The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘writing prompts

It’s March and winter hasn’t quite released its grip yet, at least not in the southeastern United States. I’m late this year in getting to begin a new gratitude jar as I usually start one in January. I’ve been traveling for work and was feeling a bit more cranky and tired than usual and I needed a life-affirming pick me up. I checked out my 2018 gratitude jar, still full of entries.

But first, what’s a gratitude jar?

The idea is simple…get a big jar, write one thing you are grateful for at the end of the day and put it in the jar. The jar offers a visual touchstone of joy as you see it filling up with entries during the year.

For many years, I have kept a gratitude jar focused around my creative life.

Keeping a gratitude jar is a symbolic act. As creative people, we have to take physical action in the world to pursue our dreams, I, however, also believe in utilizing symbolic acts of power. Symbolic acts of power are those that connect us to mystery, the unknown, serendipitous help and support, luck, and universal good. Symbolic acts of power can also free us from a constant focus on the mundane aspects of the creative life. Using symbolic acts of power can help boost our confidence, remain playful in the face of adversity, and develop trust in ourselves and the power of the universe.

I like to use a big jar (see first image) but you can also probably find ones like these in stores or online

At the end of the year, one of the things that fills me with delight is to go through and read my entries. I rarely get close to having 365 entries, but that’s OK. I definitely love reading about all the special moments that happened last year that I had forgotten. The majority of the entries relate to giving thanks for some aspect of my creative life going well. I was grateful that I had gotten a submission accepted, or someone had offered kind words on a reading I gave, or I had a day where good ideas seemed to flow endlessly.

Today, I plucked a few from the jar and read them. They transported me back in time and space and jogged my memory about all sorts of big and small events. They made me smile and I immediately felt less cranky.

In reading a dozen or so I was reminded of these two simple facts:

-most things in life work out just fine, creative work included

-we live in a powerful interlinked circle of friends, associates, colleagues, loved ones and even strangers that give our life meaning through their acts of kindness, grace and love. It’s important to remember!

The powerful benefits that stem from a gratitude practice are ones that science now validates and that spiritual traditions have always claimed.

This week, I’ll be reading all the entries of 2018, honoring them and then starting afresh. One new entry per day.

What about you? Why not grab a jar and dedicate it specifically for your creative practice/life/ dream/goal? Or you can put something in the gratitude jar before you start work on your novel, book of essays, musical score, etc. List what you’re grateful for before you begin or end a project. There are many uses for a gratitude jar. There’s actually so much that goes right on our creative paths, if we just slow down and notice.

This is a practice that you will wind up loving and is like rocket fuel for your creative life! Promise!

 

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I’ve been working on a Passion Project since the beginning of the year. In my January newsletter, I shared some thoughts about the joys of committing to a passion project. I have expanded the piece here:

In order to begin my PP, I had to do something pretty radical for me. On Jan 1, I stopped listening to writing podcasts, I stopped reading craft books and clicking on the columns of my favorite writing experts. I took a break from everyone else’s wonderful advice, knowledge, tips and went within. I got reconnected with my own CORE WRITING VOICE AND WISDOM.

This was hard to do! As you know I am a ‘resource maven’. I LOVE finding resources and sharing them with my community.

I, however, also believe it is super important to take breaks from the avalanche of others’ advice and guidance and deeply connect with our inner writing intelligence. That inner writing intelligence is always there, of course, but by the end of the year, it craves recognition and reconnection. It craves being in the center and having your undivided attention.

I also truly believe that whatever you focus on the first couple of days and weeks of the New Year sets the tone for the rest of the year. I decided to make room for a passion project that I’ve been dying to tackle. I am writing a creative nonfiction piece (maybe a memoir) about the year my mother left my abusive stepfather and we were almost homeless. I was ten and my sister was four.  Through a special state program, we wound up living in a Manhattan hotel on a floor designated for “battered women and their children”. This year changed my life and I’m investigating all the ways it shaped the woman I became.

A passion project is one that is both scary and ambitious and tugs at your heart. It’s one that has urgency. The one that has been trying to get your attention for all these years. The one where you don’t know if it will “pay off”, the one that is unruly and messy.

How do you make room for a passion project?

You look at your schedule and you notice what activities you do that are either draining, time-wasting, unnecessary or just take up space. We all have some of those. You look for slivers of 10-20% of activities that can be consolidated or cut to give you time. Then you get into the frame of mind where you get excited about your passion project (the one you would LOVE to do, but never seem to find the time). You imagine yourself working on the PP within the time that you have made for it.

To make room for a passion project in light of what’s already on your plate (and I’m assuming that could include, work, childcare, eldercare, exercise, life stuff, other writing projects, etc.) takes some effort. I know it’s not easy, but isn’t it also important to make space for a passion project that has been on your list for a LONG TIME that you intuitively know will bring you JOY, or at least make you feel really ALIVE?

I decided that I would write daily on the PP for 10-45 minutes beginning around 9:30 pm. This meant giving up and rearranging late night time with my partner (we moved our TV time up), ignoring work email (unless it was urgent),  not listening to podcasts, and shuffling other creative writing projects to earlier in the day. It has been challenging but also super rewarding. I began with a brief outline, but most writing sessions I started freewriting with, “I remember”. I now have about half of a journal or 65 handwritten pages.

As luck would have it, I also found my first diary which chronicles a few months of that year.

This was buried under many other journals.

It’s humbling to see what one decides to document when one is a ten-year old!

My handwriting was much neater at 10!

Today, I have begun to transfer these writings into Scrivener. It feels good to move this work from my journal into the computer.

Passion projects replenish our creative wells. They are also addictive. I now will do just about anything to keep this work going though I have other writing projects to finish. These, however, are good problems to have.

I encourage you to find a way to go deep into your work, be it a passion project or something you have already started. And, that might mean taking a break from the outside world for a bit. That was crucial for me. The first quarter of the year is a great time to mirror nature. Winter is about going within and metaphorically playing in the dark.

Do you have a passion project that you want to tackle this year? I’d love to know!

When I originally signed up for Samantha Bryant’s ‘Finish Your Novel’ workshop, I thought I would either be working on a parallel novel set in my Reenu-You universe or the urban fantasy novel I’m co-writing with my sister. The workshop meets for five Saturdays for three hours. Samantha’s a great instructor and I’ve taken her classes before through CCCC’s Creative Writing Program. She is most well-known for her superhero menopausal series, which I adore. See my interview with her about Going through The Change, her first book in the series.

I loved when Samantha asked us to place ourselves as writers on the spectrum of Explorers (i.e. Discovery writers) and Architects (i.e. Plotters) in how we begin projects.

Everything changed last weekend when I attended Illogicon, the local sci-fi convention that I’ve been attending since 2015. I had scheduled a meeting with a publisher that I was hoping to get to know better.

Although I can’t release all the details yet, suffice it to say I pitched this publisher a horror novel idea that’s been rolling around in my psyche for a few years. They loved it. So much so, they are offering me a contract. I will have a soft deadline of turning in the novel by October and a hard deadline of January 2020.

I literally have only about six pages of notes on my horror novel idea. Getting published is often a mysterious processes defined by things both in and out of one’s control. As I have often said, there is no one route to publication. And, although I still have to write the book (no small feat!), the way this opportunity has unfolded has been marked by a wonderful feeling of synchronicity. I also believe that all the other pathways of the writing life that I have been contributing to (e.g. blogging and using social media, building relationships with other writers, and submitting work) has contributed to this moment of serendipity.

I’m still both gleeful and stunned at the ease of how everything unfolded. When I met with the publisher, I didn’t have the slightest intent on pitching this novel idea, but during the conversation it felt right. I had studied the company’s catalog and surmised that they might want to continue to develop their horror line.

After the conversation finished, I immediately thought—OK, WELL THIS CHANGES ALL MY WRITING PLANS FOR 2019! and, I NEED SOME SUPPORT IN GETTING THIS NOVEL WRITTEN! and, CLEARLY THIS STORY WANTS TO BE BORN!!! and, YIKES! AND, OMG, I’VE NEVER WRITTEN A HORROR NOVEL!!!!!

I took a deep breath and told myself that I would figure it out, as all writers do.

This brings me back to the Finish Your Novel workshop. We met yesterday and I think it’s going to provide a helpful model for accountability. Samantha will discuss key issues about novel structure and all the participants will have at least one opportunity to receive feedback on their work. My goal is to develop a detailed outline for our Feb meeting.

There is nothing like getting a new notebook when starting a project. My writing teacher got me hooked on these colorful and inexpensive composition books.

I can’t wait to share more details. I’ll do that once the contract has been signed, etc. I can tell you that my story will be set in North Carolina, in the present. I will be updating you right here about the joys, triumphs and struggles of writing this novel.

One question for the fiction writers:

What’s your favorite book on plotting and novel structure? I’d love to know!

One question for the horror lovers among us:

I haven’t read that many classic European and early American horror writers like Lovecraft, etc. What are some classics that I should read?

The last weeks of December were so hectic that I didn’t get a chance to post any reflection about my writing life in 2018. I wanted to take a moment and do that now I had an excellent year in terms of deepening writing relationships and sharing my work locally and regionally. I definitely was a public writer.

I had the good fortune to participate in several literary events where I talked about and/or read from Reenu-You, gave a craft talk about my writing influences and/or  discussed Afrofuturism. I loved connecting with potential readers and new audiences.

My reading at High Point University through the Creative Writing Program. I also gave a talk for the Creative Writing club.

Loved being on this panel with other Black women speculative fiction writers. Park Road Books was packed and everyone wanted to also talk about Black Panther’s release. Lots of energy was in the room.

The Movable Feast event, in Winston-Salem, is held by Bookmarks. Bookmarks is a literary a literary arts nonprofit whose mission is to connect readers with authors.
The event is basically like “speed dating with authors”! As an invited author, you visit a table for 10 minutes, talk about your book, etc., then rotate to a new table for another 10 minutes and repeat. I met with 10 tables and met many wonderful people in book clubs.

I organized this local event for spec fic writers which was a lot of fun.

I also gave my Charting Your Path to Publication workshop to several new audiences and developed a new workshop, “How to Level Up in Your Writing Life” that was very well-attended.

My efforts last year were focused on submitting my short story collection to various contests (that offer publication with the top prize) and submitting fiction to SFWA qualifying markets. I’m still waiting to hear about some of the contests. Fingers crossed, there will be good news. I submitted to a ton of places and I have gotten some really encouraging rejections and a request to send more work. Rejection still stings, but over time, if an editor likes your work and encourages you to submit, that’s the beginning of a working relationship.

One of my goals was to begin an author newsletter and I finally did so in August! I have a commitment to those in my writing community to share resources and inspire. I don’t know why I waited so long to start!

I also kept up my blog and interviewed some terrific writers.

Reenu You was eligible for the Hugo Award, the Nebulas and the Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy which was pretty awesome.

Nussia, my novelette was released by Book Smugglers in July!

 

In terms of craft, one of the things that I learned was how to tighten the dramatic arc in every scene.

The things that didn’t get completed include:

a complete revision of my mystery

a first draft of the co-written novel that my sister and I are undertaking

There’s a lot on my plate for 2019.  I hope to share some really great news soon.

That’s a quick overview for me–what did you learn about yourself as a writer in 2018? What were some of your accomplishments?

 

 

Dear Creative Community,

I hope you are having a fantastic holiday week. Given all of the hustle and bustle at this time of year, I wanted to remind you about my two holiday gifts that are just for YOU. One is a FREE webinar TODAY and the other is the opportunity to work with me (e.g. my new e-course which includes a coaching session)–that gift is time sensitive and the price and bonus expires late on 12/31.  I am also offering a special half hour coaching for $49 (also expiring late tomorrow). All details are below.

FREE webinar: ‘Affirm the Writer in You 2019”. This webinar is designed to allow you time to reflect on your 2018 writing accomplishments and chart what’s next in 2019.

During the webinar we’ll explore:

-The sequence of success on the author journey
-Trends for authors in 2019
-Cultivating the “maker” and “manager” energy of the writing business
-Harnessing urgency in order to write in 2019

-How to supercharge your productivity and sustain your momentum
-How to get unstuck and approach the page with more ease
-Cultivating audiences that love your work

(we’ll be able to interact in real time!)

No need to signup—just bookmark the details below

DEC 30th-3-4:15 pm EST

Dial-in number (US): (605) 475-4081

Access code: 380339#

International dial-in numbers: https://fccdl.in/i/bergermichele2005

Online meeting ID: bergermichele2005

Join the online meeting: https://join.freeconferencecall.com/bergermichele2005

(copy and paste the above link–you’ll want to join the online meeting so you can see my slides!)

My second holiday offering to you is an opportunity work with me through my NEW e-course Charting Your Path to Publication NOW.

So many writers feel daunted navigating the submission process and often find themselves stymied by inevitable rejection and not making progress on the path of publication. I’ve been teaching this successful live workshop over the years and have taken all that wonderful content (and wisdom learned from what writers need) and created an amazing e-course.

This transformative course will empower you with the necessary tools and skills to move your writing forward in 2019

SPECIAL BONUS: If you sign-up by Dec 31st, you’ll receive a 30 minute coaching session with me!

Click here for the FULL DETAILS and see the fantastic price of this offering.

If you are interested in a short coaching session. I am offering a 1/2 hour coaching special for $49. Depending on your interests, we could focus on:

  • me as a a friendly first reader of your work (up to 5 double-spaced pages)
  • help you brainstorm where to submit your work/submission strategy
  • how to grow your social media strategies
  • how to create smack-dab in the midst of your busy life.
  • ways to harness both “maker and manager” energy for the writing life and business
  • creating a realistic action plan for your writing in 2019

If interested in coaching, please email me at mtb@creativetickle.com

Offer expires tomorrow at 11:59 pm.

I look forward to serving you in 2019!

Dear Creative Community,

I’ve spent the past two months creating two offerings that will SUPPORT your writing in 2019. They are my holiday gifts to you. As you know I am passionate about serving you! I am only offering these gifts to my special community of writers and that’s YOU. They are time sensitive!


The first is a FREE winter wonderland pop-up webinar called ‘Affirm the Writer in You 2019′. This webinar is designed to allow you time to reflect on your 2018 writing accomplishments and chart what’s next in 2019. I bet you are craving time to write and reflect before the year ends! If you don’t grab this time now, when will you?

During the webinar we’ll explore:
-The sequence of success on the author journey
-Trends for authors in 2019
-Cultivating the “maker” and “manager” energy of the writing life and business
-Harnessing urgency in order to write in 2019
-How to get unstuck and approach the page with more ease
-Cultivating audiences that love your work

No need to signup—just bookmark the details below and I will send a reminder the day before.
SUNDAY, DEC 30th-3-4:15 pm EST
Dial-in number (US): (605) 475-4081
Access code: 380339#
International dial-in numbers: https://fccdl.in/i/bergermichele2005
Online meeting ID: bergermichele2005
Join the online meeting: https://join.freeconferencecall.com/bergermichele2005
(copy and paste the above link–you’ll want to join the online meeting so you can see my slides!)

My second holiday gift to you is an opportunity work with me through my NEW e-course Charting Your Path to Publication NOW.

So many writers feel daunted navigating the submission process and often find themselves stymied by inevitable rejection and not making progress on the path of publication. I’ve been teaching this successful live workshop over the years and have taken all that wonderful content (and wisdom learned from what writers need) and created an amazing e-course.

This transformative course will empower you with the necessary tools and skills to move your writing forward in 2019.

SPECIAL BONUS: If you sign-up by Dec 31st, you’ll receive a 30 minute coaching session with me!

Click here for the FULL DETAILS and see the fantastic price of this offering. I hope you make the investment in your writing for 2019.

I am wishing you the healthiest and happiest of holiday seasons. Thank you for being a part of my community. I am inspired by your creative path.

Stay inspired,
Michele

P.S. Any questions about the e-course? Just shoot me an email at mtb@creativetickle.com

In my recent newsletter, I wrote about how fun it has been to break some WRITING RULES during the month of November. You might want to consider breaking some writing rules, too.

I’ve been taking inspiration from Durham author and podcaster Mur Lafftery. She is creator of the delightful podcast called I Should Be Writing.

Like many folks, I am working on a NaNoWriMo project and juggling other writing projects, work and life. Also, like many folks, I recognize that we’re moving into a time of the year where it can be harder to get creative work done due to holiday travel, holiday plans, increased expectations about spending time with family and/or friends, etc.

I won NaNoWriMo in 2014, but I used an outline and prepared for months. This year, I don’t have an outline, so I’m “pantsing it” and to boot my NaNoWriMo project is an urban fantasy novel co-written with my sister. Complicated!

Mur typically does a special NaNoWriMo series on her podcast. This year, she’s been posting daily using the metaphor of The Purge (which was a series of horror movies). The NaNoWriMo Purge suspends and breaks “all writing laws/rules” in service of getting more writing done.

These movies look scary!

Hearing her encouragement on breaking writing rules has been a lot of FUN and given me PERMISSION to try new things. A writing rules purge every once and awhile is probably good for us. It builds a sense of excitement and rebelliousness when we come to the page.

So, here are some writing rules to consider breaking—just for the month of November, because well, you know how this month goes. You might be doing NaNoWriMo and trying to get more words written or you just might want to get writing again. Anyway, without a bit of fortitude it’s cold turkey sandwiches, sticky leftover cranberry sauce, the last slice of pumpkin pie, a retail headache and a lot of regret by November 30th.

Writing Rules to Break in November according to Mur (with my interpretation)

Write every day. Nope! Now usually this is a good rule to have because it helps with our consistency. Well, as Mur notes, a major American holiday intervenes in the midst of November which usually includes lots of cooking, eating and retail adventures. You can break this law! Instead think about what writing might realistically fit in your schedule. Plan to be interrupted. Find time to steal. Maybe you will write in the car (assuming you aren’t driving) on the way to Thanksgiving dinner. If you are used to doing a specific word count, consider what it would take to write just a little bit more when you can—so plan to make your word count up over six days, knowing that you will probably not be able to write during the holiday weekend.

Don’t write dream sequences. Nope! Many writers are absolutely terrified of putting a dream sequence into a novel. OK, sometimes they are overused, but that’s not always the case. A dream sequence can be just what you need to get your writing juices flowing—it can always be cut later. Put on your Freudian or Jungian hat and write a dream sequence. Use it to foreshadow an event, get into your characters’ subconscious, and show us their desires or their fears.

Don’t head-hop. Nope! So the rule goes don’t go head-hopping between characters in the same scene. You can confuse the reader and it is not as common in literature as it once was. Though as Mur points out Agatha Christy did this within in a scene and even within a paragraph! So, head-hop all you want. Tell us what Janelle thinks about Damon and then tell us what Damon thinks about her. Tell us what the server in the restaurant that is watching them thinks. Give us all the points of view possible in the very same scene!

-Don’t start a scene with dialogue. Nope! This is one of my additions. Common writing wisdom frowns on starting with dialogue as it disorients the reader. Readers need context. I think it depends on what the characters are saying. Read the fantastic mystery writer Walter Mosely, and you’ll find that he often starts his scenes off with dialogue and trust me, you are immediately hooked. I would have never finished my first NaNoWriMo if I stuck to this rule. Starting with dialogue can be a way to get the reader quickly involved into the emotion of the scene.

Can you think of more writing rules that you’d like to break? I bet you can.

You can listen for free to the first of Mur’s NaNoWriMo Purge series here. The rest of her series is available through her Patreon page. Patreon is a platform that lets you directly support artists and creators.

Break some rules, people! It’s really fun. We will return to our writing law-abiding selves after November. Promise.


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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