Monthly Archives: May 2019

Creative Juice #141

Creative Juice #141

I am so jealous of all the talent in this week’s articles.

  1. The Three Graces in art.
  2. Cute dog photos.
  3. Taking a stroll in Jersey City.
  4. Some interesting tangles to try.
  5. I wish I could sketch like Suhita Shirodkar.
  6. You’d swear this little puppet was alive.
  7. My dreamhouse would have 23 bedrooms, and they’d be decorated like this. (Then I’d finally have enough shelves for my books.
  8. Leonardo da Vinci was left-handed and wrote backwards in his notebooks. I wonder if this has something to do with that.
  9. I don’t think I could live here, but I’d love it for an occasional private retreat.
  10. An artist comments on Botticelli’s Annunciation.
  11. Beautiful responses to a Zentangle challenge.
  12. Only a mother will get these.

In the Meme Time: Judge Yourself



Thank you to Laura Drake, who posted this on Twitter.

Guest Post: 6 Ways To Use Marie Kondo Organizing Strategies In Your Writing Space by Writer’s Relief


This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

frazzled worker
Everyone’s talking about the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, inspired by her best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. And the KonMari method can work for more than just your closets and your kitchen cabinets; with a little bit of cleverness, you can put Marie Kondo’s basic organization ideas to work in your writing space or home office.

And who knows—a little bit of organizing might affect your writing process in positive new ways and help you become a better writer!

Writer’s Relief checks out six basic principles of Marie Kondo’s organizing methods—and how to make them work for writers:

  1. Commit to the process. Rethinking the way you organize your writing space is going to take some time and energy; sticking to your decisions could take even more. But when you make the decision to commit to the process from day one, you may find you’re more likely to be successful.
  1. Imagine your ideal writing space. When you close your eyes, what do you picture your very best writing space looks like? Take notes, write down specific details, and think things through—before you make any actual changes. If you start working before you have a dream vision, you might be more inclined to give up when things don’t work perfectly. HINT: Create a Pinterest board to keep track of your ideas.
  1. Tidy by category. When you begin sorting and organizing your writing supplies, consider grouping the items you use by their function. Don’t keep anything you don’t need: Discard or donate the items that you haven’t used in a long time. Holding on to things just in case you might need them simply takes up storage space. So those ribbons for a manual typewriter you don’t even have anymore—toss ’em.
  1. Don’t get distracted. By focusing on categories of items, you’ll be better able to stay focused during the tidying process. Pick a category and stick to it. When you find an old family photo album tucked in a bottom desk drawer, put it aside and remind yourself that you’re focusing on writing tools right now—there will be time to muse on the album later.
  1. Follow Marie’s order for organizing. Marie recommends that you organize a space by the following order: clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and sentimental items. You may not have any clothes stored inside your desk (and if you do, it’s definitely time to rethink your writing space), but you probably do have books, papers, miscellany, and even sentimental items. Click here to learn more specifics about Marie’s method for sorting and organizing books—a very important skill for a writer!
  1. Pay attention to what sparks joy. To make Marie’s method work for the items you use in your writing space, ask yourself if what you’re holding sparks joy. It could be for any reason. Maybe the desk calendar is super functional and has all the bells and whistles to boost your productivity. Or maybe that pencil holder in the shape of a duck with googly eyes just makes you smile. If it sparks joy—keep it. If it doesn’t, thank it for its service, and say goodbye. A writer’s life will always have some rejection in it, so don’t underestimate the importance of things that make you feel happy.

What About Writers Who Thrive On Chaotic, Disorganized Spaces?

An organizational guru like Marie Kondo might look askance at the crazily disorganized spaces that some famous writers swear by. But our feeling is, if “disorganization” works for your creative process, then by all means—make haphazard piles of books, stuff drawers to bursting, and let the randomness of it all inspire you. Read more about writers and thinkers who had messy offices—and loved it.


Question: Have you tried the KonMari method? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Video of the Week #203: Desert Monsoon


We had some pretty spectacular storms in Arizona last summer. Thank you to Mike Olbinski for capturing nature’s fury.

Wordless Wednesday: I Don’t Know What These Bushes are, but Several of my Neighbors Have Them




How to Practice the Piano: Avoiding Play-Related Injuries

How to Practice the Piano: Avoiding Play-Related Injuries

When I was a little girl and just beginning piano lessons, my teacher spent what I considered an inordinate amount of time talking about posture and hand position. At eight years old, I was much more interested in making music than getting posture and position correct.

But when I retired from teaching and began seriously practicing piano again in my mid-sixties, I found that my hands ached during and after practice. I chalked it up to arthritis.

The repeated chords in the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata were particularly troublesome. I realized I was tensing my fingers and pounding the piano. But how else could I play that passage?

I was also revisiting the Schmitt exercises, and I found some that specifically dealt with eliminating tension by moving the hand from the wrist, keeping the arms still. Exercise 48 works with thirds and sixths, repeated and scales; exercise 51 works with repeated octaves and scales in octaves. I applied that technique to measures 25-29, 43-52, 121-125 and 138-147 of the Moonlight Sonata, third movement, and it helped.

Over 50% of professional pianists experience play-related injuries at some time in their careers.



Sergei Rachmaninoff

I saw a list of famous pianists who suffered from injuries, and Sergei Rachmaninoff was mentioned, which I consider poetic justice. How many pianists were destroyed by the unplayable chords in his Prelude in c# minor? I have small hands. How do you play a full, wide chord without stretching your fingers to the breaking point?

I polled some of my pianist friends on Facebook, and their best suggestion was rolling the hand from left to right, letting go of the lowest note and keeping it sounding with the sostenuto pedal. That’s a new skill for me, and it will take lots of practice until I can do it well. I didn’t even know I had a sostenuto pedal until recently.

Realize that the editor’s fingering markings in your music might not work for you. I’d always assumed they were the only correct way to play the passage. However, it’s subjective. Experiment with different possibilities, especially on chords of less than five notes in either hand.

Playing piano with tension in the body (hands, arms, shoulders, back, butt, legs) causes damage. So does playing while slouching. If you’re having pain, that’s a sign that something is wrong. Stop. Playing through the pain can have long-term adverse effects.

Elizabeth Mueller Grace discusses the role of posture and alignment in preventing injuries:

Beth Grace works with a student to correct alignment errors.

Muscle memory is a boon to pianists, in that it enables us to memorize music; but it’s also a curse, because it makes bad habits in our practice are so very hard to unlearn.

Dorothy Taubman developed an approach to playing the piano that eliminates damage caused by improper alignment. She identified four errors that cause structural damage: twisting the hand, collapsing the wrist; overspreading the fingers; and overcurling the fingers.

An introduction to the Taubman Approach:

I would love to learn the Taubman Approach for playing dense, spread-out chords, but the only way is to take lessons from a Taubman-trained instructor, or to take the Taubman workshops yourself. Or you can stream Taubman Approach videos for $14.99 per month. I have not done any of these, but I’m thinking about them.

Sources and related reading: (read all 7 sections) Scroll down to “Knowing When to Stop: Common Injuries and How to Avoid Them.”

Monday Morning Wisdom #208


Image 5-29-18 at 12.46 PM

From the Creator’s Heart #204

From the Creator’s Heart #204

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12 NIV).

I’d Rather Be Dancing Macedonian Folk Dances


Map showing location of present-day North Macedonia and former (heavy dotted line) boundary of historic Macedonia, by ГоранМирчевски, used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Ah, the beautiful dances of Macedonia!

Ajšino Oro is a lovely dance, but a little tricky, because the dance does not follow the same structure as the music. In most dances, we can say “the music will tell us,” because when a certain musical phrase repeats, so do the dance movements that accompany it. Not true in this dance.

Belasičko Oro is one of my favorite dances. It has four patterns. Unfortunately, this video starts after the dance has begun.

Dimna Juda is named after a female non-human entity in Macedonia folklore. This is a simple dance that many U.S. elementary general music teachers use in their classrooms (as I did).

Ivanice is a sweet dance of one repeated pattern. Once a group learns this dance, they will often converse with one another while dancing, because their concentration is no longer required for the steps. This video is a little over-exposed, but the dancing is so nicely done.

Lesnoto is an easy dance pattern that fits many Macedonian songs. This is a popular dance for the town square or for festivals, and again, many dancers will converse with one another or sing along while dancing.

Makedonsko devojče (Beautiful Macedonian Girl) is a well-known song and a favorite among folk dancers. Our group (Phoenix International Folk Dancers) often uses it as a last dance in our Tuesday night sessions. It fits the Lesnoto step perfectly.

Jovane Jovanke has only two patterns. The common Lesnoto step is done during the singing, and a transitional “in and out” step is done during the instrumental sections.

Bavno Oro is another dance I like a lot. It has three patterns. The first is the Lesnoto step; the second involves two touches with the left heel, one with the right, and a grapevine. The first two patterns repeat, followed by a third, which is more involved, and which coincides with an increase in the tempo. I have never mastered the third pattern.

Ventzi’s Arap is also fairly simple, with only two patterns. I like this video because of the wonderful dancing and the beautiful costumes, but our group does this dance to different music (Katerino Mome).

Žensko Za Râka is a dance I’m unfamiliar with, but it looks like fun:

Creative Juice #140

Creative Juice #140

Fun and inspiration: