Tag Archives: inspiration

Burst out of the where-you-write box

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Where do you write?

I suppose most writers have a desk, or a nook, or a room. Some of us have an office with a scenic view.

Break out

Throw the laptop in a backpack, or grab a pad of paper and a pen, and try writing at one of these outside-the-box locales.

***

A cemetery

A local historical site

An old barn or run-down building

On the beach

Atop a mountain, or on a mountain trail

A local park

A museum

A dock

Next to a raging river or at a waterfall

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Would you find inspiration at any of these places?

What’s your most productive place to write?

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Inspiration from simple, every-day observations

DSC01656As writers, we find inspiration from simple – even mundane – observations.

We might have a character that resembles the kooky guy at the coffee shop. Or a trait of another character that reminds us of a loved one. Perhaps one of your characters can juggle (as does my son).

We can memorialize others by creating short stories around their pleasures (like I did in “The Garden”) or writing of an event that gave us great joy (like “Mom and Bocelli”).

We can also do away with those that have wronged us (wait til ya see what I do to an ex in “Ruth Tees Off”).

Single events or commonplace observations can lead to inspiration – for our characters, stories, and our poetry.

For instance…

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Three Shaved Heads

by Karen R. Sanderson

Military boys, all in a row.

One mature sergeant

And his two little clones.

Three shaved heads, all in a row.

Man, his boy, and his boy’s little bro.

First came a young boy,

Married so young.

One childlike man,

In an orderly row.

So there, that’s one.

Then came the first offspring,

They cuddle, side by side.

Two shaved heads,

In an orderly row.

So, then there were two.

Along came another boy,

Preemie and scared.

Later flourishing, strong.

The first two scoot over.

So, then there were three.

Three shaved heads, in an orderly row.

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Add bling and panache to your writing space

On Friday, August 3, I posted A place for writing inspiration, making note of my poor writing space – it’s blah, completely uninspired, boring.

Do you need some ideas for decorating your writing space?

Here are some of the ideas posted on that blog by commenters DiAnne Ebejer, p.m. terrell, Abyrne Mostyn, Shawn MacKenzie, Jessica Pettengill Messinger, Tonia Marie Harris, Angie Ledbetter, J. J. Brown, Shirani Rajapakse, Susannah Friis, Kathryn Magendie, Elizabeth H. Cottrell, and Denise Hisey.

On or around the desk

Knick knacks (every time I say this, I want to add, “Paddy whack, give the dog a bone”) and mementos from family, friends, and vacations

Desktop image – use a themed picture to inspire you in your current project or change the image every day

A fresh flower or a silk flower in a vase

Seashells in a jar or dish

Print and hang colorful or inspiring images found on the internet

Colorful posters (use poster putty or popular non-marring wall hangers)

Hang a white board – draw new pictures on it every day

Tension rods – position them floor to ceiling, hang fishing line or wire between them, clip artwork, colorful fabric, family photos on the lines/wires

Postcards – buy them yourself or start an exchange program with friends and family

Hand-made objects from your kids

Colorful, lightweight fabric, sheets, or shower curtains tacked onto the molding to cover bland walls and spaces

Photos of family and friends – use ornate frames

Photos from vacations or day trips

Magnets!

Table cloth or colorful placemats on your desk

Decorative mouse pad (did you know you can have them custom made from your own photos at the local office store?)

Throw pillows, in bright colors and varied fabrics and textures

Throws on the couch, ottoman, chairs

Throw rugs

Faux fur – anywhere and everywhere

Unique rocks found on your walks

Plants and potted flowers

Room divider – tack/hang pictures, textiles, scarves, fabric swatches, or ornaments

Consider hanging wind chimes, dream catchers

String lights (no matter that there is no up-coming holiday)

Auditory and olfactory

Music – for background inspiration

Candles or scented-wax burners for olfactory inspiration

Bunches of fresh flowers

At, on, or outside the window

Window décor with suction cups or self-stick decals

Decorate the window sill

Window boxes with flowers

Lawn figurines

More wind chimes!

And, while stepping away from the desk

Take a walk in a garden, along a woodsy path, or in a downtown historic district or museum.

If you have a good view, sit outside with the laptop or with a pad of paper and a pen.

Take a camera for unexpected moments or scenes. Then print and paste the pictures in your personal space.

***

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com.

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A place for writing inspiration

Most boring blog photo ever

Great writing spaces

I read two blogs on the same day, within the same hour. I think the universe is trying to tell me something about my abysmal writing space.

Poet and songstress Laura LME on J.J. Brown’s blog. Laura writes at a cherry table that has been in the family for over 40 years and was once a part of her father’s studio. The table speaks to Laura – of powerful family memories and children’s laughter.

Author p.m. terrell often writes in a living room amongst bright pastel walls under the watchful eyes of her angel fish. From the desk in her office, she can see crepe myrtles, tea tree plants, gardenias, and rose bushes.

My view

Inside, the bland walls of my still-temporary housing surround me with virtually no color (except for my Phillies throw and a small collage). I am not allowed to put holes in the walls; tape won’t stick with anything heavier than a sticky note.

In front of me is a small window that looks out onto a rutted dirt and torn-up-asphalt road often full of construction and moving vehicles (trailers in, trailers out). The lawns I see are brown or weedy, some with heaps of churned up earth.

Around many of these temporary trailers are forlorn collections of personal items in a mish-mash of piles. Many temporary residents have taken to using loading-dock pallets to create walkways to combat the mud.

No wonder I’m not inspired!

A bright spot

Artist Angie Ledbetter sent me a hand-made collage last November. It’s the only bright spot in the place. It’s propped up on my fire extinguisher bracket.

Maybe I can use the cheesy crown molding

Perhaps I can use the cheesy crown molding to tack up some posters or hunks of brightly-colored material.

Any other ideas?

***

Do you find inspiration in your home office, living room, or kitchen? Do you have a special desk or an item on your desk that provides inspiration? Do you go outside the home to find inspiration? What colors do you find inspirational?

***

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday NYT crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer, and a fabulous grandmother. She edits fiction and non-fiction including: sci-fi, fantasy, children’s, mystery, paranormal, western, horror, literary, historical, and journalism. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA and University of New Mexico, and was the winner of the SouthWest Writers 2009 Writing Contest – The Best Hook. Her writing has been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry.

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Karen’s Blog Survey Results

I asked you to participate in a blog survey a few weeks ago, Karen’s blog feedback survey and name a Sock Monkey! 

You had to make a comment on the blog to be entered in a random drawing. The winner of The Hunger Games boxed trilogy is Tonia Marie Harris!

Tonia Marie was a guest on my blog during Romance Week with In a Heartbeat. Tonia Marie is a mother, writer, poet, and blogger who “procrastinates in her spare time.” Tonia is working on a YA ghost story and exploring self-publishing vs. the traditional market. See Tonia Marie’s wonderful blog, PassionFind. You can see Tonia Marie on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Blog survey results

Overall, I think I’m doing okay. The very positive feedback was mostly in the 70+ percentile, the positive feedback often took me to 100%.

Questions and responses

FYI, I have rounded the percentages to the closest whole number.

Do you enjoy the theme weeks like Fright Week, December Holidays Week, Romance Week, North Dakota Week? 73% liked, 18 % said okay. One person said stop. One person commented, “Haven’t read all but what I did I liked.”

Do you enjoy the posts from creative professionals like musicians, artists, book cover designers, and photographers? 67% said yes and would like to see more, 25% said they were okay, one person said not so much.

Are you enjoying the Editor Spotlight series and would you like to see more? 67% said yes, 33% said they were okay. Comments included, “I think it is a correct balance right now … more? No,” and “Not too often, but they’ve all been excellent.”

Do you enjoy the bulk of my guest bloggers? 50% yes, I like the guest bloggers and have found these posts helpful in connecting with awesome new people, 50% yeah, guest bloggers are okay. One comment, “I like a balance with more from you than guests.” (I had been thinking that I was maybe having too many guest bloggers. I’m going to remedy that and write more myself.)

Have you found value in the blogs on writing, inspiration, writer’s block, and general publishing stuff? Split 50/50 under responses, yes, very helpful and yes, usually helpful, I learn a thing or two.

Do you find value in the blogs about social networking like FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn? 33% said very helpful, 42% said I sometimes learn a thing or two, and 25% said yeah, okay, but the market is already too flooded with social networking. (I have had my say – for now – on social networking, so won’t bug you too much with those any time soon!)

Do you find value in the blogs about word origins, language, grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary? 75% said yes, 25% said somewhat. I had two additional comments – “I love to learn more about language” and the other “LOVE THIS!!!”

Do you find my blog easy to navigate and leave comments? 83% responded, yes very easy, mostly easy got 17%. One additional comment was “Google+ button doesn’t let me add a comment (I use Chrome).”

Sock Monkey names  

Jo-Jo

Scary Possessed Ape J

Bobby

Curious Abraham

Mr. Marbles

Somkey

Rupert

Bippy Muffin

Woolis Lamb

Lorenzo St. Simian

I am partial to Lorenzo St. Simian!

Blogs you like

Question #10 asked you to share other blogs you liked. I thought if a subscriber likes it, then I should share the love. The quoted material is from your comments.

Ordinary Courage by Dr. Brené Brown. “She sticks to her theme and always provides food for thought.”  http://www.ordinarycourage.com

August McLauglin – health, fitness, eating disorders and nutrition http://www.augustmclaughlin.com and blog  http://augustmclaughlin.wordpress.com. “post variety, life topics.”

“Barbara Swafford has a blog that she has named “Blogging Without a Blog.” She usually writes once a week on a topic and asks a specific question related to her post, as you do. I follow it because it is very user friendly. She receives a lot of comments from readers who answer her questions.” http://bloggingwithoutablog.com

Joanne Gaskill’s blog. “Because it contains parenting tips, shares a bit of her life, and her journalism career.” http://www.bloggymoms.com and http://www.bloggymoms.com/profiles/blog/list

Descent Into Slushland, Brian Taylor. http://descentintoslushland.wordpress.com. “He’s a new writer on the scene-fresh, honest, and fun material.”

http://www.37days.com. “Patti Digh has been a friend & an inspiration for over 5 years now, and she lays the bread crumb trail!”

Indies Unlimited. Celebrating independent authors. “So many contributors with information, humour and support.” http://www.indiesunlimited.com

Kana Tyler’s, Kana’s Chronicles. “Witty, touching, fun, and very informative re both writing and just living in the Big Bad World.” http://kanatyler.com

So, there ya have it

For those who participated in the survey and made comments – Thank you so much! If you didn’t do the survey, feel free to comment now.

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40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years, by Cyndi Briggs

Elizabeth H. Cottrell of Heartspoken is one of the most fabulous connections I ever made online, and her introduction of Cyndi Briggs’ blog was another petal in my blooming inspiration.

Cyndi Briggs, PhD (she’s a PhD but doesn’t make you feel bad because you don’t have one), is an amazing and inspirational blogger.

When I read “40 Things” on her blog, The Sophia Project, I wrote and said I had to have it! I know Cyndi will inspire you as she has inspired me. 

40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years

by Cyndi Briggs

Most things that happen are not about me. I used to take everything so personally. I aspire to be a good person, and would overcompensate in a vain effort to make everyone happy and avoid disappointing people. Exhausting. Now I do the best I can, say I’m sorry if I truly screw up, and let the rest go.

Wearing uncomfortable shoes is a waste of time. If shoes hurt my feet in the store, I don’t buy. Nothing ruins a great night quicker than uncomfortable shoes.

Make sleep a priority. I need at least 8 hours sleep. I just do. There is no getting around it. When I get enough sleep, I am happy, content, and focused. When I don’t I’m a whirlwind of cranky insanity. Sleep is my friend.

In time, everything comes back into balance. Nature is brilliant, and we are a part of nature. When my bank account is low, or my mood is bad, or the political scene seems too ridiculous to be real, I remind myself that all things come back into balance eventually.

Learn to say NO without apology. Practice often. Learning to say, “let me think about it for a couple of days,” has been really helpful, too.

There are lots of unglamorous practices that lead to a more satisfying life: discipline, planning, conservation of resources. When I put these structures into place, I find magic is more likely to find me.

Women, get that annual pap smear. I once had severe cell dysplasia, a precursor to cervical cancer. A quick treatment took care of the problem, and possibly saved my life.

Wear sunscreen.

Get out of a poverty mindset. I used to worry a lot about money. I worried in spite of the fact I have never missed a bill, rent payment, or student loan payment. Now when life deals me an unexpected financial blow, instead of thinking, “How will I afford it?” I think, “I can take care of this”. And when I want to do something I can’t quite afford, I know I will find a way to make it happen. It’s OK to be frugal. And I know how it feels to be temporarily poor. But drop the poverty thinking.

Eventually, grief and loss touches all of us. Don’t run from it or avoid it. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening. Step into the darkness. Be broken open. Treasures await on the other side.

There is no promise, vow, or commitment that guarantees lifelong love. Love is a choice, made every day, over and over again. There is no other way to make love last.

Don’t settle….  Don’t marry the “good enough” person. Do make plans to leave the “just OK” job. Aspire to live in a situation that serves your highest good. There is no shame in having what brings you joy and satisfaction.

…. But don’t be a diva. I’m not entitled to anything. If I don’t get what I want, I can be a spoiled brat about it, or I can reassess, get real, and seek the lessons in my circumstances. And then move on in wisdom.

Kisses are not promises. If I meet a great guy, make out with him wildly, and then get dumped, I can get bitter or I can maturely accept that not everyone will love me. It’s OK. We’re all seeking our right match. We’re all doing the best we can.

These are non-negotiables in my romantic relationships: No abuse. No violence. No sexism. Honesty. Respect. Kindness. Humor. The rest is window dressing.

Wear what makes you feel great, sexy, beautiful. In my late 20s and early 30s I dated a guy who was super earthy and didn’t approve of make-up. I went along with it because I mistook his political leanings for signs of evolution. After we broke up, I rediscovered my love of make up, clothes, and pretty things. Looking fabulous makes me happy. I can also wear jeans, go natural, and get dirty. I like having a choice between the two.

I can’t make anyone love me… I have a few hard and fast dating rules: 1) I put no energy into explaining to someone why they should love me; 2) If he pulls away or isn’t calling, I let him go with love; 3) I do not chase men. I don’t need to. Once I decided these things, dating became remarkably easy, fun, and available.

….Nor can I make myself love someone else. I’ve met and dated lots of really great men who will be wonderful catches for someone else. I used to feel guilty about this. I’ve wasted lots of time trying to talk myself into loving someone because he was into me and seemed awfully nice. Now I don’t bother. If it’s not there, it’s not there. Period. I let him go to find his true match, and to make space for mine to arrive.

Fall in love with your own company. The first time I ate out alone I was nervous and self-conscious. Over time, I grew to love it: eating at my own pace, enjoying a book or some writing, observing people around me, entertaining myself with my own thoughts. Since then, I’ve come to love seeing movies, visiting art museums, and traveling alone. I still do these things with other people as well, but I’m not afraid or hesitant to do them by myself. And that’s liberating.

Not getting married and not having children were the best possible choices for me. I think marriage is a good thing and kids are great. But these are not things I’ve needed or wanted in my own life. I have no regrets about turning 40 single and child-free. In fact, I feel enormous relief every day I trusted my gut and didn’t pursue a traditional family life.

Work isn’t meant to be a four-letter word. Imagine how much better our society would be if everyone pursued the work they truly loved. Imagine if companies and organizations created the conditions for employees to work in the manner that best suited their personalities. Work is meant to be the means by which we share our gifts with the community, not wage-slavery.

I make sure at least 75% of what I eat is good for me. I make sure I exercise and move every day. I make sure I get enough sleep. These three things have made all the difference in the quality of my life.

Floss. It takes less than a minute and it is the best thing you can do to preserve your oral health. Have you seen those pictures of gum disease at your dentist’s office? They’re gross. Floss already.

We overestimate our importance when it comes to sick days and vacation time…. “Oh, I can’t possibly take a day off because how would my work get done?”  Let’s be real – the work will be there when you get back. The company will survive without you. Stay home and get well already….

…. Yet we underestimate our importance when it really matters… “I’d love to start a non-profit helping disadvantaged kids learn to read but I guess I’ll just stay here in my boring desk job because at least I have health insurance…” Please, please, please remember how important you are to the world. We need you.

Regrets are useless. There are no mistakes. There is no wrong path. Your life is simply your life. It starts. It will end. What you do in the middle is totally up to you, and there’s no way to screw it up.

Worry is a choice. I know, because I’ve chosen it far too many times. Over the past decade or so, I’ve learned to choose again and again not to worry. I choose trust instead: trust in my ability to handle things, trust in the benevolence of the universe, trust that everything works itself out in good time.

Dreams are given to us uniquely, and if we don’t enact them, they will die with us. I believe with my whole heart that we are each given a specific role to play on this planet. And if we don’t live out our destiny, if we don’t fulfill our dreams, they will die in our hearts and world will not have our gift. If you have a dream, step into it knowing that every power of the universe will rush forward to support you.

Sometimes the key to balance is unbalance. I try really hard to keep my life in check. I try to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, have time alone and social time. And occasionally, I get unbalanced anyway, and I always find it oddly liberating. Living an impassioned life includes letting go of habits and in order to let new ideas, possibilities, thoughts, and behaviors to manifest. Let life get out of control once in a while. New possibilities will come in the wake of the chaos.

We all end up in the ground eventually, so we may as well do what we want. I think about this a lot, particularly when I get stuck in “should’s” and “have to’s”. There is no one right way to live. Ultimately, there is no have to. We can live our lives as poets or dreamers or accountants or moguls, and ultimately, we all die. So do what makes you happy.

Consuming buys only short-term happiness. Again and again, personal experience and research studies demonstrate that shopping, consuming, and buying things produce only the tiniest amount of happiness. Remember your awesome Christmas presents from three and half months ago? No? Neither do I. We think a new car, new shoes, new boobs, or a new gadget will bring us joy. They will, but only for about a minute, then we return to our baseline level of happiness. Cultivate true joy through doing what’s meaningful and expressing gratitude for what you already have.

Age isn’t just a number. I appreciate this sentiment for its intent: I am a young 40, both in appearance and behavior. But the truth is, I am 40. I have four decades of life experience and I’m willing to wield them. I know some stuff. I have wisdom. But I’m also aware that my life is about half over. There is no platitude, cream, or surgical procedure that can take away the simple fact I don’t have forever anymore. I never did. Pretending that death isn’t out there, waiting, is foolish and ultimately robs us of the true gift life has to bring.

Travel. When people tell me they’ve never been out of the US, I want to buy them a ticket and hand them a passport and say, “Go”. And not to places like Sandals resorts or Bermuda. Real places. Different places. Places that will test the soul and stretch the mind and enliven the senses. It is amazing what I find out about myself when I travel. And travel makes me deeply empathic toward people new to the US. Go. Get out. I mean it.

Do things that make no sense to the mind. Sit up all night and watch the sun rise. Have a love affair with someone you’re sure you wouldn’t want to marry. Take a day off from work to dye Easter eggs in September. Life isn’t logical, and we bastardize it when we pretend it is.

Write thank you notes. In this world of digital everything, taking the time to hand-write a thank you note is precious. It will never go out of style. The recipient will thank you and you’ll have a gratitude boost from the process.

Take time to listen to old people. We are all going to get old, and at the end of life, most of us want to tell our stories to someone who will listen. Sit quietly, ask questions, be patient, and listen. It will do your heart and karma good.

Make eye contact with random strangers on the street, smile, and say hello. These small connections can change the world.

Rest in this moment. We are a fast-paced, information-driven culture, and we suffer because of our excess. When I feel particularly rushed and out of sorts, I remind myself that I can “rest in this moment” because there really is no past, no future. Just now. Breathe. Notice the sky. Smell the air.

Life is truly an adventure. Right now, there are people waiting to meet you and help you. Right now, there are places to explore, anxious for your presence. Right now, love blooms, seeking you. Everything can and does change in a moment. Show up. Be present. Pay attention. The life that you want is seeking you just as ardently as you wish for it to arrive. Anticipate its arrival, and have your bags packed.

It’s going to be quite a ride.

Cyndi Briggs

Cyndi Briggs is a writer, professor of counseling, corporate trainer and consultant living in Winston-Salem, NC. When she’s not writing, she can be found out salsa dancing or walking her cute dog, Daisy. Read more of her work at The Sophia Project.

Connect with Cyndi on Facebook on The Sophia Project page and on Twitter and Google+.

Cyndi’s profile photo by Clarissa Hadler of Lilypad Photography.

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