Creative Breakthroughs – Whew!

We’ve talked about where our creativity comes from this month, how our thoughts and feelings influence it, and when procrastination helps or hurts the creative process. Now that we’ve talked about the more difficult side, let’s look at what creativity looks like when it works.

Creative breakthroughs – whew! I don’t know if I could continue trying to live a creative lifestyle and work in a creative endeavor if I didn’t have frequent breakthroughs. I think we get an endorphin rush when the breakthrough is big enough. We’re happy to the point of laughing out loud and we’re filled with sudden energy to keep going! Yay! Thank God for wiring our brains this way!

This past week I’ve been working my way through a book I found in my library, The Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee. Only two chapters in, and I love this book so much it’s on my must-buy list! The web site is also spectacular, full of colorful encouragement and happiness-inducing how-to’s! You may know that I started my own publishing company to publish my books. I did not jump into it with no business sense, though. I have a bachelor degree in business administration as well as a master’s degree in creative writing. I want to work in a creative industry, but I want to do it right.

I’ve written a few business plans in my life, done a halfway decent job with them, but I don’t think I ever looked at them again once they were printed and added to the 3-ring binder of “business stuff.” But the way Jennifer suggests creating your business plan – and I’m only two chapters in, but I think I’m right – both uses common business sense and business tools and the more visual creative side of your brain to create a bona fide business plan that doesn’t get filed away and that you’ll actually use. (Guess what optional reading is being added to my January online class on goal setting?!)

One of your writing routines should be to check in with yourself to see if you’re on the road you meant to be on. When I went to the RWA National Conference in July, one thing I wanted to verify while I was attending workshops and meeting agents and other publishing professionals was – am I on the right road for me?

By the end of the last day, I was doing the Happy Kitty Dance because I knew self-publishing and being a business owner was exactly where I wanted to be! Nothing had changed to make me decide to give it up. Hearing all about what’s going on in New York and who is looking for what didn’t make me want to re-start submitting to agents and editors. Now that I’m making a more visual and creative business plan (and giving myself permission to forego the look of a traditional business plan!), I’m more excited about doing more frequent check-ins with myself. I love Jennifer’s idea of using index cards to keep track of parts of the plan so you can add new ideas when you think of them. I’m sure Jennifer is a friend I just haven’t met yet! I love the way she thinks! 🙂 I’ve been trying to make my business background fit into my creative life, and I’ve tried to get my creative life to fit into a sound business mold, but Jennifer is the one who put the two worlds together.

Am I excited enough here for you to click on those links and check out the book and the web site?! The excitement is because I had a creative breakthrough last week! Something that I’ve been trying to create finally came together and I’ve got the endorphin rush to prove it. And not just an endorphin rush – meeting your friend for coffee and talking about your works-in-progress can give you that, but does it always help you write more and better afterward? Part of knowing you’ve had a creative breakthrough is when you have lists and pages of ideas, and when normal and unrelated “stuff” in your life sparks even more ideas.

Reading the first chapter of The Right-Brain Business Plan on the elliptical machine at the gym (difficult, but it can be done – just don’t fall off when turning pages!), I had so many ideas about getting back into teaching that I was afraid I’d lose some of them. I used to put on an annual one-day writer’s workshop called Write Now! Workshops. I stopped doing them when I started traveling so much. But I have plans for a lot of online and live workshops starting in January 2013. I knew I wanted to get back into teaching, but I wasn’t sure how and where I wanted to start. Jennifer asked all the right questions to get my little brain humming!

I’ve still got most of the work ahead of me in getting my business plan down. But the other thing that excites me is that I can spend a little time “playing.” I can use that drawing class I took two years ago to make little drawings on my business plan. (Oh, how my professors at The Wharton School would faint!) I can use some of the cool programs on my Mac to get more colorful and more creative. I can take pictures of myself in PhotoBooth and record me giving myself a pep talk in GarageBand and add those to my business plan. I’ve been praying for God to help rekindle the fire in my spirit for my work and I think this is part of His answer! I’M SO EXCITED! LOL!

Check out the book and the web site. Get yourself a plan that works for you, no matter how you get it written, and then work at making it happen. You can do this!

Speaking of creative breakthroughs, my friend Mona Hodgson had a creative breakthrough recently. She’s been writing children’s books since before we met (she’s one of my first writer friends!) and has published over a dozen of them. But she wanted to write adult books, too. In 2010, her dream came true. Two Brides Too Many, the first book in the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek series, was released by WaterBrook Multnomah. Too Rich for a Bride followed in 2011, and The Bride Wore Blue came out in May of this year. On October 2, the fourth and final book, Twice a Bride, will be released.

Today Mona is celebrating the release of her very first book trailer! You get to be among the first people to see it! The trailer is beautifully put together. You’ll want to visit these four sisters yourself. Celebrate with us by picking up a copy of Two Brides Too Many, or finish where you left off if you’ve already started the series. I think you’ll enjoy it. Congratulations, Mona, on your wonderful series and the beautiful book trailer! I can’t wait to see what your next series will be!

You can visit Mona at her web site www.monahodgson.com/ and on Facebook at Facebook.com/Author.Mona.

Reroute Your Routine: A Guest Blog by Mona Hodgson

I am so pleased to welcome Mona Hodgson to Routines for Writers! She’s been my friend for a long time, and was a mentor to me before that. She has written wonderful stories for children for years, and today she celebrates the release of her first novel for adults. Please welcome her! I know you’ll find her advice helpful!

I wrote two full-length historical romance novels in 2009. After receiving a phone call from my agent on March 31st, I drafted Two Brides Too Many [released today!], the first book in the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series and turned it in on June 1st. No, a fluttering cape is not part of my wardrobe.

Twenty-one years ago, shortly after I began my trek into publication, my dad and I were walking on a dirt road in Arizona’s White Mountains when we discovered a deserted and dilapidated cabin not much bigger than my dining room. By the time we had finished our walk, my imagination had planted the seeds from which the premise for a contemporary novel sprouted.

Over the past two decades, I’ve taken countless novel-writing courses, focused on learning the craft of writing a story. As part of that process, I started a second contemporary novel set in Arizona’s Verde Valley. And intrigued by the late 1890’s and the stalwart women of that time, I began writing a historical novel set in Jerome, an Arizona copper mining camp. But I had never finished writing a novel until that pivotal phone call from my agent.

In September 2008, ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) awarded my Jerome historical, A Thimble’s Worth, First Place in the Historical Fiction category of the Genesis Contest and the chairman highly recommended that I finish the novel in the likelihood that at least one editor would ask to see the full manuscript. I did want to sell the novel and become a published novelist, so why didn’t I finish the story or any of the others I’d begun?

Perhaps you procrastinate too? I’ve discovered that most of the excuses for procrastination are also quite universal. Excuses are evergreens that appear healthy year round.

Ever use time, or the lack thereof, as an excuse not to write your story, prepare a proposal, or update your author website? Uh huh, me too.

But I don’t have trouble taking the time to eat chocolate, enjoy a semi-regular lunch with a friend, or to keep my fingernails trimmed. Hmm. Seems I’m willing to carve out time for those things that are truly important to me (and the folks I shake hands with).

And how about fear? Ever use fear as a viable excuse not to move forward in your writing journey? A legitimate reason to shrink in the face of a daunting dream, right? Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of disapproval for your writing and fear of condemnation of your very self because of the authenticity required to write fiction that is rich in truth. I so get that. And then I read 2 Timothy 1:7. (For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.) Oh, yeah.

Truth is, excuses breed faster than bunnies so there are plenty of them, but I think I can pin a lot of my procrastination on expectations and confusion.

EXPECTATIONS

I instinctively think about routine as a set and dedicated schedule. Images of a wide-awake writer skipping to her friendly computer at 8:30am and growing a garden of words until a 30-minute daydreaming break at 10:00am. A one-hour lunch served on the lanai follows a second planting of fertile words. At 2:30pm, after a third productive writing session, she stretches out on the daybed for a 30-minute brain-invigoration snooze. Then at 5:00pm she breaths a sweet sigh of satisfaction and flicks off her office light. Another day of free-flowing, literary brilliance behind her, she latches the door shut and rushes into the real world.

Hysterical and fantastical, is it not?

And so not where I am at in this stage of my life. Never have been, at least not for any measurable length of time . . . like a full day.

Many of us work at home with life spinning all around us. Others of us also work outside the home, and family-life rides tandem with our dream of building a career as an author. Due to health issues, my hubby retired five years ago and is a mostly-stay-at-home man. I travel regularly to speak at schools, conferences, and women’s retreats. My only grandchild in the United States lives a mere hour away. I am a caregiver for my mother and her ailing husband who live in a house beside ours. And so on. Your own list of other responsibilities is compelling and long. So how do you and I set aside blocks of time for the writing process?

Don’t give away time unnecessarily and don’t discount the all important wedges of time.

I’d been under the impression that I couldn’t write a novel with distractions. That I needed big chunks of solitude in order to complete a full-length story worth publishing.

Such expectations set us up for procrastination.

AVOID DETOURS

Time is an issue, no doubt about it. You and I are both pulled in many directions and that can take place within a five minute period. We face many opportunities to serve others, the church, the community, the world. All of them good causes. Some of them even great. So how do we choose? Warning: here comes the dreaded “P” word. Priorities. They, well, take precedence over any number of time-munchers. Remember the chocolate and the fingernails? We will make time for those activities that we consider a priority.

Can someone else write the articles, the books, the poems, the stories God has rooted in your heart?

No? Okay. Can someone else clean the church kitchen? Serve on the Valentine’s banquet committee? Teach the weekly Bible study? Dot. Dot. Dot.

I’m just asking . . . what is the best use of your time?

Next time you get a phone call, an email, or a text asking you to do this or that, stop and think. Think about your motivation for saying yes. Then think about saying no if the activity wouldn’t be the best use of your time.

WHEN DETOURS HAPPEN

I do have a “work” schedule. One I refer to as “fluid.” Just this afternoon my mom showed up on my doorstep in meltdown mode. There went a couple of hours. This weekend is our big family campout and I needed to go next door and help mom switch out her winter clothes and pack for the campout. Another hour and a half vaporized. Still, though not my first choice, that was the best use of my time. I also frequently find myself in hospital rooms and doctor’s waiting rooms. I have learned to savor all the bits and blocks of writing time I have and I’m figuring out how to draw the best out of them.

Writing on the Go

1) Know when to go somewhere else to write. A place with white noise works well for me these days. McDonalds being one of my favorite places (might as well have a fruit parfait and an iced Mocha while I’m there). When I crave a quieter atmosphere, the library is just the ticket.

2) Be ready to carry writing work with you. My motto: Have tote bag, file folder, AlphaSmart, and/or laptop—will travel. I keep my tote stocked with index cards, extra batteries for my AlphaSmart, a notepad, and a nut bar or two. Depending upon what I’m working on and what stage I’m at in the project, I might add research material I want to read or organize, character sketches I need to fill in, a hard copy proposal or chapters I want to edit, a market guide for checking out possible publishers—things I tend to when I’m . . .

Writing in a Pinch

Be prepared to fill those wedges of writing time with activities that don’t necessarily require big blocks of uninterrupted minutes or hours. Research, outlining, character interviews, proposal components, editing scenes or chapters, drafting a query letter, studying possible markets, etc. can all be done more readily in snippets of time, which leaves any blocks open for spinning the story.

Writing Settled In

By tending to some of the pre-writing and the business side of writing on the go or in the pinches of time, I’m better prepared to sit down at the keyboard and get to the writing that requires a more concentrated chunk of time or place. Also, having those smaller tasks out of the way or at least lined up for writing on the go or writing in a pinch, I’m in more of a frame of mind to jump right back into my story.

MAKING SENSE OF ROAD SIGNS

My other evergreen excuse stems from those years of taking so many courses on writing fiction, reading a plethora of how-to books on the genre and craft, and studying so many different methods for constructing and polishing a great story. They all converged in the land of checklists and do’s and don’ts to form a maze through which I could not see the end of my novel.

When I accepted that two month deadline for Two Brides Too Many, I gave myself permission to shape my own routine for writing.

Are you struggling with procrastination? There isn’t just one way to plan, write, or finish a novel. Give yourself permission to find a writing route that works for you and keep on keeping on.

QUESTION: What step will you take to move forward in your story planning, writing, marketing, promotions?

* * *

Two sisters arrive in an 1896 mining camp expecting marriage, but finding love.

Two Brides Too Many is the first in the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series. The books will chronicle the journeys of four sisters and their father to Colorado. Book One is the story of the middle two sisters, Kat and Nell Sinclair, who embark on their journey as mail-order brides. What happens when the girls arrive at the depot in Cripple Creek and find that their grooms-to-be are not there to greet them, let alone marry them?

Two Sisters

Two missing misters


MONA HODGSON is the author of Two Brides Too Many (May 2010) and Too Rich for a Bride (October 2010, available exclusively at Walmart), the first two books in the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series (WaterBrook Multnomah). Her writing credits also include 28 children’s books, Real Girls of the Bible: A Devotional, Bedtime in the Southwest, and four Princess Twins books. You can follow Mona at www.twitter.com and become a fan at www.facebook.com, Mona Hodgson Fan Page. To read the first chapter of Two Brides Too Many, go to www.monahodgson.com, click on Mona’s Novels, then on Sneak Peek.