5 Ways to Be More Creative in 2018 

Happy New Year everyone!

As we begin a new year, I'm sure a lot of you are working on your new year's resolutions. Maybe you want to be more healthy. Maybe you want to read more and watch less TV. Maybe you want to surround yourself with more positive people. Many people resolve to be more creative in the new year. This could mean you want to write more, paint more, sing more, dance more. It could mean you want to learn how to sew or start cooking more. It could mean you want to sing karaoke more often or take a poetry writing class. There are a million ways to be creative, but here are five tips on how you can be more creative in 2018. 

1. Give yourself the space and tools to create. 

Maybe you'll be able to be more productive with your writing if you go to the coffee shop or the library. Maybe you work best on the kitchen table in the midst of chaos. Find out where you are the most creative, and go there. If possible, make a space in your home dedicated to your creativity--whether it's a little corner of the garage you use to paint or a desk in your bedroom you use to write on or an entire room you use to write songs and play instruments. And make sure you have the tools you need. You'll be a lot more likely to paint if you buy yourself some paints and canvases. You'll be a lot more likely to play guitar if you download some tutorial videos about how to play guitar. Find out what you need to be creative, and make it happen.

2. Surround yourself with other creative people. 

You will be a lot more likely to create if you are hanging out with other people who create. Going to the bar every weekend might be fun, but you're much more likely to be creative if you go to an open mic night or join a writing group. If your friends are also creating, you will be much more inspired to be creative yourself. Don't live in an area with a lot of people? There are many online groups you can join to discuss writing, music, theatre, film, etc. You just have to look for them.

3. Experience art that inspires you.  

Don't you just want to paint more when you go to an art gallery or museum? Aren't you inspired to sing when you go to a concert? Aren't you inspired to write poetry when you read a great book of poems? Make time to experience art. Maybe that's watching a film on Netflix. Maybe that's going to a staged reading of a new play. Maybe that's just listening to one of your favorite albums. You know what inspires you the most.

4. Don't listen to anyone who isn't supportive. 

If you're trying to improve your craft, of course listen to your teachers and people giving you feedback. But don't listen to haters. Don't listen to people who tell you you can't sing. If you love to sing, do it! Who cares what anyone else thinks? Don't listen to people who say coloring books aren't real art if you enjoy coloring and it makes you feel creative. This is easier to do if you surround yourself with other creative people and/or people who are going to be supportive.

5. Make time to be creative and do it!

You have to make being creative a priority in your life. The only way you're going to add more creativity to your life is just to do it! And I promise that you won't regret it. 

 

So let's all get out there, make some art, and have a very creative 2018!

HURRY UP, WE'RE DREAMING Cover Reveal! 

Hey everyone!

So here is my cover for Book Two in THE MUSE CHRONICLES - HURRY UP, WE'RE DREAMING. This is the sequel to WE OWN THE SKY. Isn't it beautiful?

The cover was designed by Caroline Teagle Johnson who also designed the cover for WE OWN THE SKY. 

I don't want to spoil WE OWN THE SKY for those of you who haven't read it yet but I will tell you that I am super proud of HURRY UP, WE'RE DREAMING. 

The e-book will be released on 11.30.17!

The paperback and signed paperback will be available shortly after. I will keep you posted. (Both of these are available for pre-order as well as the two-book bundle. For more information, see the books page.)

The WE OWN THE SKY e-book is also on sale right now for $0.99! So get a copy so you can read up before book two comes out!

Check out the cover reveal video I posted on my YouTube channel this morning.

https://youtu.be/jUFpYJ71b6w

So what do you think?

Letting Your Novel Rest 

So you've finally finished your draft of your novel, play, screenplay, etc. Congrats! Maybe you've even gotten some feedback from a critique partner, professor, or editor. As soon as you get feedback, the wheels in your brain will most likely start turning with solutions to the problems your critique partner or editor pointed out. I know you want to open that file up on your computer and start working on it, but resist the urge!

You have to take some time and let a project rest. 

This could be a year, a month, a week, a few days even. However long it takes for you to let the feedback stew and generally forget about the project. You can start on another novel if you want. You can work on some poetry or write some songs or be artistic in creative in another way. But your novel will greatly benefit from you putting it up and not thinking about it for a while.

When you return to the novel, you will do so with fresh eyes, a new perspective. I guarantee you this is something your novel definitely needs.

Now I know those of you racing to make your 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo don't want to think about resting. You have momentum. You're going! You're doing it! And that's completely fine. But when December 1st comes, you've finished that novel, and you so desperately want to go to Amazon and hit publish or start querying literary agents, instead, take a moment to breathe. 

The point is there are different seasons with projects. There is a time to be drafting--when your creativity is limitless, when it's just about getting words on the page so you have something to work with. There is a time to be revising--this can be either on a big picture level (plot, characters, big chunks of the story) or a smaller scale (language, sentence structure, word choice, voice). And in between these two, there is a time to rest. This doesn't mean you can't draft another novel while resting with the novel you just finished, although even that doesn't work for some people. But it does mean that you should allow enough time for each season. 

Boil down your novel to one question 

It's that time of year again! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is upon us! I am not participating this year as my main priority right now is revision and I'm not in a place to really work on something new, but good luck to everyone who is!

I was thinking about the years I did participate in NaNoWriMo. I always approached it as a "plantser"--a hybrid between a plotter and a pantser. I had some vague idea of the plot at the beginning--or sometimes I might even have a reasonably detailed outline--but it almost always changed as I was writing it.

One of the most challenging things about NaNoWriMo for me is figuring out plot. If you're anything like me, your plots can get a little complicated. Sometimes when you're in the middle of writing, you can get so bogged down that you don't even really know what the story is about anymore. If your a pantser, you figure it out after you write your first draft (or while you're writing it). If you're a plotter, you figure it out before. But at some point, you're going to need some plot structure. 

There are tons of ways to think about structure. The three-act structure, the hero's journey, etc. Today I'm going to give you a really simple way to think about plot structure. If you could boil down your novel to one question, what would it be?

Every narrative arc in a novel, movie, TV show, etc. can be summed up in one main question. Will Dorothy make it back home to Kansas? (The Wizard of Oz). Will Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy end up together? (Pride and Prejudice). If you have a series of books, there may be one question driving the whole series (Will Harry defeat Voldemort?) But each book needs to ask it's own question.

I think this is a good way to think about plot when you're in the middle of drafting because it doesn't mean stopping to make a detailed outline. It just means taking a few minutes before you sit down to write to think about what is driving the plot of your book.

So this week, I encourage all of you--especially those of you who are in the middle of your NaNoWriMo projects--to take some time and see if you can boil the plot of your novel down to one question. If not, you may need to think about the plot structure and figure out which question should be driving the plot. Is it a question of characterization? Will your character learn or grow? Is it a question related to some journey or quest? Will your character achieve his or her goal? These are all some good things to think about as you power through. 

 

Write About the Things You're Obsessed With 

I was talking to a friend the other day about one of the most important pieces of creative writing advice I’ve ever heard: 

Follow your obsessions. 

I’m definitely a person who gets obsessed with things. If you’ve ever binged Game of Thrones for hours at a time or stayed up until 3:00 AM reading Harry Potter or had dreams about the characters on Lost, you know what I’m talking about. 

There’s a lot of talk about fan fiction and whether or not it has any validity. I think fan fiction is great because it gives people a chance to follow their obsessions. If you loved a book, movie, or TV show but hated the ending, you can write your own alternative ending. If you're obsessed with a character, you can put them in a different universe just to write more about them. (Want to see Jack Skellington in modern day New York? Want to make Mr. Darcy go to college in Alabama?Want to see what would happen if Dracula started going to your gym? Write some fan fiction!) Often, fan fiction authors go on to write other original stories (50 Shades of Grey anyone? The Mortal Instruments series? Both of these came from fan fiction authors.) 

Find what it is you are obsessed with and allow yourself to daydream. Allow yourself to fantasize. Start writing stories just for yourself. Because you’ve always loved your history teacher and sometimes you imagine what he was like as a teenager. Because you are obsessed with Dark Side of the Moon and you want to write a story that makes you feel what you feel when you listen to it. Whatever it is, figure it out, and go with it. 

Do not judge or psychoanalyze your obsessions. Who knows why we are into the things we are into? In the world of creativity, there are no limits. Let yourself like what you like and give yourself the chance to write about it. 

Do not worry about what other people will think. Let yourself write and tell yourself it’s just for you. If something really great comes out of it, then awesome! You can show people if you want to. But following your obsessions is just about finding what makes you excited, what makes you tick, what makes you want to create. 

When I wrote the play, Painted, in undergrad, I became so obsessed with the Muse characters, Vincent and Izabella, that I found myself wanting to spend more time with them. I toyed around with other projects that I thought might be more “accessible” for a while but it wasn’t until I returned to Vincent and Izabella that I was able to complete a novel. Because I was obsessed. I couldn’t stop writing. I couldn’t let those characters and that story die inside of me. Ten years later, Vincent and Izabella still live in We Own the Sky.

Find your obsessions and then just let yourself go. Let yourself dream. Let yourself fall down the rabbit hole. You might just find that it will lead you to the story you’ve always wanted to write.

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