We’re coming up on the holidays… So, I thought I’d spend a little time musing about creativity and what it takes to keep that part of us pumped up, nurtured and ready to go. Some suggestions, as it were, to help the blocked, confused and wandering – also the steady writers and artists out there who might need to take a breather or find a new path.
Hopefully some of these ideas will perk you up, give you a new slant or just assure you you’re not alone.
If you’re stuck on a story or whatever you’re attempting to create – and I know you’ve all heard this, but you probably need to hear it again – for heaven’s sakes take a break. Do something mindless or that will force your conscious brain to focus elsewhere and give your subconscious a chance to free range a bit. Take a walk, shovel the drive (in winter), mow the lawn (in summer), do the ironing or maybe cook dinner. Surprise your spouse with that dinner, he or she is no doubt so used to you being so immersed in your creative work that they rarely see a decent meal. Seriously, give yourself a break, give everyone a break, unclench.
Here’s something else you can do to enhance creativity. Just watch people. Really. Watch them. People…the things they do and say. They can be funny, startling, offensive, romantic – you know, all that stuff you want to infuse into your creative endeavors, quirks and happenings you want to put into your stories.
Another ~ Let your mind wander. Unhook the discipline for a bit and let it be what it is, let your thoughts take you where they will.
And how do you keep track of random thoughts that crop up with all this relaxation and subconscious stroking? Well you can easily keep a note pad handy, but if you like you can also think about using your phone to make a record of those thoughts. If your phone has a record feature, use that, if not, call yourself and leave a message in your box. You don’t want to lose those gem ideas.
Another idea? How about going to the place you’re setting your story or where you most associate with the creative work you’re doing. If you’re a writer and the story is set at a beach and one is nearby, head on down and do some jotting there. Airport? Bus Station? Hospital? Mall? Small town? Go on, take a field trip. Might not be practical if you’re planning on writing about Jupiter or the depth of a volcano is your inspiration for your next creative work. But no doubt you’d be able to come up with variations on a theme.
Variety is another great inspiration. The more you have, the more likely you’re going to be successful in generating the ideas so vital to your creativity. Start a garden, get a hobby, play with your dog, take up knitting – do more than one! I garden in the summer, create jewelry all year (want to take a peek – I have a little shop on ETSY, Silverstreak) I also knit, read, make lampwork beads in the flame (that really is focus!) and do some occasional bead weaving.
So the long and short of it is you need to give yourself some time to let the ideas percolate and to come up with fresh one. Deadlines may loom, pressure build, but that doesn’t mean you can skip the creative process in the middle – and that takes some nurturing.
Kids write too. Some quite well, others just trying their hand at the craft.
Sometimes we forget. I don’t know how many of you out there began writing at an early age, but I was about 12. Managed to write an entire novella without describing hardly a thing! Quite an accomplishment that. Thank heavens for a Godmother who read my work and pointed out that little failing.
When I started writing there was no internet where I could go for mentoring, research, or anything else. My mentors were physically present. A Godmother who was game. A good teacher. Finally a published writer who agreed to read some of my work. She gave me feed-back – mostly diplomatically negative, but welcome nonetheless.
I wrote through my teen years, jumping right into novels. I was at home writing when most kids were out doing the social two-step. Never did do short stories or articles back then. I had my goal – to be a published novelist. I reached that goal when I was 21 when my first Western novel was published by Doubleday. There are kids out there now with the same single-minded pursuit, I have no doubt of it.
Being mentored by another writer is mostly quite a few years back now, but I had one additional mentor who set me on another path of writing just a few years back. Funny how people and things change the direction of your life ~ especially when you keep yourself open to it.
Having a resource such as the web at our fingertips (all our fingertips) is a pretty magical thing. (yeah, yeah, be blasé, like it’s nothing special, always been there.)
Still, the web can also be isolating – yes even more so than the writer’s life already IS isolating. And for kids, that can make things even more daunting. The arrival of the web has created a strange balancing act between having the world open up with almost any information you need right there at hand, and doing little but stare at a computer screen because of it. Not to mention you don’t even have to get up from the computer to go to the library to find information you need – and you can find lots of wrong information on the web.
So if you’re a kid and write, kudos to you, keep it up! Work at it, enjoy it, research places to publish your work and to sell it. They do exist. There are places directed exclusively at young, enthusiastic new writers; websites and magazines that offer opportunity to the young, new writer.
Check out Stone Soup – the magazine by young writers and artists at www.stonesoup.com (that’s for the 8 to 13 crowd).
There’s WattPad at http://www.wattpad.com/about for the over 13 crowd.
Go to http://www.fundsforwriters.com/newsletters/ and scroll down to subscribe to the children’s markets for young writers called Writing Kid for free.
Do google searches for research and to find sites where you might be published or sites of hard copy magazines receptive to the young writer.
That’s not to say the local avenues of getting your writing out there should be passed up. Write for a school paper. See if your local newspaper has a young adult/kid’s section written by kids and find out what it takes to get your work published there. Discover where writing fits into your life. And don’t forget to get out and experience life so you have something to write about!
And, if you’re an old hand, a writer with a track record, how about mentoring a kid who’s seriously writing? How about trying to get a kid who’s not interested in writing interested? I’ve been to both places. It’s rewarding, frustrating, uplifting and infuriating. Quite the roller coaster but worth every minute invested.
Okay, I made it through the end of the year when I got my new computer. Yes, I actually did the techie thing (I am no techie if you’ll remember) and got the thing up and running. My brain felt like a marshmallow after, but I guess that’s par for the course from what I hear from IT people. Even downloaded printer drivers for the new Windows 8 version, installed and actually have it printing.
Whew, that’s over. Computer is functioning fine, I’m getting caught up and yes, you know what time of the year it is – it’s tax time happy people!
Now don’t tell me I’m jumping the gun. I’m not. For one thing, we always file our taxes early because we nearly always are entitled to a refund. We pay in too much so we have a cushion against rise in writing income (something to be joyfully anticipated, not feared). So we waaaay over estimate.
At least hot on the heels of computer adventure this should not be too ‘taxing’ or stressful.
Um, I hope.
So, as a writer, what’s to be done to prepare for tax time? Not a lot at this point, but then I’ve been keeping up with it all year, maintained a spread sheet and have a good accountant.
A few tips from me to the rest of you writers. First of all, keep your receipts for everything you buy and print ones from the computer for things you buy online. Keep them in order by date and keep them neatly in a file AFTER you note them on a simple spread sheet. If you do this each time you spend money on your writing career it will be easy and will save you money. And remember to back up that simple spread sheet in some fashion so you don’t loose your year’s entries along about November to a computer crash and have to do it all again.
If you’re the sort who tosses receipts (when you actually get them) into a shoe box and then hand that rubber-banded shoebox over to your accountant at the end of the year (or more likely a couple of days before tax deadline) stop it at once! At the rate a decent accountant charges if you do this and he or she has to plow through everything you have you’re spending a fortune. And if you think you’re not going to be financially penalized (even above the hourly rate) think again. And you know that smiling face? It’s a mask. The accountant you did this to really wants to kill you.
My mother was an accountant, I know.
She taught me to keep my records straight as I go and save a whole lot of time, money and aggravation. The more hours spent on your tax return, the more you pay. So, if you keep your records clearly from day one of 2013, make a simple spread sheet and print that out to take along before you go see your accountant (he or she may or may not want you to bring along all your receipts) along with your earings statements from wherever your writing income has sprung. Personally I copy checks when they come in so I remember to add them to my little spreadsheet.
Other things I want to mention. If you have a dedicated space in your house you use only for writing and writing associated tasks you can write it off your taxes as your office. BUT, to do this, talk with your accountant and do it right. It can be an open door for an audit and we all want to avoid those. My advice here? Don’t do it if there’s any doubt that space is exclusively for your writing.
Oh, and be honest. Don’t be a tax cheat. There’re are a lot of laughs about cheating on your taxes, but believe me it’s not worth it…oh the tales I could tell (my mother was an accountant, remember?).
You can do your own taxes as well. I did mine for years before I got too sick of it and found our accountant. There are a whole lot of rules and information online where you can find the tax laws and rules, forms and publications and more. I maight add that if you do your own taxes it’s evenmore imperative that you keep your records straight and do it from day one because it’s YOU who’ll be sorting through everything when ti comes time to prepare the tax return.
And I know, April 15 is the deadline. If you have an accountant and want to make him or her deleriously happy with you get your information in early – like in late February or eary March. Before everybody else does and they’re in a perpetual state of stress and headache. If you’re doing your own you bet you better get at it early. If you have questions or need extra forms and how to fill them out you’re going to need some lead time in case you can’t readily get what you need.
So take your head out of the same, get a little organized and start thinking about this now so you can correct the errors you’ve made in 2012 and start 2013 on a much better note. Think about all the things that are associated with your writing and make a point of taking care of the record keeping as you go.
If you drive a car on occasion for your writing assignments check on what the latest mileage allowance for tax purposes (info available online at the site I mentioned) then keep a small notebook in your car and record the beginning odometer reading and end when you return. Date that page, tear it out and put it with your receipts. A great way to remember to track it and not miss out on a deduction.
Remember things like your web access. Yes, it’s a business expense, but if it’s in the home and the kids are using it to play video games 4 hours a day then it’s not exclusive and you can charge only a portion off to your expense. This is why an accountant is handy. Or seriously read up on the IRS rules regarding your writing income and allowable expense.