Category Archives: Guests

Guest Post: Day and Night Houses by Margaret Bremner

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Guest Post: Day and Night Houses by Margaret Bremner

Many thanks to Margaret Bremner, Certified Zentangle Teacher, for sharing her process for this series of drawings. (I especially love how she began them with washes.) For more inspiration, visit her website, Enthusiastic Artist.

Occasionally I do a piece of art with day on one side and night on the other. I recently had a request for a house like this, and color was preferred to black and white.

I started five tiles to give both myself, and the person who wants one, some options. I used Winsor-Newton watercolor markers to do colored washes. Here they are, barely begun.

Frequently I identify the roof shapes first. That seems to place the building for me. After that, I focused on the skies and vegetation. Some moons and suns and clouds also appeared.

Here, the ink drawing is nearing completion.

And here they are, all done, shaded and fine-tuned. Of course, I like some better than others; that’s always the way. The one at the top right has been claimed and will be on it’s way once I mount it on canvas and paint the surround.

Final note: here are two, mounted, painted, and ready to hang:

‘Like Night and Day’ and ‘Always Welcome’

Guest Post: Writing a Memoir of Restoration, Renewal, and Rediscovery by Marilyn L. Davis

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Guest Post: Writing a Memoir of Restoration, Renewal, and Rediscovery by Marilyn L. Davis

Thanks to Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog and to Marilyn L. Davis for this insightful article.

Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog

By: Marilyn L. Davis

“It has always been on the written page that the world has come into focus for me. If I can piece all these bits of memory together with the diaries and letters and the scribbled thoughts that clutter my mind and bookshelves, then maybe I can explain what happened. Maybe the worlds I have inhabited for the past seven years will assume order and logic and wholeness on paper. Maybe I can tell my story in a way that is useful to someone else.” ― Nancy Horan, Loving Frank

While Nancy Horan’s book is a novel, this passage helps explain the power of memoir or reflective writing. I’m a huge fan of the genre, in part, because it began my recovery from substance abuse, but more importantly, this type of reflective writing healed me in ways I could not imagine when I first started writing.

Much…

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Guest Post: Pas de Degas

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Guest Post: Pas de Degas

Thank you to Donna from MyOBT for this fabulous guest post. I love all things ballet!

My OBT

degas 1 Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper’s Bazaar

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Guest Post: How To Make A Collage To Inspire Your Work-In-Progress

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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.

Finding yourself at a loss for words? Unable to chip away at your writer’s block? You’re stuck in the winter doldrums—what you need is some writing inspiration!

One of the most effective ways to spark creativity is to try something new, and we have the answer: Make a collage. Creating a collage can be a great help to writers of all genres—books…short prose…and even poetry, which can be a very visual medium. Once you’ve prepared your collage, hang it above your writing desk and let it inspire you while you’re working!

Elements To Include When Making A Collage To Boost Your Writing Creativity

Colors and textures that set the mood of your writing. Is the piece you want to write exuberant and uplifting? Try bright, bold colors! Is it more sad, scary, or mysterious? Dark hues and shadows might be better to set the tone. Be creative and search until you find the right colors to match the tone of your piece.

And don’t forget to consider texture: Rich velvets, rough tree bark, and smooth plastics all offer their own unique inspiration.

Images of people who resemble your characters. As writers, we can usually picture our characters using our imaginations. But if you’re stumped, or you’re unsure of how to bring the image in your mind to life, search for photos of people who look like the character you’re trying to create. Drawings or paintings of people who embody the look you’re going for can help too—and if you can’t find any, why not try to draw them yourself? Visualizing your character’s physical appearance will help you write him or her more convincingly. 

Photos or items that remind you of your setting. Photos, paintings, or even a leaf or a pressed flower can help you focus on your setting and more accurately describe it. Ask yourself: Is your writing set in the present or past? Where does it take place? Even if you’re writing a fantasy piece and trying to create a new world—finding images can still help! You can be as broad as searching for pictures of your character’s country, or as specific as looking for pictures of her or his home. 

Quotes—or even single words!—that fit with your theme. If you’re writing a romance, you may find the words of Nicholas Sparks inspiring: Romance is thinking about your significant other when you are supposed to be thinking about something else. For a short story filled with action and adventure, you may find Gandalf’s words to Frodo will help set the mood: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. There’s a quote to suit every genre!

Making a collage can get your creativity flowing, and looking at your finished artwork can continue to inspire your writing. If you’re having trouble making a collage that’s specific to the piece you’re writing, consider making a more general collage filled with motivational quotes to help get you started. Pinterest is a great resource.

Here are some collages you can check out to get you started:

 

And if you like the idea of making art to inspire your writing, consider making a dream board, keeping a reading journal, or checking out some visual writing prompts!

Writer Questions

QUESTION: If you were making a collage of pictures to help with your writing, where would you start?

Guest Post: Off the Wall

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Guest Post: Off the Wall

Thanks to Donna from MyOBT for this gorgeous guest post.
We’re planning a remodel. Do I dare try this?

My OBT

San Bartolo Medallion Stencil by RoyalDesignStencils San Bartolo Medallion Stencil by RoyalDesignStencils

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Guest Post: 4 Reasons To Keep An Idea Journal by Nicole Bianchi

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Many thanks to Nicole Bianchi for her permission to post this excerpt:

Leonardo da Vinci. Marie Curie.

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci

Thomas Edison. Beatrix Potter.

What do all four of these people have in common?

Not only were they highly motivated and creative individuals, but they also all kept an idea journal.

An idea journal is quite different from a diary. You use an idea journal not to record all of the things that happened to you throughout the day, but to jot down daily goals, achievements, opinions, observations, or bits of inspiration. If you’re working on a project, you can fill the idea journal with updates on your progress, thoughts on how to improve the project, and anything else that motivates you.

A writer’s idea journal might be filled with ideas for stories or articles or blog posts (no need to fear writer’s block when you have an idea journal). An artist’s might contain sketches or inspirations for drawings. Ultimately, the idea journal exists as a private place to plant your ideas and watch them grow.

Here are four reasons why you should keep an idea journal.

  1. An Idea Journal Helps You Remember & Develop Ideas

design_for_a_flying_machine

Leo’s design for a flying machine

Among Leonardo da Vinci’s many achievements, he was a brilliant artist, mathematician, engineer, scientist, and inventor.

In his notebooks, he filled pages and pages with sketches, scientific diagrams, ideas for new inventions, and reflections on art.

Because da Vinci was left-handed, he found it easier to write from right to left. That means his notes can only be read in a mirror. To make his writings even more private, he often employed a kind of shorthand and didn’t worry about perfect penmanship or proper punctuation.

What he did care about was carefully recording his lab notes and his many ideas for new inventions: everything from a flying machine to a submarine prototype.

Da Vinci’s notebooks ensured that he never forgot any of his ideas.

If you write down every great idea that comes into your head right away like da Vinci did, you will not have to worry about forgetting an idea ever again.

Further, the action of writing down an idea forces you to think more deeply about it.

The idea journal helps you clarify your thoughts and express them more clearly.

Note from Andrea: Does reading this excerpt make you want read the other three reasons to keep an idea journal? Read the full article.

Guest Post: Clutter Is Killing Your Creativity (And What to Do About It) by Jeff Goins

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Thanks to Jeff Goins, author of The Art of Work and blogger at Goins, WriterYou can also follow him on Medium

Some weeks, my desktop is a disaster: full of papers and files and sticky notes with half-baked ideas. Yes, I am your typical “creative.” Disorganized and disheveled, I proudly chalk it up to the artist in me. But if I’m honest, this is embarrassing.

Clutter is not my friend; it is my enemy.

Clutter

Clutter is procrastination. It is the Resistance, a subtle form of stalling and self-sabotage. And it keeps me (and you) from creating stuff that matters.

The mess is not inevitable. It is not cute or idiosyncratic. It is a foe, and it is killing your art.

Clean up your mess

Before beginning her career as a successful author and speaker, Patsy Clairmont did something unexpected. She washed the dishes.

She wanted to take her message to the world, but as she was readying herself, she felt nudged to start in an unusual way. She got out of bed and cleaned her house.

In other words, Patsy got rid of the mess. And it put her in a position to start living more creatively. We must do the same.

Bringing your message to the world does not begin on the main stage. It starts at home. In the kitchen. At your desk. On your cluttered computer. You need to clear your life of distractions, not perfectly, but enough so that there’s room for you to create.

The relationship between clutter and creativity is inverse. The more you have of the former, the less you have of the latter. Mess creates stress. Which is far from an ideal environment for being brilliant.

Make more with less

Jack White has an interesting philosophy on creativity. He believes less is more, that inspiration comes from restriction. If you want to be inspired, according to Jack, then give yourself boundaries. That’s where art blossoms.

At a public speaking conference earlier this year, I learned this truth, as it relates to communication. An important adage the presenters often repeated was:

If you can’t say it in three minutes, you can’t say it in 30.

We spent the week of the conference writing and delivering five-minute speeches every day. We learned that if we couldn’t summarize our ideas in a few short sentences, then we couldn’t elaborate on them for half an hour. Sure, we could ramble and rant. But that’s not communicating. It’s word vomit.

I’ve learned to do this with writing. If I can’t say what I want in a sentence or two, then I’m not ready to share the idea. Prematurely broadcasting an idea before it can be described succinctly will cause you to lose trust with your audience and cost the integrity of your message.

When attention is sparse, the people with the fewest, most important words win.

Be Ernest Hemingway

In a world full of noise, it’s nice not to have to weed through digital SPAM to find the nuggets worth reading. But this doesn’t come naturally. Succinctly getting your point across is a discipline.

I like to talk — a lot. I often process ideas out loud as they come to me. But I find this frustrating when other people do it. So I’m trying to master the art of clutter-free writing.

Here’s what I do: I write and write and write, getting all my on “paper” (or computer or whatever). Then, I take out as many words as possible while still clearly communicating my message.

Because if I can say it in five words instead of 15, I should.

This process of cleaning up your message is not intuitive for people. But it isimportant — an essential discipline for anyone with something to say. If you don’t know where to begin, start here:

  1. Reclaim your inbox. Throw away magazines and newspapers you have no intention of reading. Clean up your email, getting it down to a manageable amount (zero, if you can).
  2. Clean up your desk. Again, throw away stuff you haven’t used in months.
  3. Find a clean space to create. This is different for everyone, but it needs to not stress you out.
  4. Limit distractions. Turn off email, phone, and social media tools. Force yourself to focus on one thing at a time.
  5. Start creating clutter-free messages. Remember: less is more. Use restrictions to be more creative.
  6. Repeat this for the rest of your life.

For more on ways to be more structured and focus as a creative, I’ve found these books to be really helpful:

How do you deal with clutter and creativity? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

Guest Post: Returning to an Unfinished and Previously Ditched Draft by Lucy Mitchell

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Guest Post: Returning to an Unfinished and Previously Ditched Draft by Lucy Mitchell

Thank you to Lucy Mitchell of BlondeWriteMore for inspiring us with the courage to give those manuscripts languishing in file cabinets a second look.

BlondeWriteMore

Having Second Thoughts About an Unfinished Draft

Many months ago you ditched your unfinished draft. Writer / draft relations sadly broke down at 56k words. In your head the story was amazing and definitely a literary masterpiece, but reality was very different on paper.

There was something wrong with the draft but you couldn’t work out what it was. Instead of thinking it through you hit the ‘ditch draft’ button!

After wiping away your tears and taking a couple of deep breaths you placed your unfinished draft in a folder and vowed to never open it again.

After a few weeks of wandering around like a lost soul you started to rebuild your writing life; creating a new story and making some new character friends.

One day out of the blue you find yourself going back to it.

There are 5 stages to returning to an old and previously ditched draft:

  1. Echo from the past. You will…

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Guest Post: Four Things Writers Can Learn From Fairy Tales (Besides Never Eat The Free Apple)

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Guest Post: Four Things Writers Can Learn From Fairy Tales (Besides Never Eat The Free Apple)

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.

4thingswriterslearnfairytales

Everyone has a favorite fairy tale. Who could resist a story with a winning hero, a dastardly villain, and everything turning out for the best at the end? But fairy tales are more than simple stories with pat conclusions. There are some very good reasons why these bedtime stories are enduring classics. Here are four fundamental elements found in every time-tested fairy tale that can help you create your own unforgettable stories.

Four Fairy-Tale Fundamentals For Writers

A worthy main character. Your main character should rouse the reader’s concern. Consider good-hearted, trusting protagonists like Cinderella and Snow White, who don’t deserve the treachery that is about to befall them; or innocent Hansel and Gretel, abandoned in the woods, tugging at your heartstrings as they try to find their way home. And how could you not feel sorry for the poor little Ugly Duckling? Capture your readers’ sympathy and they’ll be fully invested in the story’s outcome.

Many fairy tales feature characters using clever ways to outwit their adversaries. Thumbelina overcomes the obstacles of her size by finding inventive ways to use objects around her. The shrewd tailors who fashioned the Emperor’s new clothes made something out of nothing (literally!). Readers enjoy identifying with ordinary characters who find extraordinary ways to rise above life’s unexpected hurdles. Tip: A three-dimensional characterwill definitely appeal to readers’ modern tastes!

A fiendish villain. Give readers an antagonist they’ll love to hate. Evil queens may inspire you to write about authority figures who abuse their power. Everyone despises wicked witch characters who put defenseless children in peril. Introduce your own version of a big, bad wolf or a repulsive troll living under the bridge, and put your hero or heroine in imminent danger. A detestable villain and the unbearable suspense he or she creates will keep your readers anxiously turning the pages.

A fantastic setting. Instead of taking place in a typical apartment complex, perhaps your narrative is set in a medieval castle. Your big-city heroine might have more interesting adventures in a forbidden forest. By introducing a unique setting, you can give your story a fresh atmosphere that will pleasantly surprise readers.

An unexpected plot twist. The Ugly Duckling becomes a beautiful swan. The last billy-goat gruff is large enough to easily give the bridge troll his comeuppance. And a princess has a sleepless night on multiple cushy mattresses over a single pea. Having an unanticipated turn of events for your story’s ending will make your writing compelling, interesting, and, ultimately, unforgettable.

Once upon a time, an author wondered how to write a story that would win the hearts of readers. A wise, writerly fairy godmother advised the author to incorporate these four elements found in many timeless fairy tales. The story was well-written, enjoyed by all, and the author became a success. And everyone lived happily ever after!

Photo by PVCG

Guest Post: Private Lives

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Guest Post: Private Lives

Many thanks to Donna for this guest post, which first appeared on her blog (one of my favorites!), My OBT.

My OBT

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