Writing and the Creative Life: Routine or Ritual?

How do you get your creative groove on? Is it simply something you kind of do? Or is it a profound, almost religious necessity in order to free yourself to write?

Scott Myers interviewed one Acme Ton’o’Writers on the subject and here’s what he learned:

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by Scott Myers

I am fascinated by creativity, in particular how creativity manifests itself in the wide variety of people I meet or learn about. That has been one of the more intriguing aspects of the many interviews with writers I’ve been fortunate enough to do this year.

Those of you who follow those interviews likely will have noticed I ask each writer a few of the same questions about their process, including this one: How do you write? Because that really is where the rubber hits the road, where creativity becomes productivity.

The responses in the interviews, of course, have been varied. Some writers are like Craig Mazin (The Hangover Part 2, Identity Thief, The Hangover Part III) and don’t seem to want or need a defined pattern:

I have goals, and I just feel like it doesn’t matter how I get there. If I get there I get there. I have an office. Sometimes I write at home. Sometimes I go to the office. Sometimes if I’m feeling antsy I’ll go write in a public space. Sometimes I write at night, sometimes during the day. Sometimes I write hours at a time. Sometimes it’s 20 minutes.

The one thing about me that’s been consistent in the 17 years I’ve been doing this is in eight weeks I’ll have a screenplay. I’m very good that way. I don’t dick around. Knowing that, I can say to myself, “Well, not happening today. Not writing,” Because I know that doesn’t mean the script is not going to get written. The script always gets written.

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Leveraging Anxiety

Anxiety is good for our creative selves.

We’ve just got to know how to play our cards right:

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by Elizabeth Grace Saunders

Last summer, I had been in the trenches with all of you, working on a HUGE, complicated project.

I was writing the final chapters for my first time management book for McGraw Hill, The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress.  Although it was a very intense two months, it was fantastic to see that my principles withstand the test of extremely challenging circumstances. Plus, I learned some important new lessons that I’m looking forward to sharing with you. One of them is this:

The Importance of Leveraging Anxiety

It may seem odd for me to encourage you to “leverage anxiety.” Isn’t anxiety bad or simply some sort of mental weakness?

Well, yes, and no.

On the one hand, anxiety separated from reality can have all sorts of counterproductive effects like causing you to shut down under pressure or to frantically throw yourself into an activity. We don’t want to allow emotional compulsions to control us so in these instances working on your mental game with positive affirmations or meditation can really help.

But when anxiety rises in you based on the recognition of a true problem, you shouldn’t ignore it, but leverage it.

But if you’re using the techniques I describe in this post, and still start to feel anxious, you can channel that sensation into productive action in these ways:

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LB: My Life in One JPG (for better or for worse)

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FWIW, to me, this is what everything’s all about. Doing your best at what you believe in. Risking everything. Taking a flyer. Plunging in.

Maybe you’ll fly. Maybe you’ll crash and burn. But while it’s happening…well, my generation had an overused saying, but I believe it applies here: “Wotta rush!”

I’ve lived every moment of my adult life this way and would never change a thing.

(Saw the pic at Forbes while research crowdfunding about a year ago. Have no idea where they got it but love the thing.)

Peggy Bechko: There’s More To Being A Writer Than Just Writing

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by Peggy Bechko 

It’s something we don’t want to hear and certainly don’t want to think about. But, it’s the honest truth these days.

It used to be that a writer sat at a desk and wrote. After publication the publisher might arrange a book tour or a few book signings, but by today’s comparison those requirements were pretty minimal.

Today, depending on how a writer writes, publishes and manages his or her career, there’s a multitude of additional activities that writer will need to address.

First among them is marketing. From the days when not much was expected from the writer by the publisher in marketing we’re catapulted into an era where marketing is king. A publisher now usually wants a writer to have a social media presence – a twitter account (preferably with a lot of followers), a facebook page (preferably with a lot of friends or ‘likes’ and every other social network you can think of along with being willing to promote in other ways as well. And then there’s a blog…

And by the way, don’t depend on the publisher for much these days in the way of publicity and promotion unless you’re a big name writer.

But it doesn’t end there. If you’re taking your writing career in another direction and planning to self-publish, then the manuscript is just the beginning whether non-fiction or fiction. You’ll need to know how to format the manuscript (after it’s been edited to perfection) for upload to whichever publisher you choose, Kindle, Smashwords, or another if you’re doing digital publishing.

Formatting is different again if you’re considering possibly a place like CreateSpace where you can publish in hard copy. You’ll be responsible for cover creation for designing the book interior, for coming up with photos you can legally use (if the book calls for them). All of this you’ll need to do yourself or arrange for outsourcing. The site Fiverr does offer some possibilities for outsourcing, but use caution. Be sure you’re going to get what you need.

And of course, we come full circle back to marketing. Without even minimal help from the publisher (such as even just having a good distribution network) you’re going to be head of publicity. That means you have to get the word out.

You might consider creating (or having created) a video book trailer. I just did my first one and you can see it at:

You can guest post at blogs (after making contact and inquiring). You can start your own blog, blast the word out via your social network, offer free copies for reviewers, contact reviewers directly and ask for reviews, place small ads (within your budget), join Goodreads and discussion groups where your book announcement would be appropriate.

There’s a lot more today to being a writer than writing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Speaking of marketing, Peggy just informed us that her novel, HAWKE’S INDIANS, is free Aug 5 -7 at Amazon.Com.

How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

Now who can resist learning more about something like that? Certainly not us, so we’ve stolen reprinted the article and are presenting it right here:

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by Maria Pop0va

“A man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.”

“The habit of mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts,” wrote James Webb Young in his famous 1939 5-step technique for creative problem-solving, “becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas.” But just how does one acquire those vital cognitive customs? That’s precisely what science writer Maria Konnikova explores in Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (UK; public library) — an effort to reverse-engineer Holmes’s methodology into actionable insights that help develop “habits of thought that will allow you to engage mindfully with yourself and your world as a matter of course.”

Bridging ample anecdotes from the adventures of Conan Doyle’s beloved detective with psychology studies both classic and cutting-edge, Konnikova builds a compelling case at the intersection of science and secular spiritualism, stressing the power of rigorous observation alongside a Buddhist-like, Cageian emphasis on mindfulness. She writes:

The idea of mindfulness itself is by no means a new one. As early as the end of the nineteenth century, William James, the father of modern psychology, wrote that, ‘The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. … An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.’ That faculty, at its core, is the very essence of mindfulness. And the education that James proposes, an education in a mindful approach to life and to thought.

In recent years, studies have shown that meditation-like thought (an exercise in the very attentional control that forms the center of mindfulness), for as little as fifteen minutes a day, can shift frontal brain activity toward a pattern that has been associated with more positive and more approach-oriented emotional states, and that looking at scenes of nature, for even a short while, can help us become more insightful, more creative, and more productive. We also know, more definitively than we ever have, that our brains are not built for multitasking — something that precludes mindfulness altogether. When we are forced to do multiple things at once, not only do we perform worse on all of them but our memory decreases and our general wellbeing suffers a palpable hit.

But for Sherlock Holmes, mindful presence is just a first step. It’s a means to a far larger, far more practical and practically gratifying goal. Holmes provides precisely what William James had prescribed: an education in improving our faculty of mindful thought and in using it in order to accomplish more, think better, and decide more optimally. In its broadest application, it is a means for improving overall decision making and judgment ability, starting from the most basic building block of your own mind….

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Self-Sabotage 101

AKA: Our Inner Depths Don’t Always Help Our Outer Reaches; or ‘It’s All In Your Mind, Dude’

How Our Brains Stop Us Achieving Our Goals and How to Fight Back – by Gregory Ciotti

As admittedly wonderful and fascinating as the human brain is, it definitely can feel like our brain is out to get us sometimes.

Summed up perfectly in the many observations of the “Scumbag Brain” meme, our brain does seem to engage in “sabotage” in terms of how it naturally reacts to situations…

  1. Your brain can hurt your goals by fantasizing too much…
  2. Your brain procrastinates on big projects by visualizing the worst parts…
  3. Your brain will “abandon ship” at the first sign of distress…
  4. Your brain loves mindless busy work disguised as progress
  5. Your brain is not good at “winging it” when it comes to planning…ever!

Read it all and get the details (You know, those things the devil is in)

Reading the specifics of this article made all of us wince. “Ouch!” Too true…but, Mr. Ciotti points out, we can conquer our brain’s negative tendencies. We’re going to follow his advice and let you know.