Fearless Creativity: Thank you, Eric Maisel!

I found this Eric Maisel video last night, and boy did I need it!

Thanks to Creativity Coach Eric Maisel, for this wonderful video on HOW TO CREATE FEARLESSLY. 

After years of experiencing an easy flow of creative ideas from my mind to my fingers and thus into my book’s Scrivener file, I’ve sunk into a mode where I want to write, but just when the writing starts to flow, I find myself avoiding writing. I started my current novel–writing in a new area, in what seems to be evolving into a genre called boomer-lit, focusing on characters born during the post-WW II Baby Boom generation. These characters are between fifty and seventy now, moving into the final phase of their lives as seniors, elders, parents of children and grandchildren, and–occasionally–living parents of these Baby Boom characters.

I was excited by the idea of writing this book. The span of my characters’ lives gave me a wealth of possible skills, accomplishments, and emotional baggage. And, WOW, and complexity of the family trees and their networks of friends, enemies, and colleagues was dizzying.

I started at the beginning of NaNoWriMo, last November 1, almost 3 months ago. It started with a bang, writing sometimes up to a couple of thousand words a day, but progress soon slowed. It seemed  I would get a couple of good writing days, then the third day, get up almost dreading the computer.

I had 30,000 words written by the end of November when I’d targeted 50,000. During December and January my progress slowed amost to a crawl. I was actively sabotaging my writing, grasping for anything to avoid writing. I did laundry, washed my dishes, checking my email, and had the tidiest house I’ve ever achieved. I didn’t know why I was sabotaging myself, but I was definitely doing a tremendous job of it.

Then, a few weeks ago, I shared my frustration with a writer friend, who told me she was having a similar problem, and had decided to deal with it by committing open her book’s computer file every day, six days a week. She called this process OTFing (open the file-ing). She gave herself a star on her calendar every day she opened the file, whether she wrote a little or a lot. It turned out she usually did do some writing, and opening the file and looking at where she left off kept her in touch with the story, and her book kept moving along.

I adopted her strategy about 3 weeks ago and my novel began to move again. But it’s been moving painfully S L O W L Y

I would OTF every day, but often not until the evening and if I did write, it was often only a few lines. Still, my story was keeping fresh in my mind, although some days I didn’t even know if I liked the story anymore.

I needed help.

So I went online to YouTube and typed in Eric Maisel’s name, looking for this famous creativity coach’s wisdom to solve my problem. Years ago an Eric Maisel book called The Van Gogh Blues had helped me understand the relationship between depression and creativity.

Almost immediately, my YouTube search revealed a 1-hour Eric Maisel video titled HOW TO CREATE FEARLESSLY, in which Dr. Eric Maisel would outline 10 strategies for fearless creating.

It sounded like a perfect fit. After all, I was a writer whose creativity was crippled by fear produced by my supercharged inner critic.

The video turned out to be exactly what I needed. Eric Maisel outlined his ten strategies, explaining them clearly as he went. Listening to Maisel, I learned WHY I so often dreaded writing, while also loving it.

The strategies are

  1. Honor the creative process
  2. Get really easy with mistakes and messes
  3. Create in the middle of things
  4. Crack through everyday resistance
  5. Get a grip on your mind
  6. Get to my own work first thing each day
  7. Expect risks to feel risky (choices provoke anxiety for the human brain, and creative work is filled with choices)
  8. Err on the side of completing projects
  9. Let meaning trump mood
  10. Get smart about the marketplace

Creativity is Hard

Writing, painting, dancing. Every creative process involves making constant choices. What if it’s the wrong choice? The human brain, designed to keep primitive mankind alive, is stressed by choices. For the human mind, every choice is dealt with as if it were a matter of life and death.

Thanks to my curiosity about the human brain, and a lot of research into how it works, I really got it when Maisel described the fear engendered by constantly having to make choices. He was talking about me.

Yes, I was avoiding my book because I had to choose how my characters would respond to situations that threatened, if not their life, their happiness, and their future. I was writing a book complicated in different ways than my previous novels. My inner critic responded this complexity by running wild, sabotaging me by invoking and magnifying every fear my creative self could dream up.   

My creativity, that magical force I’d fallen in love with while playing my grandmother’s piano at the age of seven, imagining the playmate across the street running home in the rain as I created amateur, and very loud, music. That creative spark had blossomed for me for forty books, thirty-five of which had been published. Now it was sabotaging me, but finally, I understood why. 

Last night after watching the video, I honored my creative process (Strategy 1), signed up for Eric Maisel’s Your Best Mind Ever course on Maisel’s website, and went to sleep saying, “I wonder what will happen in my next scene?” 

I woke up having had hardly any sleep, but I wasn’t about to wimp out on Maisel’s expert advice without trying. No matter what, I would get to my own creative work right away (Strategy 6).

I opened my file, started writing, made myself a coffee to keep me going, went back and wrote more. The scene that I’d been skirting around for days suddenly started moving on its own, creating a very tricky situation for my characters!

I told myself I would spend just an hour with that file. What happened in reality? I started at 9 am and didn’t stop until 3 pm.

Word count achieved: 2,000 words, much of it straight out of my subconscious in answer to the question I asked myself before going to sleep.

If anything in my experience resonates with you, check out the video above, and if you want more, check out Maisel’s course on developuing Your Best Mind Ever.

Thank you, Eric Maisel!

IDEAS, From Spark to Fiction – WATCH THE SERIES

Where do I get my story ideas? Most writers have probably heard that question numerous times, and sometimes it’s difficult to answer. Some of my ideas seem to come out of nowhere, fully-formed. At other times, the birth of a story is made up of several factors that are only clear in retrospect. Many stories grow out of my own experiences, interviews with interesting people I meet exploring, or comment someone makes that stirs my imagination.

To answer the question, I’ve decided to do a series of videos on the creative sparks that have led to different books I’ve written.

Here’s the playlist. I’ll add to it as I post more videos. If you want to be notified when the playlist is updated, signup for my Storyteller Academy newsletter

WILD PASSAGE – IDEAS, from Spark to Fiction

TAKING CHANCES- IDEAS, FROM SPARK TO FICTION

CATALINA’S LOVER- IDEAS, FROM SPARK TO FICTION

If you enjoyed watching these videos, subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified of the next release. A “like” would come in handy as well.

Where do you get your ideas?

Vanessa

Seeking input: Hero’s Journey – at the heart of storytelling

Hi everyone, please could you help me?I am planning on creating an online course for storytellers on how to incorporate the Hero’s Journey into their creations. Right now I’m in my research phase and I’m looking for input.

If you were to take a course in Hero’s Journey – at the heart of storytelling what questions would you hope it would answer for you?

Image licensed under Creative Commons by Esbjorn Jorsater

Thank you so much for taking a moment to help me with your feedback!”

Vanessa Grant
Check out my courses at StorytellerAcademy.ca

A Powerful Memoir of Healing and the Spirit of Survival

Tonight I finished reading one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in a long time – M. J. Adam’s Unforgiving – the Memoir of an Asperger Teen

I met the author at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference a few weeks ago, and talking with her was a pleasure from the first moment. How could it be otherwise when she told me that she’d once learned something very important about writing from a workshop I presented in Surrey – that when you’re writing about relationships, there must be personal growth for the characters.

Learning that I’d helped a developing writer made my day, and before the conference ended I had the pleasure of sharing the special kind of conversation that writers treasure. I went home with her memoir and promised myself I’d read it soon.

Well, I’ve  just finished reading Unforgiving, and I want to tell everyone what a great thing M. J. Adam has done.

Unforgiving – the Memoir of an Asperger Teen is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.

M. J. Adam has crafted an inspiring book, a definite must-read for anyone who has, knows, is, or was an Asperger’s teen. I highly recommend it for anyone who cares about child survivors of any kind of trauma, or for teens struggling to understand themselves and the world they live in.

The events that happened to Margaret Jean should never happen to any child. Yet they did happen, and each page of Margaret Jean’s memoir rings with love, the amazing power of healing, and the spirit of survival.

I cried. I laughed. I cheered Margaret Jean’s indomitable inner strength, and felt honoured that she had shared herself so deeply with this reader.

Buy this book. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Vanessa Grant

Author-friendly in spades – Kobo’s new WritingLife Rocks

The other day I received notice from KoboBooks that my new Writing Life account was ready.  I’d been excited by the recent news that Kobo would be rolling out a new, writer-friendly interface for authors wishing to publish eBook editions of their books, and eager to take a look.

I went right over to find out what Kobo meant by writer-friendly. Amazon’s interface is writer-friendly, as is Smashwords. Barnes and Noble’s, not so much , but I’m hoping for improvements there now that Microsoft has invested in B&N. If Writing Life made it as convenient to publish eBooks as Smashwords and Amazon, I’d be happy. More would definitely be a bonus.

I got much more!

Signup: The signup process was easy – it took me less than 5 minutes, and that included looking up my banking information.

Distribution: KoboBooks are distributed in over 170 countries!

Payment – Yes! I was hoping for payment through PayPal rather than checks by snail mail  – but I got even better. A bonus for Canadian (and I assume other non-USA) authors and publishers – Kobo pays by direct deposit to my Canadian bank account

Publishing my booksFast, Easy, and Smooth!

This is the easiest process for uploading ebooks files, pricing, choosing sales channels, and entering the book’s meta-data that I’ve ever used. Not only was it fast to get the data up there, with easy to use forms and very little waiting – the books were available for sale almost immediately. It was easy to opt out of DRM (see my blog about digital rights management) so that my readers don’t need to worry about being locked into one format.

Information on sales – Writing Life has a beautiful “Dashboard” that allows writers and publishers to see sales numbers and estimated dollars earned at a glance, and a quick link to the publishing daqta for all books in the account.

Kudos to Kobo for a slick, convenient interface, and a system that makes authors books available in the ePUB format worldwide, on excellent terms (Kobo asks that the contract terms be kept confidential, but I found them very fair).

Kobo Rocks!

Vanessa Grant romance novels newly released on KoboBooks
– DRMfree, samples available at KoboBooks

If You Loved Me (#1 in the Emma and Jamie series)
The Colors of Love (#2 in the Emma and Jamie series)
Storm – the Author’s Cut

Indie Authors Post Open Letter to Microsoft about Barnes and Noble

I wasn’t the only indie author to welcome the recent news that Microsoft had come to Barnes and Noble’s rescue. If you missed the news, see the Wall Street Journal article Microsoft Hooks Onto Nook: Software Maker’s $300 Million Deal Gives It a 17.6% Stake in Barnes & Noble Subsidiary

I started rereleasing my previously published books some years ago, when I applied to my print publisher for reversion of rights of some of my print-published titles. Back then I believed eBook adoption would be swift and enthusiastic, but it was actually over ten years before eReaders became a common sight.

The last few years have been filled with big changes in publishing, and where authors who chose to publish their own works were once looked down upon, so many big authors have joined the crowd of “indies” (independently published authors using the readily available vehicles for publishing their own eBooks and POD – AKA Print on Demand – books) that most traditionally published authors are at least considering applying for reversion of rights and independently ePublishing their backlist. It’s hard to argue that “real authors don’t self-publish” when J. K. Rowling is going the indie route for eBook releases of Harry Potter.

Amazon has taken the lead in making it easy and inexpensive for authors to publish independently with Kindle Digital Publishing and CreateSpace Print on Demand services, and supporting services and forums for indie authors. Authors wanting to make their books available on the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Kobo, and Apple devices can go direct to the online vendors like Barnes & Noble and Apple, or they can go through Smashwords.com which offers eBook publishing and sales, and  distribution services to other retail channels like Apple, Kobobooks, Sony, and Barnes and Noble.

When I learned that Microsoft was investing $300 million in Barnes and Noble’s digital book business, like many others, I hoped that this would give new life to Barnes and Noble’s digital book presence, and allow B&N to offer both authors and readers better service. Frankly, Barnes and Noble’s performance in this area has been disappointing.

Competition gives both readers and authors more choices, and creates a healthier industry.

Author Libby Fischer Hellman, publicist Rebecca Crowley, NYT bestselling author Ruth Harris, and thriller author CJ West have done more than wish good things for Microsoft’s investment in Barnes and Noble. They’ve taken the time to analyze their experience of digital publishing through Barnes and Noble and Amazon, and write an open letter to Microsoft sharing their view of how Microsoft can help make Barnes and Noble’s digital book presence better for readers, authors, and the publishing industry.

If you want to see healthy competition in the eBook world, pop over to Libby’s blog and read the Open Letter to Microsoft written by these four authors. While you’re there, take the time to use the share buttons at the top of the blog to spread the word, and make a comment yourself.

And have a good day!

Vanessa

Free book – March 3 and 4. “If You Loved Me”

As a gift to my readers, I’m setting the Kindle eBook version of my romance novel “If You Loved Me” free for two days – March 2 and 3rd. Have a free read on me!

This edition includes a free preview of The Colors of Love.

In my September 23, 2011 blog Yippee! … If You Loved Me  I shared some amusing moments during this novel’s original journey to publication has some amusing moments, and talked about my excitement about this new edition of this romantic novel.

The majority of If You Loved Me is set in a beautiful – and remote – area of the Pacific Northwest coastline that was my home for many years.

She needed his help to find her son – no matter what the cost!Surgeon Emma Garrett had made sacrifices to follow her dream of becoming a doctor – and yet none was as painful as turning down Gray McKenzie. But not even the threat of losing her greatest love could stop Emma from fulfilling her dream of repairing the bodies of damaged children.Now widowed with a thriving Seattle practice and an eighteen-year-old son, Emma is suddenly plunged into the wilderness when her son and his friend disappear on a kayaking trip. She desperately needs the help of an expert who knows the territory – and nobody knows the Pacific Ocean’s north coast wilderness like Gray McKenzie.But when Emma arrives on Gray’s remote doorstep unannounced and determined that Gray will rescue her son, she soon realizes that reawakening her past may cost far more than she’d imagined.

Available from Amazon USA and Amazon UK (also Amazon DE, IT, FR, and ES)

Enjoy!

Vanessa

Plotting 2012 – aided by Covey, Milk, and synchronization

(This post also appeared at PenWarriors.com)

It’s January and I’m plotting my life in 2012. As with most tales, there’s a backstory:

  • SETTING: Vanessa’s newly remodelled study. Fresh paint, new carpet, several years of hoarding cleared out. Time: mid-December
  • GREMLIN (Vanessa’s internal critic): Here it is 2012 and you’ve got a todo list the size of the Grand Canyon. Get organized, woman!
  • VANESSA: I visited the grand canyon back in 2011 and I KNOW it’s a mile deep. Maybe I can sort this mess into a stack of smaller piles.
  • GREMLIN: You need a system.
  • VANESSA (sorting):
  • GREMLIN: Look at that heap of TODOs! I suppose you think you’re Superwoman now?
  • VANESSA: Shut up. I’m setting goals.
  • GREMLIN: Hah! You cleaned out your office last month, now you’re going for world’s worst task hoarder!
  • VANESSA (looking for lethal weapon): Kill the gremlin … kill the gremlin.
  • GREMLIN: You need a syst–No! No! Don’t shoot! You– (GREMLIN slinks out of room, slamming door and leaving blood behind on new carpet)
  • VANESSA (Locks door behind GREMLIN, then starts looking for a system…)
  • CRITIC (whispers through door): I told you so!

Obviously, this story is never going to hit the bestseller lists, but thankfully as December rolled towards January, I embarked on a search for a … (okay, GREMLIN, you win) a system for managing my Grand Canyon sized TODO list. Back in October (see Necessary Lies, Stephen Covey, and This Writer), I resolved to follow Stephen Covey’s suggestion of focusing on those important but not urgent tasks that build towards future goals (Quadrant II goals). I succeeded in putting First Things First for ten days and spent the first part of each day on my novel, NECESSARY LIES. On the eleventh day, unfortunately, NECESSARY LIES got buried by a pile of important AND urgent tasks, and GREMLIN woke up.

  • GREMLIN: How can you call yourself a writer, if you’re not writing? You’ll never finish that book.
  • VANESSA: Yes, I will, but other things are important too! I just need a system that keeps the most important things in front of me.
  • GREMLIN: System, smystem. You gotta USE your system. Every day. Like brushing your teeth.
  • VANESSA: Well … yeah.
Gremlin isn’t supposed to win arguments … or sneak through locked doors.
So I went looking for a system that would help me focus on important goals while keeping my life under control. My requirements were:
  • keep Quadrant II goals in front of me each day
  • remind me of urgent-but-not-important commitments (Quadrant I)
  • give me a way to record (and remember) time-sensitive commitments
  • allow me to access both urgent and non-urgent goals and tasks on my iPhone, iPad, and any computer I use.

At least one of my goals had been achieved – with my wonderful husband’s help, we’d transformed my study from a hoarder’s hell into an inviting study. Now it was time to organize my goals and my life. Over Christmas, I tried out a few ideas:

  • I read the Michael Hyatt article, “Is that task important or merely urgent?” which mentioned using Priority Matrix  to emulate the Covey 4-sector organizer. I downloaded Priority Matrix (for Mac, iPad, and iPhone). I installed the software and put my  TODO list into Priority Matrix sectors. Here’s a simplified version of what I did:
  • Priority Matrix + Covey trial: I found Priority Matrix flexible, and definitely easy to work with using Covey’s 4-quadrant model on my Mac, and I was pleased to find that the Apps for the iPhone and iPad synchronized well. (I also learned that Priority Matrix is in alpha development for Windows.) By Christmas I had realized that while I loved the 4-sector view and synchronization features of Priority Matrix, for the system to be effective, I needed to visit it every day. The best way too make sure I did that was to use the same application for appointments, other time sensitive commitments,  and goals. Priority matrix didn’t have the scheduling and reporting features I needed.
  • Getting Things Done Remember the Milk – Over Christmas I talked with my son about his experience using David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system with Remember the Milk, a Web/Android/iPhone app. GTD sounded too high-maintenance for me, but if you’re a GTD fan, check out Advanced GTD with Remember The Milk, and also take a look at the simplified version described in Monk to Done.
  • Covey + Remember the Milk –  If Remember the Milk could work with GTD, maybe I could make it work with Covey’s First Things First model. I decided to try out the free version of Remember the Milk (RTM) and soon realized that this friendly, flexible application could:
    • be used on in all common Web browsers, Android phones, iPhones, and iPad
    • synchronize across all installations, i.e. phone, tablet, Web (daily sync is free, more frequent sync requires upgrading to the pro version)
    • have separate lists for different category tasks (achieved by setting task “category” and adding your own lists and/or modifying RTM’s default lists. Some of my categories are WRITING, RESEARCH, PROMOTION, BUSINESS TASKS, PERSONAL) Tasks can be viewed by category, or in a big list of “All Tasks”
    • optionally set due date and time, specify repeating intervals for regular tasks, plus time commitment for tasks (I’ve set Quadrant II goals I want to visit every day to “repeat: every 1 day”)
    • prioritize (priority 1, 2, or 3), categorize, and tag tasks
    • create saved searches using  lists  (I Googled “rtm + Covey” and found links to a number of posts on RTM’s website (the Google search gave me better results than RTM’s own internal site search)
    • send a daily list of tasks, and also a 15 minute reminder of individual tasks, to my phone.
    • It would be wonderful if RTM allowed me to choose either its Priority 1, 2, 3 system or a Covey quadrant model of priorities, but many RTM users have found ways to make Covey’s First Things First and RTM work together.
  • Result = RTM + Covey. I tried using RTM’s priorities, but I couldn’t get the result I wanted. When I read  Using the “First Things First” Paradigm with RTM  and got the idea of simplifying the author’s system and tagging items as “important” to flag them for my Quadrant II list, then using the Due Date to determine urgency. I then created 2 saved searches based on Due Date and “important” tag status, and named them Q1 and Q2. I’ll probably refine the searches over time. I can see from what others have done that there’s lots of room for tweaking the system.

The beginning of a New Year is a great time to be playing with plotting the year ahead, and I’m pretty happy with how my new system is shaping up. I’ve been using Remember the Milk for about a week now. I spent the first day getting enough tasks and appointments into the system to allow me to experiment with searching, tested that the syncing was working well across my iPhone, iPad, and computer (Web). Then upgraded to the Pro version to allow unlimited synchronizing.

Alright, Gremlin. I’ve got a system I like and I’m USING it. It’s even got a name I like – Remember the Milk has a friendly casual sound. I’ve got my January appointments recorded and RTM sends my iPhone reminders of important-to-me, time-sensitive things like my daughter’s birthday dinner yesterday, while giving me a way to track less urgent, but still important items like this blog and a commitment to myself to write every day (tag: important and repeat:every 1 day) .

So there, Gremlin! I can too do this.

Vanessa

Check out my new release: Storm – the Author’s Cut, now available on Kindle

Writing + an effortless life = attainable goal??

This afternoon I followed an EC Sheedy tweet to Leo Babauta’s blog about an effortless life. I’m sceptical of effortless, but I could handle easier,  and when EC posts words of wisdom I generally check it out because she’s – well, wise.

I was entranced by Babauta’s blog, and impressed by the power of synchronicity. Last week I posted a blog entitled Necessary Lies, Steven Covey, and this writer here and on PenWarriors.com, discussing my recent productivity struggles, which mirrored a pattern described in Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. As I mentioned in the blog, I felt an immediate change in energy and productivity when I tried applying Covey’s  Habit 3: “First Things First”

After a productive week applying First-Things-First I’m looking around for wisdom on how to keep my new #1 task free of other members of the numbers tribe (2, 3, 4, 5 … to 3,458 of my should-do’s)

Enter EC Sheedy –> Leo Babauta

Babauta’s post announces that he’s about to publish a new book, The Effortless Life, but while I’m waiting for the book, he has a few tips.

The first tip is beautiful in its simplicity – Babauta describes it as counterintuitive: Do Less

Less = More? Maybe this is the new math that I missed being punished with – I was too early and my kids too late for that educational debacle.

Babauta explains: “I … believe in doing the important things. Do less, and you’ll force yourself to choose between what’s just busywork, and what really matters. Life then becomes effortless, as you accomplish big things while being less busy.”

My writer’s logic likes this a lot. I know that when I have a word limit on a story and I’m forced to write shorter, I usually feel the result is more powerful than the longer version. I get where Babauta is coming from. I don’t know if I’m going to act on his tip #1, but I’m certainly going to think about it.

If my mental (or, lately, written) to-do list has half a dozen urgent things on it – what if I cut that down to 2 and forbid myself from doing the others?

I get twitchy just thinking about it, but maybe “getting twitchy” is a signal that I should think about it. Or maybe, as Star Treck’s Bones once said about Spock, “(S)He’s not firing on all thrusters.”

Babauta’s seven tips are definitely worth reading. the author says his book should be out soon and I’ll be watching for it. I want to read more about Babauta’s Zen-ish take on productivity through simplicity.

I don’t have much practice with simplicity. When a new idea or project wanders across my path, I tend to behave like one of my miniature Australian Shepherds, sniffing after the shiny new thing and failing to resist the urge to herd it!

AngieOCreations – Cover Artist

I’m excited to have my daughter, artist Angela Oltmann, working on my new cover art.

When I first began releasing my previously published novels as eBooks I designed my own covers, but I’m certainly not an artist. Then  Angela agreed to create the covers for my upcoming re-releases of Storm and Pacific Disturbance, and I fell in love with her vision of my stories. See Creative Collaboration with Angela

All of the covers below are designed by Angela, who can be reached at [email protected] or through her website angieocreations.com

 
Available from Amazon Kindle
Coming soon!
Coming soon!