Gift Ideas for Writers and Creatives

janav Creativity, Friday Favorites, Resources, Writing 0 Comments

As many of us start our holiday shopping, we may find some people on our list who could use a little creative inspiration to start off the new year. (And maybe we could think of getting a little something for ourselves…). Some are specific to writers, but others could be ideas for painters, photographers, or other creative types.

Of course, there are many classic books on creativity and writing, but here are a few recent ones to consider:

Draft #4: On the Writing Process - John McPhee 

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age - Jeff Goins  Or his earlier book, You Are a Writer, So Start Acting Like One 

Leonardo DaVinci - Walter Isaacson (a new biography, including about the ways Leonado can influence creativity today)

Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process - Joe Fassler

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen - Mary Norris 

Other ideas:

Gift subscriptions to a magazine about their favorite creative pursuit - e.g. Poets and Writers or The Writer, Food Network Magazine or Cook’s Illustrated, Outdoor Photographer or Digital Photo… you get the idea.

The Amazing Story Generator: Creates Thousands of Writing Prompts - (could also be interesting for visual artists).

Aqua Notes waterproof notepad -  for all those who get their best ideas in the shower.

For writers with a visual bent, how about The Writer’s Coloring Book? . Not just a coloring book but a method for integrating story planning visually, with color, mandalas, diagrams, etc.

The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the “Write” Side of Your Brain, by Jamie Cat Callan 

If you really want to get fancy, try Bose noise-cancelling headphones, or a day (or a week) at a hotel, B&B, or somewhere where they can go to get away from it all.

If you know a friend who does Artist’s Way-style Artist Dates, why not give a gift of some creative activity or outing?

If they live in a cold climate, maybe fingerless gloves or fuzzy slippers to keep their extremities warm while working?

And of course, the writerly staples such as coffee, teas, mugs (and mug warmers), high quality pens and notebooks, chocolate covered espresso beans to keep them going (or is that just me?)

In other words, if you know a creative person, why not get a little creative with their gift? If you have any other ideas, let us know in the comments!

Creativity, Gratitude, and Abundance

janav Creativity, Writing 0 Comments

As many of us start our holiday shopping, we may find some people on our list who could use a little creative inspiration to start off the new year. (And maybe we could think of getting a little something for ourselves…). Some are specific to writers, but others could be ideas for painters, photographers, or other creative types.

Of course, there are many classic books on creativity and writing, but here are a few recent ones to consider:

Draft #4: On the Writing Process - John McPhee 

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age - Jeff Goins  Or his earlier book, You Are a Writer, So Start Acting Like One 

Leonardo DaVinci - Walter Isaacson (a new biography, including about the ways Leonado can influence creativity today)

Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process - Joe Fassler

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen - Mary Norris 

Other ideas:

Gift subscriptions to a magazine about their favorite creative pursuit - e.g. Poets and Writers or The Writer, Food Network Magazine or Cook’s Illustrated, Outdoor Photographer or Digital Photo… you get the idea.

The Amazing Story Generator: Creates Thousands of Writing Prompts - (could also be interesting for visual artists).

Aqua Notes waterproof notepad -  for all those who get their best ideas in the shower.

For writers with a visual bent, how about The Writer’s Coloring Book? . Not just a coloring book but a method for integrating story planning visually, with color, mandalas, diagrams, etc.

The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the “Write” Side of Your Brain, by Jamie Cat Callan 

If you really want to get fancy, try Bose noise-cancelling headphones, or a day (or a week) at a hotel, B&B, or somewhere where they can go to get away from it all.

If you know a friend who does Artist’s Way-style Artist Dates, why not give a gift of some creative activity or outing?

If they live in a cold climate, maybe fingerless gloves or fuzzy slippers to keep their extremities warm while working?

And of course, the writerly staples such as coffee, teas, mugs (and mug warmers), high quality pens and notebooks, chocolate covered espresso beans to keep them going (or is that just me?)

In other words, if you know a creative person, why not get a little creative with their gift? If you have any other ideas, let us know in the comments!

Friday Favorites: Interviews That Inspire

janav Creativity, Friday Favorites, Writing 0 Comments

As many of us start our holiday shopping, we may find some people on our list who could use a little creative inspiration to start off the new year. (And maybe we could think of getting a little something for ourselves…). Some are specific to writers, but others could be ideas for painters, photographers, or other creative types.

Of course, there are many classic books on creativity and writing, but here are a few recent ones to consider:

Draft #4: On the Writing Process - John McPhee 

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age - Jeff Goins  Or his earlier book, You Are a Writer, So Start Acting Like One 

Leonardo DaVinci - Walter Isaacson (a new biography, including about the ways Leonado can influence creativity today)

Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process - Joe Fassler

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen - Mary Norris 

Other ideas:

Gift subscriptions to a magazine about their favorite creative pursuit - e.g. Poets and Writers or The Writer, Food Network Magazine or Cook’s Illustrated, Outdoor Photographer or Digital Photo… you get the idea.

The Amazing Story Generator: Creates Thousands of Writing Prompts - (could also be interesting for visual artists).

Aqua Notes waterproof notepad -  for all those who get their best ideas in the shower.

For writers with a visual bent, how about The Writer’s Coloring Book? . Not just a coloring book but a method for integrating story planning visually, with color, mandalas, diagrams, etc.

The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the “Write” Side of Your Brain, by Jamie Cat Callan 

If you really want to get fancy, try Bose noise-cancelling headphones, or a day (or a week) at a hotel, B&B, or somewhere where they can go to get away from it all.

If you know a friend who does Artist’s Way-style Artist Dates, why not give a gift of some creative activity or outing?

If they live in a cold climate, maybe fingerless gloves or fuzzy slippers to keep their extremities warm while working?

And of course, the writerly staples such as coffee, teas, mugs (and mug warmers), high quality pens and notebooks, chocolate covered espresso beans to keep them going (or is that just me?)

In other words, if you know a creative person, why not get a little creative with their gift? If you have any other ideas, let us know in the comments!

The Long Game of Overnight Success

janav Creativity, Productivity, Writing 0 Comments

As many of us start our holiday shopping, we may find some people on our list who could use a little creative inspiration to start off the new year. (And maybe we could think of getting a little something for ourselves…). Some are specific to writers, but others could be ideas for painters, photographers, or other creative types.

Of course, there are many classic books on creativity and writing, but here are a few recent ones to consider:

Draft #4: On the Writing Process - John McPhee 

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age - Jeff Goins  Or his earlier book, You Are a Writer, So Start Acting Like One 

Leonardo DaVinci - Walter Isaacson (a new biography, including about the ways Leonado can influence creativity today)

Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process - Joe Fassler

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen - Mary Norris 

Other ideas:

Gift subscriptions to a magazine about their favorite creative pursuit - e.g. Poets and Writers or The Writer, Food Network Magazine or Cook’s Illustrated, Outdoor Photographer or Digital Photo… you get the idea.

The Amazing Story Generator: Creates Thousands of Writing Prompts - (could also be interesting for visual artists).

Aqua Notes waterproof notepad -  for all those who get their best ideas in the shower.

For writers with a visual bent, how about The Writer’s Coloring Book? . Not just a coloring book but a method for integrating story planning visually, with color, mandalas, diagrams, etc.

The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the “Write” Side of Your Brain, by Jamie Cat Callan 

If you really want to get fancy, try Bose noise-cancelling headphones, or a day (or a week) at a hotel, B&B, or somewhere where they can go to get away from it all.

If you know a friend who does Artist’s Way-style Artist Dates, why not give a gift of some creative activity or outing?

If they live in a cold climate, maybe fingerless gloves or fuzzy slippers to keep their extremities warm while working?

And of course, the writerly staples such as coffee, teas, mugs (and mug warmers), high quality pens and notebooks, chocolate covered espresso beans to keep them going (or is that just me?)

In other words, if you know a creative person, why not get a little creative with their gift? If you have any other ideas, let us know in the comments!

Mental Mastery: The Art of Dealing With No

janav Creativity, Productivity, Writing 0 Comments

As many of us start our holiday shopping, we may find some people on our list who could use a little creative inspiration to start off the new year. (And maybe we could think of getting a little something for ourselves…). Some are specific to writers, but others could be ideas for painters, photographers, or other creative types.

Of course, there are many classic books on creativity and writing, but here are a few recent ones to consider:

Draft #4: On the Writing Process - John McPhee 

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age - Jeff Goins  Or his earlier book, You Are a Writer, So Start Acting Like One 

Leonardo DaVinci - Walter Isaacson (a new biography, including about the ways Leonado can influence creativity today)

Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process - Joe Fassler

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen - Mary Norris 

Other ideas:

Gift subscriptions to a magazine about their favorite creative pursuit - e.g. Poets and Writers or The Writer, Food Network Magazine or Cook’s Illustrated, Outdoor Photographer or Digital Photo… you get the idea.

The Amazing Story Generator: Creates Thousands of Writing Prompts - (could also be interesting for visual artists).

Aqua Notes waterproof notepad -  for all those who get their best ideas in the shower.

For writers with a visual bent, how about The Writer’s Coloring Book? . Not just a coloring book but a method for integrating story planning visually, with color, mandalas, diagrams, etc.

The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the “Write” Side of Your Brain, by Jamie Cat Callan 

If you really want to get fancy, try Bose noise-cancelling headphones, or a day (or a week) at a hotel, B&B, or somewhere where they can go to get away from it all.

If you know a friend who does Artist’s Way-style Artist Dates, why not give a gift of some creative activity or outing?

If they live in a cold climate, maybe fingerless gloves or fuzzy slippers to keep their extremities warm while working?

And of course, the writerly staples such as coffee, teas, mugs (and mug warmers), high quality pens and notebooks, chocolate covered espresso beans to keep them going (or is that just me?)

In other words, if you know a creative person, why not get a little creative with their gift? If you have any other ideas, let us know in the comments!

Do You Spend Your Time Mindfully?

janav Creativity, Productivity, Time Management, Writing 0 Comments

As many of us start our holiday shopping, we may find some people on our list who could use a little creative inspiration to start off the new year. (And maybe we could think of getting a little something for ourselves…). Some are specific to writers, but others could be ideas for painters, photographers, or other creative types.

Of course, there are many classic books on creativity and writing, but here are a few recent ones to consider:

Draft #4: On the Writing Process - John McPhee 

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age - Jeff Goins  Or his earlier book, You Are a Writer, So Start Acting Like One 

Leonardo DaVinci - Walter Isaacson (a new biography, including about the ways Leonado can influence creativity today)

Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process - Joe Fassler

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen - Mary Norris 

Other ideas:

Gift subscriptions to a magazine about their favorite creative pursuit - e.g. Poets and Writers or The Writer, Food Network Magazine or Cook’s Illustrated, Outdoor Photographer or Digital Photo… you get the idea.

The Amazing Story Generator: Creates Thousands of Writing Prompts - (could also be interesting for visual artists).

Aqua Notes waterproof notepad -  for all those who get their best ideas in the shower.

For writers with a visual bent, how about The Writer’s Coloring Book? . Not just a coloring book but a method for integrating story planning visually, with color, mandalas, diagrams, etc.

The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the “Write” Side of Your Brain, by Jamie Cat Callan 

If you really want to get fancy, try Bose noise-cancelling headphones, or a day (or a week) at a hotel, B&B, or somewhere where they can go to get away from it all.

If you know a friend who does Artist’s Way-style Artist Dates, why not give a gift of some creative activity or outing?

If they live in a cold climate, maybe fingerless gloves or fuzzy slippers to keep their extremities warm while working?

And of course, the writerly staples such as coffee, teas, mugs (and mug warmers), high quality pens and notebooks, chocolate covered espresso beans to keep them going (or is that just me?)

In other words, if you know a creative person, why not get a little creative with their gift? If you have any other ideas, let us know in the comments!

Try This: A Week Without Technology

janav Creativity, Productivity, Time Management, Try This, Writing 0 Comments

In Week 4: Recovering a Sense of Integrity in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, she asks people to refrain from reading for one week. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, and I find most people who come to that task of that chapter don’t try very hard, or at all, to do it.

However, reading this article in The Guardian: “‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia,” made me think again about the power of technology and social media in our lives, and how ubiquitous – and addictive – it is.

When Julia Cameron originally wrote The Artist’s Way, the internet as we know it didn’t exist. Social media didn’t exist. Smartphones (cell phones) didn’t exist. Sure, there were computer and video games, but they didn’t exist in the amount or quality they do now. In other words, we operated in a world of fewer distractions based on instant gratification and ultra-connectivity. Plenty of people have written about the Age of Distraction and what it might be doing to our brains, our intelligence, and our creativity (I wrote about it back in July) but I imagine most of us nod, sigh, and click to the next thing. What are you gonna do?

Well, in the spirit of Julia, I’m going to propose A Week Without Technology. Well, within some guidelines: you can use a computer if you need it to work a paid job, and you only use it for the designated tasks of that job. You can use a cell phone if you don’t have a landline, or if you only use it for a specific call/text connection (i.e. to set up a time to meet someone). That’s it. If you’re a writer, write longhand, using pen and paper. (Yep, even if you’re editing. Just try it.) No social media, no email not directly related to your paid employment, no web surfing or blog-checking, no video games (not even computer solitaire). If you read, try making it an actual printed book. Do whatever you have to do to make it happen, using whatever blocking apps you need to. If you can shut your home computer down and put it out of sight, do so. Same with your cell phone, your IPad, or other devices that lure you into the endless time-wasting, addictive labyrinth.

Journal about how you feel. Is it difficult? In what ways, specifically? What are you doing instead? Do you suddenly have more time on your hands? Do you have more energy? More anxiety, or less? How do you feel, physically and mentally? Most importantly, did you spend more time on your writing, or other creative pursuits?

Remember this isn’t a punishment, it’s an experiment: how addicted are you? How many hours do you typically spend on devices? It’s only a week: can you get through it? What changes might you decide to make in your life? Join me, Monday Oct. 9 through Sunday Oct. 15. I’ll write my notes in my journal, and post them here when we’re done. I’ve done this before, but only in places where I didn’t have internet access or cell service. When I got back home, I always jumped right back into my old habits. This time I want to be more mindful of technology’s impact on my everyday life – especially my creative life. If you want to join me, let me know in the comments or at jana(at)janavanderveer(dot)com!

Writing From the Heart

janav Creativity, Writing 0 Comments

First of all, apologies for the long hiatus – I was moving my mother, and that meant also having to clean out all of her stuff and sort it into donations, storage, sell, or move. I’m pretty ruthless and unsentimental about “stuff,” my own or anyone else’s, which is a good thing since it all had to be cleared within the month. Add this to the start of the semester with classes, events, etc. and September was a very full month indeed. There is still a lot to be done – it looks like a moving truck exploded in my house right now – but mom is settled in her new place and we’re slowly taking care of all the other hundred details.

To be honest, writing hasn’t been on my top list of priorities this month either. I’ve managed to do a little by spending 15-30 minutes per day on it, just to keep my head in the story. It’s yet another rewrite of a book I thought was done. I like the new angle, but we’ll see if it is really better than the old one.

As I’m engaged in this rewrite, I found this article by my friend and mentor, David Elliott*. He is definitely a writer who writes from the heart (as well as the funny bone) and I love and admire his work. He is a children’s book writer who thinks of the children first, not the adults who give awards or review books, and yet his books have won awards and garnered much critical praise. I wanted to link it here since what he says is so important. Especially when we’re just starting out, we can be tempted to write “to the market.” What’s hot? What’s trending? What do agents and editors want, anyway? On the one hand, marketplace considerations are real. On the other hand, we have to write the stories we feel passionately about telling. We have to find the story that doesn’t let us go, that speaks to us (and hopefully our readers) in an irresistible siren’s voice. I love that kid in the article who knows to ask the important question, who isn’t afraid to ask, even when he doesn’t get a satisfactory response. Like David, I hope that kid grows up and never loses that curiosity or sense of what’s really important. And we should all ask ourselves, when we’re working on a project, Am I writing from the heart? And be open to hear the answer, and to letting those stories that come from the heart flow through us onto the page.

*For more about David and his books, check out: https://www.davidelliottbooks.com/

You’ve Got to Move It, Move It

janav Creativity, Writing 0 Comments

I spent last weekend at the Barrowman Writing workshop, which was a ton of fun and different from other workshops I’ve attended. I wanted to do something fun, to step away from post-MFA seriousness and agent/editor pitch workshops where I get ten conflicting opinions on my work and a lot of “I really like it, but…” (I’m not going to take it). That is a part of being a writer, but this weekend reminded me that taking writing seriously doesn’t have to be a slog of: draft, edit, submission, rejection, repeat.

About all I did know of it was that it probably would be fun, with John and Carole Barrowman involved. The workshop was small – only 16 of us – so I felt very fortunate to end up with a group of people who were both fun to hang out with, and good writers (and yes, I realize I’m using the word fun a lot here – where’s my thesaurus? – but hey, sometimes the description fits, so let’s wear it).

As hard as we worked on our writing (and Carole had a ton of energy, and many challenging and yes, fun exercises for us), the intensive workshop sessions were interspersed with John doing more theater-game exercises (and if anyone has seen John on a panel or in an interview, yes, they were as silly and crazy as you’d expect). They enabled us to rev up our energy before and between sessions, and just take ourselves a little less seriously.*

They also reminded me how necessary it is to integrate intense mental activity with movement. When we’re writing, it’s easy to get caught up in our heads. At some conferences I’ve been to, where craft sessions and panels and keynotes follow each other bam bam bam with hardly a break in between, I’ve ended up exhausted at the end of the day, brain overflowing, and hardly able to integrate all I’ve learned (or even remember what sessions I attended).

Making time to be silly and move around allowed me to refocus. Just when I was feeling tired and tapped out, we’d do something completely different. Most writers I know are serious about their writing. The mantra is: Butt in chair. Write every day. Do the work. And yes, if you’re going to improve as a writer, if you’re going to have a body of work, you need to sit down and write on a regular basis. But we also need to remember to have fun, and that simply moving the body can work miracles on inspiration and motivation.

While I’m not likely run run around shouting “3 knees!” (You need at least two people) or “4 Shoulders!” (ditto), or my favorite from John – no, probably a little too naughty for a blog… I will remember that creativity is a whole-body concept, and that it’s healthier for mind and body to work in some movement and play between writing sessions.

Take a walk, dance around the living room, take a bike ride or shoot some hoops – or do the hokey pokey, if that’s what you’re all about. It clears the cobwebs, gives you energy, and when you come back to your desk, that scene or line that seemed to be so hopelessly stuck might just wiggle loose. And let’s face it, most of us aren’t going to write for the fame and wealth. We don’t have to wait for an Artist Date to let our inner creative child play. We might as well have fun, or why do it at all?

*We also spent time drinking, and swimming, and dancing, and eating. So yes, fun, in between panicked bouts of omg what am I going to read aloud in front of people on Sunday?

Questions to Ask Yourself When You’ve Lost Motivation

janav Productivity, Resources, Try This, Writing 0 Comments

When you feel unmotivated to work on a project, are procrastinating endlessly, and just can’t seem to get unstuck, it may be time to pause and reflect on what’s really blocking you, and to reconnect with feelings of possibility and accomplishment.

Try this: Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Breathe deeply several times. Allow your mind to slow down, and your body to relax.

Bring to mind a current project where you are feeling unmotivated or stuck. Keep breathing. Without judging, note how you’re feeling, emotionally and physically in your body. Then ask yourself the following questions, allowing yourself space to breathe and really feel the answers as they arise, in your mind and body:

What is my greatest hope or aspiration for this project?
Why is this project important to me?
How do I want to show up in relationship to this project?
What emotions or situations might be getting in the way of me fully engaging with this project?
If I were working on this project regularly, what would that feel like?
If this project was completed, what would that feel like?
How can I use these feelings as a source of motivation for me to engage with this project?
What is my intention toward this project going forward?

And, if it feels comfortable for you:

What can I commit to doing toward my project? (Can I commit 15 minutes to working on it today?)

Breathe in deeply. Set your intention in your mind. Allow yourself to experience whatever emotions or physical sensations that come up for you.

Open your eyes. How do you feel toward your project now? If you’d like to journal about anything that came up for you in this exercise, to explore it further, go ahead and do so.

If you feel motivated to get to work, feel free to do that too! You may choose to do this as a meditation daily, before sitting down to write. It can calm your mind and focus your intention, reconnecting your with your current project and why it is important to you.