Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What have you read lately?

Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the most. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out the window. ~ William Faulkner

I'm currently re-reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I went to a great workshop sponsored by Mad About Words and was reminded of Bird by Bird. If you haven't read it, it's a great book on writing and life.

So, what have you read lately that has helped you in your art or writing?

Saturday, May 28, 2011


"I often have to write a hundred pages or more before there's a paragraph that's alive." ~ Philip Roth

Often, revision is the hardest part of the writing process. We write something that sounds brilliant - or worse yet, poetic - and even though it doesn't quite fit and doesn't move the story forward, we don't want to cut it.

After you write the first draft, don't be afraid to cut it down to those few brilliant pages that really work. The rest, even if it's the best writing of your life, must be cut if it doesn't serve your topic.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Good Writing

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon." ~ E.L. Doctorow

I love this quote. What an easy way to remind yourself that you must evoke emotion in order to pull your readers into your story. Strive to make your readers feel, smell, hear, taste and see your story and they will savor your writing.

Have a great and productive day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Write from the soul.

Write from the soul, not from some notion of what you think the marketplace wants. The market is fickle; the soul is eternal. ~ Jeffrey A. Carver
I often find myself searching the writing magazines for market information. What's hot? What's not? Those topics sell magazines. It's good to keep up on what's going on, but by the time you write a novel based on what's hot today, that trend will be over. And chances are if you force yourself to write for the current market, your heart won't be in it. I think it's always better to write or create art from the soul. It'll find an audience.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bugsy and Knuckles on Creativity

If you haven't heard, I have two new kitties. Actually, I brought them home to live with me in January, but every day I think they are brand new. You see, they are always inventing new ways to approach life and new games to play. I marvel at their creativity.

And, most often, they are unpredictable. When I don't react to some new attention-getting behavior, they invent a new way to get my attention. And if I still don't respond, they invent yet another way.

And, they are rarely still...no amount of effort is too much for their current project. Yes, they have taught me that trying again and again is okay... and that no approach is too outrageous.

That's their definition of creativity.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Marketing your writing

Promoting and marketing takes as much time as writing. To succeed, it’s important for a writer to have a clear plan on how to keep the writing in front of readers. Here are some ways to do that:

1. Brand your writing. If you write in a certain style or a certain genre, study the customers or enthusiasts for that style or that genre. This will tell you who you need to target and it will give you a clue on how you need to target them. For example, when selling a book on fishing, you might not want to concentrate all your efforts on selling it in a bookstore. On any given day, there may not be too many fishermen in the bookstore. Instead, you should sell it in sporting good stores and even bait shops might be a better venue.

2. Once you have identified where to sell your book, keep it out there and bring as much attention to it as possible. Continuing with the fishing book example, you should establish a look for your written materials that correspond with the fishing theme. If the cover of your book has a particular look, use that look on you business cards, postcards, and book marks.

3. Use your paper materials (bookmarks, business cards, etc) to tell readers where they can obtain your book or books. Allow for the possibility that someone will accidentally drop your business card on the ground and an avid fisherman picks it up. Have ways to obtain the book on the card, so the second owner of your business card will not have difficulty finding it.

4. A website is a must for writers. If you have several types of writing (e.g., magazine articles, books, fiction, non-fiction, etc.) you can have separate pages on your website that address each of these. You website should be professionally done and represent you professionally as a writer. There’s nothing as off-putting as someone trying to gain attention to their writing with a website full of errors. Be sure to have your website edited by a professional to ensure that it is perfect
5. A blog is one way to attract attention to your writing. Perhaps include excerpts from your book on your blog from time to time. It's a good way to promote and market your writing.

6. Concentrate on generating a good professional image and promoting your writing through word of mouth. This is easiest done by joining writing guilds where you can network with other writers. Public speaking also brings positive attention to your writing and will go a long way in promoting and marketing your writing.

In all cases, remember that you’ll need lots of energy for promoting and marketing your writing. It is a job that needs continuous attention.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sketchbook Project...

When I see or hear about something that might be of interest, I like to pass it along. Last night I heard about the Sketchbook Project. If you go to http://www.arthousecoop.com/projects/sketchbookproject you'll learn all about it. It sounds like a great project for anyone who likes to sketch on a theme.

Essentially, you sign up and the folks at Sketchbook Project send you a small sketchbook. You choose one of their themes and create pages on that theme to fill the book. When finished (and by January 31, 2012 (see you still have time to do this) you send in your sketchbook to them. The books will tour to many places then will eventually reside at the Brooklyn Art Library. You won't get your sketchbook back, but it'll b out there working for you, showing the world you best sketches.

This doesn't have to be all drawing. You can do whatever you want in your book... Use it for poetry, writing, etc. That's all fair game too.... Give it some thought. It might be good to do.

I'm thinking about doing it.... How about you?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A blank piece of paper is a blank piece of paper, isn't it?

To me, a blank piece of paper is just a blank piece of paper. At least, that's what I thought until I started sketching.

As a writer of many years, it's been a long time since a blank piece of paper intimidated me. In fact, I find it inviting to have a clean slate in front of me. Yes, in my writing world, a blank piece of paper means a new article or a new story. I'm used to happily filling up the page with words

But, a blank piece of paper takes on new meaning and stirs up great anxiety when my task is to fill it with sketches. Yikes.

I have been doodling all my life, but it wasn't until recently that I decided to take some classes and see if I can't turn some of those doodles into drawings. Now when I am faced with a blank piece of paper, I panic.... My palms sweat and I have to talk myself into putting the pencil anywhere close to the paper. I wonder if I felt that way when I first started writing. I can't remember.

Thinking that practice will make perfect, I've started taking every opportunity to sketch what's before me. I must admit that the more I do it, the easier it has become. Note that I said "easier" not "easy."

It'll be quite a while before I look at a blank piece of art paper in the same easy manner as I look at a blank page in my journal or a blank screen before starting a new story. Real panic will set in however if I ever decide to show my work to others... Can't imagine doing that on any large scale.

Art versus Craft

What's your thought on art versus craft? Does the term art only apply to paintings and drawings, etc.? Does it make a difference if the artist is self taught or does the artist need a formal education in art?

When does jewelry become art? Is it only art if the artist melts down the metal to make the necklace? If the necklace is made of beads, is it art if you make the beads from scratch or is it never art?

The questions are endless when this topic comes up. Is it a fair comment that paintings are art and photography is not? If not, why would someone go up to a photographer at an opening and say, "You shouldn't have won third place. Photography isn't art."

Now, my mother taught me manners enough to know that the speaker had limited social skills to act so crassly, but if people think that only certain media qualify as art, shouldn't we be given a rule book to say what amount of blood, sweat and tears must go into a piece before it's considered art.

And what about weaving. It is only art when you spin the yarn yourself? Or do you have to raise the sheep as well?

I think I have questioned myself into a corner. I just started thinking about the definition of art and the definition of craft. That led to the question of why one is considered higher class than the other.

If any of you have thoughts on this... feel free to comment. I'd love to quiet the discussion going on in my head.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Techniques to help you meet deadlines -- self-imposed or otherwise...

Meeting deadlines is an important attribute for any kind of work. Some artists and writers don't set deadlines for themselves.

I have found that this is a mistake. If I start a project but don't have a timeframe attached to it, I often let it sit for a while when I encounter an obstacle. When I've set a deadline for the whole project or just a small part of it, I most often push on through the obstacle, and I feel much better for the effort.

Here are some ways to ensure you meet your deadlines:
  1. Take a good hard look at your work habits. Are you using your time wisely? Are you working only on projects you like and having to rush to complete the others? Are there too many interruptions? Analyzing what is hindering you in trying to meet deadlines is a beginning.
  2. Next, rearrange your schedule and work habits to get more work done. Set a schedule that will help you be productive and let others in your life know that you need some un-interrupted work time. This is especially important if you work at home. Many neighbors and friends don't take work hours seriously. Let them know when you are working and when you are free.
  3. Approach each work assignment individually. If a work assignment is large, divide it into manageable parts. For example, if you are writing a book, don't set a deadline for finishing the whole book. Instead, set a deadline for small chunks, such as a chapter or scene at a time.
  4. Based on the amount of time before your deadline, establish due dates for each part of the assignment. Write due dates on the calendar for reference.
  5. Check your calendar each day to determine what parts of your work assignments are coming due. Set priorities and work on the ones that are due first.
  6. If you don’t meet one of your mini-deadlines, don’t let it slide. Immediately re-work your calendar to redistribute your work.
  7. If you have multiple work assignments, repeat the process for each of them.
  8. If you know with certainty that you will not meet your deadline on a particular work assignment, it’s best to tell your client (or admit it to yourself) early on, rather than waiting until the due date. That way you can negotiate an agreeable replacement due date.

Remember that when looking at your workload and deadlines, it's also important to ensure the quality of your work. Don’t let the work slide to the last minute. If you do, you may have to sacrifice quality and that's never good. Get organized for a more enjoyable and productive work experience.