This is a question that people have asked me about writing fiction. Where do my ideas come from? The answer to that is simple: They are everywhere.
If you look at situations and people as subjects for a romance novel or novella, it’s not hard to imagine stories around them, once you get in the habit of doing so. Keep your notebook handy.
Here is an example: Recently a distant relative of mine got married in Hawaii. I saw the photos on Facebook, looked at the beautiful bride, and enjoyed the romantic, tropical setting. I don’t know these people personally so I don’t know their actual story. What I can do is use their photos as a jumping off point for creating a romantic plot.
The first step to coming up with a romance plot is to ask, what if?
If you have ever spent time in an airport waiting for your flight to be called, you’ve had lots of time to watch people and make up stories about them. The tired-looking woman in the business suit—see her over there, texting—perhaps she has spent so much time on the road that her boyfriend is losing interest. What does she have to do to keep her relationship alive? Or, perhaps she is never in on place long enough to have a relationship but she longs for a romance and a family.
A man wearing climbing gear sits next to the window reading a newspaper. Where has he come from and where is he going? Is there a woman in the city wishing he loved her more than he loves the mountains? You have enough conflict there to create a dynamic plot.
The young adults playing volleyball on the beach all look so happy and carefree. But what if that girl with the brown ponytail looks longingly at the tall, blonde guy who never seems to notice her? What is their story?
The choice, of course, is yours. You can make up any tale you like about anyone you like. Put them in a setting that appeals to you, and in a situation that is difficult. Give them an attraction for each other, but lots of obstacles that they have to overcome before getting together.
When you figure out those basics, voilà! You have a romantic plot.
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Celebrate often and laugh lots
Most of what we think is a big deal is really no big deal. Holidays and family events are obvious reasons to celebrate, but can sometimes also be exhausting if you are trying to live up to traditional standards or other people’s ideas about how a celebration should happen. Instead, why not pick your own reasons and ways to celebrate?
Celebrate a perfect hair day by taking yourself out for iced coffee. The fact that your bathroom got cleaned is cause for celebration, especially if someone else did it. How about celebrating a good night’s sleep? What about the first daffodil bloom in your garden or the first hummingbird at your feeder? Life is full of special and ordinary moments so why not just pick some and make them a celebration?
While you are at it, choose fun people with whom to celebrate. Choose to spend as much time as possible with people who make you laugh. It has been known for ages that laughter is good for you. The Bible says that a happy heart is as good as medicine. Plus it’s also a lot cheaper and far more fun than drugs and surgery!
Here are some ideas of how to celebrate and laugh:
Simply adding more laughter and fun to your life can not only improve your life, but prolong it as well. Laughter is a spirit lifter and the best antidote for depression. It is also known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, elevate mood, boost immune system, improve brain functioning, protect the heart, connect you to others, foster instant relaxation, make you feel good. There are so many reasons to laugh, it is really important to find more laughter in your life.
I know that it is not always easy to avoid people who get you down, but you can do things to offset their effect on you. By finding more reasons to laugh, you counteract the dampening affect of the negative influences with which you come into contact. Your light-hearted approach to life may even turn those grumpy folks into happier people, too.
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A few years ago I was working a trade show and while taking a break I walked past a booth advertising a new resort project. When I made eye contact with the man behind the table, we both had a jolt of recognition and said at the same time, “I know you.” It took a few minutes to trace our past connection, but we remembered that he had been the realtor who sold our house several years before. We had also attended the same church for a while.
We agreed to have lunch together to talk about old times, and during our conversation over burgers and fries, he made a comment that I have never forgotten. “A hundred years from now there will be all new people on the earth.” I realized, that with only a few exceptions, the statement was true.
Since then I’ve given that concept a lot of thought. If I am one of the people here now, then there must be a reason for me to be here.
What if we are all here at this time because we are the exact complement to the people with whom we will come into contact?
What if we are each here to be the one to help someone or several others get through this journey we call life?
If that is the case, then what do I bring to the table to offer others as a means to aid them on their journey? What talents and abilities do I possess that will make someone else’s journey easier?
If I have a responsibility to the other people who are inhabiting this earth in my time, then I need to look at what my abilities are that I can offer you. If I am to offer you my very best, then I need to use the talents that God gave me to the best of my ability.
There is no point in me spending a lot of time and effort trying to be something I’m not, since my purpose will be thwarted. Assuming that we are given talents and natural abilities which we might develop for the purpose of using them to make the world a better place, then it doesn’t make any sense at all for me to not maximize those talents and abilities.
If I spent an inordinate amount of time on meaningless tasks, am I not wasting the time I have been given to develop my talents for the benefit of those around me? Am I not squandering my abilities, to not develop them?
Why am I here now?
Who am I here with and why them?
What do I have to offer ?
Am I maximizing my talents for the good of myself and the rest of the world?
Do you have notice that it gets harder to make decisions toward the end of the day? You’re too tried to figure out what to have for dinner or what to watch on TV. That’s because we all have a finite amount of decisions that we can make in any given day.
Knowing that helps us prioritize. We can cut out a lot of decision making by implementing habits and routines. That way we save them for the important stuff. It also frees brain space for more creative and productive thinking. Routines are a great tool that simplify our lives and cut out a lot of our daily stress.
Chances are you already have a morning routine. You get up, you get your coffee, read the paper or check email and fix some toast before heading into the shower. Let’s expand on that. If you create a “uniform” for yourself, you don’t even have to think about what to wear. You just grab a pair of pants and a shirt, or a skirt, tights and sweater and off you go.
Implement some routines into your workday wherever possible. Meal planning helps you figure out what meals to fix and eat. A cleaning schedule makes sure you stay on track with your household chores without you having to spend any valuable decision making skills in the process.
Building your creative work—writing time, or art—into your routine soon makes it a habit. When it’s already a habit, you don’t need to try to fit it into your day because it’s already part of your routine.
Wrap your day up with a bedtime routine that not only helps when you’re too tired to make smart choices, it also helps you fall asleep more easily.
Start by doing a few chores that make the next morning easier. Making sure the kitchen is clean and the kids’ school things are in order are great examples. Come up with a few calming things that help you slow down and get ready for sleep. Read a book, listen to some music, or wind down with a cup of herbal tea.
Sit down with a pen and piece of paper and think about what parts of your day and week you can turn into routines. Write the down and create daily to-do lists for yourself until you’ve established these new habits and routines.
Spending a little bit of time creating routines and habits will make your day run a lot smoother. You might just find yourself less stressed and get more done during your productive hours. And that’s a beautiful thing. It allows you to save plenty of decision making for the fun stuff like figuring out what park to go to, what family movie to watch or what board game to play.
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It’s hard to keep up willpower for any length of time. Yes, we can stick to a low-fat 1,000 calorie diet and go hungry for a week or two, but eventually our willpower fades. And yes, we can do exercise we hate for a while... until we run out of willpower.
But what about getting up to take the kids to school every morning, brushing our teeth or going to work every day. Those may not be our favorite things to do either, but we do them daily without the risk of running out of willpower. That’s because they have become habits. They are so ingrained in what we do and who we are that we do them without even considering skipping a day or a week. We don’t have to make a conscious decision each day to shower or drive to work. It’s just what we do – a habit.
When you start to think about it, there is an inverse relationship between habits and will power. When you first want to build a new creative habit, say, write or paint every day, it takes a lot of will power or self-discipline to get it done day in and day out. As you start to establish that habit, it becomes easier and easier to do until you don’t even have to think about it anymore. Doing your creative work is just part of your daily life.
Just being aware of this process helps us stick it out. We know we don’t always have to make such a big effort to go work out or skip the donut for breakfast. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We know eventually it will become habit to go write for fifteen or thirty minutes first thing in the morning or grab your paintbrush and add a few more strokes to your work in progress.
While we’re in that transition from willpower to habit, we can use tools to make it easier. Use a to-do list or creative planner or set a reminder to help stay on track. Find an accountability partner so the two of you can motivate each other and help bolster that willpower when it starts to fade after the first enthusiasm wears off. Compare daily word count or report in with each other every day. Even something as simple as laying out your craft materials—brushes, paints, novel research, etc.—will give you a jump start on getting at it in the morning.
When my daughter was in high school, she confided in me one day that she had loved kindergarten but thought that school had gone down hill from there. What she wanted to do was go back to kindergarten.
While there are lots of reasons not to, there are some good reasons to think about life as though we're in kindergarten. I never attended kindergarten when I was a child because where I lived it wasn't offered but I do remember art class being my favourite. Friday afternoons were the best!
It's not easy to retain that love a creativity in a culture that considers creative pursuits frivolous or not "serious" enough. I shared the following on Facebook a while ago. A great number of people agreed.
Everyone is born creative and lots of us want our crayons back so we can get lost in creative play. Well, we still can. Sometimes all it takes is believing that. Listen to what David Kelley has to say.
I took this photo this morning from my bathroom window. The roses are blooming a little early this year and if I could attach the scent of these Empress Josephine blossoms to a blog post, I would. It's heavenly.
Staying inspired on a creative path is not always easy. Sometimes I don't want to come up with an idea, or write that story, or draw another picture. That doesn't happen often, but there are times when I've sat at the computer so long that all I can think about is how much my bottom hurts.
So how do you stay inspired when the sky is grey and the laundry is piling up? Here are a few ways that work for me.
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