Monthly Archives: June 2010

Music Unlocks Ideas

When I embark on a new writing project, I like to select a couple of specific CDs to listen to as I’m working over the next few weeks or months. I have found that music stirs my writer’s soul in ways I might not have experienced if I surrounded myself totally with silence.

For instance, when I’m brainstorming ideas for a picture book, I like to play sweet little children’s CDs from my childhood or from recent finds. I’ve discovered this instantly transports me into the innocent world of imagination and playfulness that children live in.

When I’m doing a market analysis on a new idea for a nonfiction book on African American history, and looking up books on Amazon that my own book idea would compete with, I pop Marian Anderson’s CD of Spirituals into my player. My writer’s soul soars and a potentially difficult part of my writing day is inspirational and motivation instead.

When I’m creating a timeline for my historical middle grade novel about the American Revolution, I listen to rousing renditions of patriotic songs and I feel like I’m there in the midst of it all!

Usually, when I sit down to my writing sessions, the music is turned off. But I have discovered that because I listen to music that relates to the theme of my current writing project while I’m doing important writing related tasks, my writer’s soul is much more creative and imaginative than it was before.

Try it! Add key selections of themed music to your writer’s workspace and see what happens!

-contributed by Nancy Sanders


A Most Unusual Workspace

What is your writing workspace like? It is all you’ve ever wanted, or is it a cramped workspace in the corner of an already crowded den or family room? Perhaps it’s the kitchen table or a small desk in your bedroom. If you are a Christian and God has called you to write, even if your workspace doesn’t seem “ideal”—He will provide the workspace that’s HE knows is right for you. In my case He chose a most unusual and unexpected first workspace…a Sealy Posturepedic. My bed.

In the early 1990’s I was bedridden with a mysterious illness. The pain was excruciating at times. My cognitive abilities were impaired as I went in and out of a mental fog. For seven weeks I was for the most part, bedridden. The exhaustion was overwhelming. My parents graciously cared for our two young sons during the day until my husband came home… while I made a major dent in our mattress.

It was during that time that I felt an intimacy with God unlike I had ever experienced. I read the Psalms for comfort and spiritual strength. Thoughts of how God had comforted me throughout my life filled me with an overwhelming passion to write a book…a book on the Psalms for children. Was this mental fog clouding my judgment? I had never written a book before. Was I crazy? Write a book from bed?

My writing supplies consisted of pens, legal pads, and every version of the Bible my family could spread out over the covers—my “desk”.  I pulled myself up, leaned against pillows, and wrote my first book from the workspace that God had chosen for me. Alone in that quiet room, I heard that still small voice in my heart urging me to write.

Dear Christian writer, is your writing workspace less than ideal? If it is, do not be discouraged. Is it the kitchen table? A little corner in your dining or living room? Is it your bedroom, or even your bed? No matter. If He has called you to write…you will!

Today, I have my own office. I have a comfortable chair, a good computer, a large window, a nice desk, file cabinets, stuffed bookshelves, and a paper tiger! It’s a blessing to have this office, but I have to say that my first workspace holds the dearest memories…and as I look up at a framed book cover of Psalms for a Child’s Heart on my office wall, I’m reminded why.
Sheryl Crawford

A History of One Writer’s Workspace

Back in the mid-1970’s, when I first started my writing career, my “office” was a small, blue Smith-Corona portable typewriter that sat at one end of my dining room table.  This was before anyone knew about home computers, but at least this typewriter was electric!  I used this typewriter and “office” through the years (79-83). I attended college as a returning student and earned a degree in English and worked on my writing.

I continued to submit manuscripts, and after my graduation from San Bernardino Valley College, I began to make more sales.  Soon, I upgraded to a wonderful IBM Selectric typewriter that had its on little typing stand.  I loved it!  I added a filing cabinet to hold my published articles and a rolling file to hold the “pending” ones.  All of this fit under a window in our family room.

However, the age of computers was slowly creeping up on me, and in the late 1980’s, I was dragged kicking and screaming to my first computer, a bulky Tandy/Radio Shack model that used actual “floppy” disks.  Of course, I had to get a computer desk to hold the various components, and all this along with the files, etc., took up most of a wall in the family room.

After much “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” I learned to use this equipment quite effectively, and enjoyed being able to type faster, move text around,  print out documents and save them to a disk.

By now our son had married and moved out of the house, and I finally had a room I could turn into my very own home office.  After a much-need thorough cleaning of the room, we painted and papered, and I added more filing cabinets, a nice assortment of fitted bookshelves/cubicles/drawers.  I moved the cumbersome Tandy computer and desk and the old faithful IBM Selectric into this room.  I was set to go.

By now I was making many more sales and was very happy in my new environment.  But technology was pushing at my back, and I soon realized everyone was using much smaller computers, and Microsoft Windows and the Internet were a must.  So I, in the late 1990’s, I purchased my first PC and set it up in my convenient office.  Once again, tears flowed as I struggled to learn the intricacies of the Internet, e-mail, AOL, Googling, etc., and I soon developed a love/hate relationship with my new computer.

I’m now using my third PC (it’s amazing how short the “shelf life” these expensive machines have!) and have moved up with the various AOL programs.  Most days find me sitting in the office I once longed for (and can’t imagine how I ever functioned at the corner of the dining room table!)  However, with all the paper generated by my computer printer, I’m afraid all this organizing hasn’t prevented me from falling victim to the “swamp syndrome,” that was mentioned in a previous blog post, no matter how much I promised myself to file every day! And we won’t even mention the small closet in the corner of my office, where published manuscripts, rejections, paid bills, IRS returns, and other miscellany go to rest—-not too neatly!

But among all this clutter and chaos, I manage to get manuscripts written, send them out, and continue to make sales.  And I feel blessed to have my own office, my own space.  And, I can close the door on it at night!

Contributed by Marjorie Flathers

The Swamp

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my messy workspace. I promised to separate the wheat from the chaff, to dig for gold amidst the clutter. In the process of progress, I took time out to create a “found poem” that I want to share. First I took my original blog and cut it in half, then in half again. The idea was to save significant words and phrases, rearranging them until I had the essence of what I was trying to say. In other words, I “found” a poem in the midst of all those words. Here it is:

The Swamp

Clutter beyond panic,

desk piled high:

a calendar, manuscripts,

colored folders, paper clips,

last week’s mail.

I work in a swamp

where paper prospers

like tropical plants.

I wonder — could I enter some day

and never be seen again?

Besides writing a poem, I did get around to attacking the mess. First I picked up all the papers in my office and put them on my bed. This became, and still is, the general sorting area. Chaff went in the trash. Wheat went in colored, labeled folders. Label is the key word. When you find a category for something, other somethings soon follow. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was dropping papers into file folders and getting them off my desk, off the floor, and out of my hair.

I’m not digging for gold yet, though a few nuggets have rolled my way. I found some half-written stories, a few passable poems, and a query that I thought I had mailed. This week I’m trying to find a place in my office to put all the colored file folders. Oh no! What’s that in the corner? It’s a laundry basket, full of loose papers waiting to be sorted!

Sigh. I wonder if I can start sleeping in my bed by Christmas!

Contributed by Marilyn Donahue

One Stop Shopping

My writing workplace has become the one-stop-shopping place for the whole family, especially since it houses my main computer. My husband sits down to peruse ebay for discounts on tools, my daughters sit down to do homework or to check out the latest Barbie fashions, and then my sons will either create their own graphic designs using the paint program, or they will play computer games. It’s sad, but I sometimes have to wait to get access to my own desk.

My desk, because of or in spite of this busy-ness, is now messy. It needs a whole new makeover. It is littered with graduation invites, stacks of file waiting to find a home, letters I need to read over again, and a box that needs to be shipped out.

My excuse: I don’t want to admit my own laziness, so I’ll blame it on my one-stop-shoppers. I can’t get enough time at my workplace to keep it neat.

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio

Happiness is…

Well it seems that clutter, and how to work around it, is the theme for the month. In 2-D it doesn’t appear so bad—but don’t be fooled, it’s pretty bad!

Happiness is creating something beautiful in spite of it all!
(I know you do!)

Veronica Walsh

A Flag of Surrender

I have a theory. I think there is a sinister plot among the files and papers in my office. Each day, when I set foot in my office, I have less room to set
foot in my office.

Why would they do such a dastardly thing to a poor writer? Don’t they realize I love all of them equally and wouldn’t dream of throwing them away? You would think that kind of loyalty would prompt better behavior.

Maybe I’ll just clean them all out and start over. That should show them who’s boss. Of course, I get sick thinking about having to start all over accumulating all that information. They have me over a barrel and they know it!

I guess the only thing I can do is move out and let them have the office. I can always work at the library. Just let them try to follow me there. Our librarian won’t tolerate such behavior. Hummm. Maybe I’ll set up an office at the library.

Raising the white flag and declaring clutter has won, Gloria