different tune. Turns out, with the right coaching and camera, I am a photographer. (And it is fun!)

After a brief introduction to different instant cameras and their features, Leslie and Anne took the workshop participants on a guided tour of the West Bottoms, a fascinating area in Kansas City, not far from downtown. The skies were gray and rain threatened, but the lighting turned out to be terrific for instant photography. As we wandered around (and you can wander, even with a guide), I took a few hesitant shots like this:

And then grew progressively bolder:


Not all of my photos were, shall we say, perfect, but I captured a few images I really love! This one is my favorite:


To top it all off, Anne and Leslie gave us wonderful little albums as a workshop keepsake.


I was going to wait and tell you about the workshop when they have the next one scheduled, but ... I’m all about instant gratification now. So I couldn’t wait. I’ll post again when the next InstantlyKC Instant Film Workshop is on the calendar!

For now, look around. Picture the possibilities. What can you do this summer that you’ve never done before? 


Friday, May 5, 2017

Fabulous Phrases: Pablo Neruda


"I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees."

-- Pablo Neruda

Thursday, April 27, 2017

#Creativity Tip: Tuck It

Ahhhhh. Proofreading is a wonderful art. But, I did mean tuck it in the headline -- not what you might have thought.

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day -- part of the National Poetry Month celebration. While I have been woefully remiss in celebrating on the blog this year, I am going to tuck a poem in my pocket today, and I hope you do too! It's a lovely reminder of the power and beauty of words.

If you looked in my pocket, this is what you'd see -- right after I smacked you for looking in my pocket:

Mother, in Love at Sixty
by Susanna Styve

Reason number one it can't work: his name is Bill. For god's
sake, he hunts. He has no pets, other than two doting
daughters, and his ex-wife is still alive. He's simply not my
type. Who wants to get married again, anyway? I'm too old.
I go South at the first frost. Plus, he's messy. Men are messy.
He could die. Then where would I be?

And in my back pocket, there's this -- from a poet I took classes with, years ago:

How Things Are
by Philip Miller

You asked me to tell you
how things are,
why we rarely speak, never touch.
Words won't come.
In the garden, yesterday,
the pampas grass turned silver,
whispered in the wind,
the edges of its leaves
felt sharp.
We were weeding petunias,
and I touched your shoulder,
spoke your name.
You jumped,
as if all afternoon
you'd been resting
sure you were alone.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Creativity Tips: Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Yep. Yoda was right: Do. Or do not. There is no try.

So I'm doing something new -- a bullet journal! Mary gave me a Moleskine (yes!) graphed journal as part of my birthday present, and I'm off and running on a new creative endeavor, learning as I go.




What have you been wanting to try? Do it! And remember my theory with creative adventures: You can't get better until you get started.

P.S. You know what's fun about being 62 instead of 26? I'm willing to share a work in progress, rather than waiting for a work of art.




Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Creativity Exercise: Don't ask. I tell.

There are some life lessons I learn. And forget. And learn. And forget. And learn. And ... well. You get the idea. For example:

People ask questions they don't want answered. 

You know what question tops the list? It's one we hear all the time: How are you?

Apparently, 98.6 percent of people who ask that question do not care about the answer. They are, I think, trying to be polite. And yet ...


Do me a favor today, my friends. Show up. If you ask a question, listen to the answer. And if you doubt the veracity of my lead-in line, look at the date on this post.

P.S. Thanks to Kate O'Neill Rauber -- one of the world's great listeners -- for the blog idea!

P.P.S. This post also reminds me of a favorite Yiddish proverb: No answer is also an answer.