Sunday, August 31, 2008

Point of View

Point of view.

I've heard the phrase a lot lately and it's got me thinking. We writers love point of view. We wrangle endlessly about whose eyes from which a scene is being observed. Woe to the writer who has an abrupt POV shift within a scene, although Nora Roberts does it quite successfully....

In the last few weeks, I've heard the phrase 'point of view' on a couple of reality based shows like 'The Next Food Network Star' and 'Project Runway.' (Yes, I'm addicted to both. Cut me some slack. I don't watch American Idol or Survivor.) The phrase puzzled me a bit at first, then I got it. The contestants are talking about style. Personal style. Their unique factor. Flair. The one thing that makes their work different from everyone else's. It's the way they see the world. It's probably the one thing about their work that makes their hearts sing.

Back in my professional photography days, my reputation was built on a love of contrasting the elegant against the rustic. Time after time, I posed brides in beautiful white gowns between sharp cliff faces or on the edge of the canyons. It was dramatic, exciting, and beautiful. Clients came to me for just those looks.

When I think of photographers I've known and studied with, I see their signature looks also. Charles J. Lewis's warm family portraits, Monte Zucker's elegant lighting and emotional style or Rocky Gunn's dramatic outdoor art portraits. Each is so distinctive that if you knew what to look for, you would easily be able to pick their work from a collection. It would be like being able to find the Renoir among the Rembrandt's and both from among the Picasso's. Totally different styles.

Writers, too. Can you tell Stephen King from Charles Dickens? Jane Austen from Nora Roberts? John Grisham from Jodi Picoult? Of course you can. Foodies, as well. Bobby Flay is different than Rachel Ray. Come to think of it, you can tell the difference between Debbie Mumm and Martha Stewart, can't you?

So the question is.....what's your style? What's your point of view?

Are you writing, painting, sculpting, sewing, or gardening according to your style or are you trying to please someone else? If you gathered several pieces of your work together would there be a cohesive thread throughout?

As an exercise this week, try to define a portion of your style. Don't be afraid, it will not limit you to only that one thing. Those dramatic portraits I used to do? They got people talking and brought work into my door, but many of my clients only wanted a sweet and simple portrait, they were not interested in traipsing into the canyons. That's okay, my style for fresh, unique design carried over. So....maybe in reality, that was my point of view. Hmmm....more thinking to do. One of the worries I have in my writing is my lack of a definitive style or voice. I sound like too many other people still when I write so I'll be exploring this exercise with you.

Whatever you do, it's got to look like YOU. Not your features or your skin color, but your personality.

There is light within you. Let it shine!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

We Have Winners

Thank you to all who participated in the Journal page contest. Thanks to all who thought about it and either chickened out or timed out. Next time, promise?

Our winners are......

Paula aka Sweet P from Coffee Time Quilt Studio sent a wonderful color page from one of her journals. Plus, she sent in a page from her quilt planning journal. I think the two pages illustrate the two wonderful parts of her creative brain. The color page enchants me!
Paula says....Here are two photos from two of my journals. The first one is from a stitched book I made in a book making class four years ago. The book is made from Japanese paper. I did this one by letting watercolor paint drip from the brush onto the paper. I haven’t looked at it in a long time. I had forgotten how pretty this page is. I may have to frame it.

The other photo is a page from my quilt planning journal. You can see how I make notes when I first start planning a project. If there is math involved you would be able to see my calculations done by pencil.

This is a great contest. I can’t wait to see what others send you. You’ve inspired me to start picking up my Prismacolor pencils and drawing journal and start doodling.

Donna NM sent in a page of poetry and drawings from one of her journals. I love words and images combined on a page, don't you?
Donna says....Why do I like this page in my journal?
Well, I liked this poem enough to write it down....because I loved the simplicity of it; in that it reminds me to treasure the most simple, yet most beautiful and cherished, of what the Lord has blessed us with.......nature.

Truly, some of the most precious times with Him, the times when I have felt most grateful, most awe inspired, and most blessed, have been when I was outside in nature.
Not necessarily someplace magnificent....but even simply in my own backyard, tending my own little garden, early in the morning, when no one else is around.
Those moments are the moments when I "feel" Him, deeply & gratefully.
Moments only my heart can understand, moments when there are no words that I am skilled enough to use that would be able to accurately express the majesty of His creation and/or the peace and contentment it can offer me when I take the time to simply “see” it, “appreciate” it, and be “aware” of it.

I also like this page in my journal because of my little drawings. I have always loved art/drawing and have always longed to draw with mastery and skill. Unfortunately I have never had any “real” skill, talent or training in that area. But that doesn’t stop me from making feeble attempts and amusing myself with doodling here and there. ( I am grateful and bl essed now to see my children so inspired to draw. So, I encourage it muchly, and ooooo, and awe and melt over their precious artwork.) I admire, appreciate and cherish artwork, and can smile and feel satisfied when making my own little attempts at it.

And, lastly, I like this page in my journal because of the simple quote at the bottom, that says, “I am a Sparrow, a stay at home bird”. I have felt that way most of my life.
While others have been out galivanting, exploring, and/or adventuring, I have usually been a stay at home person. I do love to travel, but have not had many opportunities to do so. And, it seems I have always had a lingering sense of lonliness in my soul….which I also felt was expressed in that little quote. Thanks, Deb!

Have some fun in your journal today. Even a doodled on grocery list can be a creative moment and in a few years, a piece of everyday history.

Thanks for playing the game, everyone! Paula and Donna will be getting a prize package including a new journal, a set of my photo notecards, and a few extra goodies I've gathered.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


"Without a deadline, nothing much would get done...."

I don't know who said that, but I believe it.

Today is the last day for the journal page contest.

Get 'em in to me by midnight (or by morning....I'm not going to be up at midnight, I promise.)
Email yours in the body of an email to
deb s muse AT 1 scom DOT net
Squish and translate the capitals as needed.

Good luck!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Who Nurtured Your Creativity?

A while ago, I asked who had killed your creativity. Now, it's time for the opposite. Who has nurtured and nourished your spirit? Whose words or actions keep you striving? Who taught you something important about your craft or yourself?

For me, the list is long.

My husband, the Pilot Guy, has to top it. He is always encouraging me to do what makes me happy. Whether I'm earlobe deep in photography, writing, gardening, quilting or whatever, the man has hauled equipment, endured fits of creative despair, and patiently picked up pieces when I think I've broken my heart beyond repair. He believes in me. A precious gift, belief.

Mama Marge, my journalism teacher from long ago. She was the one who encouraged the teenaged me in photography. Her husband, Bill, actually taught me how to load film in my Yashica-mat. Over the door to the journalism department in my high school was a hand lettered sign that said, 'Beware all who enter here. Your life will be changed.' True, very true. Mine certainly was.

Chuck, photographer and business man extraordinaire, my mentor and often a tormentor.(Grin) Best of all, friend. He shoots straight with me. I don't like hearing what he has to say sometimes, but after I quit reacting I realize he is (usually) right. He and his wife, Cheri, inspire me as few people on the planet do. They ask great questions and make me think about my creative life in new ways. A great big thank you to the Art Leather company for sending Chuck to Amarillo to speak in 1982. (Yikes!) What if I'd missed that seminar? Imagine what I would have missed. Quite simply, Chuck changed my life. His friendship, and Cheri's, is one of the most central to my life. Precious people.

My late sis-in-law, Hermion, taught me to watch and learn from nature. Big observations and tiny moments of noticing. She loved color and texture and whimsy. She's been gone for over a year and a half yet I'm still storing up treasures to share with her.

Bonnie, my writing friend. She is so persistent--(please finish something, Deb)--and encouraging. I love her questions and her ability to see things from a different perspective.

Who's been important in your creative life? Have you told them lately how much you appreciate them?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On Your Mark


As a former hurdler, I've loved watching the track and field events at the Olympic games this week. Time and time again, I notice an announcer claiming such and such a runner had a great start. Usually that means they broke well from the blocks, kept their head down for several strides, and moved down their lane quick and clean. In a sprint, a good start can mean a good finish. Conversely, a bad start can finish a race before too many strides are taken.

Just like those runners, I love a great start. In fact, I love starting, great or not. Fresh ideas, sizzling enthusiasm, and unlimited energy. A new creative project is exciting.

My big problem is not new ideas. Tons of those tumble around in my brain daily. What I have trouble with guessed it....finishing.

I have way too many UFPs in my life. Unfinished Projects. Two novels, (three if you count the one that's just one scene long) a couple of short stories, and two non-fiction book ideas are in my to be written stack. There's a lap quilt upstairs on my sewing table waiting for me to finish it. A half a dozen garden projects wait for cool autumn weather.

Imagine that tall Jamaican sprinter quitting halfway to the finish line. Imagine the marathoner stopping in the shade of a tall tree while the other runners past her by. Imagine the gymnast laying back on the beam and taking a nap before her competition is complete.


You don't get the gold (or silver or bronze) for stopping before you cross the finish line.

My friend, Bonnie, says it drives her insane to have an unfinished project waiting on her. She is driven to write that final paragraph on that final page. Maybe that's why she has one book in print and another on an editor's desk. Hmmmmm.....

My theme for the rest of the year is going to be finish it. On Monday, we begin our final year as a homeschool family. Believe me, there is much to be finished there. Writing skills to be honed, math skills to be sharpened, thinking refined and expanded. And I want us to finish with flair and strength. The homeschool equivalent of a runner's 'kick' at the end of a race.

What finish line awaits you, dear creative souls? Are you willing to dig deep into yourself and race for the finish line?

You can do it. We will be cheering you on!

Thanks to each one who's sent a photo of their favorite journal page for the contest. Yay for you! A couple of you have emailed me to say you are hesitant or shy about sending. Please don't be afraid. This is a friendly blog and a friendly contest. You'll have fun, I promise!

Thursday, August 14, 2008



Let's have some fun!

I gotta enough zing out of the comments on the Notebooks post that I've devised a fun little contest for us. Influenced, no doubt, by watching the Olympics...going for the gold and all that. You have some terrific journals cooking in your lives and I want to see the best of the best.

Send me a photo of your favorite journal page and a quick paragraph telling me why that page is meaningful to you. My trusty staff (me, the cat and maybe some of my human companions) will pick a winner and a runner-up. You know, in case the first journal page is unable to fulfill her duties. The winner will get a new journal, a set of my notecards, and.....whatever else strikes my fancy (chocolate?) between now and the deadline. Putting together a winner's basket will be fun! Naturally, we won't leave the runner up without a prize package, either.

Artists, you have it easy, if you keep a sketchbook. Writers, pick a particular page that expresses something about your work. Photographers, those photos can be artfully arranged on a page, don't you think? Quilters, gardeners, I've seen some awesome pages in notebooks. Whether you keep a notebook of nature studies, a garden journal, or a list of every book you read, I want to see the page that lights you up inside.

Send a clear photo and paragraph in the body of an email (no attachments without prior approval) to: deb s muse AT 1scom DOT net. You know how to squish and translate that, right? Put journal contest in the subject line.

Nothing R or X rated, please, I'll blush. Like anyone reading Creative Soul would, but ya never know who is reading.

The deadline is August 27th. Meaning, of course, that you have time to create something new. Or dig around in the attic to pull something out of a notebook from fifteen years ago. I can't wait to see what your fertile minds produce.

Ready, set......


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Not So Wordless Wednesday~Sunflowers

Is it a bad sign when even your flowers won't look at you?

Evidently, the sunflowers we grow love watching the sun come up. These are in the new bed we built on Memorial day weekend on the east side of the back yard . Which means they are facing the eastern horizon instead of the back porch. We have a line of sunflowers on the west side of our back yard along a fence. They always look into the yard. Never thought about these guys facing away from the back porch. Aren't flowers always supposed to face the way you want them too?

Ah, but when you walk around the other side of the bed, the sunflower faces are lovely. The bees and butterflies are enjoying them. The neighbors are getting a pretty show, too.

Sunflowers make me smile.

Monday, August 11, 2008



My notebook is full.

Imagine my surprise when I turned the page to take notes yesterday and found there were no more pages in the book. I completely lost the train of thought from my phone call for a moment.

How can this notebook be full already?

To be creative, one must have a system in place for capturing great ideas, silly suggestions, and random weirdness. For me, a notebook fills the bill nicely. Plus, it is nice to have a place to doodle during a tedious meeting. The notebook I just finished is filled with odd bits of poetry, incoherent ramblings while listening to a read at my writer's group, and plans, plans, plans. I think well on paper. Any project of mine gets serious when I start jotting down notes. The windy flurry of a storm of the brain captured in ink on paper.

My friend Chuck has a voice recorder he carries in his pocket. It means he hardly has to break the stride of a conversation to whip out the small instrument and speak a quick note into it. It is a good idea, that one. And one I may consider in the near future. Excellent for reminders and business meetings, quick ideas. For now, I love the tactile pleasure of pencil or ink on paper.

My notebook is full, but I have a new one with fresh, clean, purple pages waiting on the bookshelf. It is large enough to write on comfortably, but small enough to tuck into my purse.

I wonder what fun I'll have within the leaves of this notebook.

Where do you record your brainstorms, creative thoughts, or mundane ramblings?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Who Killed Your Creativity?

Belle Blanc Datura blooms opening at twilight

A recent issue of Scientific American Mind had a fascinating article on creativity. A panel of creativity experts gave their thoughts on the subject. (This interview is included in the text of my current book of the month, 'Brainstorm.' See the sidebar for a link.)

One of my favorite quotes was from Robert Epstein, professor and author.

"When children are very young, they all express creativity, but by the end of the first grade, very few do so. This is because of socialization. They learn in school to stay on task and to stop daydreaming and asking silly questions. As a result, the expression of new ideas is largely shut down. We end up leaving creative expression to the misfits--the people who can't be socialized. It's a tragedy."

A couple of things struck me about this quote. First, a memory. My oldest son was sent to the Principal's office in first grade for coloring outside the lines.

Principal's office.

Coloring outside the lines.

In first grade.

Yes, really.

While I understand that you can color with 'attitude', it was a revealing and infuriating moment when I read the note. I was a professional photographic artist and couldn't believe the sheer audacity of a teacher unable to manage a classroom resorting to this kind of control. This said more about the teacher than my son. Based on that alone, Epstein's quote rang bells with me.

Have you ever heard Harry Chapin's song, 'Flowers Are Red?" The lyrics are a powerful story of creative drive destroyed in the name of conformity. Chapin wrote the song after a teacher wrote on his son's report card...'Your son marches to the beat of a different drummer, but don't worry, we'll have him joining our parade before the end of the year.'


I also loved what Epstein said about leaving creativity to the ones who can't be socialized. I would have rather he said *won't* be socialized. To those who choose to follow the beat of the inner drummer rather than conform to the lockstep of the rest of the world. Untamed. Not fully domesticated. You don't have to be weird or anti-social to be creative, but you do have to be self aware and willing to take the time to listen to your heart. Once you've listened to the beat of your own heart, you must be willing to follow the path it leads you on.

We are social creatures. I'm a child of God. I want to please him in what I do. As a society, we have laws and morals that must be followed for the good of that society. I'm not saying get rid of that. I'm saying why do we have to subject our children to rigid standardized testing? Why can't there be more open ended explorations of passions in our youth? This is where homeschoolers have a serious advantage. We can avoid the tests and encourage the heart's desires for years after the public schools have pushed other children into molds.

But we are adults now with creative hearts and creative souls. And years of conformity dragging behind us. Our lives are filled with responsibilities. Joyful ones, true, but some that are not so joy filled. Why are there so many 'shoulds' and not nearly enough 'what-ifs?'

Why can't we think a bit more like the Queen in 'Alice in Wonderland?'

Alice begins...
“One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

In what ways has someone squashed or fostered your creative soul? In what ways can you foster a creative spirit in someone else? What bold and daring creative endeavor would you start if you were brave enough?

Believe impossible things.

Be brave.


Belle Blanc Datura Fully Flowered

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Make a Goal Poster


One of the tactile projects I did during my creative retreat week was a goal poster. Because I am both a visual and a tactile person, a goal poster is fun, both crafty and artsy. The images speak to me on a level that written words can't always reach. Images hit that right brain creative center and take root, while words are often filed in the more organized and restricted left brain.

If you would like to give your goals a boost, you can put one together, too. In fact, I believe the simple act of creating a goal poster can reveal and refine your heart goals.

Here's how:

Take a stack of magazines. I prefer to have mostly ones that call my name anyway, but a few off the wall ones are good, as well. My stack included Southern Living, The Writer, Body & Soul, some quilt mags, gardening mags, and for my off the wall ones, Forbes. (I've just gotta say, as a magazine Forbes is boring visually. Gag.)

Quickly leaf through the pages with a pair of scissors in hand. Snip out any images or headlines that resonant with you. Do not stop to analyze why. Do not stop to read the articles. Do not intentionally seek any particular image at this moment because it is surprising to see what your hand was led to clip. You can always look for missing pieces later, if you decide you need to. I like words and often use them to add impact to my images.

Trim the images and arrange on a piece of poster board or card stock. Be free enough to let your pieces overhang the edges of the board. It is one more way to reinforce a don't-fence-yourself-in mind set.

Hang the poster in a place where you see it daily. Mine's in my closet at the moment. In the past, I've hung them near my work area. The front of the refrigerator works dandy, although you'll be explaining it to your family and friends.

It's been many years since I put together a goal poster. It was a bittersweet moment when I realized there were no chubby babies or cute kiddoes on mine. Neither were there puppies, dogs, or horses. Visual proof my life season has changed.

This time, mine seemed to emphasize health, activity, art, gardening, writing, and being true to myself. There were no images of women in formal business settings, so I suspect I'm not headed back to the briefcase and power suit life style I once had. At least, not yet.

What does your goal poster reveal about you and your future?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Creative Retreat


One of my favorite things about professional photography was the great seminars, workshops, and conventions I got to attend. After going to an event, I'd come home exhausted, but overflowing with ideas. For the last several days, while the rest of my family was away, I've indulged in a creative workshop right here at home. I literally withdrew from my normal routine and commitments as if I'd gone away on a long trip and immersed myself in all things creative. The goal was to listen to and honor and enjoy my creative spirit.

And it was good.

I wrote several thousand words on a fiction project. And resisted the urge to do work on too many writing projects at once. Pacing and patience. Not usually one of my strong points.

I spent some time with hands on creative projects. Cutting, pasting, rearranging, playing with was tactile and textural. Creativity I could touch. Very satisfying. I was limited by my stash of supplies and, occasionally by my lack of training. But it was still fun to approach a project with a child's sense of play.

I savored other people's words on the creative process. Gently, slowly, thoughtfully instead of my usual glup and swallow method of reading.

There were times of playing with food tastes and textures. Enjoying roasted veggies of the season with olive oil and a bit of garlic. Savoring tangy tomatoes and crisp, sweet watermelon. Green salads with raspberry vinagrette and strawberries. A feast of flavors, a different kind of fulfillment.

My head and my notebook filled up with thoughts, ideas, drawings, and details. My family is back home from their far-flung endeavors, so life is back to normal. But I hope not to the same old routine. In the past couple of years, I've taken one time a year to indulge in a creative or writing retreat. Once is not enough. I need a few days here and there throughout the year to think and be and refresh. I'm nosing around in my calendar now to find a fall date for a one or two day do-it-myself workshop time. Wanna join me?

I'm looking forward to working with the fresh ideas captured in my notebook. The future looks creative and fun.