Friday, June 22, 2012

Another Creativity Killer: Don't Check the Expiration Date on What You Believe

When I was a child, my mother ordered me to never cross the street by myself. This led me to believe that it was unsafe to do so unless she was with me. It didn't take long, though, for this belief to pass its sell by date.

We discard the most obvious expired beliefs, but some of them are sneaky. Many people learned when they were young that you need to work hard in order to get by or that the doctor knows best when it comes to your health. These beliefs sound so reasonable that we may accept them as facts.

We all learned many beliefs masquerading as facts from childhood authorities: parents, teachers, and others. We absorbed them at a time when our ability to question what they told us was untried. A lot of what I picked up along the trail of growing u p still inhabits my being, rent-free. They block the path of original thinking and creativity.

My squatters tell me all kinds of lies that I believe to be true, like "You don't like to cook," "Housework is hell," and "You're not very good at technical or mechanical things."

Like most of the unexamined beliefs I hold in my head, I acquired these from a number of sources.

"You don't like to cook" comes from a period when my mother worked at night when I was in junior high and high school and had to cook dinner several nights at week." I hated cooking then, and now, though my circumstances are entirely different, my adolescent attitude carries over.

"Housework is hell" comes directly from my mother. She had four children, including two boys with the destructive capacity of puppies. Again, I have carried this attitude into adulthood.

"You're not very good at technical or mechanical things" has several roots. It stems in part from my believing I was no good at math. I clung to that belief, ignoring much evidence that I was good on computers and designed and constructed several web sites."

The mechanical part of this has more general roots. The other day I was wishing that, instead of taking home ec and learning how to make aprons and biscuits, I'd gotten a course in unblocking drains, simple carpentry, and elementary car repair. When I was growing up, girls were going to have husbands who would do all of that, and somewhere in my crowded mind lounges the belief that females aren't supposed to do such things.

The belief family most destructive to creativity usually begins, "You can't do that (whatever that is). You can't draw a straight line, carry a tune, express what you feel, ask for favors, or risk your security. You have a black thumb; you can't read a map; you can't eat strange food. Solution

1. Notice what beliefs are blocking your way. Sometimes they take this form: "I'd like to . . . but . . ."

2. Ask yourself, "Why is that true?"

3. Ask yourself, "How long has this been true?"

4. Ask yourself, "Who told me it's true?"

5. Decide it's not true. Replace that belief with one that serves your creative purposes.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How To Succeed: A Squirrel's-Eye View

As I write this, a squirrel is living in an outside wall of my house. When I discovered the hole in the wall, I tried a number of ways to cover. I will not detail these methods because none of them worked. They failed because my efforts, designed as temporary measures until I could call a carpenter, failed to take into account two primary aspects of a squirrel's nature. These are imagination and persistence.

Of these, persistence is probably more important. As anyone who has ever had a bird feeder knows, squirrels do not give up. Unlike humans, they don't say, "This problem has no solution," "I'm tired of trying," or "I quit."

They never (or rarely) quit, and because of their determination, they're able to explore many creative possibilities. Persistence fuels the expression of imagination.

I once saw a video that documented the impossibility of outwitting squirrels. One scene showed a squirrel who'd learned to trigger a candy machine in Times Square so that it ejected a candy bar. Amazing as that was, I was more impressed by its ability to navigate street traffic.

Several episodes documented the efforts of scientists to devise squirrel-proof bird feeders. The most elaborate of these was a twenty- or thirty-part section obstacle course that included chutes and ladders, doors that had to be sprung a certain way, seesaws, and various other ingenious obstacles. It took the inventors of this course a month to design it. It took a squirrel less than a day to outwit it.

Some humans have squirrel-like tenacity. When asked by a reporter if he felt like a failure for not having yet discovered how to make a light bulb that worked, Thomas Edison replied, "Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost within my grasp." After over 10,000 attempts, he succeeded.

You might not be up to 10,000 attempts. I'm not. My only goal is to make one more attempt before I give up. And then another. And another. And when I wonder if I'm wasting my time, I ask myself what else I was going to do with it.

Then I remind myself that if I quit now, I'll have a lot of time for regret.

And I'll have to live with the knowledge that when it comes to manifesting one's goals, a squirrel is smarter than I am.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Dreams and Inspirations

I’m so excited Connie has invited me to guest on her blog today. I thought I’d share with you all some of the ways I get my inspiration.

I started having what I call “character dreams” when I was in high school. These dreams were more like movies and I found my awareness would bounce from the mind of one player to another. I’d only remember little snippets of these dreams the next morning, but they would stick with me so strongly that I eventually found the only way to resolve them in my mind was to write them.

Witch Way Bends started as just such a dream. I recalled a field of bodies and a woman with a pistol in hand. There were several men standing around, also bearing weapons. One man in particular drew her attention and he was obviously in charge. She had something to prove. He felt something for her and fought to tamp it down.

Years later this little clip transformed into the opening chapter for my first novel.

While I was in the process of writing Witch Way Bends I had a particular scene wherein one of the characters was injured. My heroine needed to heal him but I was having a hard time coming up with the details. I wanted the use of her healing powers to be different, unique. While jogging through the nature trail near my house about that time, I ran into a spider web. I furiously swatted the sticky threads out of my face in frustration as I tried to resolve the quandary in my book.

Inspiration has to hit you right in the face sometimes, because that cob web sprang forth an idea. Spiders. My heroine would conjure spiders to magically heal her friend’s wounds.

Probably the biggest source of my inspiration is music. Loud music blaring through the speakers when I’m driving to work. Whether it’s Muse’s “Uprising” to plan a big fight scene or Missy Higgins’ “Drop the Mirror” to explore the desperate soul-searching of one of my characters, music is very important.

I maintain the mood of my stories with music. It helps me hold tight to the theme or the atmosphere I’m trying to evoke in the words.

So I guess inspiration can be found in almost anything that stirs the soul. So many times I’ve despaired when my “muse” goes missing. Yet somehow, it always finds me again be it in dreams, in nature, in song or some other unimagined place…

About the Author

Olivia Hardin realized early on how strange she was to have complete movie-like character dreams as a child. Eventually she began putting those vivid dreams to paper and was rarely without her spiral notebooks full of those mental ramblings. Her forgotten vision of becoming an author was realized when she connected with a group of amazingly talented and fabulous writers who gave her lots of direction and encouragement. With a little extra push from family and friends, she hunkered down to get lost in the words.

She's also an insatiable crafter who only completes about 1 out of 5 projects, a jogger who hates to run, and is sometimes accused of being artistic, though she's generally too much of a perfectionist to appreciate her own work.

A native Texas girl, Olivia lives in the beautiful Lone Star state with her husband and their puppy Bonnie.

Connect with her Online

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Books by Olivia Hardin

Witch Way Bends (Book 1 of the Bend-Bite-Shift Trilogy)

Devan Stowe is a woman on a quest. She has only one thing on her mind when she teams up with Kent Crosby and his associates—putting an end to her father’s child trafficking business. Her determination takes her on a journey to discover her true strength and… the one man she was destined to love. In his arms, she’ll learn the meaning of trust, honor, and courage. Old friends and new will come together to help Devan unlock an amazing gift that will free her from her past and open up a future full of magic, faeries and more things than she ever imagined possible…

Available at Amazon

Bitten Shame (Book 2 of the Bend-Bite-Shift Trilogy)

Jill Prescott returned from self-imposed seclusion to help save her best friend Devan’s life. Throwing herself into Devan’s problems and bringing an evil organization to its knees might just be the distraction she needs to keep living without the only man she’s ever loved. Her life changed forever when she was hired to spend a week with Doc Massey. On the day she became a vampire her youthful innocence ended, but Doc’s love rescued her from being consumed by the darkness. The shadow of that former life continues to loom over her, keeping her from realizing her own self-worth. Running from her past only brings her closer to a destiny that is inextricably connected to what she is trying to escape… Every gift has both a reward and a price, because All of it fits…

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Cupid Painted Blind is a collection of six short stories. Featuring authors: Liz Schulte, Lisa Rayns, Olivia Hardin, C.G. Powell, Cait Lavender and Stephanie Nelson.

“Tell A Soul” – Short Story by Olivia Hardin

He’s the dependable one. The strong and steadfast one. Still, there’s one woman who has always turned his firm resolve on end. Langston is surprised beyond... Belief to find Kristana again, and this time without a husband. Has fate finally given them the chance to be together? Kristana can’t escape her intense attraction for the strange giant Langston, but the murmuring voices in her head are threatening to drive her mad. Can she find a way to trade one torment for another and thereby find true love?

Available at Amazon