Unlock the Muse – January 7, 2020

The beginning of a new year is a great time for setting new goals. And that is exactly what we’re going to talk about this month. Goals.

Why should we set goals? Well, goal setting allows you more control over the direction your life will go. This can be in any area of your life – parenting, business, writing. For the purposes of this blog, I will be focusing on writing goals.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Time’s ticking. If you only had one more day to live, what would you do?

Make this exercise even more interesting and set a timer. Let time literally tick away as you frantically write down your end-of-life goals.

Encourage
The first step in setting yourself a goal is to decide what exactly you want to accomplish. We have the whole year ahead of us. Don’t be afraid to go big. Just not too big. Your goal should be clearly defined, such as finishing a novel or obtaining an agent, instead of something like “writing more.” This last goal is simply too vague, and has no definable end point.

Your goal should also be realistic and achievable. Instead of “write every day,” perhaps try “write 1,000 words a week.” The first is almost certainly doomed to failure as life will inevitably interfere. The second is more flexible, and therefore more attainable.

Once you’ve decided what your goal will be for 2020, take time to consider why you hope to accomplish this. Determining why will help you narrow your focus and provide you with even greater motivation.

Your assignment this week is to decide what your goal will be. Challenge yourself, but keep it realistic. Write your goal down. You’re more likely to achieve your goal if you keep it in front you.

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – December 31, 2019

The next year, the next decade, begins tomorrow. It’s a time of reflection and transition. While we look forward to what the future has in store, we also take a moment to look back at where we’ve been. Take a few moments this week to reflect on what you’ve accomplished this past year. Then, turn your attention to what you plan to accomplish in the next year.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write about what love has meant in your life.

The end of the year is a great time for reflection. Take a moment and examine what role love has played in your life this year. How does this relate to your writing in particular?

Encourage
This is week five, and therefore a bonus week. So, let’s talk about goals. A new year begins tomorrow. It’s a good time for setting new goals.

If you haven’t already, take a few moments this week to really think about what you hope to accomplish in 2020. Write down your goals in detail. You have an entire year, don’t be afraid to go big. For myself, my goal is to have a working draft of my current novel series finished. This is a huge goal, but if I break it down into monthly and even weekly goals, I have reason to believe I can accomplish it.

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – December 17, 2019

This month has been a whirlwind of chaos for me. I’ve gone from Christmas production to jury duty to sick kids and husband, and now I’m sick myself. Now, here it is the middle of December already and I haven’t accomplished half of what I’d hoped to do. I can’t help but wonder, what’s next?

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Raise the stakes in your story. Whatever troubles your character is facing, they could be worse. If you’re losing interest in writing a story about halfway through, it’s probably because there’s not enough at risk. If your character is facing a life-and-death situation, put his relationship in danger or put other people’s lives at risk if he fails.

If you’re not sure where to go with your story, take it to the next level. Burn down your MC’s home. Start the fire with the MC still inside. Whatever is happening, make it worse.

Encourage
The word next is a versatile word. It can be a noun, a descriptor, or even a preposition.

next
adjective:
1. (Of a time or season) coming immediately after the time of writing or speaking.
2. Coming immediately after the present one in order, rank, or space.

adverb:
1. On the first or soonest occasion after the present, immediately afterwards.
2. Following the specified order.

noun:
1. The next person or thing.

preposition:
1. Next to.

The word next, “nearest in place, position, rank, or turn,” comes to us from the Middle English word nexte, through the Old English word niehsta meaning “nearest in position or distance, closest in kinship.” It is also related to the Proto-Germanic word nekh (meaning “near”) + the superlative suffix –istaz, as well as the Old High German word nahisto, meaning “neighbor.”

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – December 10, 2019

It’s December. And wherever you are, there’s a good chance that means lots of parties, concerts, gift buying, family gatherings, road trips and more. This year I participated in the Christmas production at my church. We had five performances over three days. It was a lot of fun, but I’m worn out.

Up next I get to exercise my civic duty as an American citizen and report for jury duty. I am not one of those people who despises jury duty just for the principal of it. No, I want to believe in the system. But it is an interruption to the normal routine. And, for me at least, it can cause a great deal of anxiety. I don’t look forward to going by myself to a strange place I’ve never been before, spending the day in a room full of strangers, and possibly being chosen to decide the fate of another human being.

Still, I will go and fulfill my responsibility. I’m hoping in the process to carve out some quality reading time, so there is that.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Saturday. Elton John sang “Saturday night’s the night I like.” Write a song of your own either praising or despising Saturdays. Have the refrain echo the tune of that song.

Last month we played around with poetry for something new. Now, turn your poetry into song lyrics. And don’t limit yourself to Saturdays. Write a song for every day of the week!

Encourage
I’ll finish with this final thought…

Next Quote 1

What’s your next move?

Happy writing!

New Vision: Hallie Ford Museum of Art

A few weeks ago the weekly writing prompt I shared in my Unlock the Muse post encouraged trying out a new experience designed to excite one of the five senses. One of the suggestions was to go to an art museum. I had never before been to the art museum located here in my home town. Every time I would happen to drive by, I would remember how much I wanted to go. When this writing prompt showed up, I knew it was time to make it happen.

I had some time off work, so while my children were in school, I took an hour and explored the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. This art museum – the third largest in the state of Oregon – is connected to the Willamette University. Many of the displays in their permanent collection include artists who taught at the university at one time or another.

Since I was there by myself I made up my mind I would spend as much time as I wanted and thoroughly enjoy each piece. And I did take my time. I wandered through the rooms on the first level, stopping to read the placard beside each piece.

Some of the artwork really captured my imagination – pieces such as an oil on canvas, Untitled Memory #44, by Royal Nebeker and C-print photograph, The Glowing Drawer, by Holly Andres. I spent a good deal of time examining the first. It has so many various elements, something new would catch my eye every time I started to move away. The second piece looked like something begging to become a story.

Ocenscape.RobertHess
Oceanscape, by Robert Hess – Hallie Ford Museum of Art

My favorite piece was probably a welded bronze sculpture titled Oceanscape by Robert Hess. Swirling lines and interesting details give this sculpture a sort of whimsical look. According to the placard, “Oceanscape uses the forms of modern sculpture to speak in witty ways about Pacific mist, undertows, and whale watching.”

SpiritinOrangeSkirt.MaritaDingus
Spirit in Orange Skirt, by Marita Dingus – Hallie Ford Museum of Art

I also learned to appreciate the art better. One piece in particular was not visually appealing to me at first, but became more so after I read about the artist and her work. I found Spirit in Orange Skirt, by Marita Dingus at first interesting, but not especially attractive. Then I read the placard:

“Washington artist Marita Dingus learned to sew from her mother and paternal grandmother; she made her own clothes but also used sewing as play. Following a more formal education in traditional fine arts as an undergraduate, Dingus returned to sewn cloth as a medium in graduate school after taking a Black Studies course and thinking about African culture as a resource for making art. As she noted, ‘Not only was work constructed with a needle related to my own family heritage, but it sidestepped the inherent cultural baggage of the European painting tradition.’

Dingus uses scavenged materials in her art, first from necessity and then gradually working from a deep cultural affinity with Third World ethics of ‘waste not, want not.’ Her figures reflect childhood games with paper dolls (and the clothes she would make for them) as well as her familial and ancestral roots.”

I took a step back and examined the sculpture again, with a much greater understanding of its significance. It really is a beautiful piece of art.

I didn’t get to finish exploring the art museum the way I wanted to. I unfortunately ran out of time. But while I was there, I gained a deeper appreciation for the visual arts. I went there seeking a new experience and a new vision. I came away with all that and more.

Unlock the Muse – November 12, 2019

It’s a new week. November is nearly half over already. When did that happen?

Did you try something new this week to excite your senses? I went to the local art museum and spent a good hour enjoying color, shape and texture. I had a fabulous time examining all the beautiful artwork. I am always impressed by the creativity of other artists. I’ll share more about my experience there later this week.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, how’s your word count? I’ve had a rough beginning, but that is nothing new. I’ve made good strides this week to make up the deficiency, but I remain a little behind. My goal is to get caught up by the end of this week.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Celebrate Wednesday – the hump of the week – in a poem!

Don’t normally write poetry? That’s okay, we’re trying new things this month. Wednesday isn’t the middle of your week? That’s okay too. Write about Friday. Or Monday. Have fun with it!

Encourage
I’ll leave you with this thought from Dr. Seuss:

New quote 1

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – October 29, 2019

November is only days away. For many this means end-of-year holidays are upon us. Fall has nearly fallen. And football season is in full swing.

It also means National Novel Writing Month. This year I’ll be trying to balance a 50,000-word writing goal with a 100+ books-read goal. I’m still behind on my reading challenges, and I hope that doesn’t translate into a disastrous NaNo.

Of course, before we can arrive at November, we have to get through Halloween. Or All Hallow’s Eve to some. The night we put on our disguises and become the monster within. Or perhaps it’s truly the disguise that falls away, and the true self emerges.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

You may be thought of as “your father’s son” or “daddy’s little girl,” but are these descriptions true? In one sentence, write a description of yourself through your father’s eyes.

This is an exercise in empathy. Can you think enough like the other person (in this case, your father) in order to describe yourself the way they would?

Encourage
It’s bonus week, and National Novel Writing Month begins in three days. If you’re participating this year, here are a few thoughts and resources to help you make it through:

Happy writing!