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Read Or Write Anywhere

26 May

I am luxuriating in the plush covers of my bed, looking out over the moonlit pool deck while soft music plays in the background. I type the perfect sentence to complete my novel. THE END. Ahhhh.

Ah, who am I kidding? It’s midnight, I’m keeping my eyes open with toothpicks. I’ve written and erased the same sentence over and over. I’m only on Chapter Two. But it’s all good, yo.

When I decided to get back in touch with my love of writing, I didn’t have kids. I could spend unbroken hours reading Poets & Writers, crafting story ideas and dreaming of where it all might lead. The thing is, I didn’t do all that and I didn’t get much completed.

Fast forward a few (sixteen!) years. Now I’ve got two kids with very full schedules, run a business, accept speaking engagements, volunteer with my kids schools (plural), belong to a critique group and yet…I’ve written more in the past two years than ever before. In this time, I completed a middle grade novel, made it into PitchWars 2014, revised and revised and revised that book and am now querying it.  I’m now 13,000 into my next novel.

How? I stopped waiting to “have the time”. I stopped waiting for huge chunks of uninterrupted hours to sit down and write. In short, I took the advice of Barbara DeMarco Barrett, the author of Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Fire Within. If I found fifteen minutes or ten or five, I wrote. IMG_6856

I wrote in the car line at school, I wrote at the kitchen island while dinner simmered on the stove, I wrote on road trips, I wrote in between soccer games. The key is: I wrote.  No amount of time was too little.

To all those writers out there whose lives are also over-full and chaotic, if you feel overwhelmed, just know that you are not alone. And, do whatever you can to squeeze in writing. Whenever, wherever. Which brings me to this awesome campaign I’m a part of, hosted by the YA Chicks, called #ReadOrWriteAnywhere. It’s a fun way to show how you are keeping reading and writing on your priority list as this summer kicks off. And, you can win some prizes – books, Author Skype visits, critiques and more!  Check it out at http://yachicks.blogspot.com/ and enter to win now through May 31st. And keep writing and reading!

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What Inspires Me

23 Jan

At a writing conference this weekend, I realized the speakers that always inspire me the most are the illustrators. It makes sense because I think in pictures when I’m writing. If only my hands could create what I see in my head. *sigh*

Anyway, I also realized the need to use visuals more in my writing process simply for the inspiration they provide. Here are a few that are inspiring me this morning.

Let Your Little Light SPARKLE

24 Dec
This creative family e-card conceived by hostingthemuse inspired me to do something fun.

This creative family e-card conceived by hostingthemuse inspired me to do something fun.

Once again this year I failed to take a decent family picture and send out holiday cards in the snail mail. So last weekend, inspired by Chick Eva, I realized that my last hope was to do something electronic. Eva is the source of much of the creative mischief in my life, so feel free to blame her for what followed.

Last Friday I got this idea for a song in my head and started fooling around at the piano. As a Florida native, I’ve never seen a white Christmas. Nor have my kids, who listen with wide-eyed amazement as my husband regales vivid tales of playing in snow during his childhood in Chicago. Why not have fun with the juxtaposition of wishing for snow in Florida when we literally were in even the 80’s over the weekend? How cool would that be?

My husband shook his head at me the way he does when he knows I’m taking on something I shouldn’t and he’ll be forced to help me. He covered me with that look that says, “Really? Again? Why?” He pretends I’m forcing him to play along with me, but I know that secretly he likes it.

Grumbling that the chord progression was too hard to remember and that he’d never be able to play it all together, he sat down next to me. We’re two music hacks trying to arrange a song, and it’s a frustrating process. But he kept working, making music from my clunking notes. “This is all I want for Christmas,” I pleaded.

Later that day, while driving my daughter to her roller skating class, I tossed my notebook to the back seat so we could brainstorm ideas for the video. She sighed loudly, as only an almost-thirteen-year-old girl can do, reluctantly scratching pencil to paper as I suggested possible visual shots we might take. She rejected thought after thought I suggested. “That’s a stupid idea,” she hissed after one. “I just don’t see the point of doing it all.”

I clawed the wheel. This was her inner critic lashing out at me, even herself. I felt adrenaline surge in my chest as if a dark hunter were trying to steal my precious bear cub. If we weren’t already late for skating, I might have pulled over.

“Don’t say stupid,” I rebuffed her before proceeding. “And don’t ever…ever call an idea stupid. You have a long time to become fearful and bitter and cynical. You’re only 12. You have a lifetime ahead of the world and experience telling you not to try, that things are too hard, that your creative ideas are stupid, pointless, worthless. Don’t start blocking yourself now, or I promise you, you’ll never feel fully fulfilled. It’s taken me a long time to stop listening to that voice in my head telling me not to be bothered, not to risk being laughed at, or worse yet, ignored. I’m 41; if you can learn from my painful journey, you’ll be ahead of the curve.

“I believe that the God who created the universe gave us the gift of creating, too. It’s a healing gift, maybe the only hope for the world you’ll grow up in, a world that often seems like it’s better suited to hating, tearing down and destroying–even killing–than to loving, building up and creating. Maybe that’s why God came to earth as a baby; maybe it’s the most beautiful literary metaphor of all time. I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know everything, and sometimes I question everything. It’s okay to question, to not know. But please don’t kill your artist now. I love you too much to see it happen to you, too… ” I drifted from my emotional diatribe back into silence.

“Fine,” my daughter finally said. “What if we had our big nutcracker lip sync one of the refrains?”

My five-year-old son was enthusiastic from the start, especially when I promised him he’d get to sing into the “mike-a-phone.” We spent the weekend working as a family, even roping in some of our awesome neighbors. Below is the result of our shared efforts. From our family and community to yours, Merry Christmas!

Nancy – Inspired by Giving Back

22 Nov

I have been a follower and supporter of the Four Chicks for a long time now.  While I enjoy reading the stories they post and have even dabbled in creative works of my own, only recently have I been inspired to share this creativity with others.

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer for a few hours at a local food bank, America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend (www.fightinghunger.org/).  While we were there, the volunteer coordinator gave us a tour of their facilities, which are amazing, and told us a little about what their organization does.  I was saddened to hear that she herself, a United States Military veteran, had been a recipient of their services.

This group, with the help of their parent organization – Feeding America, the USDA, and generous donations from and area businesses distributed over 5 million pounds of food last year, and served 44,000 people in one month alone.  Their service area includes 11 counties in the Big Bend area of North Florida.  The statistics are staggering.

  • 1 in 6 people do not know where their next meal will come from.
  • Of those, 1 in 4 is a child. 
  • For many of these children, the free or reduced breakfast or lunch they get at school on Monday is the first meal they have had since the same free lunch the previous Friday.  

I can only imagine the terror and desperation that a child who is hungry feels.  I hope I never know the hopelessness a parent must feel seeing their child go hungry or, possibly worse, depending on that child to provide food for the family.  The sad truth is that you never know what circumstances will bring to your life.  All you can do is prepare the best that you can, and hope you never have to rely on those preparations.

You may be asking yourself what all this has to do with a creativity blog.  I actually thought of the Four Chicks and their idea of finding inspiration and creativity all around us while listening to our coordinator talk about all of their different projects.  When you are battling against such overwhelming statistics and serving such a large community, you have to get a little creative.

  • BackPack Program: Children receive backpacks on Fridays with food to feed their family through the weekend.  It’s not five course meals, but it keeps them from going wholly without.
  • Summer Food Program: Children receive meals and snacks at a sponsored site.  Have you ever wondered what those children who need the free and reduced lunches do when school is out?
  • Brown Bags for Seniors: Bags of food supplies and groceries are provided for impoverished seniors.  Elderly in need are often as helpless as children.  When your fixed income doesn’t cover your basic needs, where do you turn?
  • Second Helpings: Excess prepared or perishable foods from local restaurants are distributed to partner agencies who serve prepared meals.  This not only adds to the number of people fed, but also reduces waste!
  • Food Fund Drives: Through the efforts of Feeding America, these food banks can purchase food supplies at significant discounts.  Your dollar goes further when donated directly to the organization than if you buy the food yourself.

These are just a few of the creative ways they battle against hunger.  I imagine few, if any, of their staff and volunteers consider their work to be creative.  All the same, it was a muse to this budding artist.

Inspiration and creativity live everywhere.  You may not be an artist, musician, writer, or any other traditionally “creative” person.  This doesn’t mean that creativity doesn’t exist within you.  Any time you are inspired by something, a little creativity is blossoming somewhere inside of you.  Reach for that creativity and let it guide you to your outlet.

Nancy Williams, Orlando, FL

TWIST! Change it up

24 Aug
John Talbot; Ottawa, Canada (Crystal DNA at the National Arts Center) CC 2.0

John Talbot; Ottawa, Canada (Crystal DNA at the National Arts Center) CC 2.0

Once again, I have taken on too much.  Sound familiar?  I have a hard time saying “no” to Really Interesting and Cool Stuff, even when I don’t have the bandwidth.  It’s literally in my DNA.  The thing is, when you’re creative, you can’t just do the Stuff That Must Be Done and ignore all the Really Interesting And Cool Stuff that happens along in life. Denying the experience of those cool and interesting things = souldeath.  And I, for one, am not interested in souldeath, despite some of the really cool zombie movies that are out there these days.

Speaking of zombie movies, I saw one recently that I absolutely love: Warm Bodies.  I’ve never been a zombie fan, but this movie made me one.  How? Simply put, some of the best scriptwriting I’ve seen in a long time.  Somehow, the writer managed to create a story that was all at once cleverly funny, awkwardly romantic, sweetly heroic and brain-eating(ly?) gory.  And, by the way, it had a rockin’ soundtrack.

Probably my favorite scene is when a group of zombies, on their way to SAVE the planet, is walking down the highway – in slo-mo – to Rock You Like A Hurricane by the Scorpions.  Hilarious.  Brilliant. And, you are totally cheering them on.

So, how did the screenwriter(s) do this?  Took something that was “good” and gave it a twist.

Zombie eating brains = good.

Zombie developing crush on a human = twist.

Zombies, zoned-out and wandering around an airport = good.

Zombie who collects and listens to 80’s vinyl  = twist.

See how that works?  Another example is Vivi,’s book: Olivia Twisted, coming out this November (warning: shameless friend-promotion.) She wrote a modern take on the classic Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  But instead of just making the same story happen in a contemporary setting, instead of making the youths pickpockets, she made them hackers.  Great twist, right?  Oh, and the protag is a girl, but you probably knew that already.

The best part about TWISTing your creative work is: it’s fun!  And, definitely helps prevent souldeath.  This month, as I’ve written, I’ve tried to remember to throw in some twists that really up the interest.

What are you working on that’s good, but would be great if you gave it a TWIST!?

Sail Away…. Sail Away… Sail Away with us

9 Oct

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. ~Andre Gide

Truer words were never spoken and I’m proud of my Chicks for having the courage to set out on their creative journeys.  They don’t know what waters lie ahead but they know they can only reach their dreams by casting off and trusting that I will guide them.  And what better way to celebrate their milestones than a beautiful day on the water together?

As you set out on your creative journeys, how will you celebrate your milestones?   The Muse loves a good celebration!

Creativity Anniversary

6 Jul

While I, the Muse, have been around forever, my 4 Chicks only recently celebrated their one-year blog milestone. In honor of this, their paper anniversary, I inspired the Chicks to put pen to paper and retrace their shared journey. Because like one’s marital anniversary, it is well worth remembering and commemorating when and how you first decided in earnest to pursue your creative passions. And those with whom you choose to share it are your creative soul mates for life.

Vivi’s Got an Agent…and a Theme Song!

12 Jun

The Muse gave us these fun t-shirts in honor of our one-year blog anniversary.

Vivi ROCKS! And while this isn’t news to those who know her, Vivi getting an agent has given each of us Chicks exciting new inspiration and motivation.

In the spirit of the blog, we want to celebrate this victory with you, too. I mean, really, Vivi is one of us; she’s a “normal”, hard-working mom of three who’s demonstrated remarkable faith, hard-work and perseverance to make her dreams come true. How encouraging it is for the rest of us to know the secret formula is so simple!

Since Vivi’s announcement was music to everyone’s ears, I figured what better way for us all to congratulate tickling the muse than with a fun little ditty. I hope you’ll sing along, even as you continue down your own path to creative fulfillment.

In Defense of Midnight Writers

22 May

I love it when I find scientific support for my bad habits.

From as early as I can remember, I’ve stayed up late at night reading. Then, somewhere along the way I started writing, too.  Fast forward a few years (or decades):  I started working through The Artist’s Way with my fellow Chicks.  I struggled with the morning pages – a key element in awakening creativity.  All that spilled out in the morning for me was junk.  Very uninspired.  But at night?  At night the ideas have always come without effort.

And guess what? It turns out there’s a reason for it. I just read an article in the May/June 2012 issue of Scientific American Mind that, in a study at Albion College, assistant professor of psychological science Mareike Wieth essentially found that creativity peaks at times of mental fuzziness.  Hello, midnight!  It’s the perfect time for me. Creatively, at least.

If you are like me, gravitating toward the page at night, then take heart.  And keep on writing!

A Salute to Home CREATORS

14 May

Happy Mother’s Day to All!

Life as a stay-at-home mom can feel a lot like, well, you see the visual. This is how my son’s room in our new house looked before we moved in.

Homemaker. The very word has a somewhat embarrassing connotation nowadays. But why?

My mom was a homemaker most of my childhood. I loved it. Many of my favorite memories were birthed during unfettered hours at home. Whether I was playing Legos, writing little poems, or cutting out paper animals all afternoon, my mom was always nearby with warm hugs and encouraging words.

Getting a college education was instilled in both me and my sister from an early age by our mom. And after both her daughters had graduated from University of Florida, my mom went back to school and finished her own bachelor’s degree, 25 years after she had first begun. I was so proud watching her walk across that stage to receive her diploma. She showed me it’s never too late to pick up your dreams where you left off.

My mom’s story is that of women’s lib. She transitioned from full-time mom to full-time employee, sometime when I was in middle school. Years later, she went on to become the first mayor of Southwest Ranches, the town she helped to form in Broward County, FL, and I’m so proud of her for always doing WHATEVER is before her with passion and creativity.

My generation seems to be doing things in reverse. I focused on my career and worked full time in my twenties and early thirties, and now I’m a homemaker a stay-at-home mom not working full time. I do freelance part-time, so I have that to preserve some dignity. But really, even if I didn’t, I’m out to rebrand those of us who…do this and love it.

Here it is, girls: We. Are. Home Creators! True, make and create are synonyms, but there’s an important distinction. While homemaker implies rote repetition and drudgery akin to a factory assembly worker–which is, in fact, a strikingly accurate assessment of our daily duties–home creator extends to include CREATIVITY. And celebrating this aspect of our unpaid personas gives us the greatest dignity of all.

My son’s happy “blue room” and the Lego train tower we built together today.

We are storytellers. We are clothes stylists. We are personal shoppers. We are procurement officers. We are painters. We are singers. We are pantry-organizers. We are interior designers. We are memory builders. We are seamstresses. We are quarter-mistresses, in charge of all ships’ quarters and resolvers of all on-board disputes. We are CEOs, Chief Engineers of Operations who keep plumbing running smoothly (most of the time) and weeds in check (some of the time), and we are CFO’s, Chief Fun Officers who keep crewmembers not only minimally fed, periodically bathed and occasionally well-rested, but entertained to boot!

No, we are not perfect. But we are still creating, still evolving every day–growing our families, our homes and ourselves into something better with each rushed morning and drawn-out bedtime. Even every load of laundry and recycled cereal box is another beautiful stroke in the modern abstract masterpiece of our chaotic domestic lives.

So Happy Mother’s Day, my fellow compatriots. I salute us, one and all, those working “outside the home” full-time, part-time or no-time. We may not be paid in dollars, but we are infinitely valuable. For we…are…The HOME CREATORS!

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