February 26, 2015

Recharging My Writing by Marnie Pohlmann

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I am not a bunny with endless energy as seen in television commercials. I used to believe the busier I was the more organized I was, but time has shown me that more likely I was simply choosing what area of life suffered to allow another task to be completed.  I no longer have the energy I once had, or the desire to be that busy.

There are ways to ensure enough energy is still available to do what God calls me to do, like write. In considering the theme of “artist dates”, I see how I plug in to recharge for writing. Perhaps some of these will work for you, too.

Plug in to God.
In Acts 3:6 Peter said “I do not have silver or gold, but what I have I will give to you.” I cannot give out what I have not taken in, so feeding on God’s Word ensures a steady source of fuel.  God’s Word is meant to be useful in all areas of life (2 Timothy 3:16, 17), including writing.  Plugging into relationship with God provides me with direction in life, and the energy to do what he asks as I lean into him.

Plug into Others.
Read what others write.  Listen to what others write.  Talk about what others write.   Join a book club. Attend a writers’ group where there is conversation and creativity with others who love the medium of words. In our Peace Region Christian Writers group, we share what we are writing, sometimes just to hear the words play on each other and sometimes for the value of critique.  Sometimes we write a fun exercise to practice something new. Those meetings inspire and make me want to write more.

Plug into solitude.  
This is a favourite of introverts, but extroverts also need time away from “daily life” where they have uninterrupted time to focus on writing. Find a place where the surroundings inspire – a cabin in the woods, or a bench in your own garden.

Another way to plug into solitude is to be alone in a crowd.  Go to the grocery store not to buy milk, but to people-watch.  Or take one of your fictional characters along with you to stand in line at the bank, to see how they react to the wait.  Try sitting alone amidst the smells and conversations of a busy coffee shop.  Inspiration will flow in surprising ways.

Plug into Creativity.
Take time away from writing but not from creativity.  Find another method of expression.  Drawing, music, photography, wood carving, or card-making - anything creative feeds your soul and helps you see from a different perspective, which will also enhance your writing.  I am often surprised at the photos my camera captures as I look for the “macro” and the detailed “micro” of life around me.

Plug into freedom.
Give yourself permission not to write, not to create - not to be productive while still feeding your soul. The television will not do this for you. I do this by climbing onto the passenger seat of my husband’s motorcycle.  It is impossible to hold a pen and paper with the wind whipping around you, yet I use all my senses, which energizes creativity. I see the landscape differently than ever before. I hear the roar of the engine. I feel the road surface and the lean of the corners.  I smell wildflowers and skunk.  I taste the bugs… all right, maybe not the bugs - I taste the cool water from a roadside stream when we stop for a break.  I experience the freedom of not being in control.

There are many ways to plug in to recharge your writing.  Find what energizes your creativity, and indulge yourself.

Photo credits:
Rabbit – http://www.pexels.com - public domain
All others –Marnie Pohlmann

February 25, 2015

Home Inspires Me by Vickie Stam

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"Home is where your story begins." --Anne Danielson 

In a land covered with white snow I find it somewhat difficult to imagine myself planning an 'artist's date.' I don't really leave home to write. To be honest, I'm not a winter person. These days I'm much more content indoors. Finding places to recharge comes easier to me during the warmer months.

Looking out my front window at a blanket that covers the vast expanse of farmland only has me wishing I could put the shovel away, leave the hat and scarf in the closet and say goodbye to a land of ice and snow. I've had my fill of the white stuff. If I were to go someplace to stimulate my creativity, I would fly south where it's warm. I would embrace the sun and the enthusiasm it sparks in me each time it rises and falls. I would enjoy eating dinner with my husband beside the waters edge. It all sounds very enticing but for now, I'm right here..... smack dab in the middle of Canada's winter wonderland.     

It's not as if I don't get away but the majority of my winter is still spent here on the farm in Ontario. And when my husband and I do travel, I have to admit that I don't get much writing in. A week goes by rather quickly.  

At this point I'm not inspired by the great outdoors. I don't really find pleasure in temperatures that tend to dip below zero for far too long. I feel sorry for my husband every time he treks outside to fire up the tractor and blow snow out of our long laneway. I don't take part in any of the winter games that some people enjoy. I don't ski or snowboard, neither do we own a snowmobile. If there's anything about winter I like, it's that first snowfall especially the way the snow shimmers like diamonds when the sun strikes it. Magnificent to say the least but eventually its beauty wears thin with me.      

Stimulating my senses or refilling my artistic well doesn't come from looking out my back window either. Their are more naked trees than I could possibly count. Trees that look more attractive with their clothes on.   

I can hardly wait to spot that first bud in the Spring. It's only a matter of time before each tiny nugget transforms itself into lush green leaves, making them come alive. The sweet sound of birds singing, the smell that lingers in the air after a gentle rain and the summer furniture returning to its rightful place under the pergola. Everything feels new, fresh and meaningful.

 I love hearing the brushing sound the corn stalks make when they sway back and forth in the wind. I enjoy long walks on the beach or a picnic in the park.          

Having said all of that, I can't ignore the winter. It's all around me. For now, I stay indoors,  watch a movie, or curl up under a blanket with a good book. Fellowship with friends. And I'm currently enrolled in a LifeScapes writing class. I'm truly content to be in the confines of my living room, out of the cold, basking in the luxury of flicking the button on the fireplace and watching the orange flames dance behind a sheet of glass. 

Home is truly where my story begins......

Psalm 121:1-2  "I lift my eyes to the hills---where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."



February 24, 2015

He Walks With Me – by Tandy Balson

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I read somewhere that writer’s block is when your imaginary friends stop talking to you!  That may be true for those who write fiction but as a non-fiction writer that's not an excuse I can use.

The worst thing I can do when I am stuck for words is to sit alone at the keyboard and try to force the words to flow through my fingertips.   A change of scenery can be the very thing needed to inspire my creativity.

Most often that means spending time in nature.  God has surrounded me with beauty and wants me to take the time to enjoy it.  When I walk and let my mind roam free I allow him to speak to me. 

 I have just come back from a vacation where I was blessed to be able to go for long walks along the beach most mornings.  As I walked I often had the strains of the song In The Garden going through my mind. Although I was at a beach and not a garden, the words were still appropriate: “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own; And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known..”

The joy I receive as I choose to walk with him is an experience that is able to refresh and energize at the same time.

Last summer I found inspiration at a lake I frequented.  Sometimes it was a walk through the trees that lined the shore.  Other times a bench beside the lake became my quiet spot for reflection.  Watching the sun set with no buildings to impede the view would make my heart sing.  There is something about the beauty and peacefulness of nature that restores my soul.  

I had never thought of these times as artist’s dates but that is exactly what they were.  The greatest artist of all, the one who paints the sky with muted shades at sunset and the trees and flowers with a vast array of vivid colours wants to spend time with me.  When I stop my striving and bask in the beauty he has surrounded me with, I can’t help but be inspired.

February 23, 2015

One Thousand Mississippi's - Lynn J Simpson

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I open my eyes. Darkness still envelopes my room. I close them again, in the hopes that maybe this middle of night awakening is just a moment that will pass as fast as a blink. But behind my closed lids, images and words begin flashing. Images of tasks that I have yet to accomplish, or plans that I wonder if ever shall transpire into reality. And after a thousand Mississippi counts later, I finally just open my eyes and give in to the awakening in the darkness of this mid-night.

Sometimes it is at these times that I turn my bedside light on and reach into my dresser drawer where my latest spiral notebook lay. Since I was pre-teen, I have randomly kept diaries and journals. Many I no longer have, torn in pieces before emptying into a recycle bin so no one can ever know the contents of those pages. Yet, though the words are gone, the healing of writing those words is everlasting.

I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist's Way many years ago.  Cameron taught me how to just let go, and journal through the activity she calls The Morning Pages. An activity of writing three pages every morning upon first waking that is without any worrisome thoughts of form, grammar, and spelling. Just write. It was through this letting go, this purging of old wounds, doubts, and negativity that opened me up to the artist within. And then I began the next step of Cameron’s Artist journey by taking myself on weekly Artist Dates.

In those days I would scan the pages of the local entertainment magazine to find events in my area.
I went to book readings, photography exhibitions, debates in coffee shops, independent movies, and science exhibitions. I would take drives to parks I had never been and walk the trails. I would shop in tucked away boutiques in neighbourhoods I had never ventured before.  Two hours on a weekend I let myself be awake in the new and sometimes uncomfortable.

And I slept peacefully.

An Artist Date may not only stretch me to experience something new I can write about, but also possibly eliminate a mid-night count of a 1,000 Mississippi's. Maybe it is time to for the new and uncomfortable again! What would an Artist Date, the new and uncomfortable, be for you?

February 22, 2015

A Date With the Artist by Susan Barclay

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I have to admit, I was a bit stumped by this month’s theme, the “Artist’s Date.” I don’t have any regular weekly activity that intentionally feeds my writer’s soul. 

With respect to the act of writing, my practice is to work in as silent an environment as possible, usually in the mornings before other things crop up to interrupt the flow.


Here are some things that I occasionally use to stimulate ideas and creativity:
  1. Asking ‘what if…?’ in response to overheard conversations or visual scenes
  2. Reading books on the subject of writing
  3. Writing prompts, either from book or online sources
  4. Trying something new, like writing a poem. Recently, I joined a local songwriting group that works collaboratively. Very cool.
  5. Reading blog posts from different viewpoints or on topics I know little about
  6. Culling from my own and others’ life experiences
  7. Getting feedback on my work, with suggestions for new directions or ideas
  8. Getting out in nature, enjoying the beauty and quiet, letting it speak to me. For example, this is where, God willing, I will be a few months from now:
The Grand Canyon - Inspiring, don't you think?
This is a short post because there’s really nothing else to say. Also, I have an important date I must keep – a date with the great Artist Himself.  “It is through him that we are able to live, to do what we do, and to be who we are” (Acts 17:28, ERV). Through Him I am able to write and call myself a writer.