3 Reasons why it’s better to be a lark.

Are you a lark or an owl?

Larks awaken at first light and lay in bed thinking, thinking, thinking, until they decide “enough of that” and get up to start doing.

Owls begin to get energized when the sun goes down; they can stay up all night producing thousands of words on their WIP (work in progress.)

Personally, I’m a lark and proud of it.

Here are 3 reasons why it’s better to be a lark:

1 – You get your important personal project worked on before anything else steals your day. If you’re an owl, there’s too much chance during the day that some doing thing will come up that will prevent you from beginning your work in the evening.

2 – You’re less likely to be interrupted because other people who can distract you aren’t up yet.

3 – The coffee tastes better first thing in the morning.

Are you a lark or an owl? When is the best time of day for you to write?

The craft of writing & how to learn.

“The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.” Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400)

Whatever craft Chaucer was referring to, his words can certainly apply to the craft of writing.

After reading an average of 3 novels a week for 15 months during my Suriname Peace Corps service, I began writing my eco-adventure romance, Hard Amazon Rain in January 2000.

I thought writing a book would be easy. Especially a romance. How hard can it be?

Along the way, here was my initial writing “education”:

– First reject from an agent = major rewrite.

– Joined a romance critique group and started listening to other writers’ experiences = another rewrite.

– Completed a class on Critique Training = major rewrite again.

– Attended an RWA (Romance Writers of America) convention and WOW = another major rewrite yet again.

I discovered learning to write a jam-up romance novel is just like learning in any other career. It’s an ongoing process.

It’s fun, confusing, exhilarating, depressing, thrilling, sad, heady, frightening, and stimulating (not all at the same time, thankfully).

It’s sharing information with other writers, writing, learning something from a source you never expected, writing, reading books on writing, studying best-sellers, writing, and thinking a lot about the process.

Do all this and you can’t help but keep getting better at it.

PS To read about Hard Amazon Rain and buy the e-book, CLICK HERE.

Do you consider yourself “creative”?

I’ve developed what I immodestly call, “Carolyn’s Theory of Creativity.” It’s simply this:

If you believe in God (Allah, Buddha, Higher Power, whatever), and you believe God — I’ll use the word Him for this example — created everything in the world, then you have to deduce that God is a pretty creative Guy.

A creative genius, in fact.

Just think of the thousands—no millions—of different kinds of creatures on the planet. Think of the many different, exotic plants and trees. If you remember the great number of families and genuses and all that from high school biology, you know how many things are similar, but not the same.

According to the Orkin Zoo at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, scientists have identified about 920,000 species of insects alone. And there are 20 to 30 million species of insects on the whole earth. There are about 9,000 species of birds.

Wow—talk about creativity!

So, if you believe that God created all this and then created man/woman in His image, you’d have to agree that His image includes plenty of creativity.

Therefore it makes sense to me that every man, woman, and child on the planet is born with lots of ability to be creative.

How this creativity manifests itself, of course, is a different story.

Drawing and writing and acting are considered “creative” in our society. But I say so is the story a teen-aged son tells his parents to con them into letting him use the family car on Saturday night. So is the little child who makes up an imaginary friend. While we don’t condone lying, who in their life hasn’t heard a pretty creative lie?

Have there been a time in your life when you believed you weren’t creative? How do you feel about it now?

Simple questions for writers

Seth Godin is a blogger I follow who writes regularly (like daily!) about marketing, respect, and the way ideas are spread.

Recently he wrote a thoughtful post I want to share with you because whether you are writing a full-length War And Peace type novel or an email to a colleague, these questions can help you go forward on a productive path.

Seth’s Simple questions for writers

1. What is it for?

If this piece of writing works, what will change? What action will be taken?

The more specific you are in your intent, the more frightening it is to do the writing (because you might fail). And, magically, the more specific you are in your intent, the more likely it is to succeed.

2. Who are you?

Writing comes from someone. Are you writing as scientist, reporting the facts? Are you an angry op-ed writer, seeking political action? Or are you perhaps the voice of an institution, putting up an official warning sign in an official place?

3. Who is it for?

It’s almost impossible for a piece of writing to change someone. It’s definitely impossible for it to change everyone. So… who is this designed to reach? What do they believe? Do they trust you? Are they inclined to take action?

4. Will it spread?

After the person you seek to reach reads this, will she share it? Shared action is amplified action.

Your resume is written. So is your Facebook update, your garage sale ad and the memo to your employees.

Writing can make a difference. Write to make a difference.


While I focus on writing fiction and Seth’s blog is not that niche-oriented, he does raise some interesting questions for all writers.

For more thoughtful and useful comments by Seth Godin go to http://www.sethgodin.typepad.com/

And let me know what you think…

On changing direction…


Recently I presented writing workshops and attended the first Cuenca International Writers Conference here in Cuenca, Ecuador, where I live.

It totally changed my viewpoint about blogging.

In the past I’ve strived to write helpful blog posts about all the stuff I’ve learned about writing books in the past two decades.

Then I listened to keynote speaker Andra Watkins talk about how she came to write her NY Times best-selling memoir, Not Without My Father, and blogging.

Here’s the gist of what Andra said about blogging:

– Blogging is about building relationships. People want to know who you are as a person as well as a writer.

– Blog about “raining and writing.” (She says she found more readers where in parts of the country where it rains a lot.)

– People who read blogs want to be entertained. (So I’m thinking maybe you don’t want to just read tips on writing. Maybe you’d like to read some stuff about my quirky writing life. J Hint: It’s a work-in-progress.)

So from now on I’m going to try to be more “personal” and less “practical.”

I’m going to share more eclectic subjects than just writing.

It feels scary to go off in a “new” direction, so that must be exactly what I need to do!

CLICK HERE to check out Andra’s memoir, Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace .

Writing as therapy

woman, writing, notebook, cup of coffee

When I was in the sixth grade I was given a diary for Christmas.

You know the kind: red simulated alligator skin with a gold lock and tiny gold key. It was a five-year diary — only room for a line or two about a day’s events. So I could cram in more info, I began to write smaller.

By the time I reached high school I was journaling in blank books, one for each year. I wrote down entire scenes from my real life, complete with who said what — dialogue.

Today I can recall how satisfied — and in control? — I felt once everything was completely logged in. It felt powerful to be able to look back to a certain day and have a detailed record of a painful or happy event.

I have come to believe that this journaling was a form of creative therapy.

It grew beyond the recreation of scenes and dialogue into organized lines describing how I felt about what was happening around me and to me.

I believe that taking the time to think about how you feel about something and committing the words to paper creates a kind of clarity, ability to accept, or a letting go of feelings that might otherwise churn around inside you, waiting to explode.

An insight and understanding not possible any other way.

That little red five-year diary provided some interesting insights during some personal therapy I did in the 1980s.

Unfortunately my journals from high school and the five years of my first marriage suffered a darker fate.

When the marriage ended in an angry divorce, the husband, who had never read my journals, stole them from me to use as “blackmail.”

Now it’s not like my writings revealed that I robbed a bank or killed somebody. It was more a robbery of my personal creative side that made me feel exposed and vulnerable and violated.

When I got them back from his lawyer, I vowed no one else would ever use my feelings against me again. I burned eight books of writing, and did not journal again for decades.

What I write in little books today is more satisfying. I add little drawings and I record ideas. Some are based on scenes I’ve witnessed, people I’ve met with interesting characteristics, or what if’s.

The what if’s are the most fun—they can lead to ideas for entire manuscripts.

I find something therapeutic in getting these observations and ideas down on paper.

The artist in me is attracted to colorful, hand-made books, some of which I make myself. Always having one with me, so that I’m ready when that great idea strikes, makes me feel creative and productive.

For me, there’s a satisfaction in having put paintbrush or pen to paper that can’t be achieved any other way.

I try to do this every day, even if it’s only for five minutes, so that I can feel good about myself when tackling all the other things in a day that are demanded of me.

It’s taken me years to discover that this is my therapy, the thing that has the most meaning in my creative life.

PS. I wrote a book on this, Art Improv 101: How to Create a Personal Art Journal. You can learn more about it and buy it HERE.

The value of imagination

Copy of Books & Flower

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein

As a little girl, I used my imagination to put myself to sleep at night by making up stories in my head that involved my favorite TV heroes: Maverick, Zorro, Hopalong Cassidy, and Flash Gordon (okay, so I’m giving away my “advanced” age here).

Usually in these stories I was the heroine in peril, ultimately rescued by one of them. In my head I could continue a story in a kind of serial form for several nights in a row. I even made up a science-fiction story with myself as the sole heroine, a woman who was in charge and could rescue herself from any danger.

I never wrote any of these ideas down.

It wasn’t until many years later, in high school, that I discovered a creative writing class and began to put stories down on paper. But a career in graphic design and advertising took precedence over creative writing.

Now that I’m retired from that career, I have a drawer full of ideas for novels to write.

My favorite “imagination” question is, “What if?”

– What if a restaurant owner discovered her star chef was a poisoner for hire?

– What if scientists discovered that a new strain of coffee could be used to mindlessly subdue an entire population?

– What if a hotel front desk receptionist with a secret past met a private detective and learned he has been hired to discover it.

If you carried a notebook around all day and just asked yourself, “what if?” I bet you could fill it with a gazillion ideas!

I love the planning and plotting part of writing. I want to use my imagination to paint pictures with words, take flights of fancy, create characters and ideas that won’t leave your head.

My challenge for you today is to imagine for yourself 3 “What if?” questions.

I’ll bet you’ll find it habit-forming.