Posts Tagged 'Finding Time to Write'

10 Ways for Writers to Stay Creative During the Busy Holiday Season

  1. Redefine your idea of creativity. If you don’t have time to write for half an hour, spend that time making up stories with a child in your life while buying or wrapping presents.
  2. Use a tape recorder to write bits of dialogue and scenes while driving to and from errands.
  3. Write in the shower.
  4. If you’re working on a larger project — a novel, a screenplay or even a short story — take five or 10 minutes before bed every night to write the next paragraph or just the next sentence.  You’ll keep your momentum going even when you don’t have much time.
  5. Carry a few index cards with you wherever you go and make the commitment to fill one with something creative every day when you can find a few minutes.
  6. Write a prompt on an index card for each day you expect to be busy, and commit to freewriting for 10 minutes using that prompt.
  7. Enjoy some non-writing creativity. Make interesting holiday decorations, cards and presents. It all stimulates the muse!
  8. Schedule a writing appointment or two for yourself during the holidays. Put it on your calendar like any other appointment. Then go somewhere away from the madness of your life and keep that date.
  9. Turn your holiday stress into a character and write about him/her. You can find an example here.
  10. If all else fails, escape to the bathroom and write for a few minutes!

And the last word: don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to write as much as you planned. Enjoy your holidays and start fresh in the new year.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Write Naked

I’m rerunning this popular post because I know some of you out there want to know how to capture your shower and bath musings!  

Okay, I know I gave this post a provocative title. Provocative, but not misleading, because I’m going to talk about writing while in the shower.

shower

In my post Friday, I mentioned dragging my Muse into the shower to sneak in a creative moment. Writing in the shower came up in the comments to that post, too. Since it was on my mind, I did a little Internet research about shower writing. And I found products!

I’ve always written in my head in the shower, repeating a few sentences over and over until I’m finished so I won’t forget them. It never occurred to me to actually physically write in the shower. But apparently it occurred to other people, because you can buy the items below to help with your shower-time creativity.

Links to Shower Writing Tools:

Erasable Shower Note Tablet: Like a small whiteboard, with waterproof crayons, a crayon caddy and suction cup mounts included.

AquaNotes: A pad of waterproof paper with suction cups to attach it to the shower wall. Comes with a water-resistant cedar pencil and a suction cup pencil holder. You can buy the regular AquaNotes or the “LoveNotes” to leave a message for that special someone in the shower!

Underwater Dive Slate: A search for “dive slate” turns up dozens of different dive slates made for scuba divers. But they’ll work fine in the shower, too.

waterfall

These are products designed for construction professionals who need to take notes in all sorts of weather:

Waterproof Bound Book

Waterproof Notepad

All-Weather Pen: A ballpoint pen that “writes on wet paper, and upside down in temperatures from -50 to 400°F.” I think at 400°F, the pen might be fine, but the writer would have melted into a puddle!

I also found advice to use kids’ washable crayons or old-fashioned grease pencils to write on tile shower walls.

So choose your method and don’t let a little water dampen your creativity!
 

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Ways for Writers to Stay Creative During the Busy Holiday Season

  1. Redefine your idea of creativity. If you don’t have time to write for half an hour, spend that time making up stories with a child in your life while buying or wrapping presents.
  2. Use a tape recorder to write bits of dialogue and scenes while driving to and from errands.
  3. Write in the shower.
  4. If you’re working on a larger project — a novel, a screenplay or even a short story — take five or 10 minutes before bed every night to write the next paragraph or just the next sentence.  You’ll keep your momentum going even when you don’t have much time.
  5. Carry a few index cards with you wherever you go and make the commitment to fill one with something creative every day when you can find a few minutes.
  6. Write a prompt on an index card for each day you expect to be busy, and commit to freewriting for 10 minutes using that prompt.
  7. Enjoy some non-writing creativity. Make interesting holiday decorations, cards and presents. It all stimulates the muse!
  8. Schedule a writing appointment or two for yourself during the holidays. Put it on your calendar like any other appointment. Then go somewhere away from the madness of your life and keep that date.
  9. Turn your holiday stress into a character and write about him/her. You can find an example here.
  10. If all else fails, escape to the bathroom and write for a few minutes!

And the last word: don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to write as much as you planned. Enjoy your holidays and start fresh in the new year.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Ways for Writers to Stay Creative During the Busy Holiday Season

  1. Redefine your idea of creativity. If you don’t have time to write for half an hour, spend that time making up stories with a child in your life while buying or wrapping presents.
  2. Use a tape recorder to write bits of dialogue and scenes while driving to and from errands.
  3. Write in the shower.
  4. If you’re working on a larger project — a novel, a screenplay or even a short story — take five or 10 minutes before bed every night to write the next paragraph or just the next sentence.  You’ll keep your momentum going even when you don’t have much time.
  5. Carry a few index cards with you wherever you go and make the commitment to fill one with something creative every day when you can find a few minutes.
  6. Write a prompt on an index card for each day you expect to be busy, and commit to freewriting for 10 minutes using that prompt.
  7. Enjoy some non-writing creativity. Make interesting holiday decorations, cards and presents. It all stimulates the muse!
  8. Schedule a writing appointment or two for yourself during the holidays. Put it on your calendar like any other appointment. Then go somewhere away from the madness of your life and keep that date.
  9. Turn your holiday stress into a character and write about him/her. You can find an example here.
  10. If all else fails, escape to the bathroom and write for a few minutes!

And the last word: don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to write as much as you planned. Enjoy your holidays and start fresh in the new year.


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Creativity Time Management

I’m on vacation for a few days, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

Most creative people struggle with finding time to let our muses soar and still meet all our work, family and life responsibilities. I’ve tried so many different ways of organizing my schedule over the years. But what I always come back to, both when I worked in an office and with freelancing at home, is putting my creativity first. Doing something creative before I start writing for my clients, or paying bills or tweeting.

I found that getting up an hour earlier and writing first thing worked best for me when I had to commute downtown. Now that I freelance at home, I divide my work day into three blocks: creativity first, urgent work second and everything else third. These blocks can expand and contract depending on the day. On a busy deadline day, I may only spend 15 minutes journaling or sketching before getting to my freelance writing work. If I’ve just met a deadline and don’t have another one breathing down my neck, I may spend half a day on my writing. (Love those days!) I also make a point of sprinkling moments of self-care throughout my weeks: yoga, meditation, walks, 10-minute crazy-dancing breaks when I need them.

I don’t always succeed in organizing my day this way, but I often do. And I find the “Creativity First” model is the only schedule that keeps my creative mojo flowing. What works for you?

For some wonderful insights and advice on this topic, download Mark McGuinness’s free e-book, Time Management for Creative People. I highly recommend it.


Don’t Forget to Flirt With Your Muse Today

Life is interfering with my desire to write something new today, so instead I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

I grew up with the message that Creativity is Great! And that it’s something you should squeeze into any little extra time you can find after you take care of all the important things in your life.

I’ve spent my entire adult life doing battle with this idea. Trying to get myself to understand—to truly believe deep in my bones—that creativity is an important part of who I am. To believe that creativity is NOT something to be shoved into the dark little corners of my week. To believe it is, instead, something special, that should be brought out into the light and wined and dined. Something that should be celebrated every day.

When I’m not creating, I’m only living half a life. I’m cutting off a huge part of myself, throwing half my heart into a dusty corner and telling it I’ll try to reconnect with it later. If I can make the time.

It’s not easy in our culture to embrace our creative natures. Life is busy. Everyone I know is too busy. Everyone has always been busy.

Some days I have to work before I can spend time on creative pursuits. Some days I have to take care of personal obligations. Some days I have to clean house because people are coming over. Some days I have to do all of these things and more.

But other days, I can dance with my Muse and forget about the vacuuming. I can put off some of my obligations until tomorrow so I can ride the creative wave that’s here NOW. I can stop worrying that if I take time to be creative I might get swept off my feet by my Muse—only to return to Earth hours later, realizing that I haven’t gotten everything on my To Do list done. Worrying that I’ve let someone down or let something slide or not been perfectly on top of every detail of every thing in my life.

Here’s a fact I’m still working on fully accepting:

We will NEVER get everything done.

There’s always more to do.

You can always do more to take care of the people in your life. You can always work harder, and take on extra tasks to please your boss or yourself or to accomplish even more, even better. You can always make your home cleaner.

But we can’t do everything. We have to choose.

Every day we have to choose how we will spend our time.

I am working at getting better at choosing to spend time creatively every day. I’m not perfect—I miss some days. I get overwhelmed with deadlines and act like a madwoman on a crazy work bender. I get distracted by e-mails and people and Things That Must Be Done.

I forget to spend a few minutes flirting with my Muse.

But I try to spend 15 minutes doing something creative on busy days. And more on less busy days. And the more I do that, the happier I am. The more fulfilled. The more peaceful and loving. The more I embrace my Muse every day, the better a person I become in all my imperfect, messy-housed, work-half-done humanity.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

10 Ways to Stay Creative During the Busy Holiday Season

  1. Redefine your idea of creativity. If you don’t have time to write for half an hour, spend that time making up stories with a child in your life while buying or wrapping presents.
  2. Use a tape recorder to write bits of dialogue and scenes while driving to and from errands.
  3. Write in the shower.
  4. If you’re working on a larger project — a novel, a screenplay or even a short story — take five or 10 minutes before bed every night to write the next paragraph or just the next sentence. You’ll keep your momentum going even when you don’t have much time.
  5. Carry a few index cards with you wherever you go and make the commitment to fill one with something creative every day when you can find a few minutes.
  6. Write a prompt on an index card for each day you expect to be busy, and commit to freewriting for 10 minutes using that prompt.
  7. Enjoy some non-writing creativity. Make interesting holiday decorations, cards and presents. It all stimulates the muse!
  8. Schedule a writing appointment or two for yourself during the holidays. Put it on your calendar like any other appointment. Then go somewhere away from the madness of your life and keep that date.
  9. Turn your holiday stress into a character and write about him/her. You can find an example here.
  10. If all else fails, escape to the bathroom and write for a few minutes!

And the last word: don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to write as much as you planned. Enjoy your holidays and start fresh in the new year.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Don’t Forget to Flirt With Your Muse Today

I grew up with the message that Creativity is Great! And that it’s something you should squeeze into any little extra time you can find after you take care of all the important things in your life.

I’ve spent my entire adult life doing battle with this idea. Trying to get myself to understand—to truly believe deep in my bones—that creativity is an important part of who I am. To believe that creativity is NOT something to be shoved into the dark little corners of my week. To believe it is, instead, something special, that should be brought out into the light and wined and dined. Something that should be celebrated every day.

When I’m not creating, I’m only living half a life. I’m cutting off a huge part of myself, throwing half my heart into a dusty corner and telling it I’ll try to reconnect with it later. If I can make the time.

It’s not easy in our culture to embrace our creative natures. Life is busy. Everyone I know is too busy. Everyone has always been busy.

Some days I have to work before I can spend time on creative pursuits. Some days I have to take care of personal obligations. Some days I have to clean house because people are coming over. Some days I have to do all of these things and more.

But other days, I can dance with my Muse and forget about the vacuuming. I can put off some of my obligations until tomorrow so I can ride the creative wave that’s here NOW. I can stop worrying that if I take time to be creative I might get swept off my feet by my Muse—only to return to Earth hours later, realizing that I haven’t gotten everything on my To Do list done. Worrying that I’ve let someone down or let something slide or not been perfectly on top of every detail of every thing in my life.

Here’s a fact I’m still working on fully accepting:

We will NEVER get everything done.

There’s always more to do.

You can always do more to take care of the people in your life. You can always work harder, and take on extra tasks to please your boss or yourself or to accomplish even more, even better. You can always make your home cleaner.

But we can’t do everything. We have to choose.

Every day we have to choose how we will spend our time.

I am working at getting better at choosing to spend time creatively every day. I’m not perfect—I miss some days. I get overwhelmed with deadlines and act like a madwoman on a crazy work bender. I get distracted by e-mails and people and Things That Must Be Done.

I forget to spend a few minutes flirting with my Muse.

But I try to spend 15 minutes doing something creative on busy days. And more on less busy days. And the more I do that, the happier I am. The more fulfilled. The more peaceful and loving. The more I embrace my Muse every day, the better a person I become in all my imperfect, messy-housed, work-half-done humanity.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Shape Your Week Creatively

I admit it. I’m a huge list maker. I like organizing. And once I’ve written something down, I can banish it from stalking through my mind, putting up traffic cones as creative thoughts try to flower and mate and turn into something whimsical or weird or beautiful.

But I sometimes find myself stressed out and overwhelmed by my lists. I tend to be a bit unrealistic about how much I can get done in a day. And I often forget to leave escape hatches for my muse when I write straightforward To Do lists.

So I like to experiment with different ways to manage my time. I generally hit on alternatives to To Do lists that work well for me for a while. But I’ve realized I won’t find one method that works for the rest of my life. Because as I evolve, I need to let my time management methods evolve as well.

Lately I’ve been using what I’ll call the cloud method, and it’s working well for me these days. So I thought I’d share it here.

The cloud page above illustrates a typical week. I create one of these every Sunday night or Monday morning, capturing my most important things for the upcoming week. I make a point of leaving off anything that doesn’t have to be done this week and keeping my descriptions simple. I leave blank space to fill in extra items that come up.

The two clouds at the top cover things I’ve committed to doing every day. The green Daily cloud reminds me of self-nurturing things I must do, while the purple Creativity cloud contains anything creative that’s striking my fancy this week. I probably won’t do all of these creative items, and I may add others as the week goes on.

The orange square in the middle covers my most urgent work for the week—things that must be done. This includes my freelance writing work as well as chores (paying bills, cleaning, etc.).

I pencil in e-mails, phone calls and social networking connections I need to make in the heart at the left, erasing them when I’m done to make room for new things that come up. My other clouds remind me of errands and dates, and there are always a few items that don’t fit neatly into a cloud that I list at the bottom.

This cloud page continues to evolve throughout the week, and by Sunday, I’ve added extra items in most of the clouds and in some of the surrounding areas.

What I love about this method for now is that it reminds me of my most important goals—those contained in the top two clouds, while keeping my urgent work and other commitments clearly in focus. I look at it each morning and tweak it to fit the week as it’s shaping up.

And, because I can’t quite get rid of all the longer-term To Do items that pile up in my mind, I do keep a long list that I look at each week when I create my cloud page. I enter any priority items into a cloud, then forget about the rest of the list until the next week.

I hope sharing my cloud page helps anyone struggling with unwieldy To Do lists or other organizational methods that may be hampering your creativity. I’d love to hear how you organize your days and weeks, and how you keep your creative goals in the mix when other items sometimes yell much louder…

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Why I Don’t Speak Cello.

I’m on vacation, visiting family, friends and old college pals in my home state of Virginia, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

On Tuesday morning, a cello sat on the sidewalk outside my house. I considered engaging in a musical conversation, but instead rushed off to work.

On Wednesday morning, the sidewalk looked up at me with empty eyes.

**   **   **   **   **   **

I have a confession to make. Lately, I haven’t been practicing what I preach on this blog. Circumstances in my life at the moment have had me working long hours six or seven days a week, every week, for a while. Life has been particularly stressful. And I haven’t been maintaining a creative practice.

This blog itself does give me a bit of an outlet. But I haven’t devoted any time at all to what I call my soul-writing. The fragments of fiction and poetry, the phrases of metaphor and memory my Muse hands to me. Moments of creativity that may become pieces of a larger project or may just feed my deepest self by merely existing.

But this past weekend, I didn’t work at all, taking two days in a row off for the first time in quite a while. And guess what happened? My Muse took the opportunity to begin nudging me. Or maybe he’s been nudging me all along, and I just haven’t been listening. At any rate, a couple of metaphorical micro-stories flowed into my mind. And once I started writing them down, more arrived.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they all speak to issues of creativity and writing. I’ve shared one above, and I plan to continue sharing them and write about the issue each describes. “Why I Don’t Speak Cello” illustrates my current period of overworked stress. Something extraordinary sits on the periphery of my life, and I’ve been refusing to engage with it. Creativity is always extraordinary, you know.

My life hasn’t slowed down, in spite of the fact that I actually had a real weekend. And my stress level remains high. But this little story my Muse handed me reminds me that I can still take 15 minutes to talk to the cello before I rush to work.

15 minutes a day. That’s how you learn to speak cello—or become a writer, or maintain a creative practice—no matter how much crazy life throws at you.

And if you do ignore the cello until it disappears, just remember to stop and talk to the timpani and the trombone when they arrive.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Get Micro-Creative

I’m on vacation, visiting family, friends and old college pals in my home state of Virginia, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

Sometimes I just don’t feel like being creative.  A deadline looms, I haven’t had time to shower, and I suddenly realize it’s been way too long since I left my apartment.

pen with drop of ink

But I have to ask myself: Can I muster up enough creative mojo to write six words?

In my post last Friday I talked about capturing tiny moments for slivers of creativity.  While I’ve often used those found moments to write pieces of larger stories, it’s fun to use them to write tiny stories as well.

The famous tale about Ernest Hemingway’s 6-word story seems to be getting a lot of Internet attention these days.  Legend has it that a bar bet led Hemingway to write what he claimed was his best short story:

For Sale: baby shoes, never used.*

The idea of a 6-word story must appeal to our over-scheduled, multi-tasking 21st century souls.  A quick search online came up with dozens of references, including an online magazine devoted to 6-word memoirs, an oncology center requesting 6-word stories about cancer experiences, a book of 6-word memoirs on love and heartbreak, a contest requesting 6-word submissions about air travel liquid restrictions, and a call for 6-word predictions in advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

6 stones

A truly well-written story takes some thought, even—or especially—a story of only six words.  But it can be fun to work on these in your head while you’re doing something else.

I spent a small amount of time doing this recently, and came up with three I like.  The first was inspired by a recent post, the second is all you need to know about a painful college breakup of mine, and the third feels like a 6-word poem to me:

My Six Word Stories:

The voices say I’m not crazy.

His hand in hers. I cry.

You live between my heart’s pages.

So the next time you feel like you don’t have time to write, ask yourself if you can write a 6-word memoir or poem or story or recollection of your first lover.  After writing these, I went back to my work feeling creatively refreshed, though I’d only spent a few minutes on them.

baby shoes

I’d love it if any brave souls would post 6-word stories in the comments!

_____________________________________

*An alternate version of Hemingway’s legendary story: For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Write Naked

I’m on vacation, visiting family, friends and old college pals in my home state of Virginia, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

Okay, I know I gave this post a provocative title. Provocative, but not misleading, because I’m going to talk about writing while in the shower.

shower

In my post Friday, I mentioned dragging my Muse into the shower to sneak in a creative moment. Writing in the shower came up in the comments to that post, too. Since it was on my mind, I did a little Internet research about shower writing. And I found products!

I’ve always written in my head in the shower, repeating a few sentences over and over until I’m finished so I won’t forget them. It never occurred to me to actually physically write in the shower. But apparently it occurred to other people, because you can buy the items below to help with your shower-time creativity.

Links to Shower Writing Tools:

Erasable Shower Note Tablet: Like a small whiteboard, with waterproof crayons, a crayon caddy and suction cup mounts included. (Looks like they’re out of stock at the time of this writing.)

AquaNotes: A pad of waterproof paper with suction cups to attach it to the shower wall. Comes with a water-resistant cedar pencil and a suction cup pencil holder. You can buy the regular AquaNotes or the “LoveNotes” to leave a message for that special someone in the shower!

Underwater Dive Slate: A search for “dive slate” turns up dozens of different dive slates made for scuba divers. But they’ll work fine in the shower, too.

waterfall

These are products designed for construction professionals who need to take notes in all sorts of weather:

Waterproof Bound Book

Waterproof Notepad

All-Weather Pen: A ballpoint pen that “writes on wet paper, and upside down in temperatures from -50 to 400°F.” I think at 400°F, the pen might be fine, but the writer would have melted into a puddle.

I also found advice to use kids’ washable crayons or old-fashioned grease pencils to write on tile shower walls. So choose your method and don’t let a little water dampen your creativity!

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Capture Unexpected Downtime for Creativity

Can a volcano increase your creativity? According to Washington University psychology professor R. Keith Sawyer it can.

Sawyer discusses how travelers stranded around the world due to the massive ash clouds from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano have been finding themselves with lots of unscheduled time on their hands. He explains that “idle time allows people to think of their problems in new ways,” and discusses how this can lead to creative “aha” moments.

My local news has been following a story about a group of California high school musicians stuck in Europe. On the way home from a series of performances in Italy, they only made it as far as Germany. Stuck in a foreign country for days, the kids had unexpected time to experience a new culture. Some of them even put on an impromptu concert that wound up on German national television. I imagine this opportunity to absorb a variety of new things enhanced their creative experience tremendously.

While most of us don’t have such dramatic events changing our schedules, we all experience unanticipated moments with nothing to do. Traffic jams, plans canceled due to weather, waiting for someone who’s late to arrive, a stalled subway…

When my husband had surgery a couple of years ago, I was told the wait would be an hour or so. But that hour ultimately stretched into all day. Tiring of my book after a while, I went the the hospital pharmacy and bought a notebook.

I jotted notes for a novel that had been floating in my head. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to write this novel. But after an hour or so of plotting and characterization, I decided to try writing it for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) as an exercise and a challenge to myself. This was two days before the start of NaNoWriMo, but I did it. And completed the first draft of a novel by the end of the month, learning a lot of interesting creative lessons along the way.

I have spent more time than I care to remember in hospital waiting rooms over the years, but this was the first time I really used the time—and nervous energy—to do something creative and big. I would never have decided to write this novel if the unexpected time hadn’t appeared. And doing something creative helped lessen my anxiety about my husband’s surgery.

So the next time you find yourself tearing out your hair and cursing the events slowing you down, why not grab a pen and write something? Or sketch. Or compose a song. Work on something new or continue a work in progress.

You might just find yourself happy and creatively energized because your dentist made you wait half an hour!

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Creativity Time Management

Most creative people struggle with finding time to let our muses soar and still meet all our work, family and life responsibilities. I’ve tried so many different ways of organizing my schedule over the years. But what I always come back to, both when I worked in an office and with freelancing at home, is putting my creativity first. Doing something creative before I start writing for my clients, or paying bills or tweeting.

I found that getting up an hour earlier and writing first thing worked best for me when I had to commute downtown. Now that I freelance at home, I divide my work day into three blocks: creativity first, urgent work second and everything else third. These blocks can expand and contract depending on the day. On a busy deadline day, I may only spend 15 minutes journaling or sketching before getting to my freelance writing work. If I’ve just met a deadline and don’t have another one breathing down my neck, I may spend half a day on my writing. (Love those days!) I also make a point of sprinkling moments of self-care throughout my weeks: yoga, meditation, walks, 10-minute crazy-dancing breaks when I need them.

I don’t always succeed in organizing my day this way, but I often do. And I find the “Creativity First” model is the only schedule that keeps my creative mojo flowing. What works for you?

For some wonderful insights and advice on this topic, download Mark McGuinness’s free e-book, Time Management for Creative People. I highly recommend it.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

10 Ways to Stay Creative During the Busy Holiday Season

  1. Redefine your idea of creativity. If you don’t have time to write for half an hour, spend that time making up stories with a child in your life while buying or wrapping presents.
  2. Use a tape recorder to write bits of dialogue and scenes while driving to and from errands.
  3. Write in the shower.
  4. If you’re working on a larger project — a novel, a screenplay or even a short story — take five or 10 minutes before bed every night to write the next paragraph or just the next sentence.  You’ll keep your momentum going even when you don’t have much time.
  5. Carry a few index cards with you wherever you go and make the commitment to fill one with something creative every day when you can find a few minutes.
  6. Write a prompt on an index card for each day you expect to be busy, and commit to freewriting for 10 minutes using that prompt.
  7. Enjoy some non-writing creativity. Make interesting holiday decorations, cards and presents. It all stimulates the muse!
  8. Schedule a writing appointment or two for yourself during the holidays. Put it on your calendar like any other appointment. Then go somewhere away from the madness of your life and keep that date.
  9. Turn your holiday stress into a character and write about him/her. You can find an example here.
  10. If all else fails, escape to the bathroom and write for a few minutes!

And the last word: don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to write as much as you planned. Enjoy your holidays and start fresh in the new year.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Why I Don’t Speak Cello

On Tuesday morning, a cello sat on the sidewalk outside my house. I considered engaging in a musical conversation, but instead rushed off to work.

On Wednesday morning, the sidewalk looked up at me with empty eyes.

**   **   **   **   **   **

I have a confession to make. Lately, I haven’t been practicing what I preach on this blog. Circumstances in my life at the moment have had me working long hours six or seven days a week, every week, for a while. Life has been particularly stressful. And I haven’t been maintaining a creative practice.

This blog itself does give me a bit of an outlet. But I haven’t devoted any time at all to what I call my soul-writing. The fragments of fiction and poetry, the phrases of metaphor and memory my Muse hands to me. Moments of creativity that may become pieces of a larger project or may just feed my deepest self by merely existing.

But this past weekend, I didn’t work at all, taking two days in a row off for the first time in quite a while. And guess what happened? My Muse took the opportunity to begin nudging me. Or maybe he’s been nudging me all along, and I just haven’t been listening. At any rate, a couple of metaphorical micro-stories flowed into my mind. And once I started writing them down, more arrived.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they all speak to issues of creativity and writing. I’ve shared one above, and I plan to continue sharing them and write about the issue each describes. “Why I Don’t Speak Cello” illustrates my current period of overworked stress. Something extraordinary sits on the periphery of my life, and I’ve been refusing to engage with it. Creativity is always extraordinary, you know.

My life hasn’t slowed down, in spite of the fact that I actually had a real weekend. And my stress level remains high. But this little story my Muse handed me reminds me that I can still take 15 minutes to talk to the cello before I rush to work.

15 minutes a day. That’s how you learn to speak cello—or become a writer, or maintain a creative practice—no matter how much crazy life throws at you.

And if you do ignore the cello until it disappears, just remember to stop and talk to the timpani and the trombone when they arrive.


STOP STRANGLING YOUR MUSE!
I’ll help you slay your Perfectionism Dragon,
Herd your Inner Critics into a soundproof room,
Send your Procrastination Monster whimpering back to his cave,
And defuse all your creative blocks.

To schedule a free 30-minute telephone creativity coaching session with me, or for more information, click here.

Don’t Put Your Creativity on the Back Burner

When I started writing this blog, I subscribed to Google Alerts for “creativity.” I thought the daily e-mails might bring me interesting news items to discuss here. But I’ve been disappointed. The vast majority of articles about creativity focus either on ways to be creative on the job or on creativity for children. I heartily support both of these things.  But it’s clear from these results our society doesn’t really encourage adult creativity unless it produces something tangible. A new way to sell a product. A happier child. A more attractive home. All good things. But I don’t think we should hang up our clown shoes and bury our toys in the back of our closet when we pick up our first briefcase. I don’t think we should allow ourselves a moment of pure creativity only after meeting all our adult responsibilities.

sundecor

Why not take five minute to be creative RIGHT NOW? If you have fifteen minutes or half an hour, that’s even better.

Here are some creative quickies you can do in five minutes:

Dream up some metaphors.

Write a one-sentence memoir.

If you’re working on a story or novel, write one line of dialogue.

Craft a 6-word story.

Write the first sentence of a new story or essay.

Create a haiku about whatever you see in front of you.

Visualize a new character.

Choose five random words from any book, then use them all in a short paragraph about your job.

Spend five minutes journaling or freewriting.

Write a description of a friend as if they were a stranger.

Think of your own quick creative exercise!

Write Naked!

Okay, I know I gave this post a provocative title.  Provocative, but not misleading, because I’m going to talk about writing while in the shower—and presumably naked.

shower

In my post Friday, I mentioned dragging my Muse into the shower to sneak in a creative moment. Writing in the shower came up in the comments to that post, too. Since it was on my mind, I did a little Internet research about shower writing. And I found products!

I’ve always written in my head in the shower, repeating a few sentences over and over until I’m finished so I won’t forget them. It never occurred to me to actually physically write in the shower. But apparently it occurred to other people, because you can buy the items below to help with your shower-time creativity.

Links to Shower Writing Tools:

Erasable Shower Note Tablet: Like a small whiteboard, with waterproof crayons, a crayon caddy and suction cup mounts included. (Looks like they’re out of stock at the time of this writing.)

AquaNotes: A pad of waterproof paper with suction cups to attach it to the shower wall. Comes with a water-resistant cedar pencil and a suction cup pencil holder. You can buy the regular AquaNotes or the “LoveNotes” to leave a message for that special someone in the shower!

Underwater Dive Slate: A search for “dive slate” turns up dozens of different dive slates made for scuba divers. But they’ll work fine in the shower, too.

waterfall

These are products designed for construction professionals who need to take notes in all sorts of weather:

Waterproof Bound Book

Waterproof Notepad

All-Weather Pen: A ballpoint pen that “writes on wet paper, and upside down in temperatures from -50 to 400°F.” I think at 400°F, the pen might be fine, but the writer would have melted into a puddle!

I also saw advice to use kids’ washable crayons or old-fashioned grease pencils to write on tile shower walls. I think I’m going to try out the AquaNotes. And I didn’t even know waterproof paper existed until yesterday!

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Write. Rinse. Repeat.

Sometimes when life overwhelms me, I’ve just gotta drag my Muse into the shower to sneak in a creative moment.  I’ve crafted some of my best paragraphs while showering, repeating them over and over in my head as I rinse off.  Then dashing, dripping wet, to the closest piece of paper I can find and recording my words before I forget them.

I’ve also forced my Muse to tag along on my morning commute in the past.  One sultry morning years ago, I began writing in my head while jammed up against dozens of commuters.  My bangs started melting into my eyes from the humidity of the combined body heat in the subway car. I used my realization that I desperately needed a haircut to come up with a metaphor for this micro-story titled “Denial”.

bangs

A British publication paid me ₤10 for those two sentences!  Though I’m not always sure if that payment provided adequate compensation for the pitying looks I’ve gotten on occasion from people who read the tiny story.  It is fiction, really.

I’ve been thinking about these captured moments of creativity, and I decided to come up with a list.  Tiny bits of time we overworked, stressed-out writers (that’s all of us, right?!) could used to craft a few sentences in our heads.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • In the shower
  • While driving or riding a bus/subway/taxi
  • While washing/clearing dishes
  • While vacuuming or dusting
  • While folding laundry
  • During commercials (30-second creative bursts!)
  • While blowdrying your hair
  • While walking the dog
  • While grooming the dog/cat
  • While grooming yourself
  • While tweezing (this one depends on how much unwanted hair you have!)

If anyone has other ideas or has found unique moments in your life when you can write a sentence or two, please share them in the comments!

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com


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About Sandy Ackers

Sandy

Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and Writer.

To learn more about Sandy, click here: About Sandy

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Copyright © 2009-2014 Sandy Ackers. All rights reserved, with the following exceptions:

Writers retain all rights to any comments, stories or other original work posted on this blog in the comments sections or the Readers' Sandbox.

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