I work with a lot of writers and I have taught art classes, led writing workshops, and tutored both artists and writers.
Sometimes people ask me if they should take a class or a course, either online or locally, in person. Here is my answer:
It depends what your goal is.
Yes, you should take a class, or some kind of instruction if you want to improve your work. This can be done in a myriad of ways. When I began exploring watercolours my first step was to borrow books from my local library and study what different artists recommended.
I learned early on that there are many different approaches even in this one medium. Since my goal was to increase my skill level, i.e. become more professional, I enrolled in a studio class that I continued to attend for a couple of years. In that class I learned many techniques how to use the medium to produce work that reflected my own style.
(Coincidentally, in the studio next door, another class leader taught all the students to copy the style of the instructor.)
During that same period I also decided I wanted to develop my writing skills. I followed the same pattern. First, library books, and then writing classes. Both were beneficial.
All this took place before the advent of the Internet and online courses. Now, I’m a big fan of classes online. They are easy and quick to access and you can start almost immediately after you’ve made the decision. You can generally work at your own pace without leaving home.
Among the disadvantages of courses online is that you will likely be working alone and unless you’re self-motivated, you may find that life gets in the way of finishing what you started. However, a well-done course or leaders will usually also offer follow up, a forum, or Facebook group so you stay engaged and motivated until the end.
A local class or course offers the benefit of social contact but requires you to show up at a specific time. It is fun to get together with others who share your interest and to learn as a group. The downside can be heading out on a dark and stormy night may put you off getting to the class.
So, here is my question:
If you wanted to pursue either a writing course, or an art course, which would you prefer: online or in person?
Please leave your answer as a comment below as your choice will help me to develop some programs that I have in mind. Thanks.
“I might forgive but I’ll never forget.”
Forgiving someone who has wronged or hurt you is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make. This might surprise you, but you don’t have to forget. What you want to do is take the pain out of that memory. However, if you don’t forgive, you will be the one who keeps on suffering.
Someone has wronged you.
The important thing to remember is that forgiving doesn’t mean that you have not been wronged. On the contrary, if you believe that you have been wronged you are going to feel it. You will know if you feel hurt, insulted, or rejected. What that person did may have been entirely unintentional. Or it may not have.
Acknowledge to yourself that you believe you have been wronged. What that means is that you believe that someone owed you something and did not deliver. It can be that you are owed respect, but were treated disrespectfully. You may feel that you were owed kindness or understanding, and received cruelty or meanness instead.
The reasons for being wronged vary from the simple, such as a snippy comeback, to the horrific, such as physical or emotional abuse. It might surprise you to realize that it doesn’t matter the intensity or character of the wrong. What matters is your response to it.
Bitterness takes root.
Unforgiveness begins like a tiny seed that sprouts into anger, resentment, and offense. If allowed to grow it puts down roots and those roots are bitterness. When bitterness takes over your soul, it grows its friends, hostility, cynicism, scorn, contempt, and all manner of negative visitors. This is where the danger lies.
Science is only just beginning to admit what your grandma probably told you years ago—that negative emotions have a direct impact on your health and happiness. You see, not forgiving someone who has hurt you prolongs the pain for you long after the perpetrator has forgotten all about it. For the sake of your own health and peace you must forgive.
How do you let it go?
Try this method of forgiving:
(You understand that if someone has also broken the law, the appropriate action must be taken.)
The Bible says that vengeance belongs to God, not to us. By forgiving others, we free ourselves from the sentence of suffering for someone else’s wrongdoing.
Our western society is a culture of striving. The prevailing attitude is that if you’re not knocking yourself out striving toward a goal, you’re wasting time and taking up space.
While I agree that it’s important to know where you want to go and what you want to do to make your life feel worthwhile, too many of us are striving at breakneck speed toward the unknown. Believe it our not, there is a word for this: coddiwomple. It means to travel purposefully toward a vague destination.
When I first read that word, I had to stop and ask myself if that’s what I’m doing. And surprisingly, the answer is, at least in some areas, yes. I’m busy working, striving, and reaching for a destination that’s kind of blurry.
How does this happen?
I believe that we’re products of our environment to such an extent that we simply flow in the direction of everyone else. (There is a reason Jesus compared us to sheep.)
But what would happen if you stopped? If we each took time to look carefully at all the “things” we are chasing, would we still want them?
To find that out, two things are necessary.
1) We must know what we truly value.
2) We must seek peace in our lives and live in that place where peace resides.
Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it?
In my program, The Wish Plan, which I wrote and teach, the very first exercise assists you in determining what you truly value. I can’t put enough emphasis on the importance of knowing this.
It’s easy to spend precious hours, days, and years of our lives striving for something that we don’t really, in our hearts, even want. That’s not a good way to spend a life.
So, if you decide for even a day to stop striving for whatever you’re reaching for, and simply pay attention to what is right in front of you, how would that feel?
Sometimes when we stop, take a rest, and listen to our hearts, the answers come. So does the peace.
Remember those summer days when you played outside until long after the sun went down and came in smiling and worn out? After you mom made you wash and get into your summer pyjamas you flopped into bed and instantly fell asleep between crisp cotton sheets. You woke when the sun came in your window and hit the ground ready for another fun day.
That was then, you say, and this is now.
Stay with me for a moment. What happened along the way that robbed us of the delicious experience of a good night’s sleep? Our date books are crammed with commitments; we’re on call for everyone and the dog, and after another exhausting day, we fall into bed only to be wakened by snoring mates, full bladders, or the thought of tomorrow’s schedules.
We really need to re-learn the art of the wonderful sleep. For sleeps to be luscious and satisfying, we need to put aside the cares of the day early in the evening. If the cares of the day are so numerous that it is not possible to retire them early, then perhaps it is time to re-think how much we are trying to cram into our days.
Not long ago, I felt caught in the constant swirling cycle of too many things to do and not enough time to do them all. I stayed up too late, woke in the night and lay awake thinking about important every detail I must remember to circumvent some crisis. Eventually falling asleep just before dawn, I then spent my days like a flag at half-mast. I was neither awake nor asleep but dragged through my days too foggy to accomplish much at all. Anxiety and fluctuating hormones were ruining my life. Finally, I went to see my doctor. He prescribed a rather benign drug whose side-effect is that it makes you sleepy. I re-entered the world of the childlike sleep.
Once I began sleeping well again, I had the clarity required to see what needed to change to make my life simpler and less stressful. I realized that there are some things that I will not be able to do, that I must choose one main course in life and focus on it. My evenings have become quieter and calmer. I spend more time with my husband. And I look forward to going to bed, sliding between my pale yellow sheets and reading, or snuggling into my puffy pillow and drifting off.
Sleeping luxuriously means giving your whole self to the process.
It may not seem easy to go back to those delicious sleeps of childhood, but it is possible to improve your sleep life. By endeavouring to make the experience a luscious one, you improve your chances of being well-slept.
I have a friend who claims she hates change. She balks at the possibility of change and even at new opportunities, because they may require change in her life. When confronted by a new idea, her first reaction is usually, ‘Hold on a minute. What if…?”
It took me a while to recognize, but I believe the reason for this reluctance to change is that the first things my friend sees are all the possible negative consequences. These terrible outcomes loom so large, that she can see little else. Then she makes her decision based on what she fears. In essence, she says, “What if these things I fear turn out to be true? If they do, then I don’t want to go there. I’m afraid.” Even though she denies that her reasons are based in fear, in fact, fear is her strongest motivator.
Amazingly, many of the difficulties we experience in life stem from our fears. Think about it. If I’m resisting something that I know I should do, or want to do, or I even believe will be good for me, I can be sure that there is probably some kind of fear hiding behind that resistance.
Take a closer look at such habits as self-sabotage and procrastination. Neither of these serve us, so why do we continue to indulge in them? Probably because we are afraid something bad will happen. Without analyzing why we hesitate, we worry, we fret, and we put off taking action.
Do you have areas in your life where you feel stuck? Is there something you need to change? If you feel that you come up against a wall every time you try to make a move, or even think about a proposed change, then take a look and see if there is a fear behind it. And don’t be fooled. Fear masquerades in many disguises, such as these:
Take a moment to follow the trail to the fears that may lurk behind these and other common excuses and you will find that they are nothing more than lies. Identify and confront the lies that are stopping you in your tracks and look past those fears that pop up automatically when you face something new. Once you’ve identified those fear-lies, then turn them over and look at the other side. You may find the truth was there all the time, just waiting to be recognized.
Rather than listening to the fears and concluding the worst, why not try asking yourself instead, “What if it turned out differently? What if these good things happen?” Then list them. This view changes everything. By seeing the positive side, we can clearly make a balanced decision or take action.
For example, “What if I mess this up?” when flipped over becomes, “What if I do really well?”.
“What if everyone laughs at me?” becomes, “What if everyone cheers for me?”
“What if my work is no good?” becomes, “What if my work is great?” or even,
“What if only a few like it, but I derive great enjoyment out of creating it?”
Find an appropriate positive thought, statement or truth to counter the negative one and next time that little fear comes up, confront it with its opposite. Keep on doing this until the fear gives up and slinks away in defeat. It will, you know, and you’ll be the winner for your efforts.
It is considered common knowledge that people fear and resist change. Not true. What people really fear is that change will bring negative consequences. If what you plan will make you happy, you don’t fear change at all, do you?
Change is not scary when you plan for positive outcomes. I encourage you to switch from listening to your fears to expecting the best. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how much easier it becomes to make decisions and how much more fun your life will be.
Being fearless is a wonderful way to live.
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There are many ways to be creative as there are ideas in the world. However, sometimes the creative work we do for "work" bogs down and we need to try something new to refresh the little creative grey cells in the brain. Making your own soap is not only fun and creative, but it produces a useful product as well.
How to make your own soap
We all use soap. In the old days, most people made their own. Today, we are much more likely to buy it from the store. There are lots of brands to choose from, and each brand has various formulations and scents.
But making your own soap has some definite advantages. One of the most significant is the price. We can make soap much cheaper than we can buy it. Making it ourselves also gives us complete control over the ingredients, so we can create a soap that's perfect for our skin type in a scent of our choosing.
Making soap is much easier than you might think. It is, however, important to take certain safety precautions. Here's a basic recipe:
* 12 cups lye crystals
* 5 cups softened water
* 6 pounds lard
1. Put water in a glass or plastic bowl. Carefully pour lye into water, stirring constantly with a plastic or wooden spoon. This should be done outdoors or in a well-ventilated area, because it produces caustic fumes.
2. Mixing lye and water produces heat. When the lye is completely dissolved, set the mixture aside to cool.
3. Place lard in a stainless steel or enamel pan. Melt over low heat.
4. Allow both the lye solution and the lard to cool to room temperature.
5. Slowly pour the lye solution into the lard, stirring slowly and constantly with the plastic or wooden spoon.
6. Continue stirring after all of the lye solution has been added. Drizzle a small amount of the mixture into the pot periodically. When the soap keeps its shape for a moment before sinking into the mixture, you can add scent, color and herbs.
7. Pour the soap into a mold greased with shortening. Wrap in a towel, and let set for about 18 hours or until completely cooled. Uncover and let set for 12 more hours.
8. The soap may now be unmolded and cut into bars. Let the bars cure for 3 to 4 weeks before using.
Customizing Your Soap
There are lots of different ways you can customize your soap. To make the best soap for your skin type, you may want to use different oils. Some that are commonly used include olive oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter and shea butter. The correct amount varies depending on which oil you use, so look for recipes online or in books until you get the hang of it.
Essential oils have therapeutic properties and add fragrance. Oatmeal, cornmeal and other grains can be added as exfoliants. And skin-safe colorants may be used to produce the desired color. These ingredients should be mixed together and added to a cup of the soap mixture, then stirred into the rest of the soap mixture immediately before pouring into the mold.
Making your own soap is easy, and it can be lots of fun. Coming up with the perfect concoction for your skin is rewarding, and sweetly scented homemade soaps make wonderful gifts for any occasion.
Let’s talk about forming new creative habits. We all have times in our lives where we intentionally want to change our behavior for the better and create new habits for ourselves. This could be getting in the habit of eating healthier and drinking more water. Or it could be moving more and taking the dog for a daily walk. Or it could be work related, or spiritual, or fitting more writing or painting time into your day. There are so many areas in our lives that could be improved and made easier if we created new habits.
Getting into the habit of doing something is often easier said than done. For some reason that I'd rather not explore, we seem to acquire bad habits without any effort, but getting into a “good” habit can be a little more challenging.
Let’s break it down into a three step process that makes it easy to follow until we’ve internalized the new creative behavior and made it a true habit – something you do automatically without having to think about, like brushing your teeth.
Decide What You Want To Do
The first step is to decide what you want that new habit to be. Be as specific as possible. Don’t just tell yourself you want to write more. Instead say something like “I will write for 30 minutes every single day”. Deciding what your new habit will be and committing to when and how you’re going to do it, is half the battle.
Remind Yourself To Get It Done
The next few days should be smooth sailing. You’re motivated and excited to get this done. Sticking to your new creative habit isn’t an issue. But a few days in you’ll notice that it’s easy to slip back into old habits.
Maybe it’s raining and you don’t feel like painting. Or maybe your day just gets away from you. This is when it’s important to have a daily reminder. Set an alert on your phone or add the new habit to your daily to-do list for a while.
Make It Part Of Your Routine Until It Becomes A Habit
Which brings us to the last step. It takes some time before a new behavior becomes a true habit. Until then, a routine will work to your best advantage. Even before the new behavior becomes automatic, a routine will help you get it done without having to spend a lot of willpower or relying on daily reminders.
Make daily writing part of your after breakfast routine, or change fitting it in when everything else is done, to doing it before you start on your to-do list for the day.
Congratulations! Decide to create the new creative habit, practice the routine until it’s second nature and you’ll be well on your way to forming a new good habit.
Today I've decided to take this video outside on my deck because it's such a beautiful summer day out. I've got these beautiful flowers in my little handing basket there. Today I'm going to talk to you about looking back. You know as creative people, we so often look back at our lives and go, "That didn't work out," or "I tried this and it just didn't happen like I expected," or "I thought I'd make money at this and I put all that time and effort into it, and it didn't work."
It can be really, really discouraging. I want to encourage you today not to look at your past like that. Just say, you know what, things happen. As creative people we always have lots of ideas. You know you're competent in what you do, but sometimes things don't work out perfectly, and sometimes through no fault of your own.
It's important to put things in context, and say, "Okay, this happened.”
It's easy to say, "It was my fault. I failed again."
I want urge you not to do that, but instead look at those things in context. Say, "Okay, these are the things that happened. Why did they happen? What can I learn from it? What can I take away? What was positive?"
It is so easy to think about the negative. Oh my goodness! And we tend to go that way. As creative people, self-doubt creeps in and with it all that kind of bad stuff. Just don't go there.
Instead say, "Okay, this is what's positive that happened. This is what I learned. This is what I can take to my next project, to my art career, my writing career, whatever your creative pursuit is.” Look at it that way.
Don't dwell on it. It happened, it's behind you, move forward.
Another thought is, don't entertain those bad memories. Don't invite them in. Don't serve them tea. Don't give them space in your mind, in your heart, in your emotions. Just don't give them space.
Then when those reminders come up, switch them over. Just flip them over and say, "Yes, that happened but…this is the good part. That was then, this is now."
That's my message today. Keep it positive. Keep it forward thinking. Just keep on moving in the direction that your creative dreams are taking you, because it's important. It's important to the world that creative people keep creating. It's just how it is.
Now that summer is here, it's a great time to get outside and have some fun. It might have been years since you've done "kid" things like flying a kite, but there is no rule that says you can't do it now, no matter what your age.
You may want to go kite flying with children, but if you don't have any handy, just go get your own kite and find a field or beach where there is a breeze and get going.
Here is a short video I found to get you started.
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It's not unusual to hear writers talk about how hard it is to write, to get published, to find an agent. Some writers talk about writing as though they have to slit their wrists and bleed on the page. For years I believed these people who complained about how hard the writing life was and allowed all this discouragement within the industry to keep me from writing.
But even if it is hard, so what? What isn't?
Going to work at a job you hate year after year is hard. Having children and going without sleep night after night as you nurse a sick baby is hard. Making a marriage work through difficult times is hard. Losing a job and wondering where the next meal is coming from is hard. Living with illness, family problems, financial difficulty is hard. Losing a parent, or a child, is hard.
Writing? It's a piece of cake. It’s not hard to sit at a computer and make up a story. Putting words together into cohesive sentences is not difficult at all. It's more fun than a lot of other things that make up ordinary life. The act or writing is simple. Sit, type, read, correct, write some more.
I’m not saying that writing isn’t work though some people seem to think it’s not. Like going to school, or learning a new skill, it will take time and attention. You have to educate yourself to become a good writer. You need to develop your skills, and you need to read a lot. You can shorten that process by working with a good writing coach.
Writing a book can take many hours, or even months to complete. After that come the re-writes and the edits to polish a manuscript. Time-consuming? Definitely, but not really that hard.
In fact, compared to a lot of other things, writing is easy!
What about publishing? These days, getting your work in print or digital format has never been easier with print on demand and e-books. Book distribution has also changed in favour of the author. Thank-you Amazon.
If you want to publish the traditional way, through a publishing company, it can be a longer and tougher process. Either way, what if it does take a while to see your work in print? Try harder. Do the work.
Can't find an agent on the first try? Try again. Don’t give up. Keep on until it works. Rejection won’t harm you, but it you let it, it can stop you. Improve the book. Try again. Do whatever it takes.
But let's all stop complaining about how hard it all is. Try doing something really difficult then come back to writing. I predict that writing will seem a whole lot easier and more fun. Perspective is everything.
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I took a little trip to the seaside last week, stopping in Coupeville, WA, where I snapped the photo of these sail boats bobbing at anchor in the afternoon sun.
After a little shopping, I even had time to make a small watercolour sketch to add to my collection for an upcoming book project I'm working on.
This is the first time I have take part in a blog hop so it is a new fun experience for me. Suzanne Lieurance, author of the new book, The Morning Nudge, has invited me to take part in the 4×4 Blog Hop. Thank-you for inviting me, Suzanne.
1. What am I working on?
Right now, I’m working on a few different projects. One is the third novel in my Jill Moss Adventures series. I like to have the plot and main theme figured out before I get started on the writing so I have a world map on the wall in my hallway that is covered in sticky notes with ideas for what I want to include in this story. My novels feature complex plots with lots of action and adventure so there is a lot of thought that goes into creating the story. I also write about deeper spiritual issues that most of us face or have questions about and weave those concepts into the story.
At the same time, I’m working on creating a book of daily inspirations, including creating the artwork for each page.
As well, I am working with my business colleague, Suzanne Lieurance, on a fun project called 50 Fabulous Food Tips, Recipes, and Ideas for Easy Entertaining, a lovely illustrated book of great ideas to simplify life.
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
With regard to my novels, I write inspirational action adventure. This difference between my writing and others in similar genres is that both genders love my books and my writing. It is highly visual (not surprising from a visual artist) and has lots of action but also includes some humour, a little romance, and fascinating research into archaeological and Biblical history.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Mainly because I want to read these things and no one else was writing with the combination of a lot of high action, interesting plots, and a Christian worldview. Think of a woman who loves God but who is a character similar to Indiana Jones – she’s up for going anywhere.
I write for my other non-fiction projects because these are also areas of interest for me. As an artist as well as a writer, illustrated books that make life easier and more pleasant always appeal to me. It’s just a natural fit for me to create them and since I have my own publishing service, it’s also easy for me to publish them. (See www.summerbaypress.com)
4. How does my writing process work?
As a visual person, I have to see things to keep them moving forward. My husband bought me the world map to use to work out my plots for the Jill Moss Adventures books. I often have to do quite a bit of research and have a friend who volunteers to act as my research helper, which saves me a lot of time. Once I have the basic story idea in my mind, I start writing. I love the process of typing and having characters and worlds appear on the page. I don’t write everyday but once I’m into the story I write fast and go back and fix things later.
With my other projects, I try to concentrate on one at a time but I usually end up working on several at once, moving each one forward bit by bit.
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Sometimes when you have a dream of accomplishing something, be it big or small, and it never seems to work out, or things keep not going your way, it's hard not to get discouraged.
The word, discourage, implies loss of hope, courage, or confidence. You can become disheartened or even filled with despair. These are powerful emotions. But, they are just emotions.
Recently, I was praying about something that had discouraged me. I felt that loss of hope and confidence, wondering if I was doing the right things in my life and why they were not going better. In the midst of my praying, I heard the voice of God whisper to me, "Moods are not the same as truth."
We often let moods and emotions control our actions and choices. When emotions are driving your bus, you can head off in any direction but not necessarily toward the destination of choice. Moods and emotions can derail your plans and goals and side-track your dreams faster than just about anything else. For example, if I let my moods dictate what I'm going to do today, I might just go back to bed.
It's not always easy to see when an emotion doesn't accurately reflect reality, especially when we're sinking into depths of despair or discouragement. So, what do you do about those times when discouragement seems to have the upper hand?
Here are a few strategies I've developed:
People have jumped off bridges for want of money or fear of loss of face. Isn't life worth more than that? Resounding YES! So if you think that what you are struggling with today is difficult, this video below should prove encouraging and help put things in perspective.
My novel, Picking up the Pieces, recently won 1st Place in the Inspirational Romantic Suspense Category at Chanticleer Media and Publishing book awards. Here I am showing off my Blue Ribbon on awards night.
Where I share creative ideas, uplifting thoughts, and spread sweetness to help us all make life pretty.