Friday Fun – Beating Writer’s Block

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: We recently asked you what questions you’d like answered in our Friday Fun post. Today, we’re answering the following reader question:


JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: Hi, Laurel. Writer’s Block is something each of us battles at one time or another. I have days when I believe it’s a real thing and days where I know it’s all in my head. Either way, I’ve dealt with it enough over the years that I wrote a four-part series on the topic:

I will also offer up this post on the challenge of starting. I hope you find these posts helpful in understanding and overcoming your writer’s block. Good luck!

LL HeadshotLee Laughlin: Sit down in a place where you are comfortable and with the beverage of your choice, and your favorite writing implement and word collection device (pen & paper, lap top, crayon and paper napkin, whatever floats your boat).

Set a timer for 5 minutes. Ready. Set. Write. Even if it is 5 minutes of “This sucks, I have no idea what to say. Where are my words?” Write. Don’t judge. Write. When the timer goes off, you’re done. Unless of course you’re not, then by all means keep writing.  Slowly increase the time on the timer. Writing is like exercise, to be successful, you need to be consistent. Write when you don’t feel like it. Write when you think it is going to suck. Just write.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: All of the above! But to add a little bit to the conversation, my favorite acronym for this particular ailment is: BICHOK. Butt-in-chair-hands-on-keyboard.

Open that blank document and just start typing. Or open that notepad and just start writing. As Lee mentioned, you may not have any idea what to say — type/write that! “I have no idea what to write about, my brain is mush, words just aren’t coming to me.” Write ANYTHING. It may come out as all gibberish. It doesn’t matter – you’re clearing the decks and the words WILL come if you persist at it. The 5-minute timer is a great way to get started.

And so what if what you have after 5 minutes looks like an alien language? You can pat yourself on the back for getting THOSE words out of your head to make room for the real words (your story words) that *are* moving to the front of the line and that *will* hit the page if you keep striving to reach them.


Friday Fun – SO … Where D’You Get Your Story Ideas?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: We recently asked you what questions you’d like answered in our Friday Fun post. Today, we’re answering the following reader question:


JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: Ahhh … the always-asked question about where story ideas come from. This is a query with no right answer. The genesis of each story is unique and sometimes completely inexplicable.

I can, however, point you to two of my past blog posts: 4 Steps to Capture the Muse – Documenting Ideas and Your Writer’s Mind.

I’ll also offer up this video featuring the inimitable Neil Gaiman providing one of the most informative and entertaining responses I’ve ever heard to this question:

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: I think it’s more a question of how do you get the ideas to STOP flowing in? I could spend so much time every day writing down ideas for stories, articles, blog posts, etc., that it’s more of a challenge to know which ideas to grab and make note of than worry about where to look for ideas.

When struggling to find inspiration to write, take a minute to pause and think about what it is you’re truly finding a challenge. Is it really that you have NO inspiration to write? NO idea what to write about? NO motivation to create?

I find the best way to find inspiration is to show up and start writing – without thinking. Just start writing. Words my be gobbly-gook and make no sense. Maybe it’s simply writing “What do I write about What do I write about What do I write about” over and over until suddenly you find yourself writing about something.

Give it a shot. You have nothing to lose.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13

Lee Laughlin: I’m with Lisa, for me it’s about filtering the ideas that are floating through my head. I try to keep a running list of things that have caught my attention and stay with me for more than 30 seconds. If I overhear a snippet of conversation and it’s still with me 2 days later I write it down.  I saw the movie Spotlight on Monday night and I’m still reflecting on the movie and the broader story. Who knows where that will lead. =

I also play the “What if?” game. What if Peyton Manning and Tom Brady had to share a jail cell when they are in their 70’s? What do they talk about? Do they talk? Why are they in a jail cell in the first place?

Sometimes an issue is important to me (i.e. the maiming and killing of people with albinism in Tanzania) and I rage at the computer until I get my ideas out and then see what can be done to turn it into a salable piece.

My fictional WIP features a heroine with multiple chemical sensitivities. This came out of issues my husband and daughter have with VOCs (volatile organic compounds). There are gems to mined in every aspect of your life, just pick up the pen or sit at the keyboard and start typing. In my experience people who have trouble coming up with topics to write about are letting their self-editor get the upper hand. Lock him or her in a box somewhere and just start brain dumping.

For more inspiration, I highly recommend Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: I’m interested in ordinary, daily life, so I find ideas everywhere; for me the trick is to capture them, which is why I carry pen and paper with me at all times.

Like Lee, I ask, “What if?” Case in point: I was stuck in construction traffic near my house when the state highway was relocated. While waiting for my turn to bumpety-bump over the dirt lane, I wondered what Vermont was like before the interstates were built and what happened during construction. I did a lot of research, including interviews. The result: my novel, Elegy for a Girl.

Ideas for radio commentaries and my weekly blog come at me thick and fast, alongside the rush of daily life. And ideas, scenes, characters, voices all bubble up on my daily walk.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I don’t have much to add to the answer listed by my colleagues above, except to say that if I don’t write ideas down, I end up thinking I didn’t have any ideas that day. If I make a point to write my ideas down, (or record them as voice memos in my phone,) I’m always surprised by how many ideas I have.

For my life coaching blog, I write about things that come up in my daily life or in the lives of my clients. For other writing, I often write about things that happened years ago that have stayed with me. Recently, a writer friend asked me why this incident I was trying to write about was so important to me. I realized it was much more than one incident and I suddenly could see a thread running through a number of situations that happened to me and others in my life–they were all connected in my mind.



Weekend Edition – Idea Math for Writers Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

Writer = Idea Machine

From "a little market" via Pinterest

From “a little market” via Pinterest

If someone asked you to name your stock in trade as a writer, what would you say?

Your knee-jerk response might be “words.” Words are the building blocks of our stories. They are like the painter’s pigments or the sculptor’s clay.

But, are they really your stock in trade? No.

As a writer, your stock in trade is your ideas.

Without ideas, there are no words. Ideas are where the process starts. They are the seeds that blossom into word-laden forests. My dad has always told me that the ideas -not perfect execution – are the thing. Anyone can learn to do a thing well, whether that thing is painting a picture, taking a photograph, or writing a story. These are technical skills you can practice and hone until you achieve a high level of mastery. But, without a good idea to drive your technical excellence, all you have is an empty exercise in rote execution. What you create will have no purpose, no meaning, no soul.

And, that’s no good.

··• )o( •··

So, ideas. Where do they come from?

The Muse, you say? Really? I like to think the Muses are kind of like Sharon Stone’s character in Albert Brooks’ film, The Muse. (If you haven’t seen this, please watch it. It is fabulous from any angle, but from the writer’s perspective it’s especially funny.) Stone plays Sarah Little, a modern day Muse whose tactics are more than a tad unconventional. She is petulant, feisty, demanding, and – more to the point – she never actually gives anyone ideas. She doesn’t consider that to be part of her job.

So, if not the Muses, where do ideas come from?

They come from you, silly.

And, like any other skill, idea generation is something you can practice. It’s not magic or a creative gift or the whispers of those pesky Muses. Idea generation is about treating your brain like the muscle it is and working it out to improve flexibility, stamina, and strength.

··• )o( •··

Though he is sometimes a little over the top for some people, I kind of adore James Altucher. He’s more of a business/finance/entrepreneurship blogger, but many of his ideas apply beautifully to writing. One of my favorite posts of his is The Magic of Idea Math, in which he outlines seven different ways to generate ideas:

  • IDEA ADDITION: Take a big, popular idea and add something to it.
  • IDEA SUBTRACTION: Think you’re stuck in a situation with no options? Consider your situation without the roadblocks. Just take all the “can’ts” out of the equation, and see where you go.
  • IDEA EXPONENTIALS & SUBSETS: Start with ten ideas and then add ten ideas for each of your original ten, and so on. (This, as Altucher points out, is a good recipe for writing a book.)
  • NEGATIVE IDEAS: Look at opposites and opposing forces to get a completely different perspective that opens your mind to new possibilities.
  • IDEA MULTIPLICATION: Take a good idea and figure out how to scale it through replication.
  • IDEA DIVISION: Take a good idea and divide it again and again in order to break it down into its component, “niche” parts. I picture cell division that breaks one big cell down into dozens of smaller, more specialized cells.
  • IDEA SEX: This is similar to idea addition, but more integrated. Altucher uses the example of “sampling” in the music industry. The popular term “mash-up” also applies here.

Go ahead and play around with these ideas in the context of your writing or your writing career. This is all about “thinking outside the box,” as the tired cliché says.  It’s about training your brain to think about problems (and possibilities!) in different ways.

··• )o( •··

I use the word “training” intentionally. As I mentioned earlier, you need to treat your brain like a muscle. You need to exercise and stretch it constantly. It’s the old “use it, or lose it” idea.

My daughter and I recently discovered, courtesy of another mom, a great show from the National Geographic channel called Brain Games. The series is a fascinating exploration of how our brains work. Much of what we’ve learned by watching so far has surprised the hell out of me.

One thing that didn’t surprise me, however, is the fact that our brains are amazingly adaptive machines that learn at an incredibly fast rate, but will atrophy if not properly exercised. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that brain training falls into two categories: strength and flexibility.

Strength exercises help you hone your memory, analysis, observation, and problem solving skills. I subscribe to a great brain-training tool called Lumosity to help me with these kinds of exercises. Using my desktop computer or their handy mobile app, I play fun games that are scientifically designed by neuroscientists to help me improve these basic mental skills. It’s easy, fun, and kind of addictive.

Flexibility exercises are the ones that help you improve how creatively you think. This is where the “outside the box” stuff comes in. One of the best ways to increase your thinking agility is to “think like a kid” by removing any assumptions you have about how a certain problem “should” or can be solved. A Brain Games episode we watched recently demonstrates the power of thinking like a kid by asking adults and kids to describe what they see in an abstract drawing. Adults can usually only come up with one or maybe two ideas, while kids can go on and on (and on!) as their imaginations rev up.

··• )o( •··

That’s kind of what ideas are all about, right? Imagination. And isn’t imagination the domain of a writer?

We writers ply our story trade by repeatedly asking the all-important question, “What if?” This deceivingly simple question is the key to opening a world of possibilities. Though the process may start slowly with a grinding of the wheels in your brain, once you get going all kinds of ideas jump out at you.

“Possibilities” – you may notice I’ve used that word a number of times in this post. That’s because ideas are about possibilities. Ideas aren’t intrinsically right or wrong, they are just potentialities to be explored and tested.

And they aren’t just for stories, either. There are countless possibilities to explore in your real life, too. We often get stuck thinking about our world and our lives from only one perspective and based on one set of assumptions. But, what if we looked at our situation with the eyes of a child?  What if we used Altucher’s negative ideas mind math to remove the obstacles that we assume are keeping us from achieving our goals? What if we let our imaginations uncover new solutions to our problems?

··• )o( •··

Your stock in trade as a writer is your ideas. They are what set you apart from everyone else. They are what capture a reader’s attention, whether you are writing fiction, nonfiction, or marketing copy. As much as you practice the craft of writing – style, voice, syntax, and all that good stuff – you must also practice the craft of idea generation. Give your brain the opportunity to stretch and play. Make coming up with new ideas part of your daily writing routine. Drop your assumptions and inhibitions and see how bizarre and silly you can get. You never know what bit of brilliance will emerge from the chaos.


What I’m {Thinking About} Writing:

Wall art by spellandtell via Etsy

Wall art by spellandtell via Etsy

As I mentioned above, considering “what if?” possibilities isn’t an exercise that’s only good for writing stories. It can be a powerful and transformative tool for shaping your life and your writing career.

I have been working as a freelance marketing writer for almost the last decade because I asked myself, “What if I gave the copywriting thing a whirl?” I’m so grateful that the answer to that question turned out to be the successful business I’ve got now. But, even while I deeply appreciate each and every client and project that enables me to keep a roof over our heads and Boboli pizzas on the table, I can’t quite seem to stop asking, “What if?”

  • What if I tried my hand at nonfiction … maybe writing a book about writing?
  • What if I did a self-publishing experiment around a serialized story?
  • What if I offered custom stories about people’s pets?
  • What if I …

You get the idea. Sometimes we get too tied up in thinking about “writing” in only one way. We think that being a writer means being a novelist or a journalist or a screenwriter. We stop seeing other opportunities, we forget that there are all kinds of species of writers and all kinds of different ways that stories and information permeate our world and our lives. If we stop assuming that, as a “writer,” we can only exist within the confines of a very specific identity, all kinds of new possibilities open up to us.

It’s something worth thinking about.


What I’m {Remembering About} Reading:

Jessie Willcox Smith - Mother and Children Reading

Jessie Willcox Smith – Mother and Children Reading

Last week’s Friday Fun was all about early influences on our writing. My response took me on a walk down memory lane where I recalled the books I’d read as a child. It was interesting to look back on my long list of favorite children’s and young adult reads and see some patterns in the kinds of stories, characters, and themes that I’d been drawn to. It’s also interesting to see how my preferences have evolved over the years.

But, one influence I thought of after the Friday post was published was how my mom read aloud to my sister and I right through our teen years. Though the specific stories she shared with us did influence me, what was more important was simply being exposed to and enveloped in my mother’s love of books and reading. Experiencing that passion first hand made a lasting impression that has sustained my own reading and writing ever since.

Now that I’m someone’s mom, I have spent countless treasured hours reading aloud to her, starting with picture books and graduating over the years to easy readers and novels. Now that she’s almost too old for bedtime stories (at least, she thinks so), I’ve introduced her to the wonderful world of audio books. She has spent dozens of hours this summer, listening to fantasy novels while coloring or doing some other creative activity. I just love knowing that her head is filling up with stories and adventure.


A Personal Announcement:

By SusanBlackArt on Etsy

By SusanBlackArt on Etsy

So, in case you missed my post about the influence of “place” on writing, my daughter and I have been dealing with some upheaval in our housing situation.  I am excited to share with you today that as of this past Monday I am, once again, a homeowner. After nearly three years of house hunting, the demolition-driven crisis we were in turned out to be  just the thing to push me out of the nest, or … er … into the nest?

Either way, we found a charming cottage-style cape that is in the same neighborhood we’ve come to love over this past eighteen months. My daughter is over-the-moon thrilled, and – even though there’s some work to be done and money to be spent – I’m pretty much right there with her.

So, if my posts over the next month or so start to wander off into home-related tangents, you’ll know why. I promise to stay as focused as possible on writing-related topics, but I’m sure that some domestic themes might sneak in there. At the very least, I’m sure our mini renovation adventures will yield some worthwhile anecdotes.



And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest

Here’s to lots and lots of new ideas, having fun playing with possibilities, and finding (and making) your own, sweet home. 
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Friday Fun – Where do you get your story ideas?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: We recently invited you to submit your questions about writing, and Bethie asked about where we get ideas for our writing. 

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: Everywhere. That’s probably not very helpful. But, it’s true. I love asking “Why?” and “What if?” I like to daydream. I guess you could say that I’m incurably curious, and my curiosity creates an endless stream of ideas for essays and stories. I mean, from where I’m sitting at my desk, I quickly looked up and the first thing I saw was a Hawaiian scarf with a batik-style fish print on it. Looking at that, the following thoughts ran through my head:

  • I wonder what goes into making one of those. Is it even made in Hawaii, or just labeled there? What are the industrial and financial stories behind that simple scarf?
  • I wonder who sold it – maybe the owner of a family-run shop struggling to survive against the competition of the big-label stores in the newer, fancier malls. What kind of conflict is there between the different store owners or family members?
  • Is that a traditional Hawaiian motif? What kinds of Hawaiian myths might have inspired that design? What if Hawaiian gods met the old Greek or Norse gods? How would they get along?
  • The fish are grouped in schools of five. Why would there be only five fish per school?
    • What if that was an actual natural phenomenon – how would the fish determine which of them went into which school, and what would happen to the odd fish out? Would there be in-fighting, manipulation, or even fish murder for spots in a school?
    • How might this thing play out with humans – like cliques in school? What if in the future people were only allowed to interact in groups of five – how would that affect relationships, privacy, emotions?

You get the idea. Be curious. Ask questions. Let your mind free associate. Don’t judge your ideas. (The above list proves I’m clearly following an “anything goes” approach.) Just have fun.

And, here are a couple other posts that you might find helpful:

Your Writer's Mind

Your Writer’s Mind

or maybe …

4 Steps to Capture the Muse

4 Steps to Capture the Muse







Deborah Lee LuskinDeborah Lee Luskin: While I was waiting my turn to drive through a construction site where the state was rerouting a highway, I wondered what Vermont was like before the Interstate, how it was built, and how the state changed as a result. And so began the research that turned into Elegy for a Girl, Into the Wilderness, and the untitled novel I’m working on now. Ideas for my VPR commentaries, editorials, and blog posts arise in similarly mundane and mysterious ways: I see something, I hear something, I read something – often something quirky or ordinary – and it sparks thoughts that make their way onto the page. It’s a good job.

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: Some of my story ideas seem to come out of the blue. I’ll be driving and a thought will become a sentence which then becomes the idea for a story. Because I write a lot of non-fiction, many of my ideas also come from asking questions. If I want to know an answer, chances are someone else will want to know it as well. The toddler’s “what if” and “why” questions that are constantly asked (to the point of exhaustion) never seemed to have left me. Lastly, my ideas can come from a quiet place of observation. I’ll sit and look at what is around me. I’ve seen this with my blog, where I’ve been writing about my flock of children and chickens for the last 6 years. You’d think I’d have run out of things to say at this point – nope, there are days when I feel like I’m just getting started.

Susan Nye: I bump into ideas everywhere. In the news. In random conversations with friends, family and strangers. In the supermarket and farmers’ market. (I do a lot of food writing so ingredients inspire me.) In books, magazines and in the nooks and crannies of my wandering mind. I walk almost every day and find it really helps. No music, no phone and no distractions, I let my mind ramble and amble in search of inspiration.

Coming up with something new week after week for my newspaper column/blog is probably the biggest challenge. Next week makes 448 stories and recipes plus another couple hundred menus and party ideas. When in doubt I check the calendar. Holidays are always good for a post. Who doesn’t have something to say about Mom on Mother’s Day, family cookouts on the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving dinners? That said, after nine years it can be tough to find a new approach to Memorial Day.

Creating images for blogs and other social media sites

033015_imageOver the weekend I learned a new skill: creating a header image for an organization’s website.

I was intimidated, nervous, and wondered if there was enough time left in that day to actually accomplish the task at hand. has been mentioned as a resource on this blog in the past few months. Deborah’s post lists several resources for culling free images, and Julie’s post mentions canva in passing as something she uses quite a bit.

As I was in need of the image for the mystery writer’s group I belong to with Julie, she’d mentioned to me a few times and said it was easy to use.

I couldn’t put the task off any longer, so I clicked on over to and found I could log in with a Google account. I liked not having to create an account. Ahh!

And then I was ready to go.

First up is to select the type of image to create – one for a Facebook post, Facebook cover, presentation, poster, and so on. I needed one to use as a website header, so chose Use custom dimensions, entered the dimensions and entered a new screen.

I was ready to create my header image. There is a keyword search box to get you started, and also a super short but informational tutorial to get the not-yet-designer up to speed.

I played around with layouts, different text, and backgrounds. It really was easy to move back and forth and play with colors, styles, and images.

I personally like playing with different text layouts and fonts – those are word-related. Visuals are challenging, but this site gives me hope that I can create images when I need them.

Once done creating an image there are options to download, share through social media, and save.

The image included above isn’t going to win any awards, but I created it in less than 3 minutes. It’s two images in one — and I needed some color today. Winter may be over, but spring colors have yet to start appearing outside my window yet! Browns and dirty white isn’t all that appealing.

This is the first image I created:

Heroes, Villians, and Sidekicks

*Not all images are free on the site, but if there’s a fee ($1), it’s noted on the image.

I’m not endorsing this site, simply sharing my experience. It was worthwhile to me to use, and I plan to continue using it (I bet I can create something without green in it, too!) — as it keeps the process of designing images simple and gives me what I need.

What do you use to create visuals for you social media accounts?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

A Writer’s Perspective – One Event, Many Stories

Hello, writer friends!

moving donation

One angle – uncluttering and making donations

I am posting this from amidst my partially unpacked life in our new (and lovely) riverside rental. Though we had begun the move in earnest a week-and-a-half ago, the Big Move Day was this past Saturday. In the rain. With much help from my beau and my parents, my daughter and I are now officially in our new place and, along with our cats, starting to really settle in. This weekend, the books will be shelved and the art will be hung. Then it will be home.

Because my world is still in chaos and I’m a bit behind on client deadlines, today’s post will be a short one, but one that I hope will be useful.

For a few days leading up to and during the move, I was so short on time that I had to put aside my Morning Pages ritual. When I returned to my notebook Monday morning, I wrote a list of all the stories that were rattling around in my head as a result of having lived through the move. Even under the physical and emotional stress that comes with a move, my writer’s mind was whirling away at full tilt – stashing ideas, making connections, parsing the experience into a collection of individual angles.

Here’s a copy of the list I made:

  • Finding lost treasures in the process of packing – my Anna doll & Meghan [my daughter] playing with her
  • Being overwhelmed by how much stuff I have & feeling a strong urge to pursue minimalism
  • Giving stuff away – donations, gifts, recycling
  • Realizing that nothing matters except the ones we love (the moment we thought Cinder [our younger cat] had escaped)
  • Cinder and Bella’s [our cats’] perspective – their adjustment, my hypothesis that Bella may have been abandoned after a move
  • Aging – feeling my age because of the physical exertion of  hauling boxes and furniture up two and three flights of stairs
  • Parents are always parents – Mom looking after me when we thought Cinder had escaped, packing & unpacking my kitchen, Dad there to ask the hard questions and help keep things moving
  • Neighbors – old ones helping look for Cinder and missing us, new ones welcoming us, creating community wherever you are
  • The beauty of our natural view – inspiring the way the light changes the river in so many ways
  • Making a home a home – the little touches and treasures
  • The kitchen dance – adjusting to a new layout and organization, muscle memory of the old set-up, creating a new rhythm
  • Meghan’s [my daughter’s] experience and growing responsibilities – how hard she worked on the move, walking to dance, etc.
  • Learning my weaknesses re: controlling a situation, needing things “just so,” and being afraid of change/the unknown
  • Learning my own strength under fire – getting things done, physical endurance, taking charge
  • A house isn’t a home until the books are unpacked
  • Inhabiting a new space – the “ghosts” of past residents
  • Small town connections – I know the original owners of this house – the “life” of a building
  • Importance of light  – letting it in, soaking it up, how it makes me happy
  • The importance of rest and recuperation – physical but also mental and emotional

Well … you get the idea.

As writers, we have the creative ability to look at any situation or event from multiple angles and perspectives. Your topic doesn’t have to be something as “big” as a move, either. For example, you could look at something as simple as making & packing a school lunch in the same way:

  • The challenges of finding healthy lunch foods for kids
  • Plastic containers vs. throw-away packaging
  • The deep need to nurture with food
  • Memories of your own school lunches
  • Memories of your own school lunchroom
  • The rhythm of the morning routine
  • The monotony of repetition in our daily lives
  • The joys of stashing secret notes and surprises in a lunchbox
  • Other packed lunches – Victorian picnics, 50s lunches for working men, etc.

… and so on.

No matter what your topic is, the ways you can “spin” it are endless. Go ahead and try it yourself. You may want to use a mind map to help you get the ideas out. Or, you can just scribble down a list the way I did. Either way, you’ll be amazed at how many ideas you can come up with once you open your writer’s mind to all the possibilities.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Journaling: A Method for Creative Discoveries

I’ve been a journaler since my first diary as a young girl.

Journaling is a way to get thoughts out of my head and neatly tucked away; a way of removing words/thoughts that distract me. Once I have something written down, I can stop thinking about it and move on.

I have this visual of raising my hand next to my ear, reaching just inside the ear, and pinching the end of a string. When I pull the string, I discover it’s a string made of words. Pulling some words out of my head makes room for others.

Of course, there are some days where that string seems never ending, like those colorful handkerchiefs magicians pull out of a sleeve or a pocket — color after color after color with no apparent end. But there is always an end to the words that need to be cleared away so that new discoveries can be made.

As I browsed through a book store’s magazine section yesterday, I discovered Art Journaling Magazine. It’s a magazine full of examples from visual artists’ journals.

Sketches, multiple colors, ideas, thoughts… Some journals had a bit of a scrapbooking feel, others were done in black and white, most had numerous colors on a page. It inspired my inner muse who loves to find new ways to express myself.

LeatheretteJournalMy mother gave me a beautiful turquoise journal for Christmas. The edge is embossed with a design and each interior page has a light imprint of the design. The color is attractive, the design adds personality, the soft leather-like texture is welcoming, and the pages are spectacular to write on (some paper accepts ink better than others). What looks like a snap cover is a magnetized button closure, and it’s depressed into the cover a bit, so that the journal plays nice if in a stack. There is also a ribbon to use as a placeholder between pages. Everything about the journal is welcoming and comforting and begging to capture words.

ArtistWayMorningPageJournalAnother favorite journal of mine is the actual workbook used for Artist Way Morning Pages. This is a large 8.5 x 11 book, so has heft to it, but it allows for more expansion on creativity with pages. The paper is thick and reminds me, for some reason, of paper I used in first grade when learning to form the letters of the alphabet.

As I flipped through the journaling magazine in the store, a lot of ideas popped into my head about how to add a bit of pizzazz to my journals as I make entries.

I’ve heard a lot about the online LiveJournal tool, too. I’ve never tried it, but I know it allows for more than straight typing of thoughts into the cosmos. And since it’s an online tool, there’s the option to share some of your writing with others. This intrigues me since I could attach photographs to the entries. It’s something I’ll look into. Here’s a listing of those tagging themselves for the writing community.

I believe that any way to clear clutter from the mind to make room for new thoughts is a great exercise.

What is your favorite way to journal?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. Journaling keeps everything in perspective. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Origins of some common phrases

Due to a recent burst pipe in the attic, I had a change to move a lot of ‘stuff’ around in order to make room for ceiling repairs. It’s been like spring cleaning, but in the dead of winter. I’ve made quite a few discoveries as I’ve sorted into a keep and toss piles.

Common Phrases and Where They Come FromOne of my discoveries is this great little book called Common Phrases and Where They Come From by John Mordock & Myron Korach.

I thought it would be fun to share some snippets of phrases I find myself using – and the history behind them.

I start off with the phrase and how I use it. The bullet points are my summaries of the write-ups within the book.

The phrase “all agog” has me seeing someone with mouth wide open in great surprise. It turns out, I’m not far off.

  • Medical practitioners noticed that when somebody was anticipating a great happy event, their eyes became lustrous and animated. This eye condition became “goggling eyes,” and groups of people stood “with all eyes goggling.” Then, over time, the phrase became “all agog.” (Disappointment resulted in “all aground.”)

I think “apple of my eye” refers to the person/people that one loves or cherishes. Children are usually the apple of their parents’ eyes, right?

  • Long ago, people in the medical field closely studied the pupil of the human eye and concluded it was apple shaped. The pupil became known as “the apple of the eye.” Then, since the eye was considered as vital as life itself, the gallant hero began to call his love interest “the apple of my eye.”

Although not one I’ve used, “bandy with words” strikes a chord with me as a writer. How can a writer not love to play with words?

  • Turns out, it basically means to talk a lot about nothing! It morphed from a game called ‘bandy’ (described a lot like table tennis), where opponents hit a ball back and forth until one of them misses. Bandy = hit and miss. And to people watching the game, it seemed pointless (ooh, my own pun!); so bandy eventually became associated with idle conversation.

As a mystery fan, I enjoy “red herring”s in stories — particularly trying to figure out what clues are false. And it’s quite fun as a writer to add them to my stories.

  • Campaigning politicians spend a lot of time focusing on matters irrelevant to real issues. It was first known as “dragging a red herring across the trail” then got shortened to “red herring”. It was also used to describe scholars using illogical points to try to prove a thesis. And it was also used to (literally) describe criminals who used strong-smelling smoked red herrings to cover their scent as they ran from justice. Bloodhounds eventually had to be trained to tell the difference between true scents, and that of smoked red herring.

These are just 4 small examples of the fun with phrases people have had over time.

This is a fun book to read through.

Isn’t it amazing how some phrases have morphed into what we use them for today? I find it fascinating.

Is there a phrase you’re curious about?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Get that “one thing” done today — move forward

We’ve talked more than once about having business goals written down so you know how to get where you want to be with your professional writing career.

blankplannerThese are yearly goals broken down into monthly goals, then into weekly goals, and eventually down to a daily task list. The idea is to keep yourself, and your business, moving forward.

I do my weekly planning on Sunday nights, so when I start Monday I know exactly what to start working on. Worst case is that I do this planning on Monday mornings, and best case is that I do the planning Friday night so I can have the weekend off!

I digress. I’m guessing that I’m not alone in having at least “one thing” on the list that is carried over from week to week too many times. It’s “one thing” that should be done to move the business forward, but it seems easier to keep putting it off — for some reason.

Do your reasons (excuses) sound like any of these:

  • Ugh, that requires a phone call, it’s too early/mid-morning/lunch/afternoon break time/too late, all I’ll be doing is leaving voicemail. I’ll call tomorrow.
  • I’ll do it after I do this, this, and this.
  • The holiday is coming up, I’ll wait until after so the email doesn’t get lost in the overflowing Inbox.
  • I’m not in the right frame of mind for that today.
  • I need to let it simmer in my head for a few more hours.

Whatever the “one thing” is, it’s not something we cross off the list — we know it has to get done, so we keep moving it forward, again and again and again.

Today is Monday, it’s after a holiday, let’s call it a fresh start. I’m going to do my “one thing” (log last quarter’s income & expenses – Jul/Aug/Sep) and be done with it so I can keep my business moving forward. How about you?

Before you do anything else, do that “one thing.” 

Don’t over think it — just get it done.

Happy Monday! I wish you a productive week!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

The Gratitude Journal – Giving Daily Thanks

With this week hosting Thanksgiving (in the States) it’s a good time to be thinking about what we’re thankful for — daily.

We may have talked about a gratitude journal before (heck, there can be a journal for anything, can’t there?) But I find the gratitude journal to be particularly inspiring, especially on difficult days.

open journalGratitude journals are the quickest kind of journaling I do (for the most part). I write in mine each night before turning the light out. It’s my way of ending the day on a positive note. And it’s particularly handy when the day had challenges.

I first started this type of journal when I was a corporate employee and had some struggles there and at home.

The goal is to write down 5 things each day that you are grateful for. And writing them down in the form of I am grateful for ………….

I remember a few entries looking like this:

  • I am grateful for my fleece socks.
  • I am grateful for my bowl of cereal.
  • I am grateful  for toothpaste.
  • I am grateful for toilet paper.
  • I am grateful for hot water.

Some days we can be so appreciative of the basics in life. Other times we may find ourselves going deeper into feelings, experiences, opportunities, friends, family… so many things.

My goal is always to find something new to be grateful for. If one day I’m grateful for a matching pair of ankle socks, the next day may be gratitude for a clean pair of dress socks or no run in the nylons. The winter gratitude lists definitely have more of a warm theme to them — warm hat, gloves, etc. Summer is a cool theme.

I can be thankful for the muse showing up, for my characters writing their own stories for me, or sometimes I’m grateful that the characters argue with me until I see their point.

Separate from the journal, I’m always thankful for a new day — and usually express that when I wake up. I say it out loud to the Universe: “Thank you for a new day to explore and experience.”

And then the evening is the writing of 5 particular things that pop into my head.

Fresh apple pieLast night’s list:

  • I am grateful for getting my bike tuned up and the old bikes donated.
  • I am grateful for Little Sis being inspired to be a writer – she says it’s because of me.
  • I am grateful for the 4 delicious pies Little Sis and I made – 2 to donate, 2 to share.
  • I am grateful for 3 new paying writing opportunities.
  • I am grateful for my floor agreeing to turn the heat up on such a cold day!

Of course you can make up your own ‘rules’ — it could be more or less than 5 items, you can duplicate items every day until something new pops in your head, it could be specific types of things.

I create my list by capturing whatever pops in my mind when I grab the notebook and pen to make the list. As soon as I’m done writing (and I write, not type), I am grateful, I generally don’t have to pause before something comes out. Not always the case, but most times.

And like I mentioned at the start, I find this particularly beneficial at the end of a challenging day – when I’m not happy about anything and stressed about what’s on tap for the next day. Focusing on finding something good/nice/positive about the day takes the edge off.

Some days I’m grateful for being able to blink; for being able to breathe, for being able to hold a pen; for having a pen that writes, for having paper to write on, for having someone wave hello to me, for my cat not waking me up early.

I’m also in the habit of saying “Thank you” out loud when something particular happens or comes my way. And the more I give thanks, the  more I find I have to be thankful for.

I hope that your life is full of things you’re grateful for!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.