Saturday, September 29, 2007

StumbleUpon is a Goldmine for Writers

I’ve always been one to view social media sites with a certain amount of reserve. After all, I’m 32. Myspace sort of feels like someone else’s space, if you know what I mean. Digg has a bit of an elitist attitude. I like Reddit, even though the interface could be more intuitive. And is better as a utility than as a social scene.

StumbleUpon, on the other hand. Well, now we’re talkin’!

Right before Facebook became the social network du jour a month ago, StumbleUpon was getting mad press! Most of it was from bloggers writing posts on how they got about 7 bazillion visits from StumbleUpon within mere minutes of “stumbling” their own post. So, of course, I had to get in on that action. Well, my traffic has gone up a little bit, (10-15 visit a day) since I became active at StumbleUpon. What I got in return, however, has been far more valuable than traffic.

I’ve found StumbleUpon to be a tremendous resource as a writer. Most often, this comes in the form of inspiration and information. Please indulge me and my blatant overuse of italicized text.

StumbleUpon for Inspiration :: The Pictures

One of the most unique features of StumbleUpon is the ability for users to photoblog. Many users focus almost solely on seeking out magnificent and awe-inspiring pictures. If you’ve followed Tapping Creativity for a little while now, you’ll know I’m a big fan of Writing to a Snapshot. Some stumblers have made it an artform, however.

When you are stuck for an idea, check out two of my favorite photostumblers: TeapotFox and Fantm. Their choice is images is, without a doubt, enough to generate something creative. If not, you need to check your pulse. Pick an image from either of their blogs and use it to get started. Some stumblers also write poetry to the images they stumble. And most of it is very good. In some cases, the seeds to a much bigger story have been sewn. All you have to do is start watering it.

StumbleUpon for Inspiration :: The People

More than any blog or tagging system alone can do, StumbleUpon allows you to get a pretty good idea about a person, quickly. This helps not only in finding other cool people, but also in learning how to flesh out characters in your own writing.

For instance, Caile-girl is, what I would consider, an ideal stumbler from whom to learn. Her stumbles shine on their own. They also, however, show the range of a real (and interesting) person who shows lots of moods and sarcasm. And Perko shows a range in his stumbles that encompass a wide variety of interests from the arts and sciences, but show a common thread throughout. Checking out his stumbles is like reading a Don DeLillo book. And I love me some Don DeLillo.

StumbleUpon for Information

You will find experts in every conceivable field on StumbleUpon. I have a special affinity for some subjects, such as social media optimization. Do you? If so, check out Msaleem-stumbl. His stumbles are a veritable encyclopedia on the subject. Looking for a slew of information on socio-political current events? Try Poeticsweetnss. Her stumbles are like the best newspaper you’ll find – provided you lean a little to the left. Of course, you can always find me there, too. I post a lot of stuff about writing (surprise) and music.

Do any of you use social media to find inspiration for your creative inspiration? If so, by all means, drop a comment to share.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What Color is Your Plane?

Today's post is a guest post from Jim Moon of

Many people are intimidated by the use of creativity and imagination within their day to day lives.

Their days become bland and existence just becomes commonplace. I learned a while ago that if you try and interject a little creativity and imagination into your day to day activities, life becomes much easier and enjoyable.

It is very disheartening to me when I hear people claim the they are not talented, or creative. How can you not be creative in one way or another?

A few years ago I learned the true meaning of creativity and imagination from the most unlikely place. One rainy day I went to the mall to pick up a few things, and I would have never imagined, that from this trip I would learn the true meaning of imagination and creativity.

When I parked my car, it was raining pretty hard, so I figured I would wait it out for a few minutes. After the rain slowed, I decided to make a run for the doors, without my umbrella.

Once I was at the door, I was greeted by a friend; we talked for a while and then she left. While standing there, I noticed a mother and her small child, probably about four years old. Both of them had umbrellas and were standing in the rain. The mom was protected from the rain under her umbrella, but the girl had her umbrella in front of her with the handle to her belly, and was twirling it.

The girl was pretending to be an airplane, flying around in circles, twirling her umbrella furiously like the propeller of the plane. The whole time she was describing the plane she was flying to her mom, pointing out all the details: the tires, the wings, and the color of the plane. Then she asked her mom:

“What is the color of your plane?”

In my head, it clicked that this the true untainted meaning of imagination, from a 4 year old. I asked myself that same question: “What is the color of my plane?”

I couldn’t answer.

As we grow into adults, we often forget how to imagine, or how to be creative because we don’t allow ourselves that freedom. We tend to believe there is no place in adulthood for story time or make believe. It’s all business.

This is where we are wrong. When we allow ourselves to imagine and be creative, it actually strengthens our ability to create.

Next time you’re in the rain with your umbrella, put the handle to your belly and ask yourself: “What color is my plane?”

Thanks for reading…

Jim Moon

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tapping Creativity by Writing Erotica

Here's a freebie. The following is an excerpt from my book, Tapping Creativity.

Most often creativity comes from stepping outside your normal approach to writing and dabbling in something different. With its dominance in the life of so many adults, it might be beneficial to try your hand at erotica. Although erotica is not the easiest genre to poke around in, the rewards of a well-worked piece will add a new dimension to your writing.

While I don’t claim to be a fine writer of erotica, I’ve sunk enough into it to know it can be hard. The one big advantage of this particular style to writers who’ve never tried penetrating it before is that each time can be a unique experience and, like its real life counterpart, it is only limited my your imagination.

From the writings of the Marquis de Sade to DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, nothing seems to stir the pot of the literary police quite like erotica, be it crude and vulgar or elegant and highbrow. In your own experimenting, feel free to write to whatever level you wish. Maybe you’re a fairly conservative person who would like to challenge yourself by really pushing the limits of your comfort. Perhaps you’re quite outspoken and detail-oriented in your personal life and would like to be more subtle and intriguing on the page.

I try to show examples of my own work as a way to illustrate the possibilities of the exercise. This time I’m going to pull out, though. I want you to also be able to write in this style without the fear of someone looking over your shoulder. Writing free of inhibitions will produce more convincing episodes. So this time, I won’t show you mine and you won’t have to show me—or anybody else—yours, if you so choose.

Something to keep in mind is this: like every other event that happens to your characters, however, adult scenes should be used to further your story rather than gratuitous episodes to simply fill pages. Again, as in real life, intimacy is often affected by other situations. Keep some of these in mind:

• What is the relationship of the persons involved? (e.g., age, married, affair?)

• Where is it happening? (e.g., hotel room, dorm, in car, on a NYC rooftop during the Macy’s parade?)

• What is your perspective? (first-person, omniscient, peeping tom?)

• What happens after?

• How will the answer to the previous question influence the scene?

Whichever highway your pen leads you down, just remember that the ability to write adult scenes appropriate to your story simply puts another tool in your box. And I can’t think of other writing exercises that wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

This final installment of The Lonely Writer series is a short one. After all, if you have put the previous five lessons into place, this sixth one should evolve naturally. I call it: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts.

The previous steps were designed to help you learn how to deal with physical, mental, and chemical habits that can get in the way of writing and be preventive in tapping creativity. As we learn to train ourselves to be comfortable in the solitary act of writing, we are opening a sort of channel into our creative core.

Have you ever been into a story and felt like it was writing itself? Like you were just writing down a story that was unfolding on its own? That is the ultimate state of being for a creative writer. You are in the zone. Your mind and body are not wandering to other tasks, and you need not be talking to yourself to correct those actions. You are one with your creative self and letting the words flow forth.

Many published writers will vow that they treat book writing just like an office job. They set hours. They have special places to write. They get into a routine. This routine helps promote all of the hazards we have discussed in this series, so they don't have to think about anything else. They can sit down, and open up the creativity. They keep working, letting bad writing come out with the good. And when they are done, they do the other things in their lives that need getting done.

I'm curious now. Have any of your been in the zone recently? If so, can you recall how those sessions may have differed from other normal times? Perhaps, together, we can lean on each other and share some ideas to help each other embrace this life - the life of The Lonely Writer.

The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction
The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment
The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity
The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline
The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire

Throughout other posts in this series, we've talked about fighting distractions that take us away from the writing process. Sometimes it's being over-critical of our work. Sometimes it's letting our attention wander to other places (i.e., television, 'net surfing). Sometimes it's letting our bodies wander by trying to do other task at the same time as writing (i.e., laundry, soaking the dishes). This type of wandering is a sort of horizontal movement when we are looking for something vertical. We want to go deeper in our ideas, not spread our concentration over multiple tasks.

That brings us to Part 5 of this series :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire.

Tapping Creativity means changing your perspective. This can take time, as our perspectives are usually cultivated by years of experience. Maintaining focus and writing about a subject, problem, or theme until you've exhausted it will usually get you deeper into it. Still, there are shortcuts that can come from wandering in the world of desire.

Art has a long history of substance abusers. Some were brilliant not in spite of their addiction, but because of them. We'd be naive to believe otherwise. And its easy to see how it could happen. Alcohol does relax the editor on your shoulder and let you write more freely. Drugs will alter your perceptions and perspectives.

For how long, though?

When we are stuck in the creative process, it is easy to wander in the world of desire to find help. That's a dangerous candle to burn, however. As those things can cause a physical addiction, they can also cause a crippling creative dependency. Just as drugs and alcohol can help to get more (and different) writing out, so to can they make you think that if you stop, you won't be able to be creative anymore. And that can put you in a worse spot than you were to begin with.

I would argue that it is more beneficial to sit at the keys and not write a single word for months than to wander in the world of desire with the sole goal of finding help for your creative struggles. Much attention is given to the woes of drugs and alcohol, but I feel this is one area that is overlooked.

Drugs and alcohol are only the most obvious examples. Any time we turn away from ourselves and rely on something that isn't directly related to creativity in the name of promoting creativity, we move further away from our goal, subsequently making it more difficult to take our writing to another level the natural way...with focus, dedication, and practice.

The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction
The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment
The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity
The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline
The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline

This is the fourth part of the series "The Lonely Writer". At this point I would like to recap why this series is called The Lonely Writer, because this installment on complete discipline is directly relevant.

Writers sometime struggle in tapping creativity because the act of writing, unlike many of the things we do in life, is a solitary practice. Nobody does your writing for you; you alone are responsible. And to be completely honest, sometimes that's a tall that can get in the way of your writing.

When we speak of complete discipline, however, it can be easily confused with punishment, parenting, or even pain. The type of discipline we are talking about here, though, has to deal with the ability to focus and follow through. In any solitary event, sometimes the mind can wander. Sometimes the body starts to wander as well. For instance, how many times have you been writing something and, before you knew it, you were watching the television...or surfing the internet...or IMing with someone?

These things happen. Writing is a lonely practice, you don't have someone there to work with you in maintaining focus. That is why complete discipline takes on such an important role in writing and your ability to tap your creativity. When you take your eye off the ball, so to speak, you lose focus and the next thing you know, you end up like Theo Huxtable.

Theo is using the excuse of being normal to make it alright to not be as accomplished as his parents. His father, however, knows that Theo's excuse is bunk and makes it clear to Theo that doing your best leads to success. Making excuses for why it's okay to not stay focused and try harder is unacceptable. Doing your best, and showing complete discipline in what you do is what will lead to success...however you define success.

So how do you exercise complete discipline? After all, that's what this post is all about, right?


Whenever you notice your mind start to wander, bring your focus back to the writing. Whenever you find yourself sitting at the keys and looking over your screen at the television, bring your focus back to the writing. Whenever you find yourself getting up to start a load of laundry or setting up the coffee maker, bring your focus back to the writing. It doesn't have to be painful, and you don't have to get down on yourself. It can take practice. Complete discipline is the ability to stay on task and always keep coming back when you wander.

This will get more writing done. And, as you know, writing is like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. It also makes tapping creativity easier.

Related Posts:
The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction
The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment
The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity
The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

Monday, September 17, 2007

Oh no! Not the Blog!

I'm not naive. I know a lot of you who read this blog also hold down day jobs in the corporate world. Indeed, for most writers, it's the most accessible way to pay the bills with your writing.

I try to keep this blog separate from my day job, but I wrote a blog post over there that I think is worth sharing. And rather than re-write the whole thing, I'll just put as link to it: When Not to Blog.

Although it written with the corporate blogger in mind, I think those of you who keep a blog of any kind will also find some useful bits in there.

And by the way, while you are over there, feel free to leave some comments, or stumble it, or digg it, or delicify it, or reddit it, or whatever... I'm just sayin' is all.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Changing your Perspective

Creativity isn't some magic ability that some people have and some people don't. Creativity is simply the ability to look at the same thing everybody else is looking at, but see something a little (or a lot) different. And anybody can do it.

I'll admit, some people are naturally inclined to look at things differently; it's just the way they are wired. It does not mean, however, that those people are more creative than you are. Sometimes the key to seeing something different from what others are seeing is in learning how to look at things differently.

For instance, take notion of perspective. The closer or further you are from something, the more you tend to notice things that others do not. In your own writing, try changing perspective.

Moving from third-person to first person brings a distinct closeness to situations. Moving the other way offers a broader, more objective view. Switching characters presents a different scenario as well. What would the story of The Wizard of Oz be like it was told from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West, or The Cowardly Lion, or even the ruby slippers? Parades look different when you are watching them from the street than they do when you are watching them from a building.

When you get stuck, or if you are thinking up a new way to approach a piece of writing, trying changing perspective and see what happens. It's a good way to start tapping creativity.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity

The Japanese poet, Ryokan wrote, "If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things."

Thank about that for a minute. How many things are you chasing? And I'm not even talk about the abstracts of inner peace or more good hair days. I'm talking about the practical things: housecleaning, shuttling the kids around, home or car maintenance, etc. Sometimes we are just juggling too much, and too many of the wrong things.

Do you keep "to do" lists? I bet you do.

We all do.

And when you are sitting down to write, are you thinking about your "to do" list? I bet you do sometimes, especially when the words aren't coming out as quickly as you would like. So what do we do?

We multi-task!

We think, "Well, I can at least throw in a load of laundry." Then we do it and go sit back down.

Then we think, "I could probably fill the sink and let the dishes soak while I write." Then we do it and go sit back down.

Then we think, "I should probably get the coffee maker set for tomorrow morning before I forget about it." Then we do it and go sit back down.

Then we think, "If I'm saving time with the coffee maker, I should probably lay out my clothes for tomorrow, too." Then we do it and go sit back down.

And how much of this is getting writing done? None of it.

How much of it can wait? Usually, all of it can.

How much writing got done? Exactly.

This is, in general, what our lives have become. We rush from one activity to another. And all of the new gadgets we get make it easier to keep doing it. And they sell it all to us as if it is a good thing. We don't need gadgets to let us do more. What we really need to do is stop, take a breath, and realize which activities are unnecessary, the stop doing those things. For writers, it starts with prioritizing and avoiding activity that is unnecessary while we are writing. If this isn't enough, then you need to look at parts of your life, in comparison to writing, and make some decisions. And you know the decisions, I'm talking about.

This becomes especially important when the writing is slow. Don't ever feel like inactive time at the keyboard is wasted time or time that could be spent doing something else...something unnecessary. Indeed, it is often these times when everything stops, and we are not pre-occupied with doing unnecessary things, that the best ideas start coming to the surface. When that happens, you are at the start of tapping creativity.

Related Posts:
The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction
The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment
The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline
The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Creativity Taps Creativity

Today, over at copyblogger, guest blogger, Michael Stelzner of Writing White Papers asked the question, "Who inspires you to write?"

I responded with a list of my favorite writers (Rushdie, Delillo, Wallace Stevens) and some of my favorite musicians as well. Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know I'm also a musician and draw upon music to influence my own writing often. In fact, I do it here and here.

Today, I want to point out the power of creativity across different forms of media.

I have a very eclectic musical pallet. And among my favorite songs, you'll find selections from Prince and Peter Gabriel. My favorite all-time song, however, is a fairly obscure song called "Skin and Atmosphere" by the band 36 Crazyfists. It poses great dynamics of loud/soft and noisy/quiet. Lyrically, the tale is one of love... to some degree.

I've had the notion to write the story of this song for a few years. While searching for a video to the song on YouTube, I found one made by a film student. His take is different than mine, but now I want to write the story line in his video.

Here's a look.

I tout the power of borrowing from other art forms to help tap your own creativity. This is a prime example of film borrowing from song. And I think it is a better example than an MTV music video, because it was done with attention to the meaning of the song, not just big budgets and flash.

So who inspires me? I'm guess I'm inspired by others who push into new creative territory. It doesn't have to be a particular artist. Creativity taps creativity.

Get tapping.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment

This is the second installment of the Lonely Writer series. Last time we talked about how the desire for resolution (however we define resolution when we sit down) in a piece of writing can sabotage our writing effort. Since writing is a solitary endeavor, we alone control our experience. Less desire when we write is the first step in that process.

The second step is: Contentment.

It's an old adage: When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. This is contentment in a nutshell. People often look at contentment as an overwhelming satisfaction with life. I tend to be on the side of the fence that believes, if you've got nothing to lose, you are actually in a pretty good spot. When you are content - when you have nothing to lose - you are more free to write without reservation and take those chances that allow you to grow as a writer.

How do we fall into the the trap of non-contentment? This usually happens when we sit down to write and our ego comes along. Your ego is also known as that little editor on your shoulder, the one who tells you when something is not right, needs to be rewritten, or is just not as good as you are capable of doing. We've all been there. And as much as I am aware of it in my own writing, it still creeps up.

To achieve contentment in your own writing, you need to allow yourself to "make mistakes". When you do this, you are also giving yourself permission to venture into new territory. Will you turn out some stuff that is ... well ... not great? Absolutely. You will also, by default, be turning out more material, which, in itself, is an improvement over not writing anything because you are afraid you have something to lose by not creating work that you feel meets your own standards. Sometimes, if you are not careful, you may just write something amazing that you wouldn't have written before. I think that's worth the trade-off; don't you?

Next time you write, be content just to write. Check your ego at the door. Let the words come out. And if they need work when you are done, then fix them up later. That's why we have drafts of writing.

Next time, we will talk about how avoiding unnecessary activity can help you keep churning out the words and growing as a writer.

Related Posts:
The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction
The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity
The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline
The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire

In this first installment of The Lonely Writer series, I would like to talk about desire. In particular, I would like to talk about the way desire impacts writers in terms of resolution.

Desire is not something that is unique to writing or writers at all. In general, our main goal for taking action is to achieve a desired resolution. I would say that in most cases, the resolution desired prompts the action in the first place.

Resolution = having the bills paid. Action = going to work.

You get the idea.

The desire for resolution is magnified when we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations. We try to end arguments by leaving or yelling louder. When we get overcharged for an item, we go to customer service or quietly suck it up and let it gnaw at us inside a little.

As it applies to writing, many writers get anxious when they are sitting at the keyboard and the words aren't coming out. Sometimes the anxiety manifests when the words are coming out, but they're the wrong words. In both cases, frustration can ensue because the desired resolution is not being reached.

So what do we do? We go over to check in on our StumbleUpon friends. We start scanning our favorite blogs. We thumb through a magazine.

And none of this gets any writing done. In actuality, it doesn't get much of anything done. And in the end, the desire for resolution has led to no resolution at all. To make it all worse, the willingness to sit at the keyboard and write again can also be diminished.

It's an old adage that the successful writers are the ones who put their asses in seats, and keep them there. This also means approaching writing with less desire for a particular resolution. If you get 4,000 words, that's great. If you get none, that's okay, too. When you approach your writing time with less desire, you give yourself permission to simply exist in the moment for what it is, rather than trying too hard to make it something it is not.

When you can simply approach writing without the desire for a set resolution, you get closer to tapping creativity on a regular basis. Desire for resolution creates a barrier. When you write with less desire, you can get past that barrier. In the end, you are likely to end up achieving better results, and achieving them more frequently.

This doesn't happen overnight, as the desire for resolution has been a lifetime in the building. When you are aware of writing with less desire, however, you are well on your way.

Related Posts :
The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction
The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment
The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity
The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline
The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction

While writing my recent posts about Fearless Writing, I also realized that sometimes the thing that keeps us from truly tapping creativity and letting it flourish in our writing is the solitary nature of writing. When it gets down business, you have to do it for yourself. That can be a daunting task.

Humans, by nature, are a social lot. Being alone, and projecting the fruits of that loneliness can get in the way of productive writing. After all, how many times have you found yourself with alone time, and planned on getting a lot of writing done, but squandered that time when it arrived? And how many times was it spent doing things that weren't as important or fulfilling to you?

My guess is that some of you are nodding right now.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting a six-part series of posts on the ability to embrace this lonely activity of writing, using this ability to tap your creativity, and perhaps even learn a little more about yourself in the process.

The working titles for these posts are as follows:

The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire

The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment
The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity
The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline
The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

I greatly encourage comments on these posts. This is an idea I've been playing with for a little while, and I'm curious as to whether others will identify with these topics.

Until then, keep the fingers on the keys.