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The Verdict | Creativity Workshop, Final Update

27 Jul

Is it really possible that the Creativity Workshop is coming to a close?  Has summer really flown by so fast?

Yes.  Yes it is, and yes it has.

Though my workshop participation dropped to dormant-volcano-level¹ during the last half, I took away some valuable lessons from this experience.

one

Ideas?  Are everywhere. This workshop trained me to notice them so well that I got overwhelmed by all the ideas that started popping up.  Currently, I have ideas for a follow-up to my WIP, a separate trilogy, a totally separate book that may or may not lend itself toward a sequel or two, and a handful of on-paper-but-not-quite-started ideas for short stories.  This is the primary reason my participation level dropped — I had to slow down before I let the ideas eat me.  Which brings me to…

two

Shiny ideas are fun!  But dangerous. It’s great to have ideas.  What’s not so great is to try to work on them all at once.  For me, anyway.  My so-major-it-needs-to-be-in-all-caps-MAJOR project of the summer has been diligent effort towards completing this third draft of my WIP.  It’s my priority, and it’s rocking.  (It’s challenging.  And still needs work.  But rocking, nonetheless.)

However: what with my pursuit to hone my idea-catching skills, shiny things keep distracting me.  And not shiny as in crumpled-up-aluminum-can-on-the-side-of-the-road shiny — rather, gems-in-a-J.Crew-necklace shiny.  Which is to say, enticing and nearly impossible to avoid.

I spent one long, enthusiasm-laden Saturday night organizing the HUGE ideas I had.  Even with the intent to a) merely summarize the ideas so they’d be waiting on the other side of the MAJOR project, b) not be distracted by the shiny, and c) be chill about it so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed, I so totally got overwhelmed.  It wasn’t physically draining², but it was mentally draining to try to think about three separate (volcano-sized) ideas simultaneously.  Which is why people probably don’t try to write three separate (volcano-sized) ideas simultaneously (even simple outlines) in the first place.

three

Snail, but steady. I started the summer as a snail — steady and slow.  I’m pleased to report that I’ve kept the steady, but ditched the snail speed in favor of something more akin to waddling-goose speed.  (By this, I mean faster than a snail, slower than a puma.)  The major area of growth that contributed to this?  My much-improved ability to focus when I sit down to work.  Conquering distractions took work, but after weeks of working on it, I’ve become SO. MUCH. MORE. PRODUCTIVE. so much more often.

At first, I took the command-Q-to-Twitter-and-all-browsers approach.  Um.  That worked out about as well as that time I tried to give up lattes.  And we all know how much I love my lattes.

What I ended up with was the how-many-cupcakes-can-start-and-STAY-on-my-counter approach to Twitter/blogs/you name it.  (As opposed to the eat-all-the-cupcakes-right-now-and-what-the-heck-make-my-latte-a-breve approach.)  This ended up working well.  I learned how to keep Twitter open, but not give in to its wiles.  Now I have a nice, friendly, have-a-cupcake-but-keep-the-figure relationship with Twitter, and it’s awesome.  There are writers and resources at my fingertips, along with a manuscript that’s all the better for it (instead of suffering a death by sugar overload or neglect).

This post is long enough.

I learned a lot.  Things are going well.  Now, I’m working on being productive AND being a consistent blogger again.  As of today, my third draft is 47.8% finished.  Perhaps I’ll bore you with my (geektastically awesome) progress chart system someday soon.

The end.

And a beginning.

¹I had tons of ideas bubbling, lava-like, beneath the surface.  But to an observer’s eye?  The last few weeks probably looked kinda like a dead mountain.

²Okay, so confession, it kind of was.

The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 6

16 Jun

Last week rocked.

Somewhere in between going to Houston, meeting Melissa, learning how to make sushi, making more and more and more sushi, playing a last minute set on guitar/voice with friends, going on a date with my husband, organizing my kitchen, and having a five-episode Lost marathon complete with — yes — even more sushi, it managed to be a good week for writing, too.

Note that I did not say consistent, but it was, nonetheless, good.

Sporadically throughout the week, I worked on editing my novel and made decent progress.  On Saturday, I planned, wrote, and completed my workshop story.  It’s short and sad, but it is complete.  It was challenging, and I neither hate it nor love it.  On Sunday morning, I awoke to 6:15AM inspiration and started working on the trilogy I told you guys about last week.

That’s the part I feel most excited about when I look back on Week 6.  Fresh off of reading one of Merrilee’s posts, which introduced me to Phase Outlining, I decided to try it out.

I LOVE IT.  So far.

If you haven’t checked out the link I attached to Phase Outlining, you should.  It’s an interesting way to think of drafting a novel, and quite convenient for this stage of my writing.  Though I’m heavy into WIP edits and Creativity Workshop projects, I still wanted to get my new ideas out on paper.  Working with Phase Outlining, I’m not worrying at all about whether it looks presentable or not.  Basically, it’s a tool to get story ideas on the page that can later be expanded into a full draft.

Sunday morning was dark and dreary, perfect for working on that project.  I ended up with a great start — 2700 words — and don’t feel weighed down by it.  It could easily make me feel heavy, I think, either with guilt for working on it too much, or with frustration that I’m not working enough on it.  This is good middle ground.  I’m generating fast ideas that will be waiting for me when it’s time to improve them.

Alright, that’s enough for now.  Besides, I broke unwritten rules and double-posted today — here’s a link to that post, since you probably missed it, which is all about my new video (“Blackbird”).

Sorry if this post feels rushed.  After yesterday’s crazy productive day, I’m anxious to just read and relax.  If I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll go to the gym.  Or, I’ll chill poolside, if not (more likely).

Have a great day, and I hope you guys are making good progress with the workshop, or your writing, or whatever else you may be working on at the moment.  Thanks for always being encouraging and supportive, all of you.  You make this even more fun than it already is!

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The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 5

6 Jun

Merrilee Faber, when this trilogy in my head gets written, revised, bought, and published, I’m going to mail a big thank-you to Australia for your brilliance in running this workshop.

That’s right.  Trilogy.  Sort of a far cry from short-story.  Not a word of it is written yet, except for page upon page of ideas, but OH MY.  It’s epic.  It’s adventurous.  It’s currently all in my head.  I want it out.

But, I digress.¹

Oh, boy, the Creativity Workshop this week.  Perhaps I should begin with how last Sunday suddenly morphed into Saturday night, and six full days mysteriously slipped through a black hole?  To be fair, time passed at warp-speed because I was furiously devoted to novel edits, but the result — as far as #CreateWS is concerned — is the same.

Notebook.  Blank.  Ideas, existing only in my head, curled up to sleep beside my good intentions.

How lame, I thought.  Lame, lame, lame.  Must fix. Not at all content to tell you guys, “Hey, guess what?  I didn’t do one single thing toward the workshop this week, and I’m okay with it because of (insert some valid excuse here),” I set to work on it.  Last night.  At 10pm.

Yeah, so that didn’t work too well.  Sweet husband and I got invited to a concert, and though we did not go, the invitation itself distracted me.  Plus, I made us some tea, and found myself distracted by the boiling, the steeping, the drinking.  We somehow ended up tackling four loads of laundry instead, and my notebook remained blank.  (Wait.  Lie.  Not totally blankI managed to transcribe the entire three lines of my nursery rhyme inspiration, “Sailing, Sailing,” before giving up.)

This morning, I woke up with the sun, while my husband and the two cats slept.  I brewed a fresh French press, ate some toast, and tried again.

Um, this time?  MAGIC.  Magic, magic, magic.  Epic magic.  In my head, on the page, frantic scribbles in my little green notebook.  Ideas.  Characters.  Twists, lies, hope, jealousy, love, loss, bitterness.  Adventure.  A quest.  Mystery.

Pretty soon, I became fairly certain this would not a short story make.  It would a LONG story make.  Like, maybe three long stories.  Complications, twists, motivations snaked their way out of my pen and onto the page, building upon each other to weave a surprisingly coherent, intriguing, tight idea for a plot.

Moral of this week’s story?  It is SO worth it to at least try to do something on these workshop stories, even if it’s at the last minute.  To give it time, real time, along with real thought.

Worth.  It.

I desperately want to vomit my ideas onto the screen, but that sort of thing tends to jinx me until the story is at least somewhat underway.  Sorry to be all, YAY FOR IDEAS and then, NO I WON’T REVEAL ANYTHING.  I plan to pursue this project, so stick around and I’m bound to tell you more at some point in the future.  If you really want to know, email me, and I’ll probably be too excited to hold back, once pressed.

So, the plan.  I’m pressing on with the workshop.  The next set is all about stories inspired by song lyrics about birds, and I’m excited.  I have a surprise in store for you guys, so check back early in the week.

As for my trilogy idea, I’m trying to figure out when is best to do something on it.  On one hand, I’m thigh-deep in revisions for my WIP.  I’m determined to finish that one, and finish it well.  So, that remains priority.  Also, the workshop has given me great new inspiration, many new tools, and I have committed to it, so I’m going to keep that as a priority.

I’m thinking I’ll try to write for fifteen or thirty minutes a day on the trilogy idea, something short and consistent to both a) get my writing juices flowing, and b) maintain a connection to these ideas I’ve had.  Once the workshop is over, I’ll focus more energy on the new project.  Once I’m done with edits and in the querying phase for my current WIP, I’ll focus even more energy on it.

As if I needed more stuff to do.  The good thing, though, is that I’m SO EXCITED about all of it.  No, I didn’t write a short story this week, but I have my next novel project lined up.  What I need now is patience, and the ability to focus my enthusiasm.  No deserting the current projects, no sacrificing the almost-finished for the not-even-started.

This post is long enough.

¹I have ALWAYS wanted to say I digress, but I think this is actually the first time I ever have.  Just FYI.

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The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 4

30 May

This week, in terms of my Creativity Workshop writing goals, was pretty void of progress.  I was going to say abysmal, but that would be just a bit too harsh.

My project of choice involved fluffy, innocent sheep who turn up tail-less in the field.  Oy.  Perhaps I should have considered what that would mean, in terms of a story, before I chose it: it means that somehow, someone needs to sever those little tails.  Poor, poor, fluffy sheep.

My problem with this week was not a lack of ideas.  It was not a lack of ability, or time, or even writer’s block.  My problem?  The idea I came up with rattled me a little bit, because it’s totally not something I would normally write.  Yes, yes, I know that’s what the workshop is for — to get out of my comfort zone, to try something new, to push myself, for fun and for practice.  Eeeeek.  Schizophrenic Bo-Peep?  Innocent sheep, harmed by their own trusted shepherdess?  Um…not completely my scene.

Still, once the idea snaked into my brian, it coiled up and would NOT move.  I was intrigued by it — I just wasn’t so sure I wanted to write it.  Something about it was off-putting, and I hid from it for a few days.

It scared me, but I did not ditch it.  Friday morning, I took a deep breath and faced it.  And you know what?  I like it a lot better than I expected to.  It’s colorful and vivid and dizzying, intense.  I still feel like I’m sort of closing one eye to it, not going as deep with it as I could, but the eye that’s open thinks the story’s pretty intriguing.

Though I didn’t finish it, and I only worked on it those two days — one for planning, one for facing the plan — I’m satisfied with the fact that I didn’t ignore the things that scared me.

This week, hopefully, will be better.  My inspiration for the new story the nursery rhyme “Sailing, Sailing,” and it will deal with love interrupted by nature and time, and waiting for someone to return home.  I have a smattering of social plans this week — holiday on Monday (YAY for pools and lakes), friend coming to visit on Friday, taking another friend to the airport, a reunion with my old roommates — so the challenge this week will be a busy schedule.

I can’t believe this is already the last week of the first set.  So far, I have one completed story that I like, one idea I’m SUPER-EXCITED about, and a half-written idea I’m still somewhat unenthused about.  I’d like to add another completed story to the list this week!

Happy creating, everyone!

PS: If you’re new-ish around here and have no idea what the Creativity Workshop is (also known on Twitter as #CreateWS), click here for a post about the workshop itself, and click here for a post about my goals for the workshop.

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The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 3

24 May

As you might imagine, on the morning after the Lost series finale, my head feels like popcorn popping in a microwave.  (I won’t spoil anything, promise.)  Ben Linus.  Smoke Monster.  Time.  Death.  Life.  Jack, Kate, Sawyer.  Locke.  Flocke.  Lemon-raspberry tart, jungle plates, apple crisp.  Guacamole, cabernet.  Vacuum.  Dishes.  Seating arrangement for nine in a tiny apartment living room.

Now that all the planning is over, the processing of what just happened? has begun.  Thus, I’ve already succumbed to the distractions of message boards, EW.com, and a let’s-discuss-this! phone call with my mom.  Finally, I tore myself away for productivity’s sake.  For now.

You might have guessed it already, but I, um, didn’t quite meet my Creativity Workshop goals this week.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I blasted off with a full tank of fuel back on Tuesday, when I posted about the flamin’ ladybug story — trouble was, much as I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted (and still want) to spend time on it, it was an altogether strange week.  Admittedly, the most I did on my story this week was to plan it and get way excited about it.

Though party-planning and general I’m-so-excited-yet-sorta-sad-that-I-get-to-find-out-how-Lost-ends bubbly feelings dominated the weekend, that’s not the only reason I was unproductive.  A few of the weekdays were just plain difficult, in terms of some personal stuff going on, and my willpower lacked its usual oomph.  On the days where the oomph was alive and kicking, I made some great progress on my novel edits and at the gym.  I was thisclose to completing a section of the novel, so when it came time to work, I gravitated toward that.

The good thing?

I’m not discouraged.  Still excited, actually, and encouraged that I made progress with the novel and the gym.  It’s really tempting to write the ladybug story this week instead of doing the third story in the set, but: no.  That would put a bad habit into motion, I think.  As excited as I am about it, I shall shelf it for now, knowing I have a great idea to come back to in the future.  Instead, it’s time to press on.

It’s especially tempting to write the ladybugs when I look ahead to this week’s project: Little Bo Peep and severed tails.  What in sideways world am I going to do with that?

No.  Clue.

(Yet.)

Okay, dudes.  I’m feeling that good old oomph right now, so I should strike while it’s hot.  The first goal of the rest of this week: get writing stuff done before I allow myself any more Lost message-board perusal.  Then, I’ll tackle the rest of the week.

PS: That picture of Benjamin Linus and his #8 bunny is a limited edition screenprint made by Todd Slater.  I want this.

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The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 2

17 May

Well, well, well.

Just like that, and the first two weeks of the Creativity Workshop — one intro week, one actual writing week — are over.

Despite the fact that I’m an exhausted shell of myself today, thanks to four days of hosting out-of-town family (plus one impromptu day trip to Austin¹), the first week of actual writing was pretty much a success.

The Story

My first story for the workshop was loosely based on the Humpty Dumpty rhyme.  It turned out much shorter than planned (1,251 total words), but it felt whole at that length, so I didn’t press for more.  I enjoyed writing this story as much as possible, given the fact that the theme (irreparable brokenness) was sort of difficult and lent itself to a not-so-happy ending.

The characters popped into my imagination fully-formed.  On one hand, we’ve got Humphrey Dempsey, a forty-year-old man who is ridiculously obsessed with breaking eggs and gluing them back together, 3-D puzzle-style.  On the other hand, we have his wife Farrah, who is tired of seeing him waste his life on something ridiculous, stupid, and — in her opinion — pointless.  Hence, conflict.  That, I expected.  Lots of little surprises arose along the way — thoughts about being satisfied with appearances rather than truth, thoughts about throwing stones while in a glass castle, thoughts about selfishness versus love, thoughts about futility and hope, thoughts about pretense, thoughts about vicious cycles.

All in all, the story itself is a blinding glimpse into this world.  It’s short, but (I think) substantial.  It could probably be better.  I look forward to reading it after the workshop is over, then making changes to strengthen it.  This was, after all, the first short story I’ve ever written.  I’m betting it could definitely be better.  That said, I like what I ended up with.

The Story Goals

One of my specific goals for this set of stories was:

I want contrast to be essential in my character development: characters who have similar motives, yet manifest opposite actions. (For example, two characters who both feel love, but show it in completely different ways.)

Specifically, this was at the very heart of my story.  Humphrey and Farrah are both trying to fix something irreparable: Humphrey has his shattered eggs, and Farrah has, well, Humphrey.  The manifestations of this are absolute opposites.  Humphrey isolates himself, Farrah presses him for interaction.  Humphrey is unburdened, for the most part, by what others think of him, while Farrah is obsessed with ‘normal’ appearances.

The Process Goals

As far as the process itself went, last week was a learning experience.  I already touched on my difficulties with balancing discipline with patience.  Flexibility in my schedule, as opposed to sheer rigidity, helped get me into a more creative place, and thus helped me to be more productive.  One of my goals, also, was to shut down TweetDeck and all browsers.  This was good and bad.  Good, because I didn’t get as distracted.  Bad, because it encouraged that rigid mindset.  I experimented with both ways, and in the end found that as long as I am disciplined² to not go on rabbit trails whenever interesting tweets pop up, I actually feel more ready to work with TweetDeck open — it’s motivating to see others being productive and tweeting about it.  I’m going to keep experimenting with this, though.

In the midst of the short-story-writing, I managed to get some (not a ton, but some) quality edits done on my novel.  I’m encouraged by this, and ready to tackle more of it.

Generally speaking, I’m on track, but not completely on schedule.  I haven’t done the get-inspired-by-these-pictures assignment yet, and have avoided most posted thoughts about them, because I still want to do it.  Also, this very post is a day late, and I have yet to read the latest Merrilee post on organization.  Last week was an anomaly, since we don’t often take spontaneous trips to Austin or have people at our house for half a week, so I’m not too banged up about being slightly off-schedule.  At least the short story got done, and I’m mainly up-to-date on the other stuff.

Alright.  Long-overdue date night is about to commence³, followed by some intense vegging in front of Glee and a smattering of NBC comedies.  Or, maybe substitute some Curb Your Enthusiasm instead of the smattering…we shall see.  Yes.  Tonight I rest, tomorrow I’ll work.

May your notebooks be delightfully scrawled-upon, your ideas plentiful, and your shattered eggs perfectly cooked to your liking.

¹For those of you not familiar with Texas, you can drive for eight hours and still be in Texas.  Fortunately for us, Austin was a mere 3.5-hour drive away from us.  Out of sheer youthful ambition (ha) we tackled a there-and-back trip in one day, complete with eight hours of let’s-do-fun-stuff in between.  Yeah.

²Italicized, because it is quite the conditional statement.  Makes all the difference in the world.

³Why, hello, little buffalo wings and beer.  You look mighty tasty indeed.

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The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 1

10 May

Excuse me for two seconds while I chase down my brain.  It’s running in six different directions at the moment — more like gleeful skipping than running, if I’m being honest — and where I need it is right here. In this chair.  At the keyboard, thinking.

If you’re new around here, or if you’re old and you forgot, I am a sucker for Mondays.  Fresh starts get me all revved up, ready to stomp all over anything that gets in my way.  Goals?  Watch out.  I’m ready to tackle you.  All of you.  All at once.

That’s where I am this morning, and it’s a little bit of a struggle to do one thing at a time.  To sit here, to focus, to do one thing well before flitting off to another shiny goal.  This is especially difficult because I’m so ready to start on my actual Creativity Workshop project, due to the numerous this-is-how-my-goals-are-going posts I read this morning.  Now it’s my turn to write one of those, before I proceed.

Last week, I wrote two sets of goals:

An all-encompassing set

and

A way-more-specific set

Since the way-more-specific set won’t get underway until today, I’m going to measure last week’s progress against the first set.  (In case you need a refresher for details, click the link, or just recall my adorable cat posing, top-model-like, inside his box of choice.  He’s smiling with his eyes, and Tyra Banks would be proud.)

The Goals & The Verdicts

Boxbuster Goal #1: Work on my ability to switch gears; make quality progress on two projects in the same week.

The Verdict: Even though we didn’t start writing our short stories last week, the Creativity Workshop itself took up a bit of time.  Crafting goals and posting about them was a project in and of itself.  I did work on my novel last week, though not as often as I intended to.  When I worked on it, I made some quality progress (meaning, I feel proud of the way I spent my time when I sat down to work, and what I ended up with is light years better than what I began with).  Therefore: goal achieved, since concrete progress was made on two different projects.

Boxbuster Goal #2: Make a tighter schedule and stick to it.

The Verdict: Um.  Yeah.  About this one…I succeeded 50%, and I bet it’s not too hard to guess which 50% was the winner.  In light of Goal #1, I’m glad to say I at least got a lot of great stuff done.  On the other hand, had I followed the schedule I created, I would have been even more productive.  So far, for today, I’m on track as planned.

Boxbuster Goal #3: Learn how to write them and turn out some good ones.

The Verdict: This one’s not quite in motion yet, since we’re just now starting on our actual projects.  Ideally, I would have read up on short stories last week in preparation.  I didn’t, so I guess we’ll call this one a fail.

Boxbuster Goal #4: Write interesting things, from fresh ideas, that mean something.

The Verdict: This goal, I’m excited to say, I’m gonna claim as a 100% victory.  Part of coming up with our specific goals, for me, entailed a scribbly page of brainstorming.  I actively made a point to look for ideas around me, I took notes as they came to me, and then I pieced them together.  I’ve got some ideas in motion, and what’s more, I’m super excited about these ideas, ready to dive in (hence the gleeful-brain-skipping I mentioned earlier…).  Training my brain to look for fresh ideas with meaning = victory.

Boxbuster #5: The first four goals were pretty all-encompassing, so I’d better include some specific goals that pertain to the writing itself.

The Verdict: This goes hand-in-hand with the fourth goal.  In my outline of this goal in its post, the specifics I came up with were: female protagonist, write ideas inspired by song lyrics, put a fresh twist on a cliche, write something controversial, and write something inspired by my experiences in Shanghai.  Of these, I have definite plans to write around the first three ideas.  I haven’t outlined anything specifically controversial, though I expect I will work it in there somewhere.  Same goes with Shanghai — the idea is in the back of my mind, but I’m not sure where I want to use it yet.  Overall, I’m going to call this a success.

Sweet.  Not bad, not perfect — a good start, I think.

Before I head off to productivity land, I just wanted to let you know that the (high school one act) play my mom directed placed third in the state!  They were incredible. Her star actress — whose name, appropriately, is actually Star — won the award for Best Actress, and a couple of their other actors also won medals for their performances.

We also ate yummy food, stayed up way too late, and now I want to move to Austin, where there are lakes and trees and hills and quirky restaurants and way less ugly concrete than where we currently live.  If we can’t move to New Zealand, I guess Austin is a good second choice.

The end.  (Eloquent way to end, and totally not abrupt.  Right?  Riiiight.)

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Bird By Bird | Concrete Creativity Workshop Goals!

6 May

I don’t know if it’s the French press of coffee I drank this morning, or if it’s due to my zesty little green Moleskine notebook, but the ideas?  Are flowing.  Flooding, even.  (I prefer to imagine this flood is made of Fiji artesian water, FYI.)

Guess that just goes to show that with a little time and a little thought, ideas are everywhere, just waiting to be acknowledged.

As many of you are already aware, I’m taking part in Merrilee Faber’s Creativity Workshop, which began this week.  (If you’re in the dark on this, click here.)  A few days ago, I set some general goals — now, it’s time to streamline them into measurable (and thus, achievable) goals.  That’s where this whole idea flood comes in.

We’re to write three sets of short stories, four stories in each set.  That’s one story per week, for twelve weeks straight.  Knowing myself, I know this pace could flip from stretching to breakneck in an instant if I’m not prepared.  So, I went ahead and outlined some concrete ideas to work with for each set.

PS: If you’re reading this on a reader with a white background, there are a few lines of light green, under the lime green, that may be easier to see on mine (which has a dark gray background).

Set #1

Weeks 2 – 5

Powerlessness over irreparable circumstances

In the first set, I decided to write about people who find themselves in circumstances over which they have no power, but nonetheless make futile attempts to fix things.  I plan to use nursery rhymes as inspiration.  In each story, I want contrast to be essential in my character development: characters who have similar motives, yet manifest opposite actions. (For example, two characters who both feel love, but show it in completely different ways.)  Here’s the breakdown for each week, with the irreparable aspect listed first, followed by its nursery rhyme inspiration:

Week #2 | A shattered egg | “Humpty, Dumpty”

Week #3 | Something that has burned to ash. | “Ladybug, Ladybug”

Week #4 | Severed tails. | “Little Bo Peep”

Week #5 | Love interrupted by nature and time; waiting. | “Sailing, Sailing”

Set #2

Weeks 6 – 9

Stories inspired by songs about birds

One of the goals I mentioned in the last post was that I want to write stories inspired by song lyrics.  Well, there’s no shortage of good material there, so I decided to narrow it down a little bit more.  Even so, I’m having trouble narrowing five choices down to four, so I’ll list the four I’m 97% sure about, and then put the fifth idea last.  I chose these songs because I think they’ll work well in a set together.  Other than the bird theme, they deal with broken wings, hope despite adversity, captivity, and freedom.  To challenge myself, I’m choosing two I never heard before this morning, though the rest are old favorites.  Here’s the plan for Set #2, with song title/artist followed by its general theme.

Week #6 | “Blackbird” (Lennon/McCartney) | Spreading broken wings

Week #7 | “Top of the World” (Patty Griffin) | Wings broken by someone else

Week #8 | “Two Birds” (Regina Spektor) | Love, but tied to someone who won’t fly

Week #9 | “Bird of the Summer” (A Fine Frenzy) | Letting love fly away, hoping it returns

Possible Option | “Still Fighting It” (Ben Folds) | Wants to keep love, but sets free with no expectation of it returning

Set #3

Weeks 10 – 13

Grimm Fairy Tale, “One Eyes, Two Eyes, Three Eyes”

My first two sets, you may have noticed, have the potential to be kind of heavy.  I don’t plan to make them all heavy, but nonetheless, the potential is there.  For the last set of the workshop, I’m going to gear things more toward FUN!  (Yes, an all-caps, shouty version of fun.)  My mother is an expert at story-telling.  When we were little, she’d make up versions of “Little One Eyes, Little Two Eyes, and Little Three Eyes,” coming up with some crazy plots on the spot.  They were entertaining, and were usually about how spoiled Little One Eyes and Little Three Eyes ganged up on their ‘perfect’ sister, Little Two Eyes.  Her version is a universe away from Grimm’s original, and I’m thinking mine will be a universe away from both of these.

In this set, I’m going to try some new things while I have fun.  This whole set will focus on these young sisters.  I want to do futuristic/fantasy/mystery here, and experiment with other POVs.

Week #10 | Tell a story in 3rd person omniscient

Week #11 | Write in first person, from the perspective of Little Two Eyes

Week #12 | Write in first person, from the perspective of Little One Eyes

Week #13 | Write in 3rd person limited, focusing on Little Three Eyes

Task List

Though I have specific starting points for each set, and even for each story, I’ve hardly given any thought toward what each will actually BE when it’s time to sit down and write them.  Between that, and my all-encompassing goal to make a schedule and stick to it, my task list is the same for each week, unless I discover the need to amend it along the way.  If I need to amend it, I’ll wait until the end of the current set, then make new ones for the set that comes next.

Weeks 2 – 13

Spend one hour, five days per week, devoted to that week’s project.

Days one and two: use ideas I already have as inspiration, come up with actual characters, plot, setting, and other necessary details.  Begin writing on Day 2.

Days three through five: Write, without distractions, for the entire hour.  No Twitter, no blog, no browsers open.  Aim for 750-1,000 words each day.

Devote extra time as needed on Day 6 if I have not completed the story.

(Wow.  Long post, dudes.  Now that I have ideas in mind, I’m even more excited about this workshop.  Thinking about it in concrete terms is a bit overwhelming, so I’m not going to think about The Big Picture right now.  One day at a time.  “Bird by Bird,” to borrow the title of Anne Lamott’s book, which — I’ve heard — is fantastic.)(Perhaps I’ll read it, oh, fourteen weeks from now.)

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Out of the Box | Creativity Workshop Goals

2 May

Mr. Cat and I have something in common: we like our boxes.

He likes to curl up inside them, get comfortable, maybe play a little while, and only exit said box if provoked.  Like I said, we have some things in common.

My box is not made from cardboard; it’s made from routine.  I write where I’m used to writing, what I’m used to writing, how I’m used to writing, and so on.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to discipline or hard work — it’s just that these efforts, thus far, have been focused on one project, and one project only: my novel.

Something has provoked me to poke my head out of the box, and that something — as I mentioned the other day — is Merrilee Faber’s Creativity Workshop.  Both because we’re supposed to, and because I want (need) to, I’m setting some goals here.  By my calculations, each of these goals has to do with shedding and shredding my cardboard boxes, in one way or another.

Box #1: When I write, I write one thing: my novel.

Boxbuster Goal #1: Work on my ability to switch gears; make quality progress on two projects in the same week. I’m editing the second draft of my novel, and I don’t want to take a fourteen-week hiatus from it.  Thing is, though, I’ve been working on this novel for a while now, and have never tried to write anything on the side (other than blog posts).  One thing I want to get out of this workshop is the ability to switch gears from one project to the next, which means a) clear focus on each in its time, and b) quality progress made on each.

Box #2: I work on an über-flexible schedule.  This is comfortable.

Boxbuster Goal #2: Make a tighter schedule and stick to it. If I’m going to effectively break out of Box #1, this is imperative.  Having a flexible schedule works just fine for what I’ve been doing.  However, if I’m going to make quality progress on two different projects, I need to be a bit more specific in the way I plan my writing time.  This may include earlier wake-up calls or a few midnight-oil-burning sessions — early mornings and late nights are two times of the day I rarely use for writing.  It would be good to stretch myself to work in times other than those I’m accustomed to.  Specific application of this goal looks like making a weekly schedule on Sundays, with specific goals for each block of writing time.  Then, obviously, try to follow it.

Box #3: I don’t write short stories.

Boxbuster Goal #3: Learn how to write them and turn out some good ones. So, it’s not that I don’t like short stories, or think I can’t write them — it’s just that I’ve never focused any energy on learning about them, or trying to write them.  I’m in that writing-my-novel box, not the come-up-with-several-shorter-things-that-are-fresh-and-totally-unrelated-to-your-novel box, and frankly?  The idea of the second box sounds kind of scary.  That said, I’m excited about crawling inside, because it sounds like a worthy (and fun) challenge.

Box #4: Coming up with fresh ideas has never been my strong suit.

Boxbuster Goal #4: Write interesting things, from fresh ideas, that mean something. I can come up with fresh ideas for stories, but a lot of times, they either take forever to occur to me, or just don’t feel special enough.  I want to train myself to think out of the box when it comes to writing fresh ideas.  This includes everything from the plot itself, to the characters, to descriptions, to settings, to scenes: I want to make something special, something that cannot be labeled cliché.  I want to write not my first idea, but maybe the fifth.

The key to this goal is the phrase “train myself” — I want to devote time to working on ideas, to be more intentionally observant in everyday life, and to think away from paper.  What I mean by that is, I’ve noticed it’s hard for me to think through ideas while jogging on the treadmill, for example, or while doing anything where I can’t physically write/type my thoughts out.

Box #5: I like to make general goals instead of specific ones.  General ones aren’t as painful to fail.

Boxbuster #5: The first four goals were pretty all-encompassing, so I’d better include some specific goals that pertain to the writing itself. I tend to write about generally non-controversial issues; it would be a challenge for me to write something outside this comfort zone.  My current WIP stars a young male; I’d like to write about a young female (I’m thinking anywhere from five to thirty-five).  I want to write at least one piece that’s been inspired by song lyrics, and at least one piece that takes something extremely clichéed and puts a fresh twist on it.  I want to write something inspired by my experiences in Shanghai.  And, I shall give myself the freedom to make these inspirations manifest themselves as either an invisible top-layer of lacquer, or as the more in-your-face splash of red paint.

So, there you go.  This is going to be a lot of work, but I’m excited about it.  Also, just so you know, part of the workshop includes writing updates about our progress.  We’re to post every Sunday, so expect that here.

Other participants from around here include Linda Cassidy Lewis, Melissa, Cassie Hart, Chibi Doucet, Amber Dawn WeaverAshley Nava, and (of course) Merrilee Faber — I’ve linked to their blogs from their names, if you want to check out their goals (which should be up soon, if they’re not up yet) or their progress along the way.

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Merrilee Faber’s Creativity Workshop

23 Apr

Something really cool just landed in my lap, and no, it’s not a spilled glass of iced water.

It’s an opportunity.

A challenge.

A here’s-a-chance-to-grow-in-your-skills-and-discipline-and-creativity sort of opportunity-slash-challenge, dropped down from the sky courtesy of the amazing Merrilee Faber.

Basically, she’s taken the initiative to organize and put on a fourteen-week Creativity Workshop (one week of intro, thirteen weeks of workshop) from May 2 – August 5.  There’s a whole slew of awesomeness wrapped up in this opportunity, including a wide range of applicable topics to be covered by Merrilee and the various guest bloggers she’s lined up. Here in a minute, I’m going to direct you to her two most recent posts for more information.

To quote Merrilee, “It is a workshop about teaching yourself to be creative when you need to be, not at the whim of the muse or the tides or the phase of the moon.”

I don’t know about you guys, but this sounds great to me.  For more information about what kind of work is involved, what kind of topics will be covered, who the guest bloggers are, and to sign up, follow the links below.

A brief overview (the what, the why, and other answers to questions)

More details, schedule, and sign-ups

Let me know if you decide to join Melissa, Cassie (JC), yours truly, and — of course — Merrilee, as we brave this adventure.  I fully expect it will rock.  In fact, it will probably rock so hard that I’ll spill iced water all over my lap and then be inspired to write something creative about it.

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