Crashing at the Bottom of the Slippery Slope

My thoughts on the recent New York and Virginia abortion laws.

Plot Boards – A Useful Tool

In one of my many online wanderings, I came across the idea of a plot board, or story board. The idea intrigued me, since I am a very visual person. This was also a brand new concept to me, so I did a little investigating.

What, you may ask, is a plot board? It is a large chart, marked into sections, wherein you put ideas, timelines, plot points, etc. for your book. Many people use small colored sticky notes, with a different color for each theme, such as romance, main plot points, villain, hero/heroine, turning points, climax, etc. Here is an interesting essay about creating a board, though this author’s process is more complex than most. Most people create one on their own without help!

Several people suggest buying a trifold poster board and using the folds to help create the sections. I didn’t want to wait to get to the store to create mine, so I used two manila folders, cut off the tabs on the side, and taped them together with masking tape, since it is almost the same color as the manila folder. There are many suggestions about how many sections to create. The standard is to create four columns – Act I, Act II-a, Act II-b, and Act III. I divided each column into four sections, mainly because it was the easiest, and I’m not sure yet how many sections I will actually need. The really helpful part is that I can record ideas/plot points in one accessible place, and move them around if I change my mind about where they should go in the story.


This is what my board looks like for now. As you can see, it’s quite primitive! I definitely want to get more colors for the sticky notes. I will eventually replace it with a trifold, but this works for now.

How about you? Do you use a plot board? Is it helpful?

Your Creative Space

As an HSP, you are more sensitive to your environment. Unexpected sounds make you jump, you walk around your home turning off the lights, you can’t forget that Facebook story about a horrendous tragedy in another state, and your coworker’s bad attitude will have you scowling in no time. Writing is difficult enough. How can you succeed with all of this stimuli constantly interrupting your ability to focus?

Our fellow writers from a few decades ago had it a little bit easier than us, in some ways. They didn’t have the Internet or cell phones, so if they went into a room to write, there was less chance of being disturbed. (Of course, they also didn’t have Microsoft Word. If they wanted to correct a mistake, or rewrite a draft, it all had to be done manually!) So how can we create that uninterrupted environment we need to bring our characters to life?

My first suggestion is to declutter your work area. I would show you a picture of my desk to be held up as a wonderful example, except that it’s horribly messy right now. So I’m preaching to myself as well. Clutter is distracting and can cause anxiety. An object may remind you of an unfinished task or unresolved issues. Remove unnecessary things from your desk and give yourself some space. Things will pile up there as you work, so try to spend 15 minutes a day sprucing up. Your psyche will thank you.

Now that you’ve removed the clutter, you can beautify your space. What do you think is pretty, or relaxing, or just looks good? This is a very individual decision. Scan Pinterest for suggestions. Once you’ve decided on the look that you want, don’t forget to check out thrift stores and garage sales to obtain the items that match what you have in mind. Most of us are on a budget. We don’t need to break the bank to decorate our office!  Do what you can to make your writing space aesthetically pleasing to you and make it your own. It will help your creativity to flow.

Dim the lights to a comfortable level. Many HSP’s find bright lights annoying. I like to turn off the overhead light in my room and work only with my desk lamp. Just make sure you can see well enough to write!

Turn off the TV and cell phone. If you have your own room in which to work, let family members know that you are unavailable until whatever time you choose.  If you have to write in a common area, put on your headphones and listen to the music that inspires you. (If you have family members like mine who, upon seeing you sit down to write, decide that that is the ideal time to start a conversation, pretend that you can’t hear them.) I really enjoy listening to Johnnie Lawson’s videos on youtube. His videos are mainly of nature sounds, with a few that also incorporate classical music. They are relaxing and allow you to concentrate on the task at hand, rather than be distracted by lyrics.

You may want to light a scented candle or warm some of your favorite essential oils in your diffuser. The right aroma can help you to decompress and be at your creative best.

Controlling clutter, aesthetics, lighting, sound, and scents can work to create just the right atmosphere and help you to complete your writing projects. Now you are ready to write!

HSP and the Writing Life

Have you ever heard the phrase “If you want to read a book and can’t find it, you should write it”? This can be a bit of useful advice in many situations, though not all (if you’re doing research on a scientific or technical subject, it probably wouldn’t be helpful to write the in-depth manual you are looking for!). I have decided that this applies to blogs also. I have been looking for information about being a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) and a writer, particularly a Christian writer. While I have found little bits of information here and there, there isn’t much written about this subject. Conversely, I have also been mulling over the direction this blog should take. After all, there are many blogs about writing, written by published authors who have much more to say on the subject. I’ll happily post a link to their thoughts, but need some of my own original material. This past week, while away from home, these two ideas finally collided in my head. Voila! I will attempt to write about being a HSP and writer. Let’s explore this world together.

First, what is an HSP? Elaine Aron, Ph.D.,  started researching the trait of high sensitivity in 1991. She has a definitive website about the subject with self-tests to help you understand yourself better, and a blog. You may suspect high sensitivity already if you are more sensitive to your environment and other people than your friends and relatives. You may also feel different from other people, as though you march a little out of step with the rest of the world. Dr. Aron has also written a book about high sensitivity called the The Highly Sensitive Person which I have found to be very helpful.

(No, I do not know Dr. Aron and do not receive any financial compensation whatsoever by mentioning her book or website. I merely have a strong desire to a) not be accused of plagiarism and b) not extensively repeat information that is better and more thoroughly explained elsewhere).

So, you’ve checked out the information and decided that you are a HSP! Welcome! Let’s walk this journey together. I will attempt to post my thoughts on this subject weekly.

(By the way, I have looked around a bit on Dr. Aron’s website and found that she normally uses the entire phrase Highly Sensitive Person and does not abbreviate it. I don’t know if it should be “an HSP” or “a HSP”. Feel free to let me know in the comments if you know which is correct. Thanks!)

Creating A Writing Routine

A few days ago I was blessed to attend a webinar by a bestselling author with the captivating title 7 Habits That Will Help You Finish Your Book in 2016. It was definitely something I needed to hear. As I have mentioned before on this blog, establishing a set time to write has been very difficult for me. Part of the problem is that my schedule could be very erratic. Another problem has been finding the time. I do most of the housework and cleaning and have worked at various part time jobs. Health issues have gotten in the way too. And I don’t have a place to write where I can close the door. Right now my office is in a corner of the dining room. While I write this post, my granddaughter is playing and yelling (and my husband and daughter with her). I have nature sounds playing on the computer, but it does little to buffer the noise!

Presently I watch my granddaughter from morning until mid-afternoon, while her mom attends school. Afterwards I have a couple of hours to do chores/run errands, then prepare, eat, and clean up dinner. Then a couple hours to rest, do more chores, etc., before bedtime. (You can probably guess by now where I’m headed.) I had also come to realize that I cannot write well in short periods of time. It usually takes about an hour before the muse decides to visit. Writing in short spurts just isn’t for me.

One of the habits mentioned during the aforesaid webinar was to “establish a daily writing routine to the point of rigidity”. I dutifully wrote this down, even while wondering how it could possibly be done. I even prayed silently, asking God for the umpteenth time when can I find time to write. And the excruciatingly simple answer came: I can write from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

What, you mean prime time? When the really good TV shows are on? There are many popular TV shows that I don’t watch at all, but I love a good character-driven drama. It’s fascinating to me to watch the development of the various characters as they grow over time. A drama with backstory is even better. (I had a nagging feeling that I had received that answer to my writing dilemma before, and ignored it.) But there is such a thing as On Demand, which can be used to catch up on my shows.

I’ve come to realize that to accomplish something worthwhile takes sacrifice. Giving up my TV time is a small one. TV isn’t good for the brain anyway, since it encourages us to be reactive instead of proactive. In other words, it has a tendency to turn the brain to mush. Less TV has been one of my “writerly” goals. Tonight is my second night of writing in the evening. We shall see how it goes. One thing that is making it easier is that the primetime dramas haven’t yet returned from their winter break! At least, living in the Central Time Zone, I will get to watch Castle.

Outliner vs. Pantser

Several months ago I watched a show called Well Read on one of our local PBS channels. It’s a show where contemporary authors are interviewed in a casual, friendly manner. Her description of her writing methods intrigued me. I had started working on a book, using the ”seat of my pants” method but stopped after I wrote myself into a blind corner. I didn’t know what was going to happen next in my own book and didn’t have a handle on my characters. Ms. George talked about using a process with ample use of various outlines. After the show, I did  some research on Google and found that she used to teach creative writing and wrote a book called Write Away describing her methods. I finally ordered a copy and received it last month. It has been so helpful!  The first evening I sat down to write with the book I was able to figure out my major plot points, and am now successfully writing the character analysis of my heroine. Hurrah for progress!!

The Creative Life

A few weeks ago I read a wonderful post by Jeff Goins. You can find the link to his post at the end of this article.

His post was about making physical,mental, and spiritual space for writing in your life. Judging from the comments (over 240 so far), he hit a chord that resounds with many of us. Making space is so necessary, even essential to the creative life, but the topic is rarely addressed.

So, inspired by his article, I got busy. I had already made some progress cleaning up my office, and finished that part, at least to the point of getting my desktop cleared off. I created a makeshift divider made up of (don’t laugh) a drying rack, some sheer curtains, and a TV tray, to combat the noise and traffic of the dining room, where my office is located. Those materials were the ones that I had handy, and it gives me a sense of privacy.

After I finished my work, I received an unexpected bonus – a sense of overwhelming peace. Perhaps making room for the physical space also freed up some much needed spiritual space. All I know is that my nice, comfortable office makes me happy. I confess that I don’t always use it, but it’s there when I need it.

I still struggle with creating mental space – with the idea that my writing is equally as important as housekeeping, cooking, or other people’s needs. Today I’m forcing myself to delay running errands so I can write, a tactic that I will need to employ frequently in the future. When I put my writing last, I get depressed. Communication through the written word is my creative outlet, my way of sharing with the outside world, my way of saying “hello!”

And so I write.

Jeff’s article:


My desk.


My divider.

BIC (Buns in Chair)

As a writer, I find that one of the hardest things to do is sit down to write. This might seem rather odd to the uninitiated. How can one call oneself a writer and yet have supreme difficulty in actually sitting down and doing the job? What if doctors, for instance, decided one day that doctoring was just too hard, or took up too much of their time? What if they put their patients on hold (yes, yes, I know, those wait times to see the doctor can be really annoying, but you know what I mean) to run errands or cook dinner? Our health care system, which we just handed over to the government to run, (because they run things so well) would be even more of a mess! There are many reasons for this difficulty in placing BIC (buns in chair). Putting others’ needs ahead of my own, plot uncertainty, work, and just the plain old demands of running a household and taking care of family. I am constantly trying to arrange and rearrange my schedule to make those nagging blockages of my time disappear. Of course, it doesn’t work. My family (thank God) continues to exist and eat and live indoors while making a mess. My novel’s characters continue to insist on their own way. I continue to have a job. Hooray! But back to my point. How does one carve out enough time to write? One thing I am beginning to realize is that finding time, or carving out time, or making time, really isn’t the problem. My problem is making writing a higher priority. And apparently I am not alone. I recently joined up with My 500 Words, a challenge created by Jeff Goins to write 500 words per day ( I highly recommend it. Not only for Jeff’s words of wisdom, but also for the pearls of wisdom tossed out by fellow participants. One example of said wisdom: “writing comes before showering”. (To which another participant replied “Not showering? Gross”). To each their own. Today writing comes before washing up, even though I got up late and hope to finally see “The Hobbit” today with my teenage daughter, who actually appreciates the depth of the story. And going to the movie means that I must start digging out the car 1 ½ hours before the movie starts to free it from several inches of snow in subzero wind chills. But I digress. My recent habit was to make the writing wait, until all other chores and responsibilities are done (are they ever done?), and if my schedule included something unusual, like a movie, well then, writing could wait until another day! Not the best way to finish my novel. Or write blog posts. Or . . .  you get the idea. So, thanks in part to Jeff’s encouragement, but mainly due to the other thousand or so people affirming his suggestions, I put everything else on hold. The rest of life can wait. I have writing to do. Uh-oh, my alarm just went off. I have to pay the rent. And wash up. And fix a window that refuses to close in 15 degree weather. You get the idea.