OFFICIAL BLOGHER '10 LIVEBLOG:Writing Lab: Writing Inspiration: Stoke Your Creativity

BlogHer Original Post

Welcome to the liveblog of the BlogHer '10 panel: Writing Lab: Writing Inspiration: Stoke Your Creativity. Click here for more info.

Rita Arens, Carleen Brice and Jan Sokoloff Harness are talking about finding creativity.

How to generate ideas - "bolts from the blue" - Carleen Brice, author of "Orange Mint and Honey" was driving down the road and got the idea for her book.

Rita polls the crowd - the majority of those attending write narrative nonfiction, with a smattering of journalists, poets and fiction writers.

Jan: Identify the voice in your head. Is it positive? Get rid of the negative by visualizing a stop sign. Force yourself to hear a different voice.

Jan's fourth grade art teacher told her that her drawing was not done right, and stepped in and redid it for her. Set her mental mindset that she couldn't draw. Important to find a new, positive voice.

How do you find ideas?

Carleen: Sets an intention to find an idea and then does something mindless. Goes for a walk, does the dishes. Takes a different route while driving home a different way.

Jan: Physical activity. "A lot of times when I go on my morning walks, I say 'OK, today I'm going to look for yellow.'"

Then you're not focusing on what your blog should be. You're giving your brain a break from all the multitasking we do.

Rita: Step back and watch your life like television sometimes. "Your life is probably a lot more interesting than you think it is because it is yours."

Basing parts of her novel on real life scenes. Seeing her mom lose hair to cancer, as she was just starting adolescence and growing body hair led to a scene of a girl with cancer talking to a friend.

Fiction can start with a real thing and slowly become its own thing. "You can take your real life and carve it into fiction as well."

Carleen: Put yourself in your character's shoes. Get your character's perspective. Similar to how an actor would approach a role. Adopt the hand gestures of the character, the persona.

Jan: Get out of your comfort zone. Go to workshops. Or try setting rules, i.e. use 4 colors, 3 adverbs, 6 adjectives. Deadlines too.

BUT rules can be restricting.

Carleen: Do what works for you.

Find what best works for you and find out what you can do. The ideal may be to have a beautiful studio with no distractions with children, job, etc. But not always realistic. So can-do conditions may be a full night's sleep.

If you put a deadline on yourself, i.e. "I must finish this novel by the time I turn 35," you are going to be 35 whether you have it finished or not.

Julie, question about finding the right time to write.

Rita: Fits it in where she can. Easier after dinner when other people are doing their own thing. Makes sure to write everyday.
"I'm real good about not answering the phone.... just because the email came in, you don't have to look at it, just because the phone rings doesn't mean you have to answer it."
You can build that time in by ignoring -- not your kids -- but distractions.

Carleen: "I have a great secret, I didn't have kids" (laughter)

When writing her first novel she was married, working full time and editing an anthology. Now, she doesn't work -- should have all sorts of time but still doesn't write any more than she did.

"I get as much done now as I did with a full time job."

All about consistency -- if you can write 15 minutes a day, then you can get as much done as someone who sits down on a Friday night to do it.

Rita: Thought she wouldn't be able to write post-baby but the baby became an inspiration. She wanted her baby to be proud of her mother, she managed time better.

"Turn off Twitter. You can move mountains if you turn off Twitter."

Jan: Find a moment and keep going. If you're really hot and it is coming easy then keep writing. Schedule posts in advance if you have a burst of inspiration.

Question - Linda: How do you keep ideas when you get a burst and you're driving or in the shower or on the elliptical?

Rita: Call yourself and leave yourself a voicemail.

Carleen: Get off the elliptial, grab a notebook and write it down. Notebooks work well and so does the back of a napkin. Just take 5 minutes and write it down to keep the idea alive.

Rita: Write enough to remember. Don't write one word -- only equals frustration in the end.

Whitney, How do you edit and review writing? What is your process?

Rita: On draft 23 of her blog. Vomited out the first draft. Second revision was answering questions about the characters. Third time was about fixing scenes, ensuring narrative arc, etc. Fourth time, looked at active vs. passive voice, consistent dialog, finding likable characters.

On blog posts, she spends about 15 minutes. Generally takes out the first paragraph because it is "verbal throat clearing."

Carleen: Edits blog posts on paper and reads post out loud.

Jan: Learned from a client - change passive to active, take out excessive words.

Rita: How to check for passive voice in Microsoft Word -- run statistics and summaries, look at advanced options and see what percentage of voice is passive.

Carleen: Passive voice is "it happened to me," active voice is "I did it."
Passive: She is going to walk.
Active: She walked.

Kami of -- How do you connect with other writers and find support?

Carleen: Internet is a good thing and a horrible thing. Easy to find other writers to talk about NOT writing, need to find people to support you though workshops, forums, etc. Find someone who can critique you, that also fits with your style.

Jan: Has a writers group that gets together once a month and shares writings, in her case poetry. They are open and honest with each other. She also loves editors.

Rita: A novel is an incredibly huge ask. Need that level of "giving it to you straight."
Often uses her husband for feedback. He didn't go to writing school but can find the gaps and details.

Question: How do you have all sorts of topics on your blog?

Rita: Add tags, helps with usability.

Carleen: If you are off topic all the time, maybe create a new blog.

Kevin, contributor for How do you turn off your internal editor?

Jan: That is your internal art teacher telling you that you're drawing the horse wrong.

Rita: Learned this from corporate America. Doing a 3-week test run -- doesn't have the concept of "if it doesn't work it sucks" instead the concept of "that angle doesn't work."
Use your blog as a tester. Think about it as learning, don't think about it as good or bad.

Caroline from Feels like her blogging is spoiling her. The problem with blogging is that she gets instant gratification - a tiny lightening bolt. Wondering if there is a big lightening bolt, "book," out there. How do you focus yourself and find a good way to go?

Carleen: Take writing classes and workshops. You'll get homework and find a different world besides the blogging world.

Rita: Would get bent out of shape because her traffic wasn't as high as she wanted it or her comments weren't as high.
I used to feel sad about it - but then realized she never got the hit so she doesn't keep wanting the drug. (laughter)
Then realized she wasn't trying to make a living on her blog, she wanted a platform to write and get to know people. She wanted to write long form with her novel.

It is powerful to realize that nobody cares but you. Sure, friends and family will be happy for you, but write because it feels good to you.

Leslie Spiller: (speaking to previous questioner): One of the ways, I started doing fiction in blogging. The 1,000 word story challenge, starting with a random sentence. Also did a blog novella, where each blogger would write a chapter and pass the story on. Gives you a deadline and an audience.

Marie Cooper: (speaking to Kevin) Look for information online. Read good voices.

Rita: The reason so many people succeed instead of fail is that they succeed at what they want right now instead of what they want long-term. Ex. Right now I really want to watch Real Housewives -- long-term I want to write a novel.

Think about what you want long term. Life goes fast.

Jan: Now and then we should stop in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.

Erin, of I'm going to kill Writes with a sharp tongue, wondering how much other writers sensor themselves?

Rita: People will think it is you no matter what you write, what character you use. Have to say 'listen, even you think it is me, that character is a different person' (paraphrase). That it doesn't necessarily reflect how I'm feeling now.
Writers write what they are feeling right now -- other people say "eh" and move on but writers document it.

Jan: If you don't want to offend anyone, then don't write anything. Go for the greater good. If you're getting a cheap laugh from your husband but it will offend the husband - maybe don't post it if you don't want to offend. But if you are making a point and it is quality, that is different.

Rita: A story can be written in different ways. A story can make a point and be humorous or thought provoking. The same story told spitefully will get backlash.

Craig, How do you get past the wall?

Carleen: Make sure things aren't really as horrible as you think they are. If it is, it may be better for a blog post, magazine article.

Kat, Two different voices -- husband and sister hate her writing, but blog followers love the way she writes. How does she fit in?

Carleen: Do you like the way you write?

Kat: Yes.

Carleen: Then we're done.