Steal Like an Artist or Wait for the Idea Fairy?

 

If you spend a significant amount of time creating–whether it’s writing stories, painting, or whipping up a unique batch of Brazilian cinnamon snickerdoodles, then you’ve probably heard this question:

Where do you get your ideas?

I don’t have a profound answer for that question.  If there is an idea fairy, she doesn’t come to my house.  Probably because of the way I handled those mornings when my kids noticed the tooth fairy hadn’t picked up their tooth.

Well kids, looks like there’s a fairy that needs a little sprinkling of punctual pixie dust, right? Let’s scoot on out of your room so we don’t embarrass her when she finally shows up.

Yea, I’m probably on a fairy Do Not Call list or something.

Anyway, I don’t think the idea thing is magic.  Sure those ideas show up in my head, but I know they get there via bits and pieces filtered in from my kids, the people having a conversation next to me in Panera, the TV, YouTube, the bakery in Whole Foods, the mall, the teenagers in the cafeteria at my son’s school when I spy volunteer.

Ideas come from a mash-up of pieces of my life, especially the curious bits.

Or as Austin Kleon says in his new book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

“I steal them.”

 

 

Okay that sounds like plagiarism, but the book is mostly about unlocking creativity.

But as it says in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun.  So then what is originality?

  

“Undetected plagiarism.” ~William Ralph Inge

Hmm.

So what if you’re at the Whole Foods bakery, lured in by the smell of baking bread and as you get closer, you smell cinnamon.

That can’t be regular cinnamon, you think gripping the handle of your shopping cart.

You look beyond the glass counter, hoping for answers.

It’s Samba cinnamon, the person robed in angelic white informs you.  Harvested only once a year during Carnival.

How festive!  So then you’re thinking, What if I make bread? No–cookies, yes cookies.  Cookies rolled in Samba cinnamon and sugar.  No–crunchy Turbinado sugar!

Before you know it you are sipping Darjeeling with a batch of warm Samba cinnamon infused cookies.  Did you make snickerdoodles?  Sort of.  It’s similar, but pumped up by the intoxicating addition of a South American spice.

It’s better.  You created something perhaps, original?

Maybe.

It sure is nice knowing  you can roll with your curiosity rather than waiting for the Creative Genius Idea Fairy.

 

“All creative work builds on what came before . . . If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.” ~Austin Kleon

 

Where do you think ideas come from?  Do you steal like an artist?

 

 

 

 

Life is Better When You Share It

life is better when you share it_opt

 

To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.
― Mark Twain

 

Laughter, books, smiles, knowledge–these are just some of the things that have the potential to take on a whole new level of awesomeness when you get to share them.

That’s what these amazing friends did when they shared their awards with me:

Amanda over at BornBookish.  She is a college student sharing breathtaking book covers and reviews.  Plus she has the scoop on intriguing words like xanthophobia on Word Lover Wednesdays.

Sophia Chang says she’s Tiger mom tested and approved–and I believe it since she’s a YA writer who has found success in acting, modeling, and singing (and graduating from Harvard), but underneath all of that is a sparkly, kind heart.

Tameri Etherton is a writer who says she wishes she was born a fairie princess.  Well, if sweet and generous are the criteria, then she already is one!

The first words that come to mind when I hear Prudence MacLeod‘s name?  Strength of spirit!  Read her posts over at her Valkyrie Rising blog and you will think so too.

Debra Kristi says she is just a girl with a story or two to tell, but take the time to read one of her Immortal Monday posts and you will see the amount of time she puts into entertaining and informing–and all with a smile.

Stop by their blogs and say Hi!

 

If YOU have something to share, please tell us in the comments!

Got a book or a blog you want to talk about?  Or maybe someone did something awesome for you that you want to share?

I would love to hear it.

Oh and please stop by Catherine Johnson‘s site on Tuesday–she has a special Valentine’s surprise to reveal tomorrow!

Have a happy one!

The Indefinite Future of Someday

 

 

At the start of last year, blogging and social media were not on my to-do list, let alone part of any resolution, but they were something I imagined I would do someday.

You know, someday, the indefinite future.

As in someday I will travel to Italy and Greece, or someday I will use that trapeze school gift card (yes, I really have one of these).

Or maybe someday is dusting that stupid cobweb at the top of the family room ceiling fan–you know what I’m talking about, the one that can’t be reached without stopping to get a step stool or a broom.

So time goes by and that cobweb starts to dangle, it may even mock you a little by blowing in the breeze of the fan as you sit on the couch, but still you ignore it, push it off until the indefinite future, and then one day it’s gone.

Must’ve fallen off you think, some point between Masterpiece Theatre and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills . . .

But what if  left unchecked, that cobweb bans together with others of its kind, and is lurking close by . . . a giant, zombified dust bunny of regret?

*cue Psycho music*

Indefinite inaction = Dustus Bunnicus

Then again it’s only dangerous if that action was something important.

Like say fulfilling a long-standing dream.

So when the idea of building an author platform presented itself last year, I thought, But I’m not ready . . . someday my blog will come.

But I was curious, so I Googled and researched and read Kristen Lamb’s books We Are Not Alone-The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer, and the next thing I know . . .

Domain.  Blog.  Twitter.  Facebook.  I was out there.

And yes, it was way out of my comfort zone and not what I had planned, but then again:

 

“Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation?”

–Jane Austen

 

Now okay I cringe a little at the words “foolish preparation,” because let’s face it, I am really more of a planning kind of gal. I like neat stacks and files and research.  I don’t just hop on Amazon and buy something without researching it first (well, mostly–beware of that tricky Amazon 1-click setting.)

But even neatness and research can backfire and turn into Preparatory Procrastination.

Who knows what evil lurks behind clean desks and brand new notebooks?

 

Anyway, procrastination aside (please!) being out there was kind of the point, unless I was writing all those stories for the dust bunnies.

 

 

Maybe blogging is only a part of the dream, but the funny thing is now that I’ve gone and done it, well it makes the rest seem like it’s right there within reach.

Like a sparkling, clean ceiling fan.

I just need to go and get that step stool.

 

What someday is dangling over your head?

 

 

Gettin’ Lucky

Last week I got a Tweet telling me I won another book, which brought my book winning total in the last couple of months to seven.

My husband told me it was time for me to play the lottery, because apparently I was experiencing a lucky streak.

“Luck affects everything; let your hook always be cast; in the stream where you least expect it, there will be a fish.” -Ovid

So, luck is success born out of chance, not just something indigenous to the Irish.

IRELAND, LAND OF THE LUCKY.

Although my father in law once handed me cash just because I was standing next to him in a casino when he won. He said his good fortune was due to my presence ie,“luck of the Irish.”

Still I may need to rethink the “I’m Irish” heading on my next batch of queries.

But luck is more than just a matter of chance. In fact I think the real clue to luck in Ovid’s quote is: Let your hook always be cast.

Because luck usually requires some effort.

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
Thomas Jefferson

Seven books didn’t just fall out of the ether. There was a little work–I entered contests.

Although I did get one of the books from the very generous author Barry Lyga, simply because I’m a blogger.

Or Irish (I’m kidding, Barry Lyga is not profiling Irish writers).

No, the real reason Barry sent me a book was because I saw one of his Tweets that read something along the lines of Free books to bloggers!

So while “art depends on luck and talent,” as Francis Ford Coppola once said. It also requires effort like Thomas Jefferson so wisely put.

Like say spending some time in a casino, sidling up next to the Black Jack table wearing my VIP badge, Very Irish Person.

Or, entering that Breaking Dawn premiere contest.

Maybe.  But I do know that I can’t win if I don’t try.

I’ve got to put in some effort if I want to see Taylor Lautner -–uh, I mean the older actor who plays Bella’s father.

A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck. –James A. Garfield

Do you think some people are just lucky in life?

Drop me a comment below and you could win a SIGNED copy of Barry Lyga’s GOTH GIRL RISING (result determined by random, or is it?)

***Congrats to Karen McFarland who won last week’s giveaway of WHAT WOULD MY CELLPHONE DO?***

Warm Fuzzies Blogfest

This week has been a week of warm fuzzies (plus a giveaway–see details at the end of this post).  Special thanks to my fellow writers in Rachael Harrie’s platform building campaign and in Kristen Lamb’s WANA class. From your supportive comments and tweets to blog awards I feel like I have my very own virtual, but cozy Linus blanket.

Thank you!

On that note, wonderful and brilliant YA author Juliana L. Brandt is hosting the Warm Fuzzies Blogfest and this week she posed this question:

” How do you broach the subject of being a writer to other people who aren’t authors?”

It’s not always easy, like Juliana writes in her post.  Here’s a post I wrote a couple of months ago on the subject:

SO HOW’S THAT NOVEL COMING?

The writing process is slow. Couple it with the publishing process and the fact that writing is mostly a solitary living-in-a-shell like activity, and you are looking at a lifestyle that is turtle club worthy.

At least it comes with a great motto:

Slow and steady wins the race.

This is a good thing to keep in mind, especially when you emerge from your shell for food, showers, more work (you mean there’s other stuff to do?) and seeing your family and friends only to hear questions like:

You still working on that novel?

Do you have an end yet? Because I have a really good idea…

When am I going to see it in Barnes and Noble?

What’s for dinner? (Oh wait, you may or may not get that one, depends on whether or not your kids are old enough to call for pizza.)

When I hear these questions, my mind scrambles for some sort of summary update, sifting through all the work looking for something that is akin to handing them a hardcover copy of my book.

Um, yeah.

You write. You read. You edit. You write some more. You put the story away for a while and start work on another. Then you pick it back up and read. Then you edit, write some more. Then get some people to read and comment and then edit some more. Then write a query letter and edit that, and get some people to read that. Write. Edit. Then send it out to agents and/or some small publishers (because the big ones will not look at it without the agent). Wait and wait. Work on the next story . . .

I am going to stop here because if you are a writer you know all this, and if you’re not, then you are probably wondering why anyone would actually comply with such a process.

It sounds crazy, right?

It’s a slow process. Turtle-y slow.

So I remind myself to take a chill pill when I get the questions, because yes I’m still working on that novel (actually two, both with endings, but you never know I might use your good idea someday).

(Oh and the dinner question? Only requires microwave skills, because the pizza is in the freezer.)

And as for Barnes and Noble (or Amazon)?

I don’t know–YET (this is the key word here, print it, cut it out and attach it to something).

Because if you love it, you do it and when the questions come, you can think about Stewie.

Yes, I give you Stewie. Because sometimes I just need to relax about the whole process and squeak out a laugh instead of taking myself too seriously. Besides, as Stewie says, we all deserve some time off (even if we sometimes let our kids eat pizza from the freezer).

Speaking of pizza, if you’re headed to the freezer can you get me some? It’s the gluten-free one, with the tapioca cheese . . .

 

Have a great weekend.

 

 

Life is for Enjoying

 

 “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon.”

 

November 1st is the start of National Novel Writing Month NaNoWriMo.  This year I am going to participate and write in honor of my brother.

I first heard about NaNoWriMo five years ago, and used the general principles to write my first middle grade story.  I’d been filling notebooks with stories for years, but I did it strictly for the fun of it.  Suddenly I wanted to do more and NaNo seemed like the perfect way to launch that spark.  So I started writing with more of a purpose.  The only person I told at the time (other than my husband) was my brother.  I remember him being fascinated by the idea of writing a thousand plus words a day.  He was a creative type–he drew, wrote, cooked (even went to culinary school), so he was the perfect person to understand the need to do a writing marathon in a month.

When I finished that first draft, I put it away to read it at a later date with fresh eyes.  Then, when the time came to go back to it, I decided I didn’t really want to write.  So I went out and got a job, leaving the story behind.

I was afraid.  Afraid to read the rough draft.  Afraid of what it would mean to move forward with my writing.  So I went about life and work without it.

And then a couple of months later, my brother died.

It was sudden–a brain aneurysm.  He was 31.

My brother was so funny.  He did the best Chewbacca impression ever.  He was also incredibly kind.  Maybe it’s the sharp finality of death that smooths away the rough edges of a life, but I truly can’t remember him ever being anything but nice to me.

But I think he was hard on himself.  He had unrealized dreams.  He had physical obstacles, like when he stopped working in restaurants because he couldn’t be on his feet for that many hours (he battled Type 1 diabetes starting from the age of 11).  But I think maybe some of his biggest struggles were more internal.  He got bogged down by dark moments, the kind that show up to shadow your plans and leave you filled with self-doubt and fear.

I know that fear.

I have one of my brother’s journals.  In it there’s the beginnings of a story, some sketches and some personal notes he wrote to himself.  One of those notes sticks with me:

“Write damn you! Write! Anything, something, Please!”

My first instinct is to feel sad at that personal plea to his self, but then I realize that goes against what he wrote.  Because he didn’t want to get stuck in those paralyzing fears.

In fact the first line in the journal he wrote is: “Life is for enjoying.”

I remember my aunt said at his funeral that she was sad because she couldn’t learn anything more from him and I get that because I would love to know what he would have thought of the LOST finale (our last conversation happened to be about the beginning episodes of season three and the oh so random subject of peanut butter).  I also am curious what his thoughts would be regarding Twitter, the Kindle or his take on the whole new world of publishing.  I would love to hear his opinion on all of this crazy writing stuff I’ve been pursuing. Plus I wonder if he too would be blogging, putting his writing and drawings out there. Tweeting.

But then again I know now, five years later, that I am still learning from him.

I am learning not to be afraid.  I am learning not to worry about regret.

And I am learning to enjoy my life, from random peanut butter moments to marathon writing months.

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 My brother, Dan

What are you looking forward to?