Check the Label–and Avoid These Common Creativity Zappers!

Check the label! 

You probably do this without a second thought when you’re shopping. You check to see that foods contain healthy ingredients, to make sure cleaning products are nontoxic. Maybe you check labels to see where something was made, or whether it contains the kind of wool that makes Aunt Ethel itchy.

But how often do you notice the labels YOU put on things? Specifically, the labels you apply–probably without thinking–to yourself, your writing, your needs and desires?

Labels_not_for_people1

We humans are hard-wired to name things, to give them labels. Unfortunately, our brains are also hard-wired to pay more attention to negative information–which means that those negative labels are often on the tip of our mental tongues.

Have trouble getting started on that next chapter? Your inner critic slaps on labels like lazy or  not very creative. Skip writing for a few days or weeks? That inner critic labels you “not serious about writing.” 

What labels do you apply to yourself or your writing? They might be getting in your way!

Tweet-Button

There are three common types of labels that can block creativity, reinforce self-doubts, and even paralyze our ability to imagine. 

Name-Calling Labels

My writing coach once asked me if I would talk to a friend the way I talked to myself. This question is a good way to gauge whether you’re engaging in some unhelpful name-calling, putting down your muse, yourself, or your work. Labels like lazy, stupid, slow, scattered, and blocked don’t spur your creative side; they shut it down.

If you wouldn’t use a label to describe a good friend, don’t apply it to yourself or your writing, either!

Common “Name-Calling Labels”

For Themselves…

For Their Writing…

Slow
Uncreative
Not good enough
Not a “real” writer
Undisciplined
Lazy
Unfocused
Blocked

Unpolished
Unoriginal
Unprofessional
Bad
Boring
Crappy
Beginner
Derivative

Excuse-Making Labels

Labels don’t have to be obviously negative to get in your way. All they have to do is turn your attention away from solving a problem. Common excuse-making labels include too busy and too stressed. 

Excuse-making labels often begin with the words “I can’t write/create/brainstorm right now because…”

Excuse-making labels often focus on placing blame for the problem on someone or something outside of yourself.

Are you “too busy” to write? Maybe. I often am! But if you accept “too busy” as a label, it’s easy to let it define you. It’s easy to forget that we usually have some control over how busy or stressed or overwhelmed we are.

Grandiose Labels

You might be surprised to hear that seemingly good labels can be just as harmful as obviously negative labels. Think about it, though: what happens when you tell yourself that your latest book/story/essay concept is

The Best Idea Ever!

Does the thought help your words to flow effortlessly from your pen? If so, more power to you!

For the rest of us, though, labels like greatest and best and breakout create an enormous amount of pressure. Suddenly you face a daunting standard when you sit down to write. If the idea is so great, your writing better measure up to it!

Grandiose labels create stress, and stress is the enemy of creativity.

Chuck those labels–good and bad! Just focus on doing the work.

Tweet-Button

 

So what labels sneak into your writing process?

The good news? Once you’re on the lookout for them, harmful labels are pretty easy to spot. Once spotted, you can replace them with labels that reinforce your creative journey rather than hinder it. I’d love to hear what labels you’ve had to eliminate from your vocabulary as a writer! Please share your examples and insights in the comments.

I also hope you’ll come back on Thursday, when we’ll dig deeper into how to replace those negative labels with a problem-solving mindset!

Writing in 2nd-Person POV: Q & A with Authors Anna-Maria Crum and Hilari Bell

This is a follow-up to two previous posts about stories written in second-person point of view (POV). If you want the basics on what second-person POV is or why you might want to try using this writing style, check these out:

Engage Readers: Make Them Part of Your Story
Connect With Readers–Without Breaking the Time Bank

Choice-of-Dragons-screenshot

Writing Second-Person POV–“In the Trenches” With Hilari and Anna-Maria!

Today, we’re going to dig a little deeper into how to make second-person POV work–by talking to a pair of authors who are in the midst of writing their own second-person POV project, Hilari Bell and Anna-Maria Crum.

CoGlogoHilari and Anna-Maria are currently going through the submission process with one of the foremost (in my opinion) publisher’s of choose-your-own-adventure stories/games, Choice of Games (COG). They’ve graciously agreed to talk about their experience with this company as well as what it’s been like to work on a project that’s so different in so many ways.

Since these two are so excited about their current project that they finish each others’ sentences, I don’t identify who’s speaking in their replies. They’re definitely well-practiced at working, brainstorming, and creating as a writing team!

How would you describe the writing process for a choose-your-own adventure tale, as compared to your experience writing more traditional first-person or third-person POV narratives?

Continue Reading

Getting Practical: 3 Ways Writers Can Use Sketchnotes

Based on comments from y’all–not to mention which posts get the most traffic on this blog–I’ve made a cool discovery: Although you seem to appreciate posts on theory, what you REALLY like are posts that dig into specific examples.

PracticeIt-OwnIt

 Photos: Jaro LarnosSheltie Boy, State Library of South Aus, & Woodleywonderworks

Practice a Concept–OWN the Concept

Makes sense to me! I don’t really understand a concept until I try it out six ways from Sunday and make it my own, if you know what I mean :).

So I thought I’d try an experiment. On Mondays, I’ll continue to bring you information and tips about writing, creativity, and novel ways to connect with readers. Thursdays, we’ll dive into specifics–specific examples, specific applications, specific challenges, and so on, that have to do with the week’s topic. Starting with (drumroll, please…) sketchnoting!

Sketchnoting is a powerful tool for writers & other creatives–I dare you to give it a try!

Tweet-Button

Add Sketchnotes to Your Creative Process: 3 Ideas

Idea 1: Use sketchnotes to create a “mind map” of conference sessions, lectures, or other presentations.

How? Simply apply basic sketchnoting principles as described by sketchnoting authority Mike Rohde in the Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking.
Continue Reading

3 Reasons Sketchnotes Can Level Up Your Creative Process

tsh-cover-175pxDo you ever finish a brainstorming session feeling like you’ve just rehashed the same old ideas on new sheets of paper?

Does your freewriting exercise stall before you hit the second paragraph?

Does your plot refuse to twist, or do your characters insist on behaving predictably?

Maybe you need a creative kick-start! I have an awesome–and fun–new tool for you to add to your creativity toolbox:

SKETCHNOTES 

 

What the Heck Are Sketchnotes?

Sketchnoting authority Mike Rohde, author of the Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking, puts it this way:

Sketchnotes are rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes & lines.”

Sketchnotes arose from Mike’s frustration with the standard note-taking process. He was filling notebooks with pages of detailed, text-only notes, and then never referring to them again.

Sound familiar? How many of us have notebooks full of notes from conferences and meetings, notebooks that now gather dust on shelves (**raises hand**)? Perhaps worse, how many of us have notebooks filled with valuable story ideas or character descriptions, similarly gathering dust because sorting through them is too daunting a task?

Sketchnotes focus on capturing BIG IDEAS and representing them VISUALLY. By using symbols and shapes to capture concepts, sketchnotes can convey information more succinctly than text alone. The way information is organized on the page can help communicate a hierarchy of ideas or logical progression.

The end result is a “visual map,” Mike says. Sketchnotes “are built from meaningful thoughts and ideas your mind collects and squirrels away….”

In other words, when you translate ideas into sketchnotes, you store them in a format that’s easy to review and access later.

Sketchnotes let you translate ideas into a format that’s QUICK TO SCAN and EASY TO REVISIT. 

Tweet-Button

Cool, right? But that’s not the only benefit of sketchnoting–as you might’ve guessed based on the the title of this post.

Sketchnoting Is About PROCESS as Much as PRODUCT

Sketchnoting isn’t just about creating a beautiful end product–which is why you don’t need to be an artist to start creating your own sketchnotes. Sketchnoting helps you think differently.

Continue Reading