Monthly Archives: November 2012

Elizabeth Gilbert Talks About Creative Genius

I first listened to this talk just a few weeks into November. Still grieving for my grandmother, taking care of sick children, and trying to finish my book for a NaNoWriMo had all come to a head. I felt like an empty well, with little to offer to my story. When another writer posted the link to Elizabeth Gilbert’s discussion about creative genius, I decided my genius and I needed to have a talk. If I was going to sacrifice my sleep to write and put my “butt in chair” everyday, no matter the circumstances of my life, my genius needed to do her part. This video will make you laugh, and open your mind to the possibilities of your genius, and its part in your creative process. Have a wonderful Friday. As of now, I’ve finished the first book and started another story. I have 7,905 words to complete my NaNoWriMo word count. I’ll see you on the flip side. Enjoy the video, and be inspired. Ole!

Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius



Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Inspiration, Writing


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Chance Encounters

Pink Sherbet Photography

*A few years ago I’d been sitting at a really arty coffee shop waiting for a friend. It was the kind of coffee shop that had worn couches along the walls, bookshelves with new and second-hand books for sale, art supplies in one corner, and a real eclectic mix of patrons. It was one of those places that made people-watching a real treat.

So while I waited for my friend, I sort of spied on the middle-aged man at a table near me. He was a sketch artist, and the table he occupied was littered with pencils of various sized, crumpled pages, and eraser shavings. I think when I chose that table, he’d already been there a good half an hour, just drawing. The artistic mess in front of him might have been what made me choose that table, because my friend was notorious for being late. Most of the time very late.

But it was when I combined that mess with the business suit he wore that I chose a table that allowed me to watch him without him being aware of it. Not that he would have noticed, he was too engrossed in sketching the bus stop across the road along the lady waiting there.

In truth it was a really inspiring sight, this man in his business suit, sketching. Just by the look of him I could tell he probably worked as a manager or an accountant, something along those lines. It might have been his lunch hour, and he spent it doing something he loved. Something he was exceptionally good at, if what my spying had shown me was anything to go by. I had been an inspiring thing to see. Somebody with a day job still finding time to do something he loved. I’m sure had I asked him, he would have told me he’d much rather devote more time to his art, but he had a family to support and he loved them more than he did his art. He’d looked like he kind of guy who would have a wife who tried giving him as much time to devote to his passion as possible. Sometimes you could just tell these things about certain people.

My timing couldn’t have been more perfect if somebody had sent me there on purpose. A couple of student had walked into the coffee shop, and after they’d all placed their orders, gathered around a table and started talking about all kinds of random student things.

One of them, a guy I guessed could have been twenty or so, had leaned back on the two hind legs of his chair and looked at the man drawing. He’d complimented the man on his skill, and the man had accepted it graciously. The student then went on to tell the suited man how he used to draw until some personal issues got in the way. The man had asked the student if those personal issues were still in the way, and the student had said no, they weren’t. ‘Then why aren’t you doing it again if you love it so much?’ the suited man had asked him.

You have to understand, this conversation fascinated me. I’d once asked myself the same question, right before I’d started writing again. It had changed my life, that question. Why aren’t you doing it if you love it so much? Good question, right?

The student had replied that the man had made a good point, and the man had agreed. He’d said that there would always be things that get in the way of doing what you really wanted to. The trick was finding ways around it or making those things work for you. Bad things are only bad things until you decided to do something about or with them.

It had been a strangely wonderful thing to see, the light of comprehension in the student’s eyes as he assimilated what the man had said to him. He’d returned to chatting with his friends, but I’d seen the change in him. Good change, and maybe the change had gotten to me too. I like to think it had.

Fifteen minutes after the encounter, the artist had gathered his pencils and pages and placed them all inside his briefcase. Before he’d left, he’d touched the student’s shoulder and had pointed to the corner where all the art supplies were on sale, then left.

I have no idea if the student went to buy any of the supplies, but I like to think that he had.

* Please ignore my tense issues. I blame it on almost being the end of November and my brain not functioning properly. Any of the H&C ladies are welcome to correct anything they want. I take no responsibility 😛


Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Inspiration, Just For Fun, luck, Motivation, Uncategorized


Why I Heart Scrivener for Outlining

As I prepared for National Novel Writing Month and completing the rewrite of my novel, I finally had to force myself to organize my thoughts. I had ideas littered throughout two drafts, three outlines, four notebooks, on a white board, in a couple of Scrivener files, and in emails I’d sent to myself…as well as the other random thoughts swimming in my head that I hadn’t yet had a chance to write down. Clearly this novel has changed (and hopefully grown) many times since I first started it. As much as I enjoy a good outline, my biggest challenge is formatting it in the best way to satisfy my overactive, visual mind. So, thank goodness I have Scrivener.

Enter Scrivener

I first came across Scrivener when I participated in National Novel Writing Month, back when it was only for Mac OS and I couldn’t have it. I downloaded the beta version for Windows as soon as it was available and have been in love ever since, though I admit, I haven’t been using it to its full potential until recently. And even now, probably only 60%. In order to keep track of my notes most efficiently and create an outline I could follow, I put Scrivener to the task. Scrivener is useful for so many things so I’m only going to scratch the surface here but I’ll tell you a little bit about how I used it to outline.

Outlining With Scrivener

My absolute favorite feature in Scrivener is its three modes. Writing mode, of course, but also, cork board mode. What writer doesn’t love a cork board? Ever time a new text file is added, it is also creates an index card on the cork board, listing the title as well as a summary. You can switch back and forth between writing mode and cork board mode and the summary is always available to keep you on track. You can reorganize the index cards at any time, which is ideal for me because I often come up with new scenes while I’m writing. Much easier than doing this on a real cork board where I have to move every single index card down one spot each time I add a scene. There is also a traditional Outline mode for those of you who prefer things in a more linear fashion.

Each scene also has a Label and a Status. Scrivener’s default Labels are Chapter and Concept. You could expand from there or change them completely as I have. My story goes back and forth between past and present so I’ve used the labels to indicate which scene is which. This way, I am able to scan through my index cards and easily see that they are evenly spaced and well-proportioned. Default Statuses are “To Do,” “First Draft,” “Revised Draft,” etc. but I’ve also changed those to reflect the season in which the scene takes place to work as a rough time line. There is a lot flexibility to use these in any way that suits your story such as POV, plots and subplots, locations, etc. Then, in cork board mode, it’s so easy to get an overall snapshot of the story’s progression.

Once you switch to Writing mode, there is one more section for Notes, References and Keywords (you’ll also find Snapshots there but that is a completely different post.) For things that don’t fit in the quick summary of the scene–the details that remind me of my vision for that scene–I add notes. I’ve used the keywords for my characters and the month of the year but again, use your imagination.

Earn a Discount

There are so many other ways Scrivener is useful so if you’re having a hard time with outlining or you’re a more visual person like me, check it out and see if it suits you. To find out more about Scrivener, or to download it, visit the Literature and Latte website. And, as an added bonus, since you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, you get a coupon code for a 20% discount. 50% off when you win! (Yes, I said when.) How’s that for motivation?

How do you outline and keep track of your notes?


Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Writing Software


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Thank You!

I’m keeping it short today. I know this is a crazy day for shopping, family, relaxing, and hopefully resting.  Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I want to just take a second to thank all of you for being amazing. I am so blessed and fortunate to have such a fabulous and supportive group of writers who are there to encourage me, hold me accountable, and listen.

May your weekend be full of writing, words, food, friends, family, turkey, pie, books, inspiration, and as much positivity as I can wish upon you. Know I am thankful for each and every one of you, and I can’t wait to ring in another new year with you all.


Posted by on November 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


Thank You!

I know most of you in the middle of making pies, basting turkeys, and making sure you have enough chairs to accommodate Uncle Stu and great aunt Edna, so I won’t keep you long. Tomorrow is the day Americans stop to give thanks for all the wonderful things in their lives. And although I’m not in America right now and tomorrow is just another day here in Scotland, I want to take a moment to thank each and everyone in the Hugs and Chocolate community. I’m so grateful for all of my fellow chocolatiers. Jamie, Jani, Rebecca, Courtney, Tonia, you are all such beautiful souls and I am truly privileged to know you. I’m inspired by the incredible wisdom, talent, and insight this community shows, not just from the founders and co-founders, but from all our followers. You make it all worthwhile. Your support and interaction teach me what a community is meant to be. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families. (Even if you’re not celebrating Turkey Day) 🙂


Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Uncategorized


A Goal

I had a goal. Okay, I still have a goal – to finish my story this month. Not as a part of NaNo, I want this to be good – not something I have to try and decipher later. I’m so close. Two chapters to finish. And I’m stuck. I know what happens. I know how it happens. I know the last line. I know this story. So why can’t I write it? This may come as a surprise. but I have several theories about this.

The first one is feedback. I know, kind of weird, isn’t it? We all need feedback on our writing. It’s how we get better and find our mistakes. But, from personal experience, I’ve found that letting someone read my work before I’m done is a huge distraction. I always say I won’t let anyone read it until I’m done, but I always cave. Once I do, my writing stalls. I ask people to read because I want to know if my writing and storytelling is any good. In my head, this is the greatest story ever, but all writers think that about their work. I just want to know if it’s interesting, readable, etc. I crave the feedback. However, it doesn’t matter whether the feedback is positive or negative, it stalls me. In this case, I had both positive and some not so positive – which leads me to my next theory.

Critique partners. Ergh. Except for one, I’ve lost contact with my old critique partners and a lot of them have either stopped writing or changed directions. So. I have to start at the beginning. Once I got some feedback, I started panicking about critiques. I joined several writing sites, posted my first chapter, chatted with a few people and exchanged first chapters privately for critique purposes. One word: disaster. Have you ever received a chapter for critique and you know it’s not going to work as soon as you open the document? That’s happened to me twice in the past few weeks. In looking for a critique partner, you want someone who’s at about the same level as you or above. I’ll gladly help anyone as much as I can, but I won’t write someone’s book for them or let someone try to intimidate me to cover their lack of experience. In any case, I got so wrapped up in finding a perfect critique partner, that I got distracted from my story. Finding a critique partner is difficult. You have to get to know the other person’s writing and build a relationship of trust, based on honesty.

My final theory is a result of the other two theories. My confidence in my story and writing has been shaken. Not shattered, just shaken. As much as I wanted feedback, I wasn’t ready to address all the other issues it brought with it. I will finish this story, but I’ve learned this lesson again – I can’t share my work before it’s done. I was on such a roll there for about three weeks. I wrote almost sixty thousand words during that time. I love the story and wanted to share it, to see if it was as good as I thought and hoped. Don’t worry, I didn’t send out the full story to anyone. I’m not that green. Just the first chapter which has been revised many times and polished. The majority of the feedback was good, really good, but it didn’t matter. I broke my roll because I wanted to jump ahead. Now I have to find my way back to the story… after I go check the writing sites to see if anyone has commented on my chapter.


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The Line Between Epic Love and Epic Failure

This is what epic love looks like.

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” 
Thomas MannEssays of Three Decades

It’s that insidious moment when you entertain the thought of giving up. It would be easy, possibly the easiest thing you’ve ever done. The stroke of a few keys would erase the struggle, loneliness, the fight for just the right word, and scratching for the time to write.

Does the very thought sadden you?

I hope so. It breaks my heart. When a writer I know gives up, says that’s it, I’m not this story-telling, creative being anymore, I ache for them. I ache because I understand.

After a late night of pulling words like splinters from my head and the grief of revising a story about death after the loss of my grandmother, I woke up to another sick kid, a mess to clean, and a toddler that won’t quit. I wondered if I had room in my head for a creative thought. Writing is many things. But most often, it’s hard.

I also ache because though its hard, when I imagine not writing, it scares the hell out of me. I’m many things beyond a writer, but it is essential to who I am when I look in the mirror. I tell the stories, pen the poems, not only for a connection with readers, but to connect with myself under the various “hats” I wear.

When I was young and silly, I believed that real love meant you didn’t have to work at it. Okay, you can stop snorting now. It’s a fable, a fabulous fairy tale that takes more than it gives. Real love requires you to get up at three a.m. and clean up after the sick kid, reach a compromise with your partner, or write through the pain and words that unwind before you can commit them to paper.

Let me be blunt: Writing is hard and it takes more than passion and talent. It requires epic love. Epic love often necessitates epic failure.

Do you love what you’re doing enough to fail for it?

I’ve written a lot about fear. It’s something I know about. Fear of failure too often held me back. Now, when I haven’t opened up my document for a while, or find myself utilizing every avenue of procrastination, I take a moment to reevaluate. Sometimes, the beast requires me to saddle up and go for a ride. I’ve done some of my best writing while strapped down, chasing the clouds. Don’t quit because you’re afraid to fail. Ride it out, or change your perspective.

Change your perspective by making a change in your lifestyle. Be kind to yourself- go for a walk or savor the texture and taste of a piece of fresh fruit. When you do it, acknowledge that it’s something your doing for yourself.

Tell the truth. Let someone know- other writers or anyone supportive of your goals- and accept the reasons they give you for not quitting.

Ask yourself: Why do I write?

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ” 
~Joss Whedon

I mentioned two of the reasons I write- connection with readers, connection with myself. I have other reasons. I write to teach my children what it requires to achieve a dream. I write because I can live, for brief moments, inside any world of my choosing. I write to show the people who’ve hurt me in the past that they have no power over me. I do it because the good writing days are better than sex, chocolate, and wine.

Yes, I’m struggling right now. It’s taken me five hours to write this post because life keeps interfering. For NaNo, I’ve only produced 10,931 words. I’ve had four hours sleep and I long for a nap or hot bath, but I have chicken noodle soup to make and a story to finish.

I refuse to quit.

If you’re walking the line between epic love and epic failure, don’t give up. I’m right here with you. Keep writing. We’ve got this.

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