Quick Question Over Coffee

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I’m current focusing most of my creative writing efforts on a single novel, but my creative energy keeps pushing me to jump around to different ideas.  I’ve always read that I should simply jot down a few notes when new ideas pop up but remain focused on one project until completion.

I recently took a week break from my novel so I could dive deep in a short story I wrote for a contest.  Maintaining focus was easier, probably due to the short timeframe, but it may not be indicative of how I function best on more expansive works.

How do you work best?  Fitting your own style into a three answer poll isn’t always inclusive enough, so if you would like to expand your answer, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Finding Story in Setting

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When I needed to come up an idea for this summer’s short story contest I struggled to find a redemption story I wanted to tell.  I thought first about choices that needed redemption.  Next I thought about characters—who they were, what choices they made and what situations they found themselves in that required redemption.  Both were fine but not the “Wow!” story I wanted.

Finally I thought of setting.  One came to mind that would have lots of action and I could picture vividly.  I knew the smells, the sights and the sounds.  In my mind I wandered around my setting searching for my characters and their story I could tell.

Guess what?  I found both of them, or maybe they found me.

The antagonist found me first, probably because he would have the most interactions with everyone else in this setting.

Other character’s started to introduce themselves and their stories to me.  Then we worked together to find some action and discovers their disasters.  I threw a few rocks at them to see how they reacted.  They brushed off some like they were nothing.  They didn’t respond the way I was hoping to others.  I tossed a few more and together we found the right balance in character and action to bring a story I wanted to tell alive.

Fore me, these contests require a different creative process because my ideas need to conform to a preselected topic.  Typically I come up with ideas, write down the ones I like and develop the ones I love.  But in this situation, as with most contests and many freelance assignments, I’m forced myself to come up with something creative within the set guidelines.  That is where the ability to apply any new ways of approach idea generation can be a godsend.

Where do you get ideas when they need to conform to specific parameters?  I’m interested in what methods work for you, especially when you are under a deadline.

Weekly Status: June 8, 2018

To keep myself accountable, I have chosen to post about my creative progress each week (maybe a couple of days late!)  Although you may not be invested in the details of my progress (or lack thereof), I hope you can take from my updates some ideas on developing your own personal accountability method.

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Writing

Blogging

As a result of the progress I was making on my fiction writing, I made the conscious decision to let the novel flow without interruption from other projects this week.  I started two posts when I needed a break from the novel, so they are queued up for posting soon.  I also spent my downtime this week brainstorming other post ideas to alleviate some of the rush to get my five weekly posts published.  

Next week’s target: Post 5 of 7 days

Fiction

I found my flow getting back into the novel I had started re-outlining.  I’ve tried being a pantster, an outliner, a Snowflaker, and a Story Gridder.  After following the Story Grid podcast and reading the book I desperately wanted to follow the Story Grid method, but for me Story Grid alone is not enough.  I discovered that I am a Snowflaker at heart.  The flow of the steps draws out and helps me clarify and strengthen my ideas.  Everything I learned from Story Grid is impacting how I approach each step in the Snowflake Method.  As I get into and complete my first draft, I am certain Story Grid will be a well worn tool to get me to the final draft.  This week I probably hit at least eight hows of dedicated work on my novel, therefore to keep momentum I’m bumping up my target by 3 hours.

The second writing project I haver this week is to come up with an idea for the Write Practice and Short Fiction Break’s summer writing contest.  The entry deadline is July 10th with the first draft due for workshopping on the 16th, so I’ve got to get working.

Next week’s target:  6 hours working through the Snowflake Method

Photography

Again, I didn’t spend any time on photography this week.  I’ll keep it on the list in case I jump into it in my spare time.  The quick tutorials are great for filling a waiting minute.

Next week’s target:  Playing around for as much time as I want

Coding

I realized my data storage method was not working so I began investigating the best approach for data structures that are more complex than used in most Swift tutorials.  My goal this week is to determine the best method and outline a plan to implement the method into my project.

Next week’s target:  Develop and Outline new data structure

Videography

Focus on my novel too precedence this week so I was not able to map out the project in Motion based on the current draft of the script.  I’m putting this on the side burner for now to keep pace on my novel.

Next week’s target:  Map out the entire project using placeholders.

When juggling multiple projects do you feel guilty neglecting one for another?  Does positive momentum in one project build your overall confidence?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Yearning to Learn

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Ever since I can remember I’ve always had a strong desire to learn new things.  In the past few years I have been diving deep into learning how to write a novel—structuring plot, building tension, crafting scenes and developing great characters.  Writing, whether a novel, short story or this blog, has been my creative outlet for a while now.

Lately writing alone has not been enough to fill my learning needs.  You’d think with all there is to learn about structure and style, brainstorming ideas, and sitting down to actually write would fulfill my learning needs.

Yet, I still needed something more, something different.  Setting aside any requisite skills and abilities to venture into other creative avenues, I thought about adding one of several options to my creative repertoire.

Music, Guitar?

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I’m no musician but I do love music.  I played the piano when I was young, but was never very good.

When I ventured back into piano lesson in high school, I learned to improvise the rhythm of the left hand by reading chord notation and playing the right hand as written.  This method provided me with the opportunity few of my piano playing fiends every had—to play popular music and make it somewhat recognizable to the listener.

Learning to play guitar seems somewhat similar, but it will need a dedicated regular schedule of lessons and a bit of an investment.  Guitar probably isn’t in my near future.

Drawing, Illustrations, Art?

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My dad’s mother was an artist.  She painted beautiful Michigan forest-scapes generally with a smattering of birch trees.

One day after dinner, I was probably in middle school, she taught me to draw my subject upside-down.  We pulled a Donald Duck rubber magnet off the fridge, turned Donald on his head and she had me replicate it on paper.  The result ended up to be far more accurate than had I drawn it from the correct perspective.

I have since learned that drawing a subject upside-down uses your visual right brain leaving the rational, thinking left brain that keeps telling you “that doesn’t look right” mostly out of the activity.

I need to learn more technical skills to improve my drawing abilities rather than simple practice.  I enjoy doodling, but I think I’ll leave illustrating to trained professionals.

Finding the Right Fit

These are just a couple of choices I considered, choosing two where I would likely have the best chance for success based on my interest level and limited history.  Whatever choice I made would need to fit my style and not be a burden on my other responsibilities and interests.

Although I yearn for another creative activity I feel I already have a lot going on.  If I could learn guitar using headphones, I think I’d pick up the guitar, although I’d prefer to learn acoustic.  I wouldn’t want my family suffer the sounds of my “learning”.

App Development, Coding

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I’m certainly dating myself when I tell you that I learned BASIC programming on my own using a TRS-80.  Then in sixth grade we were taught using Apple II+ and Apple IIe computers.  I still regret not taking more advanced programming courses (do you remember PASCAL and FORTRAN?) when I was in high school.

I’ve always been a math and logic based thinker which is probably why learning to code is so appealing to me.  As with other creative pursuits, I love the idea of creating something tangible from my own idea.  With coding there are loads of resources on-line, and I pretty much already have the software and equipment needed.

With the influx of apps created in basements or dorm rooms, on lunch breaks from work, by friends in bedrooms or a continent away, the flexibility checks another box on my next project evaluation list.

All that remains is coming up with that wonderful, exciting, stupendous idea.  But, isn’t that half the fun?

Choosing Your Next Undertaking

Selecting new skills and abilities to learn can be a tricky task.  In addition to showing an interest, you will need to evaluate whether you can put the time into learning that the new skills deserve.  Weighing your commitments to family, friends and work as well as those you have made to yourself for other pursuits must be done prior to embarking on such a journey.

Sometimes it can be appealing to dive right in, but your success with any new undertaking hinges on whether you can put forth the effort necessary.

I’m all for learning new things to make my own world a more interesting place.  I just want to make sure I’m not cluttering up the place with a bunch of half-baked attempts.

What new skills are you eager to learn?  Do you have any skills you started to learn then pushed them aside?  I’m interested to know what took precedence and whether you think you’ll pick them up again.

Motion: Testing Ideas

As I mentioned in my Friday post, I am working on a Motion project for the senior pet rescue where my wife works and where I volunteer.  I am still drafting the final script, but in the meantime, I am doing some test work in Motion.

A frequent part of the action will be characters moving on and off screen.  I am anticipating simple characters with few animated parts but I want their movement to be more realistic and less “riding on a skateboard” as they move around screen.

To accomplish this I added a wave motion path to my character with a very low amplitude and frequency.  I snapped the alignment of my character to the path keeping the character’s vertical axis perpendicular to the wave path.  This resulted in a subtle rock forward and backward as of the character moved.  The more I rewatch, the more I realize the action needs some tweaking, but overall I’m happy how it turned out so far.  Plus, it should be easy to replicate with slight variations for each new character.

For the idea clouds, I used a particle generator.  Again, I need to do some more tweaking to make the initial flow from the character’s head smoother.  I also want to add a second generator flipping the idea cloud so the trail of small bubbles points left or right depending on which side of the head the cloud emerges.  I’m not sure if I can figure it out, but I’d love to have the clouds pop rather than drift off the top of the screen.

Finally, the final idea cloud follows a motion path before coming to rest in the upper left portion of the screen.  Right now, the path is too long and complex as compared to the particle flow which makes the final cloud immediately stand out form the generated ones.  If I can simplify the flow and path to naturally follow the generated idea clouds, I hope it appear to drift off the expected path as the cloud generator stops.

I have loads more work to create my full vision, so I’ll keep posting more of my tests and any completed sequences as I push forward on this project.

Are you an expert with Motion?  I’d love to hear any tips or ideas you may have that will make this project better.

Journaling – What Your Creativity Needs

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I always thought journaling would be a waste of time. I never understood when I should, could or would want to go back and read prior entries. I resigned myself that journaling longhand would be useless since you would have to have an incredible memory or some intricate method of indexing entries if you ever wanted to find and reread something specific. When I decided to journal it would be on a computer using searchable software.

I am not one who journals daily, going days or even weeks without making an entry, but I have found a love for journaling and this love stems from the complete opposite reasons I listed at the start of this post.

After a while, I realized journaling isn’t about researching past entries. It’s not about finding something specific. Revisiting old entries should be an unplanned journey, albeit one into previously visited territories. These trips back in time can have so many unexpected affects. I’ve reread pieces that have forced me to figure out what the hell I was thinking or feeling at the time. I recalled things that had since slipped my mind. Rereading allowed me to vividly remember the emotions I replicated in words. At times I sparked new ideas for projects where I was stuck or needed a push in the right direction.

When I do write in my journal, the entry kickstarts my creative process. Whether I hit my full 500 word a day goal in an entry or only scribble out a hundred or so words, the act of journaling revs me up enough to continue using my creative juices.

It doesn’t happen for me everyday, but I don’t feel like I need to journal everyday either. Journaling cannot be defined, scheduled, structured. What it can be is useful as an enticement, and a tool for creativity.

Do you journal? What is your journaling goal or process? I’d love to hear more about you in the comments below.