Five on Friday: This Day is Unfortunately Living Up To Its Name

fingerscrossedTook awhile for it to register that it is actually Friday the 13th.  I always choose to think of it as lucky day, but today has been anything but.  The attacks in Paris destroy me and now there’s been an earthquake off the coast of Japan. But I guess the rest of us have to carry on.  And send prayers to those who are suffering.  So, here goes with our usual Friday fare:

Who I’m crushing on: Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran.  I heard her speak on Wednesday night here in town and she was awesome.  I’m now reading her book and loving it.  Plus, she wrote my name in Arabic in my book and drew doodles in it, too.

What I’m plugging away on: My next novel.  I was on a pace of 2,000 words a day, but then my 2.5 year-old granddaughter came to stay and I lost my momentum.  Its damn hard to get up in the morning and write when you also have to get a child organized for school.  I now understand my clients who complain about this a lot better.  But I have managed to get 1K a day done.

What I’m loving: The autumn storms and leaves everywhere on the sidewalks and streets.  This has been one of the most beautiful falls I can remember.  And what is better than sitting by a fire, as I am right now, on a rainy day?

What I’m Stressing About: Thanksgiving.  Love the holiday, but I cook for 14 people every year and it never gets easier.  Though I do love making pies.

What I’m Looking Forward To: Christmas.  I love it.  Love, love it.  We’ll go to a tree farm the Saturday after Thanksgiving to cut down a tree.  And hopefully it will not take me two weeks to get all the decorations in, as it did last year.

And yeah, there is and will be writing throughout all of this.  Because that’s what we writers do, carry on and keep writing.  What’s up with you?


12 Ways for Writers to Celebrate Autumn

Marquette_Sugarloaf_beautiful_249786_lYay! It's autumn, my favorite season.  There's something about this time of year that I just love–the crisp days and fall color, the nummy seasonal food (apples and butternut squash, anyone?) and, of course, Halloween.

I always feel a sense of personal renewal at this time of year, stretching on through the dark days of December.  It's because for so many years I returned to school come September, going back to a whole new slate of things to learn.  

And now, with the cooler temperatures here at last, there's no better time for writers.  So, herewith are my suggestions for celebrating autumn.

1.  Sit by a roaring fire and write.  Okay, you don't even have to do the fire part–just write.  Gone are the distractions of summer and it is likely raining or cold outside.  Sit your butt down and write.

2.  Curl up in bed and read a good book.   Pile on the comforters and duvets and pull out your Kindle or your book.  There's no better time than a autumn day to get lost in a book.  And one of the best things about being a writer is that reading is a big part of the job description!

3.  Drink a pumpkin spice latte.  If that doesn't get you going, nothing well.  (Actually, when I was in the Salt Lake City airport on my way home from Paris I got a pumpkin spice latte from Seattle's Best Coffee.  Um, they put pumpkin spice in the whipped cream, people!  It's fantastic!)

4.  Take a long walk and scuff through fallen leaves.  Julia Cameron says that walking is one of the best things for creativity and I agree–it clears your mind and allows new thoughts to enter.

5.  Conquer stress at last.  Stress is the cause of most, if not all of our ailments, including, I would venture to say, writer's block.  So let's slay that dragon this fall, shall we?  My dear friend Sandra Pawula offers a wonderful home study course to do just that.  Click on the Living With Ease button to the right and check it out!

6.  Make leaf placemats.  There's a myth afoot that taking time for creative projects other than writing will just take you away from your WIP.  But the opposite is true–creativity breeds creativity. So here's a fun project (especially good if you have tiny humans around, but they aren't strictly necessary): Collect a variety if colorful leaves and lay them on one sheet of wax paper, cut to the size you want your placemat.  Then place shavings and bits of crayons around the paper.  Cover it with another sheet of wax paper, and using a sheet or something to protect the iron, press together.  Voila! Leaf placemats.

7.  Commit to a new project.  Nanowrimo is coming up in just a couple of weeks.  Who wants to write a novel in November?  You've got just enough time to dream up some characters, plan the plot, create a world, before starting writing on November 1.

8.  Finish a current project.  As I write this, it is Mercury Retrograde, the perfect time to return to unfinished projects.  Most writers I know have a story or two or twelve languishing unfinished on their computers.  Pull them out and polish them off!

9.  Watch a movie.  Watching movies (and TV shows) can help you understand structure and dialogue and scenes.  To me, there is something positively decadent about taking time for a movie on a week-day afternoon.  So I give you permission to do it.

10.  Start a journal.  I'm a big fan of journaling, in all its permutations.  I am off and on with it, going stretches without setting pen to diary, but then suddenly I will feel like I absolutely must write in a journal again.  (This happened to me most recently in France.)  Regular journal entries help you create flow in your writing and are good for noting all the things you want to incorporate in your work.

11. Take a nap.  Dreaming is good for writing–and the soul.

12.  Bake an apple pie.  Or an apple crisp.  Or a pear crisp. Or a crumble.  The apples and pears are so delicious right now and there's nothing more satisfying then assembling a nummy dessert.  Then you can eat a piece while doing #1, #2, or #3.

Well, I could go on, but you'd likely get tired of me raving about all things autumn.  (I didn't even get to Halloween, my second favorite holiday!)  So I will just turn the floor over to you–what are your favorite autumn activities?  Please comment!

10 Ways to Welcome Autumn and Awaken Your Creativity

I love autumn.

Love, love, love it.

Fall is my favorite season–the gorgeous color, the warmish days turning to cool nights, the early dark (I know, I'm crazy but I love it when night falls early), Halloween, and the knowledge that Christmas is coming. 

It is a time when suddenly we're indoors more than out (we spend our summers here in the back yard, having Happy Hour and dinner out on the deck every evening and grilling most nights).   So, since you're spending more time indoors and it's getting dark early, why not refocus your creative efforts? 

Herein, 10 ways to rejuvenate yourself for the runup to the end of the year:

1.  Put your garden to bed.  We planted raised beds this year, and I learned how much harder vegetables are to grow than flowers.  (Turns out they need, um, constant tending.)  Currently the beds feature some anemic tomato plants and deep broccoli kale (a doomed experiment).  But I know that when I get around to going out there and weeding, chopping and dealing with the garden, creative thoughts will flow.  Because that's what happens when you do repetitive tasks–it lets your right brain roam free.

2.  Start a knitting project.  Speaking of repetitive activities, knitting is a great one.  And now that the temperatures are cooler, its a bit more comfortable to hold needles and yarn on your lap. Knitting has the same effect as gardening for me–it sparks all kinds of ideas.  It's time for me to pull out that baby blanket I'm knitting for a friend, before said baby turns into a toddler.

3.  Kick leaves.  Do I even have to elaborate?  Is there anything better than stomping through a pile of fall leaves?  We're not quite there yet in Portland, but I look forward to the near future when I can scuff through leaves on my walks.   Contrary to popular belief that unhappiness and anxiety creates great writing, I believe the opposite.  Doing the things that make you happy creates great writing.  And kicking leaves makes me very, very happy.

4. Sit by the fire.  One of my best purchases ever was a gas insert for our fireplace.  I turn that baby on at the merest hint of cold weather, much to my husband's chagrin.  But just as summer means sitting out back on the deck, fall means sitting inside by the fire.  With a glass of wine, pen and paper, it's perfect.  A fireplace fire means fall to me, what signals autumn to you?  Whatever it is, do it, enjoy it, experience it–the pleasure you derive will be excellent for your creativity.

5.  Make soup.  Like I said, we grill most all our meals during the summer (no hot kitchens for me). But when the temperatures drop, there's nothing better than a pot of stew or soup bubbling on the stove.  A fire in the fireplace, soup on the stove, a glass of wine…the creative juices will be flowing in no time!

6. Take a road trip.  I just got back from a mini-road trip to the eastern part of the state, which inspired me no end.  So did my trip to France.  But my point is you don't have to go overseas or somewhere exotic, take a day trip to the beach (if you're lucky enough to live nearby), or the mountains (ditto), or just the other side of the city.  Travel opens the brain to all kinds of new ideas.

7. Read a book.  I know, we're writers, and so of course we read.  But, shockingly, sometimes we don't, because life gets in the way.  Or summer activities distract us.  But its fall now, darker, colder, and reading weather is upon us.  Short of actually writing, there's no other activity that will make you a better writer than reading.   Period.  I never thought I'd be saying this, but for speed and ease I recommend an Ereader.  I started out loving reading on my Kindle, but now I'm a huge fan of reading on my Ipad mini.  Anyway, it doesn't matter how you read, just do it.

8.  Clean and clear clutter.  My family is laughing hysterically at this one, because,  I'm a bit, shall we say, challenged when it comes to these activities.  But something about the change of the seasons makes me focus on these tasks anew.  Maybe its because I'll be spending more time inside, but suddenly I'm looking for ways to improve my living situation.  I've learned, over and over again, that clearing physical clutter clears mental clutter as well.  So have at it.

9. Play.  Something about telling adults to play is cringe-worthy, isn't it?  But, in our success and status oriented society, taking time to play is the ultimate radical act.  And fall is a good time to do it.  Build a fort out of chairs and sheets in your living room and sit beneath it to write.  Color.   Doodle.  Skip around the block.  Have a tea party with stuffed animals.  It might help if you can nab a nearby child to do this with you, but even if you can't, do it anyway and see what happens.

10. Have a writing marathon.  C'mon, its getting cold and dark outside, you can do it.  Instead of spending your weekend catching the newest movie (or doing any of the above-mentioned activities) vow to write a pre-set number of words.  Maybe 10,000?  Think how fantastic you'll feel when you're done.  And when you are done, you can celebrate with a glass of wine in front of the fire. 

 So those are some of my ideas about how to welcome fall.  What are yours?  Please leave a comment and share them.

Photo by Chris Darling.