Writers: Step Away From Your Computer*

Yeah, I know.  It’s November and you’re holed up in your writing cave.  Because, NaNoWriMo.  You’ve got words to write! 50,000 of them, to be exact! And even if you’re not participating in that NaNo thing, you’re doing your best to get tons of words on the page every day because that’s what we writers do.Typewriter_Writing_Writer_238822_l

And so, I hear you saying that you cannot step away from your computer.

But I’m telling you that you must.  That it is healthier for you and your writing to get out and about once in awhile.  And in case you’ve forgotten what that looks like (I had a writing friend who invented excuses to go to the grocery store so she could talk to the clerks) here are some suggestions:

Go to a writing event.  Okay, so these don’t exactly fall out of trees.  But even when they are available, we sometimes don’t take advantage of them.  I’ve been to two recently: Poets & Writers Live, and Wordstock, our version of the Southern Festival of Books, albeit in a pasty Northwest its-pouring-down-rain-out-there-not-sunny-like-in-Nashville kind of way.  Each was very different, but each had something that inspired me, educated me, or reminded me why I write.

Join a critique group.  This will get you away from you computer on a regular basis–weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.  And it will have the added benefit of gaining you readers for your work.  We all need readers for our work, precisely because we sit in our little caves and write and get way too close to our work.  You can find one by contacting your local writing group (most every city and region has one) and/or looking at the Meet Up site.

librarybooksGo to the bookstore.  If you’re anything like me, you spend more time on the internet looking at books than in actual brick-and-mortar stores.  But remember the pleasure of whiling away an afternoon in a book store, looking at books?  Its one of the best ways to spend the day ever.  And if the sight of all those author names on books doesn’t inspire you, nothing will.

Have a writing retreat.  Why, I just happen to know about one happening in Nashville in January.  It’s called Room to Write, and I’ll be there to guide and encourage you and talk about how to keep a writing practice going over the long haul.  Terry Price and Janet Wallace will also be on hand, but mostly you’ll have lots of time to write.  Even if you can’t come to Nashville, you can create your own writing retreat.  Find a cheap motel or an Air BnB nearby and hole up.  Band together with some writing friends and rent a vacation cottage (inexpensive in the off season).  Banish your family and hole up at home for the weekend.

Take a writing workshop.  There are plenty of them around. Try your local community college.  They usually offer a plethora of continuing education classes.  Check with your local writing group.  Ask the Google to find you some local private instructors.  Or, I don’t know, you could come to France with me next September.  (You can read about this year’s adventure here.  I’m in the process of posting info for 2016, and it will be up shortly.  But email me if you’re interested and I’l send you the brochure.)writersworkshop

Take an online class.  Okay, so you’ll likely have to sit at your computer for this.  And its not quite as good as getting out and about in the world.  But it might be a good chance to meet some other writers and learn stuff, too.  There’s a ton of them out there, and I predict there will be a rash of new ones starting in January.  Again, consult the Google.

Do something fun and forget about it.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is take the day off.  Yeah, it is best to have a regular writing practice, but taking time off can clear your mind and allow room for new ideas to emerge.  Julia Cameron recommends people take Artist’s Dates, wherein you go off on your own and do something that you enjoy, whether that’s swinging in the park or visiting an art gallery.  One’s writing brain does need replenishment once in awhile.

So, how about it?  What do you do when you have been sitting at your computer way too long?

*Remember, way back in the day when some car alarms didn’t shriek a loud, horrible noise, or honk their horn, but instead intone in a very deep voice, “Step away from the car” over and over again? I do.  And that phrase is forever embedded in my memory.

Photo credits (all are from everystockphoto):


Library shelves–click

Writer’s workshop–marshalltownpubliclibrary

Save a Bunch on Services and Classes: Announcing a Thanksgiving Sale!


NOTE: The sale is over, but you can still access all these classes and services on their individual pages.

Give the gift of creativity this Christmas, either to yourself or someone else.

In the United States, Thursday is Thanksgiving, when we eat turkey and count our blessings.   I'm grateful for you–my loyal readers.

In honor of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping madness, I'm holding a weekend sale on select services and classes.   Time's up to get these deals on Monday at 5 PM Pacific time, so act fast. 

Buy something for yourself.

Buy something for someone else.

Buy something for yourself and then give it to someone to give to you.  (My favorite.)

Here are the deals:

Get Your Writing in Gear Session for $50

I offered this deal over Labor Day and sold a bunch.  Then I raised the price immediately.  Okay, listen up: I'm not going to offer this price on these sessions ever again.  Ever.  So buy now.  You can use them any time.  And you can buy as many of them as you want.  But only until Monday at 5 PM.  Click here for more info.

Just $50.


$50 Off Make Money Writing Class

I'm so excited about this class I could spit.  Except that would be un-lady-like so I won't.  Instead, I'll tell you a bit about it.  The class begins in January, and runs five sessions.  It is a teleclass, so you can listen to it anywhere (and I'll have juicy handouts, too).  I'm going to be revealing all the different ways I make money writing–and how you can, too.  Oh, if you hurry, you'll nab yourself a free coaching session with me when you sign up.  Check it out here.

Only $197!


$100 off One Month of Coaching

This includes 4 30-minute plus phone sessions, plus I'll read up to 30 pages of your work.  And I can state with great conviction that I'm going to be raising prices at some point next year.  My coaches already tell me I don't charge enough.  One of the things I love most besides writing is helping people to put words on the page and it would be my honor to assist you.  Again, use these sessions any time, buy it for yourself, or for someone else.  I'm easy.  Except when I'm coaching you. 

Just $297


I'm so excited to share these Thanksgiving specials with you!  And I send you blessings for the happiest of holidays.


Photo by Hey Paul.

Are You Cultivating Your Creative Seeds?

Everystockphoto_174008_mAnd forgive me if that title sounds vaguely obscene.  I'm not sure if it does or not, and I don't mean it to.

So, that out of the way, let's talk about ideas.  And goals.  Awk!  The two don't go together.  Or do they?  Well, yeah, kinda they do.  Because you can have tons of ideas but they remain just that, ideas, unless you wield the hammer and create yourself some goals, too.

I know you're cringing now because you're a creative type and the idea of setting goals is anathema.  (Good word, eh?  And the definition is pretty fabulous, too:  a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction. Doesn't get much better than that.)  But hear me out, because goals can be good.  Goals can help us turn our ideas into projects and then get them out into the world.

Ideas are the spark, goals are the engine.

And here's the deal: I'm teaching a 2-session class on ideas and goals beginning December 6th.  I purposely scheduled the class for December so that you would be ready to go when 2012 rolls around, which is going to come much faster than you think.

And here's the other deal: I just halved the price of the class, from $97 to $47.  My business coaches hate it when I do stuff like this because you're supposed to charge high prices to make it look like you're important.  I actually thought that $97 was a pretty decent price, but let's just say people aren't lining up around the block to sign up.  (My business coaches hate when I admit stuff like this, too.  Oh well.)

Here's the bottom line: I think this information is really good, and I want you to have access to it.  I know people are struggling with finances and a class devoted to your creative ideas may not be high on the budgetary list (do remember that the goal setting portion of the class may actually help you with your finances, though).  So I dropped the price of the class.

It's going to be juicy, I promise.  Two one-hour sessions, with lots of tips and exercises to throw at you, both on the idea and the goal-setting side. 

You can go here to read more and sign up.  Oh, PS–its a teleclass, so you can be anywhere in the world and take it.  And even if you can't make the times I have set, it will be recorded so you can listen to it any time.

There’s a Reason Nanowrimo is Held in November

The first time I did Nanowrimo (really the only official time, since I'm a cheater this year) I couldn't imagine why they held it in November.  I mean, its the month with Thanksgiving in it, and all kinds of holiday preparations going on. Landscape-alone-village-7449-l

But when I thought more about it, I got it.

Because these dark days (daylight savings time ends on Sunday, yikes) of late fall are among my most creative of times.   November and December are months when it is not only easy for me to happily make progress on current projects, but they are also times when I get tons of new ideas.

It seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it?  All around us, the weather is getting colder, leaves are falling, plants are dying.  Now what we usually associate with creativity.

What gives?

I've thought about this a lot, and here's what I've come up with.

First, its a time when the encroaching outside darkness forces us within.  (For the record, I love it when dark begins to fall early.  I know, I'm the one human being on the planet who feels this way.  It's my Danish heritage.  Oh, right, so wait, there's probably some more folks like me, lovers of these dark days, up in Scandinavia.)  When night falls by 5 PM we've got to find ways to entertain ourselves indoors, and for many of us, that means writing.  And so we spend more time looking within.  And that's where ideas are born.

Second, we mimic nature.  Plants and seeds may be going dormant, but this doesn't mean nothing is happening.  Here's the Wikipedia definition of dormancy: "Dormancy is a period in an organism's life cycle when growth, development, and (in animals) physical activity are temporarily stopped." Note the words, growth, development, activity, which correspond to our spring and summer busyness.  Dormant periods are rich times of retreat and renewal, vital aspects of the creative cycle, which can be hugely beneficial for the generation of creative ideas.

Baby-manger-nativity-72863-lThird, in western cultures, the advent of winter is the most sacred of times, when we celebrate the birth of a savior.  And even if you practice a different religious tradition, the story of the birth of Jesus so predominates as to be a cultural meme.  And what is more symbolic of new life, new energy, and new ideas, than a baby?

So I've learned to honor and appreciate these dark, creative days.  And I've also realized that seeing November and December as times that will generate new ideas gives me a good jump on the new year.  I'm already riding the crest of the new by the time the new year comes along.  (And something tells me that next year is going to be a doozy, seeing as how its 2012 and all.)

This year, I've decided to take my honoring of the season a step further and offer a class around it.  Hence, Cultivate Your Creative Seeds: Goose the Muse and Gather Goals to Generate Writing Success in 2012.  It's a two-session teleclass.  The first class will focus on tips and techniques for getting ideas, corralling them, and not getting overwhelmed by them. During the second class, we'll focus on turning those ideas into goals (in a creative, non-threatening manner) so that we can make huge, rabid progress on our writing next year. 

I'm keeping the cost of this class low because everyone money is an issue for folks right now, and you'll also get a recording and cool handouts.  Interested?  Click here for more information.  Or email me at for more info.

Call me crazy, but just as I wrote this blog post, I had a brain fart storm.  And that is to offer a Nanowrimo special of $30 off, which brings the cost of the class to an extremely reasonable $67.  But my brainstorm won't last long, I'm only going to offer this price until the end of the weekend, midnight Pacific time on November 6th.

So go sign up.  And then come back here and tell me what your most creative time of the year is.


Image credits: winter tree by ywel; baby in manger by debsch, both found on Everystockphoto.


Where Do Writing Ideas Come From?

Scfiasco_bunny_bunnies_745196_hLike Oprah, here are three things I know for sure:

1.  Energy breeds energy

2.  The more you write, the easier it gets.

3.  Ideas generate ideas

About that last truism, I have this theory that ideas actually breed like rabbits.  If you note ideas in your journal, or corral them in an idea book, they find each other, mate, and multiply.  One idea sires a whole new generation of them.  And before you know it, you're overwhelmed with ideas.  Then the lovely problem you have is how to not fall prey to bright shiny object syndrome. ("I think I'm going to write this short story instead of the novel I'm working on.  No wait, I want to start working on that mystery.  Oh no, I've got it, I'll write my memoir.")

Try it.  Make an effort to write down ideas and see if they don't multiply.  It is quite magical, actually.

But, you may ask, where do ideas come from in the first place?  Good question, because writers and creative types need a constant stream of them.  Without fresh ideas and energy for your work, you'll eventually stagnate and quit creating.  So ideas are the lifeblood of our creative practice.  How to get them?  Where do they come from?

In my mind, ideas flow from:

1. Observation

Never underestimate the power of observation.  Simply writing down something you saw (A man walking down the street wearing red shoes) can spark an idea  One of the best ways to begin cultivating ideas is just to write stuff down.  Doesn't have to be original or unique, you simply need to make a note of it.  Because when you write down several observations, the rabbit breeding thing happens, and before you know it you simple little observations have combined into full-blown ideas.  Voila!

2. Speculation

The other wonderful thing that observation sparks is speculation.  (Why is that man wearing red shoes?   Doesn't he realize they are ugly?)  You can actually force ideas using speculation.  And, the thing is, at first when you're working on cultivating ideas, the process feels a bit forced.  But soon the ideas are coming so quickly that you realize they were there all the time, waiting for you to start noticing them.

I'm thinking a lot about ideas these days because I'm going to be teaching an online class about them in December.  Actually, ideas are half the class.  The other half is about taking those ideas and making them tangible through goal-setting.  It's going to be held on two successive Tuesdays in December and you can access the class by phone from wherever you happen to find yourself.  I'm teaching it in December for a couple reasons.  The first is because I always find the dark days of December to be an intensely creative time for me and the second because holding it then will set you up for massive productivity around your writing in the new year.

So check out the class here.  (I'm also teaching a class called Make Money Writing in January.  And I'm offering a special discount for people who sign up for both.  Check that class out here.)  I'm keeping the cost of both of these classes low, because I know a lot of people want and need this information.

And tell me: how do you cultivate ideas for writing?  Do you have any tips for keeping the flow of them coming?

Photo by SC Fiasco, via Everystockphoto.