Putting Legs on Your Idea

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“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Dreams, Goals, Aspirations – they keep our hearts pumping and get us out of bed in the morning. Take yours for example. You’ve been daydreaming about it for months. If you’ve read my last post (Are You Ready to Get Started?), then you have a clear idea of what success looks like. Let’s put some legs on that idea!

Keeping your list of criteria (what success looks like to you) handy, let’s plot out the steps to achieve your goal:

  • Laptop or pen and paper ready to go. Check!
  • Motivational music. Check!
  • Stares at blank page and scratches head.

Don’t panic. Unless you’ve planned projects and programs for years, you can’t know the exact steps off the top of your head. It takes a bit of research and maybe a chat with an expert who’s done something like you’re trying to accomplish. Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:

  • Think it through – Make a list of the things you need to do before you can achieve your goal. Note – You’re just getting started, so you’ll have gaps.
  • Research it – Jump on line and start searching. Better yet, visit your local library.
  • Research it Hardcore – Hop in the car and visit a place that relates to your idea. Example – I’m writing a historical horror story. I plan to visit my local museum.
  • Research it Hardcore the Sequel – Contact someone who is an expert in the subject matter you’re researching. Most people are happy to talk about their favorite subjects.

Great work! We’ll talk it through next time on DTJ.

Are You Ready to Get Started?

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It’s almost the time of year when we sit back on the couch and reflect on the past year’s doings. Did you tick mark all the goals you wanted to accomplish in 2016? No. Don’t worry about it. You’re in good company.

The past is best left in the past. Let’s take another look at your unfinished goals list. Are they all boring home projects or do you have something special among the list? A childhood dream perhaps? Or a chance at a new career?

Pick the one you’re most passionate about. Can’t decide on just one? Here’s a check list to help:

  • Does your heart beat a little faster when you think about it?
  • Are you anxious to wake up and get started on the goal?
  • Is this something you can see yourself doing for at least a year?

If you answered “Yes” to one or more of these questions, then Bingo! You have a winner. Hold on now. Don’t just dive in. Take a breath. If you want this endeavor to be successful, then you should do a little planning first.

Planning 101 – Step 1: Determine What Success Looks Like

You’ve got a goal in mind. Now put on your visualization hat and let your mind wander. Imagine what the goal looks like when you’re done. What must your goal (object, process or career) look, feel, sound like? Are you happy with what you’ve decided?

Write down the criteria you’ve imagined and pin it up on the wall or get high-tech and put it on your mobile device. Keep the criteria in mind as you make decisions along the path to achieving your goal.

What Can You Learn from Your Last Creative Project?

Learning from our past successes and/or mistakes is critical for growth. Doing more of “what we did right” and less of “what we did wrong” makes a difference in our road to success.

In the project management world, the team holds a “Lessons Learned” session. We talk through the positives and the negatives. Each item is documented for future projects. The negative items are further explored to find ways to mitigate these flaming wrecks before they happen.

Here are a few ways you can do your own “Lessons Learned” for your creative projects:

Be as objective as you can: Pour a glass of wine or grab a handful of chocolate. Your intent in doing the lessons learned is to be better next time

Gather the folks you worked with on the project. Be respectful of their time (especially if you worked with an independent editor. It might not be the best idea to contact a publisher’s editor. You don’t want to ruin your chances for next time.) and don’t push. If they can’t meet with you, then ask them if they’d be willing to express their views via email

Write every thought down (whether you agree with it or not). You can sort them later

Step away from the list and take time to mull things over. Try not to be down on yourself for the negatives. This is a learning tool.

Take action. Hold on tight to the positives and make a plan to correct the negatives.

Remember though – you may not be able to “fix” everything the next go around. It’s a journey.

Are You Drowning in All the Noise?

The world is full of loud obnoxious noise makers. World news. Work clamor. Family Dramas. The noise washes over you in a hurricane of chaos. You’re drowning in the stagnant waters, unable to think or create your art. Time to unplug! That’s right. Stay off of Facebook, Twitter or whatever else gives you virtual ulcers for a weekend. I think you’ll find you didn’t miss anything earth shattering.

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Mr. Frog has the right idea!

Here are my top favorite ways to unplug:

  • Day Spa – Go get a massage. Your entire being will thank you!
  • Go on a long walk – Turn off the dang phone. It’s a big noise maker
  • Read a book for fun – Make sure it’s someone else’s book. Don’t try to be sneaky and do your editing while you’re supposed to be relaxing.
  • Movie Marathon – The Star Trek Trilogy? Aliens? Any Marvel franchise? All good.
  • Yoga and meditation – You can do the jumpy yoga in ungodly heat, but I prefer slow and solitary. People are the biggest noise makers for me.
  • Cooking – I don’t know why, but this is one of my favorite stress relievers. It’s a great creative outlet and very tasty.

What about you? Any other ideas on fun “unplugging” activities? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

A Halloween Story – The Dirt Room

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[Halloween-art.com]

Folks have asked me where my inspiration for fantasy comes from and I tell them about my grandma. Visiting her house was like visiting the gates of Otherworld. She’d tell us stories about the gnomes and other magical creatures. Often we’d wake up in the morning to find candy in our shoes. Grandma would assure us the pixies had filled them with sweet treats during the night.

The next question I’m usually asked?

You seem like such a nice lady. Where did the horror stuff come from?

I usually shrug and tell them how I’ve always loved ghost stories. Writing dark fantasy is a great way for me to share wonderful spine tingling tales. It also allows me to explore the darker side of human nature. Then I started gathering ideas for this blog post and a repressed memory bubbled to the surface.

My grandmother’s house (built in the late 1920’s and made out of copper) rests at the mouth of Bingham Canyon in the little town of Copperton, UT. Once consisting of several little mining towns – including Galena Gulch and Highland Boy Mines – Bingham Canyon was eventually gobbled up by the Kennecott Copper Mine. The land was once home to several miners. If you ask me, they never left.

I still remember the narrow stairs descending from her kitchen to the backyard. Go left instead of right and you’d find yourself headed down into every kid’s nightmare. Some of you may be old enough to remember your own grandmother’s house. Do you recall the grumbling roar of those furnaces or the hiss of steam heat coming from the radiator pipes in each room?

Her basement was best avoided, but sometimes we’d have no choice. Grandma would send us down to her wash room for one errand or another. Braving the hollow sounds of my shoes striking the stairs, I’d descend toward the roar of the furnace. I remember the washroom and my uncle’s empty bedroom were painted a sickly mint green. Following the high gloss (and I’m sure lead-based) paint around the wash room, I’d head to my grandpa’s work bench.

Standing between me and my objective was a 3’ x 3’ door suspended in the very center of the wall. Reaching it required a ladder. Open the door and an unsettling darkness greeted you. Grandma called it the ‘dirt room’. I thought of it as the gates of hell. Every lost soul who’d ever passed through the mouth of the canyon could have stepped upon the dark earth in that room. I could feel them every time I went near that door.

Grandma passed away several years ago. Her children and grandchildren had the sad job of gathering her things. Somehow I got stuck with the basement and its Dirt Room. My flash light was a comfort as I climbed inside. The confident belief in “childhood fantasies have gone now that I’m grown up” vanished as soon as my feet hit the dirt. Utter darkness surrounded me, suffocating my courage. I clung to the only source of hope – the flash light.

Running the beam along the floor, I found old metal toys from the 40s and glass bottles from gawd only knows. Gathering as many as I could, I continued the search. Then my light hit them. Discarded doll heads. Not just any doll heads, but porcelain ones with the open and close eyes. You know. The ones that are usually possessed by a malevolent spirit.

Then the furnace roared. Something moved in the faint fringe of the flash light. I don’t know what it was. I don’t care what it was. Backing toward the door, I kept the beam in a protective circle about my legs. I crawled back out and shut the door. The house has new owners now. If they had any sense, they’d sheet rock over that door and forget it’s there.

Meanwhile upstairs in the light, the rest of the clan had been busy. Imagine my giddy excitement when my mother showed us the two intact porcelain dolls she’d found in the hidey hole above my grandma’s closet! A Shirley Temple doll and a Roxie doll (named for my grandma’s other daughter who’d passed away as a child). Both of them had those blinky demon possessed eyes. Shiver. My mother had them refurbished and still displays them by her bedside. I believe her plan is to leave them to one of her granddaughters. Maybe they can terrify a new generation?

So what childhood terror do you still carry around? Besides clowns I mean. Everybody hates clowns. Snakes maybe? Bugs? A deceased relative’s painted face in a casket? Leave your answer in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!

Happy Halloween!