Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Different Way of Looking at Creativity

I've noticed that as the trend in publishing leans more and more towards speed, productivity, marketing, sales, bestseller lists, and social media followers, authors seem to be more anxious.

Less satisfied with their writing careers.

Constantly comparing themselves to others and finding a perceived failure.


Is there an alternative? Sure. Here's another way to approach writing, or really any creative project. A more mindful way that may offer less stress for those folks who are struggling with the publishing industry right now.

One of the benefits of this type of mindful approach is that it "fills the well" not only for mental well-being and happiness, but also the well of creative inspiration.

I've noticed the term "muse" is mocked these days.

I don't mock it.

I like it.

There is nothing wrong with looking for inspiration.

There is nothing wrong with finding the spark that ignites your creativity.

I hear this a lot..."How do you get your story ideas? I am running out of ideas."

I honestly have so many ideas that I couldn't possibly write all the books I want to in this lifetime.

How do I get so many ideas?

Fill the well.

What does this mean?

If you isolate yourself and focus only on word counts and publication dates, you are shutting yourself off to myriad experiences that shape who you are and the quality of your life.

The "richer" your experiences, the more you have to say, write about, create. This is true of all art: photography, painting, film, sculpture, novels, poetry, etc.

Let's break this down into four components...

1. Explore

2. Engage

3. Absorb

4. Create

#1 is EXPLORE. This can include "active" experiences like travel, taking classes, trying new sports and activities. You can do these things alone or with friends. 

Examples: Big trips like Iceland and Europe, small trips like Audubon parks or a local zoo. Classes could include a cooking class for Italian food, glass-blowing, or even a writing class for a new genre. How about trying karate or yoga? Maybe wine-tasting, wine-making, wines of the world. (You can't go wrong with wine!)

Exploring can also be "non-active" like reading/research/education. Go to the library, do research at a museum, teach yourself a new language or a bit of history. 

You never know what new experience will make your brain hum with story ideas.

#2 is ENGAGE. This is all about interacting with other people and your environment. Instead of isolating yourself, reach out. Join communities. Learn from others. Make friends with people outside your normal friend group.

Get uncomfortable. Yes, UNcomfortable. Why? Because hanging out with the same group of people is safe, but sometimes stifling. Push yourself to engage with new folks.

Engage with your environment, too. Touch, smell, taste, explore. Look at the world around you. Really look, investigate. All of these sights and sounds are stimulating. They will stimulate new ideas for your writing, your art, and most importantly, for your happiness.

#3 is ABSORB. What does this mean? Take the time to think about your new experiences, conversations with people, travel adventures. Keep a journal. What things did you like, what things did you dislike?

Spend time contemplating what is going on in the world around you. Take photos, jot down impressions.

Pretty soon dialogue will start popping into your head. Characters. Stories. 

Let your mind drift and absorb all the new things going on in your life. 

#4 is CREATE. After you explore, engage, and absorb, you are ready to create.



Knit. Garden. Make jewelry. Take photos. Paint. Write. Cook. 

Once you fill the well, your muse will kick in. You'll see things in a new way, maybe have that necessary break-through with your current work-in-progress. 

Maybe come up with a totally new idea that never occurred to you.

I know people who think "doing non-writing things" is wasting time. They are either "writing" or "wasting time."

How can you write effectively, to the very best of your ability, if you shut yourself off to life?

Your writing will shine when you take the time to live a little bit. Or a lot a bit.

Will you make a million dollars or be number one on a bestseller list?

I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not.

But I do know that your anxiety will decrease, your happiness will expand, and your writing will improve.

It's not a bad goal.

Signing off,


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Making Botanical Dyes

I finally got to a project I've been wanting to try for about fifteen years!

I created home-made botanical dyes for my Easter eggs.

I used a cold dye process (hard boil eggs first, make dyes and cool them, then add eggs to dye jars with a bit of vinegar, soak for an hour).

Hard boil 3 dozen eggs

Assemble materials, including white vinegar, frozen blueberries, paprika, turmeric, grape juice, cabbage, beets, parsley, onions...and I added spinach and coffee at the last minute.

Start cooking! Throw chopped materials into a pot with 4 cups water. I used 3 tablespoons of the spices. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Yellow onion, paprika, grape juice, blueberries.

Cabbage, beets, turmeric, parsley.

After simmering for 30 minutes, allow the dyes to cool, and then strain them into mason jars. When you're ready to dye the eggs, add a couple teaspoons of white vinegar to the dye cups/jars.

Mad Scientists!

I let the eggs soak for 30-60 minutes, and then spread them out on a paper towel to dry. They dried overnight, and some of the colors faded a bit. The cold dye process gets some cool speckled textures and variations in color.

The only failure was green. I added spinach to the parsley pot, but I still did not get a lot of pigment in the solution. Not sure why. Maybe I needed more than two bunches of parsley! I added a drop of food coloring to the green to perk it up (yeah, I know, that's cheating! Hee hee.)

The yellow onion skins made a fabulous super rich orange color, and the cabbage made a gorgeous blue that got deeper if you extended the dye time. Those were my favorites.

Finished products look amazing!

This was a super fun project, and I will definitely try it again next year, maybe with different materials.


Love, Nina/Penny

Sunday, April 14, 2019

POEM: It's good till it's not

It's good till it's not

Take your coat off

Stay a while

The sofa's new, orange twill with flecks of green

Settle on the cushion,

Still plump and firm and willing to

Prop you up

Stay a while

Coffee's brewing

Bubblin' in the percolator

TV's black and white

You get so comfy

Up and down

For a snack

A drink

A potty break

A phone call

A neighbor looking for sugar

A neighbor looking for Sugar, Sugar

A tiny dent appears in the sofa

Just the size of your derriere

Sitting there

Still plump and firm and willing to

Prop you up

Until it's not

Sinking in

A coil escapes

The fabric rips and now that

Pretty orange cushion is tufts of shredded foam

Doesn't smell so good

Maybe like a coffee spill?

Deeper, deeper,

No sugar's gonna fix this hole

Snack is moldy

Drink burns going down

Potty is cracked

Phone's obsolete

Neighbor died last year

And the sofa

The sofa

Hurts to sit

Put your coat back on

Open the door

Funny, the view looks different

I don't remember the flames.

© 2019 Nina Roth Borromeo