Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing some insights about how to prepare for the coming New Year and lay the foundation for making headway on our creative dreams. Today when Rochelle Melander’s wise newsletter landed in my inbox, I knew this was a perfect prompt to begin introspective work.
The Reckoning by Rochelle Melander
Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions…as soon as you think you have the answer, you have closed the path and may miss vital new information. Wait awhile in the stillness, and do not rush to conclusions, no matter how uncomfortable the unknowing. —Jacqueline Winspear, Maisie Dobbs
I’m a huge fan of Jacqueline Winspear’s mystery series featuring Maisie Dobbs, a private investigator working just after the end of World War I. At the end of every case, detective Maisie Dobbs sits with her case map and does a reckoning. She reviews her notes, makes decisions about how to deal with any loose ends, and thinks about how she’ll use what she’s learned in her life and with future cases.
Before we dream up a brand new exciting year of writing, we need to take a look at 2013 and do our own reckoning of sorts. Yeah, I know you’re still living it. But you have enough of the year under your belt to reflect on what rocked and what didn’t.
Here’s a brief process to help you start your reckoning:
1. Make a list of the creative work you’ve done in the past year. Include everything in your list, even the stuff you do because you have to (like hanging out on Twitter, doing research, or sending out invoices.)
2. List what you value most about your work as a writer. Again, include everything from the philosophical (exploring new ideas) to the practical (earning money, working at home).
3. Evaluate how this past year’s creative endeavors (list #1) matched up with your values (list #2). In other words:
–Did you get to do enough of the stuff that brings you joy?
–Did you meet your practical needs through writing?
4. Finally, as you review the two lists, ask:
–What kinds of creative work do I want to do less of?
–What kinds of creative work do I want to do more of?
That’s it for now: make your lists, check them twice. Then hold onto them: there’s more reckoning to be done. And some dreaming, too.
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It).
As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books fast, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at http://www.writenowcoach.com.
We’re at the beginning of a long holiday season. This can be a time for relaxation and much needed connection with friends and family members. It can also be a time when our creative work goes out the window. Here are a few tips to keep one’s creativity ignited.
- Work in smaller chunks of time. During the holidays there are many demands on our time with planned and spontaneous social engagements. Just like keeping ourselves healthy with more frequent workouts during the holidays is advisable, the same could be said for creative work. With all the imbibing, late nights and celebrating, trying to find solitude for creative work can be in short supply. Decide to work in smaller increments of time.
- Stay connected to discussions about creativity. If you’re traveling for much of the holidays and that interrupts your creative routine, find ways to stay connected to your interests. I’ve become a big fan of Mur Lafferty’s ‘I Should Be Writing’ podcast and plan on catching up on several episodes during holiday travel.
- Design a ‘Creativity Permission Slip’. While you are writing your holiday cards, take a moment to design a big beautiful ‘creativity permission slip’. This permission slip empowers you to take at least an hour a week for yourself and do something related to your creative life. Post it in your creative space.
- Play with a Creativity TA-DAH List. We all know our ‘to-do’ lists grow exponentially during the holiday season. What about having a ‘ta-dah’ list? Right now, if you throw your hands in the air and say TA-DAH!, I bet you’ll smile. Motivational speaker and humorist Loretta LaRoche, in Relax: You May Only Have A Few Minutes Left, recounts being at a conference on health and wellness that felt deadly serious. Later, in the hotel, Loretta saw a girl of about three waltz down the corridor, twirl her arms and yell ‘TA-DAH!” Many of the adults stopped in their tracks and grasped that “the child knew what they had paid hundreds of dollars to find out: how to enjoy life in the moment.” Your ta-dah list could be composed of anything that makes you smile during the next five weeks. It could also be a celebration of every creative thing that you’ve done this year. Let the ta-dahing begin!
- Treat yourself. Go and purchase the one gift that will support your creativity that you’ve been meaning to give to yourself all year. Think of it as a down payment for the great work you will produce in 2014!
How will you keep your creativity flowing during this holiday season?
I truly believe no creative work is ever wasted. I began writing about the dilemma of ‘petite fashion’ years ago, but never found a home for it. I decided to revisit this issue for my column in The Chapel Hill News and also try writing it from a more tongue-in-cheek voice. So far this column has generated the highest response from readers I’ve ever had. I think a ‘petite manifesto’ is in order.
As a 5-foot-3/4-inch petite woman, until recently I’ve always accepted my minority status in the fashion world.
Growing up, I learned through the models that I saw in catalogs and fashion magazines that clothes were made for and the domain of taller women. I’d come to accept some givens of life, like when I shop for clothes 1) I’ll have to alter most of what I buy, and 2) I’ll have fewer stylish selections to choose from and they’ll range from clothing with a girlish ruffle sewed on every possible square inch of material, or matronly sweaters with an overabundance of appliqued fruits and vegetables across the chest.
I’d even gotten used to a blasé kind of treatment by sales personnel. Last week I went to a well-known women’s clothing store chain. I hadn’t been there in a few months and I couldn’t find the petite section. I asked a salesperson if she could tell me where they had moved their petite section. The salesperson looked at me and pointed toward the misses section. I said, “You’ve mixed the petites in with the misses? That makes a lot of retail sense, huh?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
I added, “So now, for petites, it’s fend for yourself clothing?”
She didn’t seem to understand why I was irritated and frankly, insulted. I believe it’s the underlying belief that the industry holds about petite shoppers: that those harmless, docile, slightly embarrassed small women will take anything that we give them.
But we won’t or we shouldn’t! Not anymore.
After the shopping incident I did a bit of research and discovered that I’m actually in the majority!
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average woman’s height is 5’4”. Some estimates suggest that there are approximately 100 million petite women in the United States that are categorized as “fit, curvy and plus-sized”! Another shocker I discovered is that the fashion industry-preferred standard size of women at 5’9” and taller only represent 3 percent of women.
And, according to analysts, petites are a $9 billion industry. So, why do I often come home after a weekend of shopping feeling vexed, disrespected and downright disappointed? The fact is that retailers haven’t caught up with this new reality and that tradition, inertia and lack of consumer organizing all play a role.
There is a glimmer of hope as several new online sites feature designers offering limited lines for petites. Also there is the lifesaver petitefashionista.com that provides up-to-date links to name-brand designers and stores that sell petite clothes. But this is just a drop in the bucket and does nothing to combat the lack of equity of representation in major department stores. Several years ago Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s all made news when they downsized their petite departments.
I know the retailers have been in the “big girl” pride moment for the last decade, focusing on the plus-size market, and that’s great. Monique, Star Jones, and Ricki Lake, you go girls. But, where’s our contests, catalogs, or dare even I say magazines? As a girl I use to dream of entering the Miss Petite America pageant (yes there was such a contest, you had to be 5’ 4” and under to compete in it).
Retailers and pageant hosts, where’s the love?
Maybe petite women need our own reality show to get noticed, a hybrid of “What Not to Wear” meets “Survivor” where fashion designers are brought to an island and forced to come up with stylish lines of clothing with nary a ruffle or piece of appliqued fruit in sight. Or, maybe the trick is to get a hip-hop song promoting our needs.
If pop culture is not the way then effective organizing might be the key. I’ve been thinking about the following: Petites United for Fashion. So, the acronym would be PUFF, probably too cutesy – but it’s a start. Our chant would be, we’re here, we’re petite – dress us!
A version of this column recently appeared in The Chapel Hill News.
PS: I only found out about this resource after the column went to press: http://bellapetite.com/.Bellapetite conducts a model search and also produces a print magazine. They say the ‘petite movement’ in fashion has begun. Yay!
I credit Marjorie Hudson, my writing teacher and friend, for jump-starting my writing life several years ago. She is a kind, wise and generous teacher and I have often blogged about lessons learned from her about the writing life.
She published a book about her search for Virginia Dare in 2002, and this year Searching for Virginia Dare is out in a new edition from Press 53, with some new travels and research. Her ongoing obsession has taken her to Rome, London, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
One reviewer said the book was a guide to how to write a book. Another said she had invented a new genre, one that “parted the authorial curtain” to reveal the writer’s process. In a review I wrote about Searching for Virginia Dare, I said, “This book lives in multiple genres including mystery, history, memoir, and adventure…This is a book to be read aloud to a friend on a dark winter’s night.” I love this book.
Marjorie recently decided to take another look at her book to see if there were lessons there for her and others about writing. I’m so happy to welcome her guest post here on ‘The Practice of Creativity’.
Here Be Dragons: Going off the Map to Find the Story
By Marjorie Hudson, author of Searching for Virginia Dare
Fourteen years ago I went searching for Virginia Dare.
What I found was a new confidence and freedom in my choices as a writer. I learned how to go off the map edges to the wild uncharted places beyond.
Virginia Dare was the first English child born in the New World, part of the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke Island.
Her fate is an obscure footnote in American colonial and women’s history, yet the story is so fascinating, it should be more well known. Truthfully? For me, it’s become a kind of obsession.
In 1587 England sent a colony to the New World, 116 men, women, and children. Virginia was born on August 18 amid tangled scuppernong vines and live oaks on Roanoke Island. She was baptized August 24.
That’s about all the documentation there is of Virginia Dare’s life on earth. The entire colony disappeared, leaving a message carved in a tree, and nobody has ever quite figured out what happened to them.
Now, the problem for a writer about history is that you have to have documentation. You have to have expert commentary. You have to have facts.
What I had, instead, was a tapestry of extraordinary people and events that take a role in the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. There was John White, the governor of the colony, an English painter who turned the New World into a kind of life-drawing class, documenting the Native women, children, and villages there, and drawing exquisitely accurate maps of the coastline.
There was Elinor Dare, White’s daughter, five months pregnant when she shipped out of Portsmouth, three months’ trans-Atlantic travel ahead of her before she set foot in the American wilderness.
There was Manteo, England’s first Lord in the New World, and her first Native American ally.
If you put a compass point in a map of this story and drew a circle around it, the circle would also contain the Queen Elizabeth, the English Renaissance, the Spanish Armada, pirates and hurricanes and many more fascinating Native American people. On the corner of the map would be the mark of old: Here be dragons.
The story is rife with mystery: Why did the colonists leave Roanoke Island? Where did they go? Did they survive at all? There were also more subtle mysteries: Why did the Queen pick an artist to be the governor of the colony? Why did John White return to England, abandoning his granddaughter and his daughter, just days after the child was born?
English documents revealed extraordinary images – deer grazing in abandoned huts, scuppernong vines overflowing the land into the sea, abundant pearls and strange fishes, a word carved in a tree: Croatoan.
They also revealed terrible moments: a colonist found with 16 arrows in his gut; a ship’s captain with a pike through his head; a lost anchor, a great storm, and a ship blown southward, past all hope of finding the surviving colonists.
Later discoveries included stones marked with messages from Elinor to her father, left in a trail from the Chowan River in northeastern Carolina to the Chattahoochee River in Georgia—a hoax? — and sightings of blonde children living among the Indians on the Chowan River. But did anyone really know what happened?
There were dangers in this story for any writer who dared venture there. There were so many strands to this story, so many questions. I was determined to find a way to make sense of all the pieces and put them, like Humpty Dumpty, together again.
I fell back on the structures I learned in journalism school: read the background; consult the experts. I traveled around North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, talking to everyone from university archeologists to Lumbee Indian artists to guys in bars. Nobody had answers. Everyone had stories. I got lost a lot on back roads. I got lost in imagination. I got lost in memories about my own lost times.
The story of Virginia and her mother in the wilderness began to haunt me. Perhaps this girl and her mother may have felt, just a little bit, like me when I was growing up, adventuring alone in the world. My explorations took me hitchhiking across the US, squatting in derelict houses, and finally settling in rural North Carolina.
Well, it was preposterous to draw parallels, I knew. But I also knew that stories tell you their forms. I decided to trust the messiness, let all the disparate map-lines to the heart of the story be known and valued, including the dragons.
I decided to reveal my patterns of thought and feeling in response to the story, my struggle to understand, my mind’s turn toward imagination, and forays into deep memories of the young girl I once was, terrified and alone in the world, and the repeated pattern of mystery and loss that is my life. The story of Virginia Dare became a map of a writer’s mind in process.
I let the material find its own shape, like water running downhill, eroding to the bone-honest story underneath, the story that only I could tell.
One reviewer said Searching for Virginia Dare was like “a road trip with your best friend.” The story and the mystery both have been great company for me. I carry them with me, like secret treasure, wherever I go, along with a new compass in my bag of writer tools: let the story find its own map.
Marjorie Hudson writes about newcomers encountering the South and about contemporary people encountering history. She is author of the story collection Accidental Birds of the Carolinas, a PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention, and her honors include an NC Arts Council Fellowship and two Pushcart Special Mentions for fiction. She is founder and director of the Kitchen Table Writers Workshops.
Marjorie Hudson: www.marjoriehudson.com
Buy the book: http://www.press53.com/BioMarjorieHudson.html
John White Drawings: http://www.virtualjamestown.org/images/white_debry_html/jamestown.html
John White map showing dragon: http://www.virtualjamestown.org/images/white_debry_html/debry123.html
Photo Credit: Brent Clark
Last Sunday, I hosted a teleseminar called ‘Crack Your Creativity Code: 7 Ways to Unlock Your Genius’. I introduced listeners to my new work on how creativity metaphorically functions as a type of code and how we might go about ‘unlocking’ or ‘breaking’ that code in order to experience more of our genius.
The response was fantastic. Callers engaged and offered powerful insights as they began to understand the ‘code and key’ structure of creativity I shared.
I began the call exploring some popular myths about creativity (e.g. you have to be in the mood to create) and the reasons why many people don’t create more (e.g. ‘I just can’t make the time’). I offered some tips about how to work around inner critics, and the twin demons of perfectionism and procrastination.
Using the following prompts, I asked them to begin connecting with their ‘Creative Self’, an eternal part of the psyche:
1) When I reflect on the current relationship I have with my Creative Self, I’d use the words:
2) When I was a child, my creativity showed up as:
3) I might describe my relationship with my Creative Self, over the years, as:
On Fire? Dormant? Under acknowledged? Undernourished? A good solid friendship? Difficult to keep up with? Wild and unpredictable? Just Right? Passionate? Reliable?
4) In the next three months, I’d most like my Creative Self to help me with the following…
From there I shared a process to explore how their Creative Self is currently being expressed through one of 5 ‘Creative Code Expressions’. Creative Code Expressions are personalities that are archetypal in nature. They discovered if they were expressing their Creative Selves as Ranters, Lovers, Seekers, Players or Withholders. I then talked about the 7 Universal Keys that we need to use in order decode our creativity.
Intrigued? Weren’t on the call? I missed you! You can access the call here.
Toward the end of the call I gave information about my powerful upcoming program ‘Tone Your Creative Core’. This program will provide you access to life-changing tools that will help in the areas that most creative people struggle in: time, abundance and prosperity, feeling worthy to create and goal-setting.
You can find out even more details about the ‘Tone Your Creativity Core’ here. This offer expires soon so don’t miss out!
If you have any questions about if this program is right for you, don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ever feel like connecting with your creativity is elusive? That you’re not “good enough” to create? That someone else in your family is really the creative one? If you were ever creative, was it a long time ago?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’ll love being on my upcoming teleseminar call ‘Crack Your Creativity Code: 7 Ways to Unlock Your Genius’ because I’ve got some answers for you! The call is on Sunday, Oct 13 at 3pm EST.
What’s the secret of creativity? How do we unlock it?
‘Crack Your Creativity Code’ offers a novel approach designed to help people understand why creativity often eludes, or frustrates them, and what they can do about it. I’m so thrilled to share this information.
I’ll be taking the listeners on a journey, sharing with them why creativity operates like a code and seven ways to unlock their code. Imagining creativity as a code wakes up our ‘inner kid’ (who once experienced creativity as effortless), and who loves to explore, decode and solve puzzles.
This approach offers a structured pathway to experience breakthrough creativity that can be applied to all areas of life.
On the call we’ll spark some new ways to think about your relationship with your creativity. What relationship style applies to how you treat your creative self? Are you a speed dater? Wooer? Player? Adorer? Withholder? Do you periodically ignore or neglect your creative self?
I’m a creativity coach, scholar and published creative writer. Throughout my decade-long coaching career working with artists and policymakers, I’ve seen how my concepts inspire change. I also saved my own life through creativity while pursuing a PhD in political science and know I can teach anyone to harness their creativity ‘smackdab’ in the middle of their busy life.
Creativity is our best renewable resource and my deepest desire is sharing a message that conveys that creativity is life-enhancing and can be ‘unlocked’ with joy and ease.
I invite you to join me and see what ‘cracking your creativity code’ can do for you. Register here.
Plus when you register you’ll receive my free guide ‘Ten Ways to Ignite Your Creativity Fast!’