An Imp Named Whimsy by Alberta Ross

All of us here are motivated to create. We have pens, keyboards and ideas. Primed and ready to go. Like love and hate walk side by side and overlap creativity also appears to have an affinity with destruction. We are hardwired to fear the worst, it is how we stayed alive way back when. It would be a life saver then, nowadays it often just becomes a negativity which serves no great purpose in our well ordered lives, except to cause a chaos and confusion we cannot do anything about, lacking the possibilities of flight or fight. We hear it time and time again,


stress, stressing, stressed.


It saps our energy this stress, dulls our ambitions and turns our lives into a constant battle with LIFE.


It doesn’t need to be so. We have an endless capacity for enjoyment and laughter. We are superb puzzle solvers, how else have we managed to spread through the tropical heat and the arctic freezes. We also have hardwired in our genetic makeup a secret weapon which we can use to aid our creativity. A gene which enabled those living in hostile terrains to see a face of a lion, or an enemy neighbour in the thick foliage of the bush around. Which enables us still to see animals in the clouds, faces in the cracks of un-repaired walls, delighting children and making adults smile and then to chastise themselves for the foolishness, after all. . .


That is imagination born from self survival. This imagining of something that doesn’t really exist led to stories and those who had a lot of imagination became story tellers. Imagination is good, apart from storytelling it will help us through the dark days if we can imagine something better, brighter, more exciting, we can struggle on, keeping our ambitions polished.


Imagination though is not all, not really enough. There is another part of the brain which is often confined and caged. It lives in the very primitive recesses of the grey matter, a creature of unstructured, unordered life. It needs space to operate, space we often forget to give it, so tied up are we in living our well ordered lives. It needs experiences of all variety, we often deny it this nourishment in our endless hours at our jobs/keyboards/shovels/whatever. It needs a certain peace and quiet which it struggles to find in this 24/7 noisy world we have created.


Mine is an ‘imp’, not in the devils spawn meaning of the world, more in the way of a mischievous child.


An imp called whimsy.


We all have an imp. Hidden in the deep recesses. It is untamed and un-tamable. It is a collector of everything, a hoarder , a tinkerer. It delights in deconstruction and reconstruction. Delights in breaking and peering.It is a thief and an unrepentant borrower. A connoisseur of fineness and beauty and a trash-ridden drop out. Crazily out of control and endlessly patient and creative. A spoilt child.


What whimsy delights in is an quiet mind, a relaxed mind, a half sleeping mind. Then it has time to wander through all the pockets of information in our minds. My imp loves, in particular, those half dozed moments between sleep and wakefulness when a radio, some music plays softly, and muted half heard voices, murmur unheard in the background. Whimsy hears, it picks up a phrase or two, an uttering which might take its fancy for no apparent reason, will grab hold and examine, toss from side to side. It plays, maybe shares with other parts of the mind. It mixes in it’s box of random thoughts, imbues it with a magic of it’s own and then one day kicks it back into the enclosure which is our every day mind.


Whimsy works best in the unguarded moments, lazing, dozing, gardening, listening to music, anything which has the analytical ordered part of the mind switched of. It doesn’t work well under stress, doesn’t work well in the darkness of the soul, unless one wishes to create the dark and doleful. It flourishes in relaxation, in the harmony of self and imagination, between everyday reality and creativity.


It will not respond to orders or demands, whimsy is a creature of no fixed abode. Some days it is wandering where our scent file is kept, another time rifling through our word file. It dips into vision files, some days it will watch the landscapes of the world, another spend whole blocks of time watching sunlight through a damselfly wing. Nothing to small or great to grab it’s interests.


Whimsy makes nonsense out of sense and sense out of nonsense.


Whimsy can take dross and meld it into something beautiful.


Whimsy is careless and generous. When it has finished trying something out for size, tweaked it, pulled it inside out and fitted it to another unconnected jewel and thrown it into it’s box of treasures to dash out of hiding and catch another nugget of cement or gold or silver; then imagination is allowed to poke around the treasure trove, articulation is given free access.


Without whimsy, imagination is only the ability to imagine a different set of circumstances, without whimsy, articulation is merely the ability to utter everyday occurrences.


The secret to a strong and healthy imp, whatever you care to call it, is to allow relaxation in, to banish stress, to experience life in as many ways as possible. To allow time for the fermentation of all the oddities whimsy collects. To be social, adventurous, open to the new and unexpected. Enjoy the faces in the clouds and woodwork, delight in children’s worlds (so full of whimsy) accept that, sometimes, one’s ambitions need time to mature, accept that everything in ‘Life’ adds to the treasure trove.


And sometimes we should throw away the man made constructs such as time, deadlines, dates and numbers. Learn to relax and allow our minds to wander freely, digress from the normal.


It is a small capricious creature, whimsy, but can deliver amazing treasures for the creative mind.


Alberta Ross

The Benefits of Writing Old School by Eden Mabee

I have a confession to make…

I love WriMos (something about a month dedicated to writing that just delights the muse). For this July CampNaNo, I took things one step further. I decided my WriMo would be a month of actual writing. Pen on paper writing. I was going to commit myself to the pen and the notebook and a few tapes (yes, cassette tapes and occasional LPs). I went full ‘Old School’.


I wanted to see if it really was the distraction of ‘instant access’ to all the world had to offer that was slowing me down and keeping me from meeting my goal of writing every day.

Now a few weeks in, I can say for certain that yes… this is the stuff. Even getting up to cross the room to flip a tape (or fix a skipping record) hasn’t proved as great a distraction as email, Facebook messages and notifications, Candy Crush, comments on my blogs…

I wrote so much more when I didn’t sit in front of this electronic box.

This shift has made me reconsider what it is going to take for me to be a writer, to seriously reconsider more than what makes me a writer, but what makes me productive in general.

But let’s stick to writing–writing and simplicity.

WritingBrainThis experiment won’t work for everyone, but perhaps we could all benefit from at least trying to handwrite again. Not just for a day or two as a whim, but for a week, or two, just to see what happens. Try to just write, wherever you are (in the last two weeks I’ve written in shopping lines, in the truck, at the truck dealership, yadda yadda… basically, in a lot of places). You don’t have to go at it as hard-core as I did. Try handwriting for just a short period of time each day… say 10 minutes. If you have more time or want to try something more involved, you could follow Julia Cameron’s idea of morning pages (The Artist’s Way) and freewrite with pen and paper in hand until you’ve filled up three full notebook pages. You may find you can get more words written faster without the keyboard, or you may not. For me, it takes about 25 minutes to type the equivalent of morning pages (750 words), where it takes me about 20 minutes to put the same number of words in a notebook. (I’m not the fastest typist in the world.)

Why?” I hear you ask. “Why would I make you waste your time doing something that you’ll have to either store, throw away or spend extra time typing into the computer later?”

Because I truly believe it will help you become a better writer.

I don’t believe this solely because the research says that writing things by hand is good for your mind (though it does, just search online for ‘handwriting brain affects’). I also think history speaks for itself.

When we think of all the ‘great’ authors, do we think of them all tap-tap-tapping away at their bluetoothed iPhone keyboards? Or dictating their stories to the microphone Yes, some of them had typewriters. Some of our modern greats use wordprocessors… But classics have been handwritten on napkins (Ernest Hemmingway, JK Rowling, etc), the insides of unfolded envelopes, in the margins of other author’s books…

We don’t need anything to create stories beyond our imaginations. To create stories with permanence we need some way to record the fruits of our minds, and the tools we choose are…just tools. We may have tools we like better than others, and while many tools, especially power tools, may increase our efficiency, but… just as some of the most enduring (and beautiful) buildings weren’t built with nail-guns and circular saws, wonderful writing does not rely on the latest version of Dramatica Pro or the newest MacBook or… anything except you and your creativity.

Since science is starting to show that handwriting can increase creativity over time (even if it slows you down in the short run), isn’t it worth trying?

The Land Where Stories Come From by Nikki Starcat Shields

Despite what our brains might think, the work of a writer isn’t just sitting down in front of that blank page and making stuff up. It isn’t all about word counts, revisions, and editing, either. It’s not only about that dear book baby that finally emerges from all your passion and effort.
Being a writer encompasses all of the things that you do in your life.
How so? Well, our story ideas have to come from somewhere, right? Fantasy author Tad Williams says that stories are everywhere, just waiting to be discovered. But it takes someone with a certain mindset to even perceive the stories that lurk within our daily lives.
Despite our best efforts to quantify it, the creative process is largely a mysterious one. Ideas come to us seemingly from the blue. Our most potent inspirations zap in like a lightning bolt. Often our best writing will feel like it flowed through us from somewhere else.
But where? The inner world of imagination, of course.
Many words have been written about how to encourage your muse. Most of these ideas are good ones, like: write every day, to get yourself in the mental habit; keep your writing and editing hats separate; keep the story-planning process loose, so the characters can take you where they will.
I’d like to expand this encouragement beyond the traditional notions, though. Are you ready for this?
I suggest that, as a writer, it’s very important that you include plenty of play time in your daily life.
Did she say play time?
I certainly did.
Playfulness is one of the best ways to expand and connect with your imagination. We live in a culture that puts play last. Leisure time is what you get when you’ve finished all your work, and when and if that ever happens, you’re normally too tired to be able to really commit yourself to play. Play is for children, and those who are lazy or otherwise weird.
That’s bunk. For writers, and other creative types (and probably everyone), play is essential. Consider it part of your work.
Playing, however we define it, allows the imagination a space in which to flourish, to expand. It takes our thoughts away from mundane tasks and routine worries, into a wide-open space where sparkling sea turtles dance with pirate mermaids who wear their hearts on their tattooed sleeves.
Play is an attitude, one that merges the imaginary with the real in a delightful stew of creativity. When you allow it, playfulness becomes a part of the tapestry of your daily life.
What kind of play should you engage in, then, in order to tap into your own imagination lands? The key is to do something that feels really fun and delicious to you. Sure, you’ll probably have some guilt or resistance. We’re not often encouraged to move toward things that feel terrific.
Do it anyway.
Here are some tips for finding your playful pleasures:
Look for play that actively engages you. I’m a lifelong bookworm, and reading novels feels fantastic. I’d even say that it’s part of what inspires me as a writer. But play is a bit less passive than reading or watching TV. Choose play that gets your body, mind, or both up and moving.
Try something new that you’ve always wanted to do. Make your experience about the process rather than the outcome. You might want to build a kite, walk a slack line, or learn to foxtrot. Take it as a given that you’re not going to be good at something right away. Let go of perfectionism and engage your sense of adventure.
Daydream without guilt. Writers are folks who regularly go off on wild flights of the imagination, playing within the space of our mind’s eye. So why always be trying to rein ourselves in? Go with the imaginative flow!
Borrow a little kid. Young children are masters of play and being in the moment. Go on a fun playdate with a willing five-year-old. Jump right into their imagination games and become a rescuer of faeries or slayer of poison bats. Play it up!
Follow your yesses. We are often being invited to events, parties, gatherings, road trips, and other doings. Forget about calculating which ones you are obligated to attend and which you can safely ignore. Look for the ones that sound amazingly fun, and say yes to those! Get outside of your comfort zone, but in ways that will amp up your joy factor. Hula hooping workshop? Oh yes, please!
Summer is the perfect time to get into the habit of playfulness. There are beaches, pools, backyard parties, and music festivals galore. Start today, and cultivate a habit of playing in ways that light up your imagination. Your writing, and your personal happiness, will soon reap the benefits!



Nikki Starcat Shields

When Your Writing Needs A Shot of Something by Chris Kincaid

Two years ago in April, a co-worker thought we should run in a 5K on the Fourth of July. I had never run before in my life, but for some odd reason, I decided to add that to my bucket list. I bought a pair of shoes and took off running down my road each evening after work. Within a few weeks my left ankle was burning. I looked it up on-line and diagnosed myself with Achilles tendinitis. I bought some heel orthotics for my shoes, started doing some stretches and the pain settled down.


I took a year off, but as soon as I started running this past spring, that Achilles tendon started aching again. I bought not only new orthotics, but new shoes. That offered no relief. I asked a doctor who had a few more suggestions but I still got no relief. I kept running though; the ankle didn’t hurt when I was on it only when I tried to sleep at night.


Then one morning a month and a half ago, my right hip locked up on me. I could barely walk on it, much less run. I got some more exercises and started icing it. No relief. I talked to the doctor again as well as the physical therapist. I did what they said but still got no relief.


Do I accept my body telling me that I will never run again and that much of the time it will hurt just to walk? Or do I continue to fight it?


What do you do when you have writer’s block? Or no publishers will even look at your work? Or all you get is bad reviews? Or your computer crashes and you lose all of your work?


You take a break. You find a writing partner. You sign up for a course. You read something for fun. You write something for you and no one else. You invest in a new computer. You remember to back everything up when you are done for the day. You don’t quit.


The only thing I haven’t tried for the bursitis in my hip is a steroid injection. I’m not afraid of needles. I just don’t want to bother my doctor about this anymore. I don’t want to take that five minutes out of my work day. I want to give it just a little more time.


What about you and your writing? Have you really tried everything to give it a boast? Does it need a shot of something? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And don’t be afraid to turn to the professionals.


Maybe today is the day I ask for help from the professionals.


Chris Kincaid

The 3 Biggest Stumbling Blocks for Writers by Kristen Brockmeyer

We’re all writers here, right? We adore the printed word, devour books and bleed ink. It is a privilege and an pleasure to sit down at our computers every day and create fantastic stories out of thin air. In fact, it’s downright magical. So why the hell does it sometimes feel like performing a DIY root canal minus painkillers and actual dentistry experience would be easier and more painless than facing down a blank page?

Call it writer’s block. Performance anxiety. Verbal constipation. There are several reasons we writers can freeze up at any given time. Here are a three of the biggest stumbling blocks (hence the ALL CAPS) and some ways to get around them:


Don’t feel bad. Writers often battle perfectionism. But even the most complex, beautiful and bestselling works of literature all started from a first draft and, chances are, those drafts didn’t pop out on the page fully formed in brilliant perfection. If you grapple endlessly with sentence structure, imagery and spot-on characterization, it might take you a year to past that first paragraph. By scrutinizing every word that formulates on the page for strokes of genius, you’re putting too much pressure on yourself. As the bajillion-time bestselling romance author Nora Roberts said to me just last week when we met for decaf mochas at Starbucks, you can’t edit a blank page. Okay, fine, I read that on Google somewhere. But Nora’s right. Just focus on pounding out a first draft. That’s the most important thing.


This is a common first-time writer’s problem. You compare every word you write to every other writer’s work you’ve ever read and often find yours lacking in a big way. But the fear of sucking is also a second- (and third-and fiftyith-) time writer’s problem. You achieved a miracle and created an awesome story once that some people liked and now you’re afraid you can’t do it again. Or you’re writing the third book in a trilogy and are scared it won’t measure up to the first two. When you start a new book, any previous successes become flukes. The solution? Embrace that fear. Your vulnerability will actually make you a better writer. Also, buy an inspirational cat poster to drive the point home if you must, but know that your voice is worthy of being heard and work through that fear to get to that all important first draft.


Maybe this case of writer’s block is so severe that it feels like you used up your lifetime quota of words already, but, I promise, there are lots more in there. To jiggle them loose, try the oft-touted technique of just typing gibberish until something meaningful comes out. Sometimes the very act of putting stuff on paper or screen will jumpstart the creative process. Or, go do something different. Take a 15 minute walk. Fix yourself a snack. Go to the mall and people-watch, with a notebook to jot down impressions. Watch a movie. Read a couple chapters out of a non-fiction book or fiction outside your genre. Crochet dog sweaters for your local Hairless Chihuahua Rescue, if that’s your thing. But keep your inspirational side trips on a time limit and always come back to the page.

In summary? Every case of writer’s block is treatable. Just don’t strive for perfectly perfect perfectness yet (unless you’re in editing purgatory, but that’s a worry for another day). Always remember that you’re good enough, smart enough and, gosh darn it, people will like your books. Just keep that creative well full, repeatedly apply butt to chair, fingers to keys, pen to paper, and the words will come back.


Kristen Brockmeyer

Here’s To Writing and Your Your Brain! Cheers! by Amy Kennedy

Why does suckitude set in when we have a goal? It’s almost as if one part of our brain says, Yay! I’m going to be a best-selling author! As another part reacts with: that sounds scary and risky and riddled with failure, and failure is bad and so is sticking out your neck, remember that one time? Let’s look at Facebook instead.


I was at a writer’s event recently where I heard Roseanne Bane speak on brain science and writing–wow, it turns out one part of your brain wants to write, whereas another part sees it as a literal threat. And the part that wants to write doesn’t know the other part has Shut. It. Down.  The part that wants to write, the cortex, thinks it’s a loser and lazy and a procrastinator–the two parts do not talk to each other because the part that sees it as a threat, the limbic, has no LANGUAGE.




So…the side with no language the limbic or lizard brain (yeah, like anyone should listen to a lizard brain…okay, well, you should listen to the lizard brain if you’re actually in danger–then it’s the boss) puts the kibosh on it. Then, the part with language gets  to make up all kinds of stories as to why you’re a lazy stupid lump. Yay!


Here’s. The. Thing. Are you going to let a lizard tell you what to do? I think not!


Here are some of Bane’s suggestions, with my comments:

Downtime: “The brain requires rest to retain what it’s learned.” Yup. Whatcha doin? Nothin. Perfect. I have one of my downtimes (nearly) every morning; #onegoodcup project is my peaceful time. It’s awesome for ideas…or just daydreaming.

Sleep: “A sleep deprived brain cannot be creative” We all know we need sleep, we know it and we laugh at it. Okay, I really do try to get 7-8 hours every night, my brain and my face appreciate it, but sometimes one more episode of Game of Thrones, Hell on Wheels, Daredevil, or Gilmore Girls is calling your name soooo sweetly. And honestly, once in a while, we all need a little binge watching…at least, I think we do.

Exercise: “exercise doesn’t just improve your body; it improves brain function” Oy! I know this! I feel amazing when I move my body. And when I move my body I tend to get really good ideas too, gosh-darnit!

Focus: “Writing requires a special kind of focus”  I swear, the word “focus” will be my next tattoo. I’ve written about this, I’ve read about this. I’m working on this.

Meditation: “rewires your brain” I know! Right?! Again, I always feel so in the now when I’ve meditated, but there’s always so much to dooooooooooo. I have been able to squeeze in an occasional mini meditation after my one good cup,

Play: “makes your brain more powerful” One of my favorite things that I think I’m doing, but I’m not actually doing, I’m only thinking about doing. Got that?


I know that some folks have a few of these added to their ROW80 goals–that is fantastic. What I didn’t realize was how much they really have to do with our creativity. So, by the time you read this, I will have added these into my ROW80 goals. This was meant as an inspiration piece for all of you — but, it turns out, all of you have inspired me. Thanks!


Amy Kennedy