Wednesday, June 11, 2008

BUILDING MUSCLES by Linda Ford

We all know (I assume) that exercise and developing muscles is good for us.

Muscle building improves posture, gives us strong bones and--the best bonus of all-muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. (Looks better too.) I've tried all sorts of ways of creating muscles from holding soup cans as I do aerobics to going to the local gym. For years now, I've gone to Curves. It's easy, quick and relatively painless. It's become a habit, which means I have it mentally programmed into my life. And that's a good thing.

Which brings me to creativity. We hear lots about the two sides of the brain-the logical left side, the creative right side. People often tell me they are strongly left-sided and hence could never write a book.

Well, let me tell you about being left brained. In my previous life, I was super-organized, multi-tasking mother of 14. I was so left brained you could hear the sound of a computer running when I was working.

So being able to compose and write stories surprises me as much as anyone.

How does that happen? And what does it have to do with exercise? Well, I can say from experience that creativity is a muscle that can be developed. It can go from flabby to strong with exercise. I know there are those who are going to argue but I insist it's true. I'm pretty sure you have a creativity muscle though you might not use it
for creating stories but perhaps you knit, paint handmade cards, set a charming table, invent recipes or create stunning school lessons for children. And I'm guessing that the more you do it, the better you become. So go ahead, build your creativity muscle using whatever avenue you choose. Have fun doing it.

Here are some 'exercises' for developing that muscle.

1. Write vignettes-little word pictures of something about you, perhaps the weather, or the people in the next booth at the coffee shop. Look for fresh detail. Or create a scenario.

2. Listen to conversations and record the difference in syntax and rhythm. Try writing a short scene using 2 or 3 or more different 'voices'.

3. Describe a scene as if you had observed it blind or deaf.

4. Write down a short scene of something you did recently. Now write it again from another point of view, say from a child observing you.

5. Collect clich├ęs and practice rewriting them in a fresh way.

6. Practice writing in different settings-outdoors at a park, at a coffee shop, in the library, in a crowded store.

7. Randomly pick a word and write about it. Don't try and control what you write. Let it flow. I'm convinced we know more about things than we know we know. Surprise yourself.

8. Collect words that you hear or read that catch your attention. Practice using them in a sentence. Push a little and create a scene using the new word. Or using an old word in a new way.

9. Practice describing sensory details in fresh ways-the smell of coffee,for instance. And then go deeper. Get in touch with how the smell makes you feel. This takes practice but practice leads to improvement. Listen deeply to what is inside you. Is it fear, anticipation, nostalgia? How does it feel physically? Write that down.

10. Learn to use creative techniques such as mind mapping. Draw a circle in the middle of your page. Put in a word-one you want to examine or pick one randomly. Now create a spider-web of ideas and thoughts flowing from that word. For instance, write down writing. Now start adding ideas and thoughts that come to mind. Don't stop to
analyze. Perhaps you'll come up with story,grammar, conferences, reading. Now take each of those and continue spider-webbing out. From story, you might have threads such as craft, magic,characters, plot, and crisis. You might want to connect the story circle to grammar and conference. Keep it going. When you think you've reached the end, go one step further. And then one more. by the time you finish, you should have the basic premise and outline for a newsletter article.

Most of all, use your creative muscles and see them grow.

The Journey Home
August 2008
Love Inspired Historical

What unseen hand guided Kody Douglas’s horse to that bleak, windswept South Dakota farmhouse? The "half-breed" cowboy—a man of two worlds, at home in neither—would never know. But when he finds a lovely, vulnerable young woman there, abandoned in the darkest hours of the Depression, he cannot simply ride away and leave her.

Charlotte Porter reluctantly follows this hard, embittered yet compelling man to his family’s homestead. But the more she learns about him, and the secret child who haunts his memories, the more she aches to comfort him and make him her own. Can two outcasts—brought together by hard times and shared faith—truly find love in so cold and heartless a world?

The Road to Love
May 2008
Love Inspired Historical
The road that led to Kate Bradshaw’s door sometimes seemed the loneliest in the world. In the depths of the Depression, the young widow was struggling to hold on to the family farm and raise two small children. And she had only her faith to sustain her—until the day Hatcher Jones came walking up that long, lonely road.

The handsome, mysterious drifter was clearly haunted by some terrible secret from his past. But the simple acts of kindness he showed Kate and her children spoke of a good heart and strong values. And she longed to make him see that there could be redemption for anyone, even him—and that all his wandering had brought him home at last.


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12 comments:

  1. Linda! Mother of 14? How come I forgot that tidbit about you??? Really now, some people.

    Anyway...what wonderful suggestions for building that creative muscle. I love, love, love the analogy of exercise. That really resonated with me.

    THANKS!
    ~Renee~

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  2. One more thing...

    Your books sound amazing. I have THE ROAD TO LOVE on my TBR pile. I can't wait to get to it!!!

    ~Renee~

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  3. Hi Linda, Creativity fascinates me. I never gave it much thought until I heard Julia Cameron ("The Artist's Way") speak at RWA in Denver. At the time, I was stuck on my option book for HH . . . and mildly terrified! It turns out I hadn't been feeding my muse. To use your model, I hadn't been exercising it properly. I did some writing similiar to your exercises and the story shook loose. For a while, though, the working title was "The Broccoli Bride." That's a story for another day :)

    I'm a left-brainer, too. That first draft (where I'm at now on my next LIH) is really hard for me. I want to edit as I go, but I can't do that *and* find the story. I've got to let 'er rip with the right side of my brain, then go back and let the editor in me clean it up. That's my favorite part . . . organizing all those delicious words into something that makes sense.

    An last, I loved "The Road to Love," especially what you did with the hero. The heroine, too. They lived and breathed for me.

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  4. Hi Linda,

    What a fabulous blog. So many great ideas!! I love the one about examining cliches and writing them in a brand new way. I always try to avoid the standard cliches, but I've been noticing I have my own cliches in my writing--things I've made up and somewhere along thought they were as creative as I could be so I use them too often. ;-) I'm going to look for those and try to come with something new. Something I like even better.

    Love the "spider web", too. Great stuff.

    Renee, I thought the same thing. 14 kids! Wow!!!

    And Victoria, thank you for saying what you just did about letting her rip. I've been working on the same stupid paragraph for 2 days! 2 days! I'm going to force myself to forward and just write. At this rate I'll be 80 before I finish this book if I don't. :-(

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  5. An absolutely awesome post. I'm printing it and taping it on my wall so that when I'm up against it, I'll have something there to tug me away.

    14 children???? Yikes!!

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  6. Renee,
    14 kids? Yikes. Oh that was me. LOL. In another lifetime. (What was I thinking???)
    Vicky, I have learned to do a fast first draft--sort of mental vomit--just to get the story out. And MUCH thanks for your comments on The Road to Love.

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  7. Carla and Anne-Marie, I'm glad you enjoyed some of my hints. Nothing ever works all the time but I always hope at least one thing works for me.

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  8. Love the blog. I have been writing stories for my family to find some day and can see myself using your plans. ( None of you have anything to worry about....these are only for my own amazement.)

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  9. WONDERFUL ideas! THANKS for the inspiration: I usually think of myself as a proofreader, (phenomenal speller,) editor, but these may be the springboard I need to get started on my own writing!

    And your storylines sound great- will look for them. Attractive covers that invite me to pick them up and read!

    Hey, Cheryl, really glad I could sign on again!

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  10. Linda, excellent post. I just finished The Road To Love. I loved it! Looking forward to your August book.

    Victoria, I'm like you. I'm working on book three for LIH and I'm determined this time to shut off my inner editor.

    Janet

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  11. What terrific exercises and lovely books!

    Someday you have to tell us about the 14 kids!

    Jane

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  12. Janet,
    Thanks for liking my book. LOL. Someday perhaps I'll share about having 14 children and surviving. Guess it prepared me for the long road to publication.

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