Category Archives: Get Creative!


A to Z Retrospective

This year, for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, participated with both of my blogs, Facing Cancer with Grace and Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker. That meant doing the A to Z posts for 2 blogs (26×2) plus the Theme Reveal for each blog (+2 more) and the retrospective (I’m only doing this one and linking to it from Facing Cancer with Grace). That’s a total of 55 posts in one month!

For the Facing Cancer with Grace site…

I chose to write with caregivers in mind. At this time, I have been deep in the mire of caregiving, so this would be something that would come from the heart. Also, everyone will either be a caregiver or depend on one at some point in their life. Even though I write from the perspective of a cancer caregiver, the principles I would cover would apply to other caregiving situations.

At Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

I decided to consider my audience. Who would be participating in the A to Z Challenge? Creative people! And if these people were anything like me, they probably needed a little creative boost. It’s tough coming up with 26 different posts revolving around the same topic. So, I decided to tackle creativity-specifically, how to get more of it. This was a lot of fun because I experimented with some of the ideas that I hadn’t tried yet. I definitely felt more creative after this exercise.

Working Ahead

I knew from past experience that I wanted to do more than just toss up a blog every day. I don’t work well under pressure, so writing the posts in advance would be the only way I could be successful. Having the posts done ahead of time also meant that I could devote the month of April to interacting with other bloggers, both those who came to my sites and those I visited.

I also have learned from my digital detox last January, that posting with a scheduler is the way to go. Even though the posts would go up automatically at a set time and date, I did a last minute check the night before each posted to make sure there was nothing wrong with the post. The one time I didn’t, I was missing a featured image and a link was broken.

A to Z ChallengeUsing Social Media

I also began auto-sharing to social media with Jetpack, a free WordPress plugin. During the month of April, I spontaneously decided to start a new Facebook page for Facing Cancer with Grace. It is one more thing to maintain, but there were good reasons for this move. I want to serve my audience with clarity and definite purpose. This is why I added a separate website. I have 2 very different audiences and I want to give them the information they are looking for.

What I thought of the A to Z format this year

I loved it! I had my doubts before I experienced it. The idea of signing up to the Google spreadsheet each day felt a little overwhelming. I’m not that techy. But it was simple! And the result was a place where all of the participants were listed. This meant I could easily explore other blogs. I found lots of sites that interested me. Over the course of the month, I had sites I would check into each day because I knew I could count on high-quality content. I also tried out new sites each day.  This is a practice I plan to continue beyond April.

What I’ve learned as a blogger

I’ve learned the importance of participating in the blogging community. Often, my introverted nature extends to my online life. I write my posts, put them up, and leave them alone. It has been wonderful to meet other bloggers via the A to Z Challenge. I’ve learned a lot from their content, and also their process. This has helped me to refine my own process, as well.

Learning to make a signature

I also appreciated the posts that the A to Z team put up. I regret not interacting with them more. I did always read them, though, and learned from them. One thing that was very valuable to me was the “N” post, called Netiquette. One of the recommendations was to sign your posts so the blogger and other readers know who you are and what you write. As a self-hosted blogger, this wasn’t super easy to figure out, but within 24 hours, I had my signature on a word doc, ready to copy/paste into comments.

Favorite Sites

In last year’s A to Z Retrospective, I listed some of my favorite sites that participated in the A to Z blogging challenge. This year, I am having a really hard time whittling that list down—there are so many that I have enjoyed. Instead, I will continue to read new sites from the A to Z master list each week, along with my favorites. I will share recommendations throughout the year.

Where to go from here

I will be going back to my normal posting schedule. Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker will go up each Wednesday, and Facing Cancer with Grace, each Monday. For anyone interested in our family’s personal journey, I post on my husband’s CaringBridge site whenever something comes up with his cancer. It is a public site that anyone can read.

My next big task is to get my latest manuscript to press. It’s very close. I look forward to announcing when “Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Child Cope with Your Cancer,”  is available on Amazon.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

 

 


How the spring season inspires me to write

It’s spring! It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Even though it seemed like it would never arrive, spring is here! Today I will explore whether the season inspires me to write, or not, as I answer this month’s IWSG Day question:

It’s spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than other seasons, or not?

The Short Answer

No.  I always want to write.

But…

But each season inspires me to write in a different way.

I believe strongly that there is a natural rhythm throughout the calendar year, which can help us in everything we do, whether it’s celebrating seasons and holidays with family and friends, worshiping God, learning or working. Marketing gurus figured this out, long ago. Why not allow our creative endeavors to be assisted by the calendar?

How each season inspires me to write

How the summer season inspires me to write

Let’s start with how the spring season inspires me to write

Beginning in 2017, I started participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. It’s a wonderful way to start out the year because if for some reason, I don’t get any more blog posts written the rest of the year, I still have content to share (even if it means reposting and A to Z post in November when I’m swamped with holiday preparations).  In order to accomplish this, I write and edit like crazy, beginning in Late February, in preparation for the April challenge.

When A to Z is over, I breathe a sigh of relief and pick up the pieces of whatever book I happen to be writing. Currently, I am getting, “Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Kids Cope with Your Cancer,” ready for publication. I happen to be in the phase of the final edits and formatting.

How the summer season inspires me to write

For our family, summer means big family get-togethers like a week at the cabin. It also means road trips and vacations. I write more in my journal during the summer months because it’s more portable.  I also tend to choose a fresh project to work on at the cabin. Some people might wonder why I work while I’m on vacation. If I go more than a day or two without writing, I can really get into a slump. Writing at least a little bit each day keeps the pump primed.

Strange things happen in the summer that inspires me to write in ways I often don’t. For example, last year there was a power outage that left us using candles to light our house and, of course, no computer to write with. I grabbed a book of story starters and began to write a short story idea involving a power outage. It was an idea I would never have had on a regular day.

How the summer season inspires me to write

How the autumn season inspires me to write

The summer fun is winding down and the new routine of the school year invites new ideas and goals I typically turn in my journal for a schedule and my laptop. I help my focus along by listening to instrumental music through my earbuds so the squabbling of my homeschooled kids doesn’t drive me crazy. They do their work in the living room on their own laptops, or with notebooks and pencils.

I usually have some concrete goals that I try to achieve in the fall. One year, I participated in NaNoWriMo and finished my first draft in a month. I still haven’t finished revising it.  As a middle-aged woman with a lot of irons in the fire, I opted out last year.  I do have an idea for a future book, though.

How the winter season inspires me to write

I live in Minnesota, so when winter arrives I hunker down and avoid going outside at all costs. This gives me a great 5-month opportunity to write.  I try to finish any projects that I can before the end of the year. I begin thinking about my goals for the next year and what it will take to accomplish them. I also get as much of my content calendar written as possible, so I always have plenty of ideas simmering on the back burner.

Each season inspires me to write in different ways from the others, and spring is no exception. But, it seems my actual output is pretty steady throughout the year.

How the winter season inspires me to write.

How do the seasons affect your life?

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

 

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Black and White Zebras

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is Z Black and White: Approach Zebras with Caution.

What do zebras have to do with creativity?

Not much, but avoiding them has a lot to do with being more creative, more responsibly. To introduce this topic, I am going to give you a very brief overview of basic theories of color psychology.

In color psychology, each color is thought to have a certain effect on people. This is often taken into consideration when walls are painted and decorating is done, especially in institutional settings, such as schools, businesses, and hospitals. It is even more meaningful when branding a business and coming up with a marketing campaign. We won’t be talking about that specifically, but I mention it because if advertising takes color psychology seriously, then there is something to it. That’s why they paid the big bucks (and they sure do)!

Here are some of the theoretical ideas about color associations as well as an example of the word used in a way that corresponds with color psychology theory.

Red

The color red is associated with love—but also hate. Really, the idea is a passion in one direction or the other. There is nothing lukewarm about the color red. It is an attention-grabbing color, so it is used whenever that’s the goal. This is why stop signs and fire extinguishers are red. It’s also a color considered inappropriate for attendees to wear at weddings and funerals in the United States. After all, it is rude to steal the attention at a wedding, and funerals are generally solemn occasions.

Word usage: “He saw red.” This means he was furious.

Yellow

Yellow is thought of as a happy color. It’s the color of sunshine, and like the sun, tends to energize people. There are some negative things about this color, though. It is best not to paint the room where you eat, yellow, since it can increase nausea in some people. Babies are also said to cry more in yellow rooms, so avoid this in the nursery.

Word usage: “What? Are you yellow?” This is an accusation of cowardice.

Orange is not black and white

Orange

Orange is a color that brings out strong feelings. People either love the color orange or they hate it. This may be why federal inmates can often be seen sporting orange jumpsuits. It’s not all bad. Orange is also thought to enhance creativity. In many cultures, it is a very spiritual color, worn by Tibetan monks. It is highly regarded by the Sikh tradition, which views it as representing courage and wisdom.

Word usage: This color gives the fruit of the same color its name—or is it the other way around?

Blue

The color blue is considered a calming color by many people. It is often used to represent fidelity, freedom, and faith. Blue is thought to suppress appetite. In Iran, blue is the color of mourning. It is nautical and royal (as in royal blue and blueblood).  It can also be used to describe feelings of melancholy.

Word usage: “I’ve got the blues.” This means I’m depressed.

Purple

Purple is also associated with Royalty. In ancient times, purple cloth was an extravagant thing because the dye was so costly. Queen Elizabeth I forbade anyone other than close members of the royal family to wear it. Because of the connection to this color, it also came to symbolize magic.

No word usage

Black and White

Scientifically speaking, black and white aren’t actual colors. Black actually absorbs all color within the spectrum while white reflects them.  Even with this being the case, in practical terms, black and white are both thought of as colors. We speak of them as colors and psychologically, they affect us with connotations and biases like any other color, so I will include them in this post. After all, zebras are black and white.

Word usage: “Not everything is black and white.” This means that not everything is one extreme or the other, clearly defined.

Black

Black is also associated with power—of a darker nature (no pun intended). This is a color that is almost exclusively thought of in negative terms: blackballed, Black Death, blackout, etc. It is a symbol of death and grief, and so is worn to funerals, traditionally. The rare occasions it is thought of in a positive light is when trying to find a slimming outfit or when looking for the best sale of the year (Black Friday).

Word usage: “He was blackballed.”  He was voted out (or excluded from membership).

White

White is thought of as light. It’s the color that symbolizes purity and innocence. Within Christianity, people are often baptized in the color white. In the United States, modern day brides often wear white during their wedding ceremony.

Word usage: “It was only a white lie.” When the word “white” is used to describe a lie, the speaker is minimizing the negative aspects of lying.

What does this have to do with creativity?

Three things:

  1. It’s just plain interesting to think about the effect colors have on us. While some of the effects are genuine and perhaps universal, to a greater degree, these ideas and attitudes toward various colors as well as black and white are cultural and societal. That brings us to the 2nd point (and perhaps the more important one).
  2. Use care when using words and images that might have connotations to them that could be hurtful. I’m not saying that you should candy coat everything. But, be aware of how what you write, or otherwise create, artistically will affect others. What type of response are you trying to elicit? You should know that if what you write is insensitive or inflammatory, that is the response you are likely going to get—only to a greater degree than you dispensed it, initially.
  3. We need to avoid black and white in our creative endeavors. And when we do decide we are going to paint with broad strokes, we first need to examine what we are putting out in the world with great care. What do I mean by this?

Black and white

Don’t expect—or desire, everyone else to be a reflection of you

If that’s what you want, then you don’t really want to create. You want to walk around looking into a mirror. Does this mean you can’t have opinions, values, and strongly held beliefs? No. You should have these things. But you should also be willing to meet other people who aren’t like you, people who may actually be very different from you and get to know them as fellow human beings rather than a caricature.

If you want to be more creative

Be brave enough to look at things from a variety of angles in order to find the one you truly want to use in your writing, art, music or other creative work. By taking the time to do this, you might find a perspective that is better than you had originally envisioned, both ideologically and creatively.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

 

Footnotes:

Featured image of Zebras in Botswana By Taken & submitted by Paul Maritz (Paulmaz Modified by Pharaoh Hound, Fir0002 , via Wikimedia Commons


Addictions

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is Y for Your Addictions Have to Go.

Many people think of novelists (of all writers, really) as deep thinking older men who find their muse in the bottom of a bottle of bourbon. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Any addiction, whether alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography, will hamper your creativity. It doesn’t mean you can’t write great stuff while living with an addiction, but it will make the process a lot harder—not to mention the other problems addictions will bring into your life. To be the best writer you can be, your addictions have to go.

But what about those famous writers who’ve had addictions?

In his book entitled, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King, a recovering addict himself, has a lot to say about this1. He lays responsibility for the myth of the addicted writer at the feet of 4 specific examples of literary angst and despair: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and the poet, Dylan Thomas. King’s opinion (and mine, as well) is that substance abusing writers are just substance abusers—plain and simple. While creative people may be more prone to addiction than the general public, they don’t need to be drunk, stoned, or otherwise tuned up to write. Any claim to the contrary is a lie.

How Alcohol and Drugs Affect the Brain

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “drugs can alter important brain areas that are necessary for life-sustaining functions and can drive the compulsive drug abuse that marks addiction.” Drugs tap into, and interfere with, the brains communication system, leading to abnormal messages being sent. Drugs target the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement, emotion, rewards, and feelings of pleasure. This causes the drug user to want to continue to use drugs. They are the only way to make the brain get those “reward” messages at those levels. When the drug is taken away, the person no longer responds to the things that normally would give them pleasure. This leads to feelings of depression. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Addictions

Addiction and Creativity

While many creative people have addictions, those addictions don’t add to or benefit their creativity. Creative people may, however, be more prone to addictions. One drug treatment center’s website postulates that there are many similarities between the creative personality and the addictive personality. Many of these characteristics make one prone to addiction, including a tendency to act impulsively and an enjoyment of risk-taking.

It is well documented that drugs, alcohol, and other addictive substances and activities do not enhance one’s creativity. The myth of the addiction as the artist’s muse is born of the fact that many creative people happen to become addicted people. They were always creative, and likely more productive prior to becoming addicted. The very definition of addiction is to put what you are addicted to before anything and everything else in life, including your art.

What to do about your addiction

There really isn’t a self-help guide to breaking an addiction. The best thing you can do is to seek professional help. The best addiction treatment center I know of is Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge serves men, women, and teens. They have centers all over the United States (and the world) and often accept people regardless of ability to pay. Contact the Teen Challenge center near you to find out how they can help you.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

Footnotes:

1 I highly recommend On Writing. It’s one of the best books on writing there is. Part memoir, part craft, it is sure to encourage and inform you. As a bonus, if you’ve ever read any of his books, hearing what went on behind the scenes as he wrote them will be especially enjoyable.


eliminate expections

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is X for Eliminate eXpectations.

Expectations are a good thing, though…right? Well, sometimes. But usually, when you eliminate expectations you are also removing psychological roadblocks in the way of your creativity. What do I mean by that? Here’s an example.

Would you believe square A is the exact same shade of gray as square B?

 

Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59829

But what does an optical illusion have to do with creative expectations?

When we compare our work to the work of others, it changes how we see it.

When I was in the 8th grade, we had a teacher who liked to tell us, “Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make yours burn brighter.”  It wasn’t original to him but it stayed with me all of these years. We aren’t in a competition. Yet we often end up blowing out our own candle!

“I wish I could write like that.”
“I’ll never be as good as her.”

Whenever you compare your work to someone else’s, you will run into issues related to expectations. This can be really difficult to combat when you consider how much media we take in every day, often related to your area of creative expertise. As a reader, I read all the time, and I learn from it. But I have to be careful not to judge my writing by comparing it to someone else’s. They have their voice and I have mine. There’s room enough in this world for both.

Eliminate expectations of what your writing (or any creative project) should be like. Instead, work on it as if it is in a vacuum, completely independent of anyone else’s.

Don’t limit yourself to someone else’s expectations

Whether those expectations are high or low, this can be a problem. Trying to live up to someone’s high expectations can leave you feeling discouraged when you miss the mark. And when someone makes it clear that they have low expectations, you can feel just as bad—if not worse.

Instead, be open to possibilities. Block out the noise when other people make remarks about how they anticipate you will do as a writer or artist.

When I was younger, I was a talented artist, able to draw very realistic pictures of anything I saw. I was particularity good at portraits. Then, one day my dad asked me why I never did any “real art.” Everything I did was realistic, not “creative.” This wounded me terribly. I stopped making the art I loved and tried more fantasy based art that meant nothing to me. I was just trying to win his approval. And I got it, but I lost my love of drawing and painting because what I was doing no longer meant anything to me. Ultimately, I quit.

That was an immature response to what I’m sure my dad meant as encouragement. But even now, it hurts to think about what I lost.

Eliminate expectations of your work being like your past work

You might stop short of your work being the best it can be because it is better than something you’ve done in the past. So you are satisfied. But what if it could have been even better? While you can learn from work you’ve done in the past, don’t unintentionally be limited by it.

Stop reciting should haves, could haves, and would haves from your vocabulary in relationship to your creativity. They only make you feel like you’ve missed the mark. Instead, look for opportunities to turn lemons into lemonade.

You can still use “mistakes” from past work in the future

Maybe you messed up on something and you’re ready to throw it in the trash because it doesn’t meet the expectations you had when you first set out to work on the project. It might not be what you ultimately need, but it could be something completely different. Many writers, including myself, never throw out their mistakes. Often when I am editing, I eliminate whole chapters because they don’t fit in with the book well enough to stay there. I can always use them as a basis for something in the future.  So, I keep a file of documents on my computer with ideas, characters, and whole chapters of non-fiction work that I can use in the future.

When you eliminate expectations from your creative life, you get a purer perspective.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.


Happy music

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is X is for Xylophone- Happy Music and Creativity.

Recently a study was done which shows a correlation between listening to happy music and creativity.

Happy Music

By listening to happy music, study participants were able to think more creatively. To be more specific, they were able to perform divergent thinking. This got me thinking about what makes happy music, “happy?” After reading many articles ranging in perspectives from psychologists to musicians, I’ve decided that you know it when you hear it. There is a little more to it than that, though.

What makes happy music, happy, and sad music, sad?

Modes or tonality, for one thing, We had the opportunity to hear Franz Joseph Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ, arranged for a string quartet at the Ordway Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota on Good Friday. It was incredibly moving. Each sonata was written to reflect one of the statements Christ said while on the cross.

Before the concert began, Mark Mazullo, Professor of musicology and piano from Macalester College gave a Fanfare lecture on the music we would be hearing. He spoke about how modes, or tonality, add a mood to the music. Generally, major modes create happy music, while minor modes give the music a more somber tone. To get this effect, there has to be a shift in the mode.

Tempo also plays a role in the mood of a musical piece. A faster tempo is more cheerful than a slow one.
One interesting thing to note about this piece is that the 6th Sonata ”It is Finished,” ends in a major mode (the cheerful mode). This signifies the redemption made possible by Christ’s death.

While I’m not sure why happy music aids creativity, I have experienced this positive effect when writing. Not only do I find writing easier while listening to upbeat songs, but I also write faster, more productively.

When I write, I stick to instrumental music because if there are words being sung, they get jumbled up in my mind with the words I am trying to write. With Streaming services like Spotify. Pandora, and Amazon Prime Music (my personal favorite), finding great music to write to has never been easier or more affordable. My favorite writing music comes from The 2 Cellos and The Piano Guys. What’s your favorite?

And for some exciting Xylophone music… The Flight of the Bumblebee!

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.


World Building

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is W is for World Building.

One sure way to get your creative juices flowing is to create an imaginary universe (and everything in it). This is known as world building. World building is something you do as a game creator and as a writer of fiction. Anytime you write fiction, you should be creating a world that your reader can walk around in. This is true, even if that world is Saint Paul, Minnesota in 2016. A reader from Albany, New York may never have been there, so you need to be just as diligent in laying everything out as you would be writing a fantasy novel.

Other World Building

There are some things that make world building in another time or in a completely made up place more time intensive.

  • Your reader will be coming to it not knowing anything about the world.
  • The social structure, maybe even the appearance of its inhabitants will be unique from our own (presumably).
  • You will have to describe the universe, it’s inhabitants, even the non-living everyday object unique to that universe.
  • What are the rules of the world your reader is peering into?
  • One thing that’s essential is to make your world as multifaceted as our own.
  • Politics and people (human or otherwise) are both complex.
  • Their history is filled with unique nooks and crannies

Avoid making them one dimensional. Here is a great article on the 7 Deadly Sins of World Building from Gizmodo.

Keeping the Details Straight

With so much to keep straight, different world builders have come up with ways to avoid plot holes and missing parts of the picture. Some fill notebooks (paper or digital) with copious notes. Often, they create a template of questions they ask about each character, place, or object of importance.

World Building

Recently, my daughters recommended an awesome tool called notebook.ai. It not only stores all of your information but asks you the questions you need to answer to make your world come alive. Even if the world you are building is grounded in your own place and time, this tool can be a valuable addition to your arsenal. I’ve been working on a mystery. At times, remembering what details I’ve included in my world of Wisconsin can be difficult. I used Notebook.ai to flesh out all of the details, ensuring nothing gets missed.

Notebook.ai ’s free plan is a great way to get started. It includes up to 5 universes and pages for characters, locations, and items. But it’s paid plan is the way to go if you’re a serious world builder. This opens up unlimited universes and all 15 page-types including flora, languages, groups, creatures, magics, races, religions, scenes, towns, countries, and landmarks.

However you go about building your world, you’ll be sure to stretch your imagination in the process.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

 


Experiment with variety

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is V is for Experiment with Variety.

Once in a while as a creative, you might find yourself getting into a rut. You can’t bring yourself to write one more page or draw one more portrait. Every song you compose comes out sounding the same.  This is when it’s time to experiment with variety. Variety is the spice of creativity.

Visual Artist who experiment with variety

Visual art offers unlimited opportunities for exploration. John  P Weiss Artist and writer (www.johnpweiss.com) Shares his thoughts on this in his Medium article called, This is the Secret to Your Creative Success.

The flamboyant, Salvador Dali was a skilled painter, sculptor, and draftsman.  He remains the superstar of the Surrealist Movement, even after his death, in 1989. He was always pushing the envelope in all that he set his hands to—and the public loved him for it, much to the chagrin of critics.

Intensely interested in film, Dali also painted sets for plays and ballets. He also worked with filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney.

Destino.- Walt Disney and Salvador Dali (1945-2003)

Speaking of Disney…

There was another man who thrived on innovation and loved to experiment with variety. He worked his way up the ranks of the animation world to become the best of the best. He worked well in collaboration with equally good musicians such as composer Carl Stalling who raised the bar when it came to making the stories as much about the music as they were about the visual aspects.

Dissatisfied with the typical short cartoons, Disney began work on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1934. While many predicted it would flop and Disney would regret going 3 times over budget, the film became the most successful sound film to date. And why not? Disney went to great lengths to make it as realistic as possible, even bringing live animals into the studio.

In 1950, Disney filmed his first live-action feature, Treasure Island. Then, in 1952, the animation artist turned producer began the adventure of building a theme park. He wanted to showcase ingenuity and innovation, as well as cultures from around the world. You can still see that spirit today in Disney Land, Disney World, and Epcot Center.

Musicians who experiment with Variety

In August 2016, longtime Aerosmith frontman, Steven Tyler released his first solo album: We’re All Somebody From Somewhere hitting #1 on the COUNTRY charts. Yes, you read that right. Tyler wrote 12 of the 15 tracks.

“Love is Your Name”

One of the coolest crossover musicians I know of is the Man in Black, himself. Johnny Cash gained popularity as a country Legend (with a capital L). Over the years, he experimented with other genres, most notably as he neared the end of his life.

The variety of genres Cash explored—and excelled at, won him the rare honor of multiple inductions in the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame. A great article by the Rolling Stone Magazine (1), highlights 11 of these genre-crossing covers, along with their music videos.

“Hurt” (Cover of Nine Inch Nails)

Writers who experiment with variety

One of the writers who experiment with variety in their work is Edgar Allen Poe. You might think of him as solely gothic, but in fact, he has many genres. Would you believe one is humor?

He also wrote hoaxes such as “The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaall” and “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” (1838). “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” is Poe’s only full length novel.

Poe wrote poetry, mysteries, detective stories, and horror, of course. He also loved cryptography (codes).

Top 10 Authors with Versatile Writing Styles That Write Like Chameleons

What about you?

How will you experiment with variety? So often, we get so comfortable doing the things we are great at, that we forget how good it feels to stretch our creative muscles. What is something you’ve toyed with trying but haven’t yet done so? What’s stopping you? If you don’t like it, you can always go back to your old ways—or you can try something else new! You just might get out of your creative rut.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.


Up The Stakes

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is U is for Up the Stakes.

What makes a reader keep reading a story, or a viewer binge-watch their favorite series on Netflix? It’s the amazing art of upping the stakes. When you up the stakes, a reader can’t help but turn the page. What does it mean to up the stakes? Simply, you make something mean more for your character.

When You Up the Stakes They are more invested.

A writer might up the stakes in a thriller by revealing that the main character, a female army general, has just found out the man she married two years earlier is an Al Qaeda operative.

A romance author might up the stakes by having the heroine find out that the man she just had a fender bender with is her new boss. And she hadn’t noticed when she was berating him at the accident scene, just how hunky he was.

What about less dramatic stories?

Do you have to have something earthshaking happen when you up the stakes? No. But it needs to be compelling enough to keep your reader interested. In fact, you don’t want to have round after round of upping the stakes in a dramatic way or your reader will grow weary of the comic book-like way of moving the story forward.

Instead, you should have more of an action-reaction cycle. One scene will build to the action. Your protagonist has a goal. It might be to get Billy Bob to go on a date with her kid sister, Marybelle. So she plots and schemes to make everything just right. Then, just as she’s about to achieve that goal, disaster strikes. Marybelle is missing. The protagonist goes to tell Billy Bob, but she has set such a romantic mood that Billy Bob kisses her! That’s upping the stakes.

Now, what is going to happen?

That’s the question that makes your reader turn the page and begin reading the next chapter. The next chapter is where we will deal with the fallout of the action in the last chapter. The characters will react to the misplaced kiss. The protagonist will feel guilty about kissing her sister, Marybelle’s intended, Billy Bob. Billy Bob will fall madly in love with the protagonist, and Marybelle is still missing. What will they do? That decision will bring is back to the action scene, now with the protagonist’s new goal in mind.

Each time you have the action scene, you should find a way to up the stakes, even if it’s something small. Maybe they learn that Marybelle’s true calling is to become a professional square dancer and Billy Bob has two left feet. The possibilities are endless. Just ask your self what the goal of your protagonist is and how you can throw a monkey wrench in it.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.


Travel

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is T is for Travel & Creativity.

One of the coolest ways to increase your creative thinking abilities is to travel. The distance on the map isn’t nearly as important as crossing the cultural divide.

Creativity is Connection

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”     —Steve Jobs

By taking the time to experience a new culture, intimately, the things you think of as normal are suddenly just one way of doing things. I’ve experienced this firsthand many times. The first was when I was 16 and traveled to Spain for a summer. It was an amazing experience that changed my life forever, giving me a broader perspective.

Travel in India

Later in life, I traveled with my husband to do missionary work in India. The modern missionary perspective is less about changing cultures to look like your own and more about seeing the beauty in foreign cultures, crossing the cultural divide and sharing our love of Christ. On that trip, I fell in love with the people of India.

Travel in the Middle East

A year later we traveled to the Middle East where we focused on ministering to the persecuted church. We spent time in West Bank of Israel, where Christians are a small minority in the land where Jesus was born, lived, and was crucified. The Christians there are caught between the cultures of the Jewish Israelis and the Muslim Palestinians. We visited Morocco where it’s illegal to be a Christan. And, just after the “revolution”, we were in Egypt, where my husband was able to smuggle Bibles and we ministered in house churches. In every place we visited, we met incredible people facing things we can’t imagine as Americans. We also saw unique ways of overcoming obstacles.

Honk if you Travel in India

Travel by car in India could be a harrowing experience. The first night we were there we wondered if we would survive the journey from the airport in New Delhi to our hotel. I’d never heard so many people honking their horns. I wondered why they were so angry. When daylight came and we headed off to Chandigarh I noticed the signs on the back of many of the vehicles on the roads. They said, “Horn Please.” I asked about this and was told that many vehicles didn’t have side mirrors or blinkers, so this would warn drivers that you were about to overtake them on the road. Even though having 5 lanes of cars driving on a 3-lane road took some getting used to, we noted that there was always a way out of a traffic jam.

Horn Please

Don’t Honk if You Travel in France

On our way home, we had a 28-hour layover in Paris. The first 4 hours were spent in a cab, driving the 20 miles to our hotel. This cab ride was serenely quiet but amazingly tense. We inched along at a snail’s pace as the meter accumulated charges. Everyone stayed in their own lanes and not a single person honked. I wanted to scream, “Surely you can squeeze between these lanes. Just honk, will you?” I didn’t, but I could see how quickly I’d begun to think like an Indian.

Travel changes you

When you travel to learn about different cultures you are changed. You see new perspectives and new ways of doing things. The deeply ingrained connections in your brain are suddenly rerouted to create new ones. This is how travel makes you a more creative, and often a better person.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

Buy Facing Cancer as a Friend Today!

 

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