Tag Archives: inspiration

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.

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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!

August Power Word: TWIST!

4 Aug
Unexpected twists in plots and life are good; they provide the best opportunities to grow by reacting in a new way.

Unexpected twists in plots and life are good; they provide helpful opportunities to react in new ways, changing us.

This month the Muse challenges you to TWIST! Interesting characters, in books as in life, never travel forward in straight lines. They face obstacles and conflicts. They make detours and even u-turns. Just when they solve one problem, another bigger problem arises, making them feel like they’re just moving in circles.

But with each iteration around your problems (or those of your fictional characters), heightened stakes come with heightened potential for growth. What first presents itself as an unfortunate turn of events might actually be the very thing that propels you closer to your goal.

So embrace the TWIST! Combine things in new ways like Chick Vivi, whose debut young adult novel, Olivia Twisted, comes out this fall. Or stretch yourself like Chick Eva, who’s tackling her final exams for health and nutrition school.

Whatever you’re facing, imagine yourself as the heroine or hero in your own story. Persevere through challenges and even losses, knowing that you’re becoming more fascinating and more dynamic with each TWIST.

TANGO! A LOVE and HATE Relationship

13 Feb

Let's Tango!As they dance across the floor, he grabs her tightly against him. She slaps him and starts walking away. He grabs her arm and pulls her in.  She falls to the ground. He walks away. She grabs his leg as he pulls away, dragging her with him.   He stops, looks down and picks her up, and they dance together again.

This is how I see my relationship with my work.  There are times that I love and could spends hours working on it and then there are times that I just don’t feel inspired.

I sit on my computer looking at the screen waiting for something to happen.  Some creative inspiration? God’s voice? Anything would be better than nothing.  I get frustrated and walk away wondering why I’m I putting myself in this situation.

Other days, I’m in bed and at 2:00am I wake up with an idea.  I have to get up and write it down before I forget and then can’t wait to start working on it.

My issue as a mother, wife and student, finding the time to sit when you are inspired is very, very hard.  You try to schedule your time thinking “ok, once I pick up the kids, get them fed and working on their homework I have one hour to sit down and work on my documentary, before I have to get up and make dinner.”  But how can you tell your creative side “hey, it’s time to turn on your creative juices and get busy.”  No, these are the times that I hate, because–trust me–there are no creative juices coming out of me.

But then there are those times that it just flows from me, and I don’t want it to stop.

So my question’s to you, readers.  How do you do it?  How do you keep your creative juices going on all the time.  Because at the pace I’m going, I will never finish.

I do have a love and hate relationship with my work, but I hope that like the tango, in the end my work and I could dance together as beautifully as the couple doing the dance.

New for 2013: Monthly power words to help you accomplish your goals

1 Jan

During a holiday get-together recently (because they can’t meet for a simple lunch without devising some sort of plan), my dear Chicks came up with the plan for 2013. Each month, they will share a power word with blog readers. The power word will be one that you can say (like a mantra) to push you through the month and maybe even the year.  These aren’t your average words of encouragement—they’re a bit more playful than that — designed to inspire you and keep you moving forward all year long.

And, what better word to start off the new year than zoom!

chequered-flag

Use this month to focus your creative energy and zero in on those projects that have been gathering dust. Forget perfection, forget self-editing. ZOOM! Ignore that little voice in your head that says, “This could be better.” Instead, punch out that draft, sketch out your designs, zoom along to the finish line and let the self-editor off the hook until your first draft is complete. Let your heart lead you more than your head. Sometimes it’s the only way to finish that project or idea you’ve been sitting on.

How will you zoom! this month?

Happy New Year!

Inspiration For a Young Artist

27 Jun

Ahhh, Arizona

I recently returned from a trip with my family to Sedona.  It was gorgeous and I could write a whole post just on the natural wonder of the area.  Maybe I will.  But for now, I want to tell you about one of the most delightful finds we made while there.

To understand why it was so delightful, you have to know that my daughter is quite skilled at origami.  That’s not just a mom talking.  Here is a picture of the swan she made me for Mother’s Day last year.

Not your average origami

It’s made of 300 tiny folded pieces. How a teenager has the patience to do this, I don’t know.  She takes origami paper with us wherever we go and has been doing this since she was about 9 years old.

While in Sedona, we visited a nice little shopping village full of upscale art galleries and shops.  Passing by one window, I stopped dead in my tracks.  There hung a beautiful multi-level origami crane mobile.

“Look!” I said, pulling my daughter over to the window, then through the open door of the gallery, Honshin Fine Art.  It was full of beautiful things by the artist who owns the gallery, as well as pieces by other artists.  To our great fortune, the woman working in the gallery that day, Lou Adams, was the artist who made the crane mobile.  She also showed us a butterfly mobile she made, and then very generously offered to teach my kids how to fold a butterfly.  It was a magic moment for us. Thank you, Lou, for your kindness and inspiration!

Learning to fold butterflies

I’ve been telling my daughter for years that her origami is truly art.  Now that she’s seen origami in a real art gallery, she finally believes me.Who knows?  Maybe one day, her fanciful and precise works of paper art will be on display somewhere.

To see Lou’s enchanting work for yourself, visit her website: peacecraneart.com.

Music to feed the soul and move the pen

4 Jan

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. -Victor Hugo

First and foremost, I’m a lover of music, even more than words. It’s the music that pulls the words from me. Since I was a kid, I’ve been the one to buy epic movie and television soundtracks, the one to must see a movie if it features a score by Howard Shore, John Williams or Hans Zimmer. I’m the mom who drives her kids crazy singing Les Miserables and Miss Saigon until they unwittingly sing along. I’m also the one who can possibly (maybe) stomach a horror movie if the music isn’t playing (hello, can’t they hear the scary music to know the hatchet man’s behind them?!).

Music is powerful. It can transform something from simple to complex, from ho-hum to amazing. I don’t think I could write two coherent sentences without the music playing in my ears (or in my head). Surprisingly, what has inspired me while writing both novels this past year have been songs by heavy metal groups.

I like the softer side of metal, and yes, there is such a thing. Since my husband hooked me on “our” song, Silent Lucidity by Queensryche, I’ve felt the pull to the heavier and alternative rock. Older songs from Metallica, Korn, and Linkin Park; newer songs from Five Finger Death Punch, Breaking Benjamin, Seether, Hinder, Avenged Sevenfold. They all have plenty of the thrashing, bashing songs I had associated with them, of course, but they also have beautiful, haunting medleys that make me pause to grab my virtual pen. And I love it when the words actually fit what I’m writing at the time (before I wear the song out on iTunes).

So hats off to all the musicians who keep me entertained and inspired, including my fellow Chick Tracey, who wrote our very own theme song. I love recommendations, so please share if you have a favorite artist who inspires you! And fair warning, this probably won’t be the only post I write on music. It’s that important.

4 Chicks and a Muse: The Theme Song

2 Jan

Here it is! The moment you’ve all been waiting for, including your chance to win that all-new Kindle. (Scroll down to find our regular posts)

In this video, the 4 Chicks pay homage to 10 different classic 1970’s and 80’s TV sitcoms, in 18 parodied theme song scenes. Think you can name the sitcoms?

  1. First, subscribe to the 4 Chicks and a Muse blog (click “Speak to Me, Muse!”); or like its page on Facebook.
  2. Next, identify the 10 sitcoms whose popular opening scenes are featured.
  3. Finally, email your answers to chickstories@gmail.com by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, January 16, 2012.

NOTES: One winner will be randomly selected from all correct entries. A correct entry is an email that lists the 10 sitcoms featured in any order. Because there are 18 parodied scenes, this means that many sitcoms appear in more than one scene. And remember, these are Chick interpretations, not exact reproductions. So you may have to use a little more, er, imagination to recognize some scenes. If there are no entries with all 10 sitcoms listed correctly, winner will be drawn from those with the most correct guesses.

Oh, and while I, the Muse, accept full glory for inspiration of this video, I must share credit for bringing it to fruition:

Vocals  |  the 4 Chicks

Eva Griffin, Peggy J. Sheridan, Tracey Jane Smith and Vivi Barnes

Music and lyrics  |  Tracey Jane Smith

Arrangement  |  Timothy Davis

Recording and mix |  Michael Smith

Videography and editing | Eva Griffin

Forklift operation | Chris Griffin

Child wrangling | Dave Jackson

Sports equipment | David “Spike” Barnes

“We Need a Theme Song!”

4 Oct

That was the revelation exclaimed through no small amount of laughter or wine at a recent 4 Chicks girls night out. There, in the middle of our local Macaroni Grill, we proceeded to sing our favorite 80’s sitcom theme songs:

You take the good, you take the bad…Making your way in the world today…I don’t need you to worry for me, ’cause I’m alright…Sit right back and I’ll tell a tale, a tale of a frightful trip…Thank you for being a friend…Believe it or not, I’m walking on air…

Apparently, our singing and other entertaining commentary was to the amusement (or horror) of the our waitress Danielle and her manager, the latter who kindly comped our desert and last glass of wine, perhaps hoping we would leave more quickly.

At any rate, I–who for the record had not been drinking and should have known better–overheard myself enthusiastically volunteering to take on the task of writing us a theme song. It sounded fun, and in the presence of my Chicks, anything seems possible.

When I first sat down to do it, however, I was stuck. The thing is, for twenty years, I’ve told myself that “if” I had music lessons, or money, or more time, or someone who knew how to arrange, that I could be good at making songs.

But today, thanks to the support of the Chicks and the inspiring words of Julia Cameron’s books, I’m not afraid to be bad (or even just okay) at something I love. Creativity is the best kind of therapy, and all of us have an inner artist who needs to PLAY! ♥

The adjectives suggested to describe our blog became more interesting as the night went on, ending with "loud."

Enter our giveaway today when you subscribe to win a copy of the book that started it all for us Chicks, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I challenge you to read this book and not have it change your life.

Meanwhile, with a little help from the benevolent universe, the 4 Chicks will be “producing” this tune for our theme intro video, to be directed by our film maven, Chick Eva. Stay tuned!

The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron – Giveaway-CLOSED

27 Sep

Many of us wish we were more creative. Many of us sense we are more creative, but unable to tap that creativity. Our lives feel somehow flat. Often, we have great ideas, wonderful dreams, but are unable to actualize them for themselves. – Julia Cameron

Subscribe and you might be the lucky winner to win the groundbreaking bestseller “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.

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