The Ericksons

Category Archives: Writing

These are posts related to writing.


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.

 


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.


senses

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 S is for Senses.

The 5 Senses

Writers usually try to sprinkle each of the 5 senses throughout the story to make it come alive. This gives the reader a more vivid reading experience. Writers often lean heavily on the senses of sight and hearing, while neglecting the senses of taste, touch, and smell. Some writers go overboard, overwhelming readers to the point of distraction.

While balance is the key, once in a while, it’s a good idea to try something different to stretch your writing abilities. One way to do this is to eliminate one of the major sensory abilities. There must be a reason to do this which is integral to the plot. Make sure it’s not contrived.

Bird Box

A year ago, I heard about Josh Malerman’s novel, Bird Box, on The Story Grid podcast. I immediately put it on my “must read” list. The thing that interested me was a change of perspective. Malerman did something most writers would never dream of doing. He eliminated the sense of sight, almost completely from the story.

The premise of the book was that something was making everyone insane (to the point of self-destruction) by just being seen. So the main character was essentially on a quest—blindfolded. This forced not only the main character, but Josh Malerman, as well, to rely more heavily on the other 4 senses.

I recall watching an episode from the series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, called, You Got to Have Luck. An escaped convict took refuge in the home of a deaf woman, not knowing she was deaf and was reading his lips. Eventually he was caught because of this mistake. This concept has been used several times since then, most recently in the 2016 horror movie, “Hush.”  Even if you only do this as an exercise to stretch your writing muscles, I highly recommend playing with the 5 senses in your writing.

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.


Quiet Your Mind

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 Q is for Quiet Your Mind.

Recently a friend came to drop off a meal after my husband had a round of chemo. As soon as she entered our home, she lowered her voice to just above a whisper. She probably figured Dan was resting (which he was). Just before leaving she remarked, “Your house is so quiet.” I got a bit of a chuckle out of that and chalked it up to the fact that our daughter, Summer, wasn’t there. Summer is a force of life that you can’t ignore. She enters our house each night after college and work, like a parade. The truth is, that over the years, many people have remarked at the quiet atmosphere in our home.

There are a few things that add to that:

1. The TV isn’t running. We get plenty of screen time, but throughout the day and most evenings, the television set in our living room (the only TV in our home) is turned off. When our kids were young we limited television use and didn’t have cable. Now that they are older, there is an unspoken rule against watching the TV without a good reason.
2. We don’t have a stereo. This is actually a bummer sometimes. It’s not even an intentional decision, but it does add to the peace and quiet in our home.
3. “We don’t have a dog.” This is what my daughter Emily said when I asked them why our home is quiet. She’s right. When I was younger, we had dogs and there was always barking or running across the floors. The most noise came from my mom yelling at the dogs for one thing or another. My daughters have lots of allergies, dogs and cats included, so the only pets we have are fish and gerbils.
4. Headphone use. When someone is using a computer they wear headphones.

A home’s peaceful atmosphere can help quiet your mind. When you quiet your mind, you will find it is more focused. This is one of the reasons it’s essential to creativity. You can’t strive to work in a creative endeavor if a distraction comes knocking on the door of your mind every five minutes. How do you go about quiet your mind?

Don’t Multitask

I’ve written about multitasking before when I did my Digital Detox series. Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-founder of TalentSmart wrote this very succinct article on the dangers multitasking poses to your brain. As a recovering multitasker, I can tell you there is a definite improvement in creative and cognitive functioning when you eliminate multitasking from your life. It was the second most difficult thing for me to give up on my digital detox.

Take a walk

The researchers at Stanford University looked at how taking a walk affected creative output. They learned that it increased participants’ creative output by 60% versus when they were sitting. Walking is a meditative activity. My husband and I walk in our neighborhood and I often find inspiration is easily plucked from the air during these times.

Controlled Breathing to Quiet Your Mind

Breathing can have a profound effect on your mind. Often when people become anxious, they forget to breathe. When they do something difficult or frightening, the hold their breath without even knowing it. I learned about the power of breathing from a physical therapist who was helping me with chronic pain. After teaching me the theory of breathing being important in controlling your physical well being, he put me on a stationary bike that took my pulse as I rode. We watched as my heart rate increased. Then he told me to do my controlled breathing. As I did, my heart rate began to drop! I was amazed. This exercise will quiet your mind and enable you to think more clearly.

Controlled Breathing Exercise

  • Inhale through your nose 5 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for 2 seconds.
  • Exhale through pursed lips for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat until you have done this 10 times

Take a Silent Retreat

I take an annual retreat to Pacem in Terris, a hermitage north of the Twin Cities. During my time away, I am able to relax and let the cares of the world drift away. There’s no email, no squabbling kids, no worries that I can’t hand over to God. In fact, one of the greatest gifts you can get at Pacem in Terris is when you are being dropped off at your cabin. The host asks you if you have any need of prayer. You can tell them what’s on your mind and they pray for those needs specifically while you are there. I find that very freeing. Whatever way you use to quiet your mind, you will find that you can then hear the muse you need to be creative.

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.


change your perspective

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 P for Change Your Perspective.

.When you change your perspective you can be more creative, whether you are writing, doing visual art or any of the other artistic endeavor. Even outside of the arts, it’s helpful to change your perspective. In your daily life, you need to change your perspective not only to empathize with family, friends, and coworkers but also to problem solve.

Saving the World

One example of this is frequently seen on the CBS drama (also seen on Netflix), “Madam Secretary.”  As the Secretary of State, Elizabeth McCord encounters a new crisis every day. Despite the fact that these situations seem to leave her with no good solution, she needs to come up with a plan. Often, in the company of her family, she sees things through fresh eyes and devises a plan that everyone can live with. By the way, I highly recommend checking it out “Madam Secretary” if you liked “The West Wing.” It has a very similar feeling to it.

What about Visual Art?

Any type of visual art you do can benefit when you change your perspective. Sometimes that means changing the media you use. Even changing the lighting will affect how the piece looks and how the viewer feels as they experience it.  Consider daylight savings time. Not everyone has daylight savings time where they live, but those of us who do, know the eerie feeling when the clocks roll back in the fall and it’s suddenly dark at 4:30 PM. We have to change more than the time on our clocks. We need to adjust when we go to bed, because our bodies don’t care what the clock says. It’s like jet-lag without the vacation.

You can also, quite literally, change your perspective

These are two pictures of the same object. This is a spearfishing decoy that my daughter Emily painted and entered in a contest.

Change your Perspective

Here is the same fish, competing. It’s with all of its other fishy friends trying to stand out. Unfortunately, it didn’t stand out enough.

Change Your Perspective

Now think about how the viewer would feel about this same decoy fulfilling it’s true purpose as it catches the eye on a fish in the water. This is also affected by something that as an artist you can’t control: The opinions and experiences the viewer brings to the piece of art.

Point of View

There are countless ways to tell a story.  As a writer, it’s essential to consider how the reader is going to receive the story. The basic theory behind point-of-view is more than just deciding which pronouns you will use to tell the story. It’s also about distance. How close are we going to let the reader get to the action? One of the things you can do to improve your fiction is to choose a scene that isn’t popping. Rewrite that scene using each of the following points of view and see which one suits your story’s needs. Each will have its own benefits and drawbacks. Be sure to take your time with this. It shouldn’t be too daunting with the aid of your computer.

1st Person

1st Person is very intimate. When you change your perspective to 1st person, you put the reader inside of the narrator’s head. However, that narrator may not give us the whole picture because everything will be seen from their point of view. We’ll get their opinions and may even end up being manipulated by them. If you have a specific reason for using this point of view, it can really work to your advantage. It often feels awkward for readers, though. And readers are hesitant to trust the narrator completely which can interfere with their ability to become immersed in the story. Weigh the pros and cons of this and change your perspective accordingly.

2nd person

2nd person is rarely used in fiction because it’s kind of weird to have a writer talking directly to you. This is more commonly used in non-fiction writing like this blog post. I’m talking to you about how you can become more creative by changing your point of view.

3rd person

3rd person and (its derivatives) is the most common point of view. We are getting the story from someone who isn’t a part of the story. The pronouns “he,” “she” and “they” are used, but never “I” or “you.” You can have this 3rd person narrator peek through one of the characters eyes. This is called 3rd person limited. This gives the reader a more intimate view of the story, while still keeping a big picture point of view. Otherwise, you can use an omniscient point of view. This gives the narrator (and thus, the reader) a bird’s eye view of the story. Some people feel this POV prevents the reader from feeling the intensity of the story. Stephen King is known as a master of this point of view, and I sure feel the intensity of his stories.

There is more than traditional point-of-view to think about.

Who is telling the story? I recently read “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey. This book was fascinating from a writer’s point of view. He used first person POV extremely well. The wonderful thing about it was not only the POV he chose from a technical standpoint but the particular character he chose. Let’s face it; the story takes place in an asylum. There were endless possibilities of who he could have had told the story.

He chose “Chief” Bromden. Ken Kesey had a keen interest in the Native Americans that lived in Oregon along the Columbia River. This character was interesting on so many levels. He had chosen to play deaf/mute for years; so we are pulled into the book by a voice no one else is able to hear. The other thing that was so essential to the book was the metaphor of the combine. He spoke in literal word pictures about machinery and this combine (the system) that was going to roll right over them. As a Native American, he had experienced this in a literal sense. Now in the asylum, he sees the combine in the form of Nurse Ratched.

Change your perspective

Choose which perspective you use for your story, or any other form of art, intentionally and wisely. Try different perspectives out on a smaller scale. Think about it for a while and then change your perspective to the one that best fits your needs.

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.


Ode to a Nightingale

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 O for Write an Ode.

What exactly is an ode?

It’s a tribute—an emotionally over-the-top tribute to something or someone (or even an abstract concept).  It can be free-form, but more often is set to a pattern of the writer’s choosing.

How does writing an ode—or any poetry make you more creative?

Poetry strengthens your language skills and pushes you to dig deep within yourself to help you best express your emotions. Often, in poetry, you will use symbolism, imagery and metaphors. It can also be very therapeutic, releasing blocks to your creativity. Doing this activity will challenge you. I recommend that you come up with short stanzas for different people and things throughout your day.

When is the last time you wrote an ode?

It’s not as hard as it John Keats makes it sound.

Decide what or who you want to praise.

It could be anything. It might be easier if it’s something you genuinely care about. But for this exercise, it could also be something as simple as your morning cup of coffee. To get into the mood you could brainstorm all of the aspects of that person or thing that you could talk about.

Coffee= Steamy, brown, liquid, energy, in a cup, bitter, sweet, creamy, hot, roasted, nutty

Choose a pattern of rhythm and rhyme that you want to use.

The great thing about odes is that they don’t lock you into specific rules the way other types of poetry like sonnets or haiku do. You actually don’t need to rhyme at all—or write with a specific rhythm. It can be great to use one of these elements, or both. If you do decide to use rhythm and/or rhyme, use whatever pattern you come up with consistently throughout the entire poem. Another thing you will want to do is speak directly to what or whoever you are writing the ode for. Odes are traditionally quite long. I will share one stanza to show you an example that I wrote about my coffee. There is often a line that is repeated throughout the poem. I would use the first line and repeat it in the beginning of every stanza.

An example of a 5 line stanza:

Oh coffee, how I need you.

You steam my senses with energy

I pour you into my cup

But a sip of your brown liquid

Wakes my sleepy brain up

In the spring of 1819, John Keats heard a nightingale sing. He was so inspired by the bird’s song that he composed Ode to a Nightingale in one day. These are the last 20 lines on the 80 line tribute to a plain brown bird with a beautiful song.

Ode to a Nightingale Verses 60-80

Write an Ode
By W. J. Neatby (1860-1910) , via Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps the self-same song that found a path 65

Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,

She stood in tears amid the alien corn;

The same that ofttimes hath

Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam

Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn. 70

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell

To toll me back from thee to my sole self!

Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well

As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.

Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades 75

Past the near meadows, over the still stream,

Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep

In the next valley-glades:

Was it a vision, or a waking dream?

Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep? 80

Biblical Odes

This definition brings up the obvious question of whether there are odes in the Bible. There ARE! Here are a few:

Exodus 15:1-19                    The (First) Song of Moses

Deuteronomy 32:1-43          The (Second) Song of Moses

1 Samuel 2:1-10                   The Prayer of Hannah

Habakkuk 3:1-19                  The Prayer of Habakkuk

Isaiah 26:9-20                     The Prayer of Isaiah

Jonah 2:2-9                         The Prayer of Jonah

Luke 1:46-55                       The Magnificat

Luke 1:68-79                       The Song of Zacharias

Another example of a famous ode is “Ode to Joy.” Poet Friedrich Schiller first published this ode in 1766. Then in 1824, Composer Ludwig van Beethoven set it to music in his Ninth Symphony.

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.


Nap for Creativity

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 N is for Nap Like Salvador Dali.

Take a Nap to Wake Up your Creativity

If you think that Dali’s famous melting clocks look like something out of a strange dream, you might be right. Dali had a unique method of inspiring his creative endeavors. In his book, 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship , Dali assures his readers who are working on a project that a good heavy sleep is when “you will secretly, in the very depths of your spirit, solve most of its subtle and complicated, technical problems, which in your state of waking consciousness you would never be humanly capable of solving.” Dali recommends waking very early, in order to take advantage of maximum daylight. He then goes on to describe an afternoon nap of less than a minute long—“less than a quarter of a second,” in fact.

A nap could be the key to your creativityUnlocking Your Creativity

He called it “slumber with a key.” He would sit in an armchair (preferably a bony armchair, Spanish style), head tilted back, resting his arms comfortably on the those of the chair. He applied oil of aspic to his wrists in order to numb his hands causing them to tingle. They would hang beyond the arms of the chair, dangling freely. He held a key between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. Directly beneath the dangling key was an overturned plate. He allowed himself to relax until the moment he fell asleep.

Hypnagogia

At that point, the key would drop onto the plate and wake him from his slumbering state. This in-between state is called the hypnagogic state (or hypnagogia). Dictionary.com defines hypnagogic as “the drowsy period between wakefulness and sleep, during which fantasies and hallucinations often occur.”(1) It happens as you are just beginning to fall asleep. You may have had the experience almost falling asleep. Suddenly you felt like you were falling or you saw something that wasn’t there and you jerked awake. This is one manifestation of hypnagogia. It’s easy to see by this definition alone why capturing the essence of this state would be valuable to an artist like Salvador Dali.

Nap like Van Winkle

There is a similar state called hypnopompia.(2) This (almost) mirrors hypnagogia. It happens after you’ve fallen asleep—just as you are waking up. Hypnopompic more vivid and immersive than the simpler visual “hallucinations” of hypnagogia. They are often a continuation of a dream experience. Another interesting phenomenon that occurs in a hypnopompic state is the feeling of “sleep paralysis.” It’s exactly what it sounds like. You feel like you can’t move upon waking up. It can actually be pretty frightening.

Salvador Dali isn’t the only one to take advantage of the micro nap. Many artists, writers, composers, and geniuses from other realms of thought have attributed their inspiration to a sleep practice similar to Dali’s. The next time you are struggling with a creative endeavor, try experimenting with your sleep habits. It may take a little while to make headway, but give it a shot. Everyone has to sleep sometime, right? How does taking a nap help your creativity?

Before you leave to take that nap, 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. Dictionary.com, hypnagogic,
  2. Van Winkle’s, Exploring Hypnopompia, the Trippy Transition Between Sleep and Wakefulness, July 28, 2016,

Morning Pages

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 M is for Morning Pages.

Julia Cameron introduced Morning pages to the world in her book, The Artist’s Way. At the time The Artist’s Way was published, the ideas in it were revolutionary. The purpose of the book was to “unblock” artists and writers and foster their self-confidence.

Julia Cameron first published The Artist’s Way in 1992. Julia originally compiled tips and hints from artists, for artists, into a book and tried to get it published. It was turned down! Julia ended up self-publishing the book and the sales went wild. It’s sold millions of copies and is on the list of top 100 self-help books of all time. This is quite an encouraging story for self-published authors.

What are Morning Pages?

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing done every morning, first thing in the morning. You simply get 3 sheets of paper and a favorite pen or pencil and write until the pages are filled. You can write anything that comes to mind. It might be what you dreamed the night before or an argument you had with your spouse before you even got out of bed. They could even be a grocery list if that’s what’s on your mind.

No one will ever see your morning pages. Even you aren’t meant to look back on them any more than you would peek into your rubbish bin at the end of the week. They almost are rubbish. Morning pages help you sort through the jumble of things that lay on your mind each morning when you wake up and clear it all out.

Morning Pages aren’t just for writers. They have helped people in an array of creative capacities. We all have the problem of becoming blocked oncein a while.

My Experience with Morning Pages

For me, Morning Pages are hard. They aren’t meant to be. There is no right or wrong way to do them. But I am a perfectionist of sorts. I often ponder a sentence for a half an hour, trying to figure out the right way to express a thought. Morning pages are meant to be fast—no pondering. No spelling or grammar check allowed.
Not only that but writing longhand is difficult for me, especially in the morning when my arthritic hands are at their stiffest. So, the handwriting looks awful, which bothers me.

Have Morning Pages Helped?

They have. As much as I don’t like doing them, they are like taking vitamins. Over the course of three pages, the thoughts in my mind that would ordinarily pop in and interrupt me as I am doing my creative writing are sorted out and dealt with. I write them as I drink the last of my morning coffee, and by the time I am done, I feel more energized. It could be the coffee.

They Take Time

Don’t expect to be a creative genius or have your stubborn writer’s block disappear after one set of Morning Pages. It does take a while. I feel confident that you will notice a difference within a couple of weeks, though. By the way, your feelings toward the morning pages won’t be much of an indicator of whether they are working or not. I still don’t like doing them. They force me to slow down and look inward (which I don’t like either). But both make me a better writer. Pick a notebook, any notebook and begin to write.

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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