Friday, November 30, 2012

How to Create a Breakthrough in Any Area of Your Life

How to Create a Breakthrough in Any Area of Your Life: Manage Your Strategies, Your Story, and Your State Anthony (Tony) Robbins November 26, 2012 Question: One of the toughest things about chasing the dream is managing the disciplines of persistent action and hopeful patience that are required to ultimately see the vision come to be. This is an area of huge tension. How do dream chasers manage that tension and thrive? Fulfilling your dreams and your ability to thrive in the areas of your life that matter most can be simplified by breakthroughs—a moment in time when the impossible becomes possible. If anyone wants to thrive in any area of their life, they have to reach a point of breakthrough where they will not settle for anything less than extraordinary in that area. Whether someone wants a breakthrough in their: Business Intimate life Emotional well-being Health Finances Career There are only three areas to break through in order to feel lasting success. One breakthrough area is your STRATEGIES. I personally live for finding strategies—those shortcuts that help people get more done in less time. What is it that gets some people to succeed while others fail who seem to have equal enthusiasm or passion for the tasks at hand? They have insights, distinctions, and strategies that allow them to achieve more quickly. For example, take someone who was born very poor, without an education, and had emotional and financial challenges but found a way to be highly successful and living an inspired life. I don’t believe that’s lucky—luck is what you do for a day or a week—strategies are what make it consistently happen for decades. A strategy can be found in the simplest or slightest distinction and it can happen in an instant. As I described above, there are three elements that effect the long-term success or failure of a person and whether they break through or not. For example, there are hundreds or even thousands of strategies out there for losing weight, and frankly most of them are proven to work—if you work them! We’re not hurting for strategies. There are fitness clubs on every street, dieticians, health coaches, training videos, audios, books, etc. Yet 65% of the United States is overweight and 33% is obese, and those numbers are only growing geometrically. I would suggest to you that the problem for most people is not that they don’t have a strategy—it’s that they’re not using a strategy that works for them or acting upon it. Why? Because they have a disempowering STORY. We all have stories—narratives we tell ourselves about why we can or cannot do or achieve something in our lives. Whether we believe we can or can’t, we’re usually right, because our expectation controls our focus, perceptions, and the way in which we feel and act. When a person succeeds it’s because they have the right strategy, and they found it usually because they have a story that it was possible or they could make it happen. Often people are not losing weight because they have a simple story that says, “I’m big boned.” With that as your core belief system you are never going to find a strategy, and even if you do you won’t follow through on it. Your story may be true—you may have been through a horrific experience--but that’s not the reason why you can’t have the life you want. For example, you might have had a bad breakup five years ago, but that’s not the reason you haven’t found the passionate and loving relationship you deserve. A disempowering story is one of the things that controls people and makes them stuck in their beliefs. Most people tell a story in a selective way so they don’t have to ever maximize their effort towards a strategy because they're afraid they will fail. In order to get out of a story you have to be triggered by hunger and desire—if someone wants something strong enough they will break through the story that’s limiting them. Of course, whether you have an empowering story or disempowering one is influenced most powerfully by the mental and emotional STATE you’re in at this moment in time. As human beings we all develop emotional patterns—moods—that are mental or emotional states that tend to filter how we look at our lives. This influences the stories that we make up about who we are, what we’re capable of, or what’s achievable or not. The states we go into most often then become the most powerful filter of all that will determine whether we find the strategies necessary to succeed and whether we come up with a story that will empower us. The big question then becomes, what is it that we can do to change our state of mind when we’re not able to maximize our true potential? One of our greatest scientific discoveries has been that you can change your emotional mood by a radical change in your “physiology.” For people who are experiencing stress at any given moment, a form of relief can be to simply change your physiology—take a couple of deep breaths. Most people only use 20% of their lung capacity taking small short breaths, but 70% of the body’s toxins can actually be released when taking a full breath! By taking the time to fill your lungs and release, you can not only improve your health but also radically decrease the anxiety related to that moment. There are many ways to change your physiology and in our seminars we prove this time after time by taking people who feel depressed and having them make a radical shift. Intuitively we know this can be changed not only by the way we move, but our breath and body temperature as well. The second thing that affects our state is what we focus on. For example, if you’ve been at a funeral honoring someone you cared about and everyone is in a sad state and afterwards someone shares a story or anecdote about something that person did that was extremely humorous, suddenly everyone goes from tears to laughter. In an instant our states can be changed by what we focus on. What’s wrong is always available—but so is what’s right. Whatever we focus on effects our state and our state then effects the story we have about who we are, what’s life about, what’s possible and what’s not. From that story we will often determine whether or not we will maximize our capabilities and the strategies that will help us achieve what we’re truly after in a sustainable way. Learning to put yourself in a peak state consistently is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your life. It can transform your stories and give you the strategies to breakthrough. This is a huge focus that we just don’t tell people but what we train people to do with their minds and bodies in an instant, on cue, so they can shift the quality of their performance. Whether it’s a peak performance athlete like Serena Williams, MMA champion Jon Jones, a president of a company, a parent, or someone in prison—if we’re going to shift our life it comes down to these three fundamentals. Change your strategy, change your result. Change your story, change your life. Change your state—you change it all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The stress of relaxation

November 20, 2012

Dear Sherrie,

Artists go to their studios for a variety of reasons. These can include a desire for wealth and fame, a deep-seated passion for art, a need to communicate ideas, the love of process and play, a sense of societal obligation, the fear of having to take a regular job, prior failures or incompetence in other professions, distaste for conventional work, a feeling of comfort and sanctuary that comes from private creativity, trying to get away from someone or from people in general, a need to explore one's own potential, avoiding domesticity or less-than-challenging pursuits, familial, parental or peer expectations, etc. For many creative folks, the need for garden-variety cash flow may be rather down the list. 

Recent research seems to show that a small but significant subset goes to work because relaxation stresses them out. Apparently some "driven" folks may just have a need to be busy. They have what psychologists are now calling "relaxation-induced anxiety."

I'd appreciate if you didn't mention this to anyone, but I have it. When I was in grade five I gave a show-and-tell called "Bobby's Hobbies" in which I explained my drawing, painting, bird-watching, woodland exploration, collecting of stamps, seashells, beach wood, mechanical gadgets, mushroom spore-prints and broken clocks. I was as busy as a one-armed man using dental floss. Our teacher, Miss Ayliff, a certified joy-denier if there ever was one, told the class, "All work and no play make Bobby a dull boy."

Christina Luberto, head of a current relaxation study at the University of Cincinnati, thinks that the paradoxical increase in anxiety as a result of relaxation is more common than we might think. In her study, individuals were asked to fill out a questionnaire called The Relaxation Sensitivity Index. It turns out that people with high relaxation sensitivity were also high in anxiety.

That was me in grade five--anxious. Relaxing gave me the unpleasant feeling of losing control. In later life I've come to see control as a mixed blessing but also key to generating creativity and finding success.

The Miss Ayliffs of this world have got it quite wrong. As studio proprietors, we learn that work is play. With no boss, no committee and no band of demanding customers in the waiting room, it's a dream of a job. And I'm not sure, but I don't think it makes you dull.

Best regards,


PS: "We wanted to develop a test to examine why certain individuals fear relaxation events or sensations associated with taking a time-out just to relax." (Christina Luberto

Esoterica: In my studies of artists' motivation, I've found that the reasons given are not always the real reasons. Artists need to find and understand the primal truth of their own motivations. The more I look at it, the more I realize that habits do more to form success than perhaps any other factor. If you happen to be one of those artists who regularly avoids lethargy and laying about, you may have been blessed with the habit of work. Don't be anxious about it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

60 NaNoWriMo Writing Tips in a Single Post

NANOWRIMO, WRITER RESOURCES 60 NaNoWriMo Writing Tips in a Single Post By Jason Boog on November 1, 2012 3:42 PM Here's the link so you can click on the tips and read more. Sorry, but it wouldn't come up here. SM National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) launched today as writers around the globe try to write a 50,000-word novel draft in a single month. To help the GalleyCat readers taking this challenge, we will be offering one piece of NaNoWriMo advice every day this month. Last year, NaNoWriMo writers wrote a collective total of 3,073,176,540 words. The writing marathon has generated 90 published novels, according to the organizers. Our first tip is simple: follow our advice from the previous years! Since 2011, we have collected 60 pieces of advice for marathon writers. You can explore all those writing tips below–tune in tomorrow for some fresh advice. 30 National Novel Writing Month Tips from 2011 1. Write in the Cloud 2. ‘Don’t Finish.’ 3. Cliche Finder Stops Cliches Before They Start 4. Take the Fantasy Novelist’s Exam 5. Use a Name Generator 6. Seek Library Write-In Support 7. Consult Role Playing Game Plots 8. Best Pandora Stations for Writing 9. Use the Brainstormer App 10. Dictate Your Novel Draft 11. Use Foursquare for Inspiration 12. ‘Failure Instructs the Writer’ 13: Use the Online Graphical Dictionary 14. Write ‘TK’ for Missing Facts 15. ‘Everyone Has a Certain Amount of Bad Writing to Get Out of Their System’ 16. Use a Plot Diagram Tool 17. Test Your Characters 18. Use the Reverse Dictionary 19. Use Correct Writing Posture 20. Start a Writing Bible 21. ‘It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon’ 22. Use Your Smartphone for Novel Writing & Editing 23. Turn Your Computer Into a Typewriter 24. Use Write or Die for Motivation 25. Relax with a Literary Drink 26. Browse BibliOdyssey for Inspiration 27. World of Warcraft Procrastinator Support 28. Request a Free Book Cover 29. Lulu Titlescorer Tests Your Title 30. Share Your Final Sentence 30 National Novel Writing Month Tips from 2012 1. Read 30 Tips from Last Year 2. Use the Reference Desk 3. Type a Poem 4. Make a Mind Map 5. Reward Yourself 6. Seek Figment Support 7. Download Seven Free Writing eBooks 8. Get a Literary Butt-Kicking 9. Write What You DON’T Know 10. Fight a Word War 11. Write in the Same Place 12. Download the Free Writing Cheatsheet 13. “Obvious to you. Amazing to others.” 14. Listen to Spotify: NaNoWriMo Tip #14 15. Take the Random Cliche Test 16. Consult a Plot Doctor 17. Fix Your Computer Screen Color 18. Join the Typewriter Brigade 19. Fill Out a Character Chart 20. Meet Your Deadline with Kittens 21. Use the Symbolitron 22. Make a Spreadsheet 23. Explore the World with Globe Genie 24. Write with Your Neighbors 25. Try Communal World Building 26. Write by Hand 27. Adopt an Idea 28. Explore the Onomatopoeia Dictionary 29. Swap Your Novel 30. Keep Writing Every Day

Bored to Death Creator Jonathan Ames Gives Screenwriting Tips (Media Beat 2 of 3) Jonathan Ames has penned short stories, newspaper columns, and novels in his 20+ years as a writer and author. In our Media Beat interview, he reveals how he added another title to his resume: screenwriter and executive producer of HBO's Bored to Death, a series based on his own short story about a writer turned private investigator.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How to Tune In to the Voice Within By Martha Beck

How to Tune In to the Voice Within By Martha Beck Following Your Inner Buddy Exercise 1: WWBD? Think of a challenging circumstance or difficult decision you happen to be facing right now—something that's been keeping you up at night. With this situation in mind, write the first answer that comes up when you ask yourself the following questions. Don't overthink the answers. In fact, don't think about the answers at all—just blurt. With regard to your difficult situation... What would calm do now? What would peace do now? What would relaxation do now? (Note: I don't include "What would love do now?" because so many people have such misguided interpretations of love. They think love would sacrifice its own happiness, or throw a tantrum, or hide in an ex-boyfriend's garage wearing nothing but night-vision goggles and a leopard-print thong.) The more often you ask yourself these strange questions, the more open you become to the gentle energy of your own inner wisdom. When you feel your body begin to let go of tension, you know you're headed in a wise direction. And that's what Buddy would do. Exercise 2: Nightmare Board, Wisdom Board Perhaps you've heard of vision boards: collages you assemble from pictures of things that appeal to you. Most of us go through life carrying something similar in our minds—except that instead of pictures that appeal to us, they're crowded with pictures that torment and terrify us. I call these nightmare boards. Your nightmare board, curated, assembled, and prominently displayed by your inner Fang, contains images of everything that frightens and upsets you, including all your most hideously painful experiences. Fang is continuously adding new pictures to the board and lovingly retouching the old ones. Here's a radical assignment: Make your nightmare board real. Glue up some actual images of every frightening thought that haunts you. But don't stop there. When you're finished, you're going to make another board. This new board must contain three or more images that contradict every picture on the nightmare board. For example, if your nightmare board shows a devastating oil spill, your vision board might feature three photographs of people tenderly swabbing oil-coated ducks. For every image of violence, come up with three examples of loving kindness; for every crisis, find three beautiful, ordinary moments of calm. When you're finished, ceremoniously shred, burn, or otherwise trash Fang's nightmare board. Then put your wisdom board where you can see it. Focusing on hope in a world of fear isn't naive. It's the irrational essence of wisdom. Exercise 3: Vocab Rehab Take ten minutes and write a description of your life—stream of consciousness, no self-judgment, no editing. Then go over your description, looking for every word that carries frightening or painful associations. These words have more power than you might think. Studies show that after focusing on words having to do with aging, people walk more slowly; when they see words associated with anger, they're more likely to be rude. This phenomenon is called affective priming, but it works both ways. You can use it to connect with your inner wisdom by changing every stressful word in your self-description to something more freeing, relaxing, or exhilarating. If you wrote "I'm nervous," see whether "I'm excited" may also fit. The word unsure could be replaced by open. As you change your story, Fang's voice will begin to soften, and the peace that comes from your wiser inner voice will begin to arise. Practice Makes Permanent All these exercises can divert your attention from bossy, self-righteous Fang and help you appreciate the brilliance of your inner Buddy. Wisdom will never be the loud, obvious one in this odd couple. It will never shout down its opposition or barge in uninvited. But each time you choose wisdom as your adviser, you come closer to making the choice a way of life. Trust me, that's advice you want to take. Martha Beck is the author of six books, including Steering by Starlight (Rodale). Read more:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Robert Genn on "The Fear of Missing Out"

Managing FOMO September 21, 2012 Dear Sherrie, "Fear of Missing Out," according to psychologists, is pandemic and getting worse. For us creative folks, FOMO is not just a social disorder, it can be a career killer. More prevalent in younger people than older ones, it's that terrible feeling that you're missing out on something that might be better or more fun than what you're doing right now. Since the cellphone revolution, checking and texting can be based on a thin hope that something really wonderful is coming up. In life and art, it can be a false hope that keeps us checking. And it's not just technology. Artists regularly move to the Big Apple hoping to take a Big Bite. With so much going on--openings and exhibitions every night, MOMA, Guggenheim, etc., to say nothing of the theatre scene--there's little time for work. Many artists function better in dull places like Sedro-Woolley, WA. Addictive FOMO is a malaise that strikes close to home and particularly in the studio. If you think you've caught it, here are a few thoughts and findings: Temptation preys on our extroverted nature and our optimistic outlook. Introverts and pessimists tend to be less troubled by it. To be truly productive, creative folks need to withdraw to privacy and self-sufficiency. In a beloved art-cave, work can triumph over outside distractions. In other words, the artist needs to look eagerly toward a satisfactory outcome of work-in-progress. Even quasi-satisfactory outcomes are superior to being stuck in traffic or watching pole dancers in a noisy cabaret. One's art needs to be personally elevated and seen as its own reward. When this happens, a marching band out the window cannot budge you from your self-appointed rounds. Luckily, as we get older, we tend to be more settled and less likely to have our heads turned. The golden years can be highly productive. But we're all on the horns of a dilemma--connectivity and temptation are here to stay. FOMO researcher Sherry Turkle says, "Our current relationship with technology fosters immaturity." It's been my observation that the greatest generator of quality work rests within the development of personal character. Some of us need to grow up. Best regards, Robert PS: "We just don't know until we check." (John M. Grohol, PsyD) Esoterica: Here's a compromise system that accepts the current situation and goes a long way toward managing addictive FOMO. Not wanting to miss out what's going on in the world, you might try one of those tiny clip-on battery radios with earphones. As you move around your work area and beyond, the passive info goes with you. (I'm currently using the marvelously informative programs on CBC AM, 690 kHz, also available on satellite.) While it might sound like giving in to the devil, it's a good example of 21st Century mind expansion and multi-tracking that, while not diminishing creative focus, simply and effectively retards the temptation to step out the door and join the band.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A strange situation by Robert Genn

A strange situation September 14, 2012 Dear Sherrie, Recently, Patricia Godvin of Bozeman, Montana wrote, "As an artist who works with the nude figure, I find so little quality dialogue or artists' exchange of ideas concerning this subject. I would love you to stimulate some discussion on working with the unclothed figure." Thanks, Patricia. Have you ever noticed that paintings of nudes come and go in popularity? In the galleries I work with, there are currently very few. Back in art school the nude was de riguer and I actually thought I was getting the hang of it. In those days, most of our models were women. Perhaps the current decline is because the idea of "woman as object" is not as popular as it once was. I recently passed by a classroom full of women furiously drawing a nude guy. It seemed a comment on our times and a subject for a New Yorker cartoon. Fact is, the unclothed figure, male or female, is an education in waiting. Above spheres, cones and blocks, the human figure is key to understanding light and form. Michelangelo went so far as to say, "One who does not master the nude cannot understand the principles of architecture." Student artists neglect figurative work at their peril. Painting or drawing nudes with facility was a rite of passage for past members of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood. Fortunately, underground vestiges of the cult still exist. "The naked form," said Auguste Rodin, "belongs to no particular moment in history; it is eternal, and can be looked upon with joy by the people in all ages." Well, maybe not by all people in all ages. Whole cultures are currently trying to get more and more folks to cover up. Is the world turning once again toward some sort of Puritan modesty, equating skin with prurience and sin? Might this be partly because of recent Western art trends depicting naked depravity? Was, as some critics think, Toulouse Lautrec the naughty one who set the orgy in motion? Perhaps we might, within the anatomy of our imaginations, think once more of the naked body as a vessel of grace, taste and wonder. In the spotted history of art, stranger things have happened. Best regards, Robert PS: "The body always expresses the spirit whose envelope it is. And for him who can see, the nude offers the richest meaning." (Auguste Rodin) Esoterica: Our bodies, apart from their brilliant role as drawing exercises, are the temples of our being. Like the bodies of all fauna, they deserve both our study and our appreciation. Few there are who object to a naked dog, cat, horse or parakeet. The Society for the Encouragement of Modesty in Animals (SEMA) attracted only 72 members before its website went blank. I once considered a program to put shorts on dogs, but Dorothy rejected the garment and made an unpleasant fuss. There's something natural about au naturel. But when, for art's sake, will au naturel make its next comeback? "What is the body? That shadow of a shadow of your love that somehow contains the entire universe." (Rumi)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Procrastination Can Be A Good Thing

Managing delay July 24, 2012 Dear Sherrie, Frank Partnoy in his book, Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, tells us that procrastination is a winning formula. The idea that procrastination is evil came along with the Protestant work ethic and the Puritanical era, he claims, while most of the greats in ancient times sat around delaying decisions until they became obvious. Wise folks throughout history have waited until the last second, he says. As artists, perhaps we can take some wisdom from this. The art-vetting process: Delay tactics around the secondary easel--the place where finished works are gathered and contemplated. If you're like me, with more than a dozen galleries handling your work, there's fair pressure to deliver. I've learned to be absolutely positive about the quality before shipping. Many a time a major boo-boo is picked off the FedEx truck just in the nick of time. Further, collectors are known to hold onto works for generations, while we creators look at our work for relative nanoseconds. We need to look well and hard right up to the last minute. It's also good to delay the commercial decision as to which works to send where. Many artists take into consideration geography, personality, and buyer sentiment. Fitting specific art to specific agents can be an art in itself. Creative delay is when you look at your work-in-progress and are unable to decide what to do next. While audacity and "seizing the day" can be valuable, also acknowledge times for prolonged reflection and consideration. During this delay the mind subconsciously continues to sort options and devise ploys. A few hours--or days or weeks--can be needed to disclose a solution. The beauty of delay is that solutions are often simpler than you originally thought, making it possible for direct and cursive flourishes that often triumph over unsure noodling. What to do with yourself while being delayed by others: I've found it particularly valuable to go prepared with basic materials. Ferry lineups, airport delays and the annoyance of dawdling companions can be turned into creative bonanzas. "An inconvenience," said Confucius, "is an unrecognized opportunity." Car-based canvases languish in the trunk calling, "Choose me, choose me." It's also one of the great principles of life: Keep busy while you're waiting for something to happen. Keeping busy is not something you want to delay. Best regards, Robert PS: "Wait for the last possible moment to make a decision." (Frank Partnoy) Esoterica: Delay is one of the great negotiating techniques. The controller waits patiently until his adversary has shown all his cards. If you, as the artist, are controller, then your work of art might be the adversary. "Let the painting tell you what it needs," says Charles Reid. Unfortunately, most of us find that sometimes a work is not always ready to let you know what it needs, and you must postpone. This waiting game can be one of the great joys--when the work finally speaks, it often does so loudly and clearly and in a way that is both beautiful and motivational.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Find Your True Calling

The Oprah Challenge: 3 Questions That Will Help You Find Your True Calling By Oprah Winfrey I think of them as sweet spots. They're the moments when we're immersed in the things we were put on Earth to do, the things that tap into our strongest strengths and deepest loves, the things that let us be the most "us" we possibly can, the things we are called to do. Over the years, after talking to countless people who have found their calling, I've come to realize there are three things you can ask yourself to begin to figure out if you're being true to yours. 1. How does what you're doing make you feel? When you're honoring your calling, there's an undeniable sense of stimulation and exhilaration. It feels like you're giving and getting "juice" from the experience. It just feels so right. What stands out for me when I consider this question are all the years I spent as an anxious news reporter/anchorwoman. And then came the day I cohosted my first show on People Are Talking in Baltimore, and it instantly felt like I'd come home to myself. Not because the conversation was especially earth-shattering or enlightening—the first guest was the Carvel ice cream man, discoursing on his flavors—but because of the feeling that at last I was where I was meant to be. 2. Does it have a positive impact on others? Anything that makes you feel strong, connected, and aligned with your truth does the same when shared—whether it's making pie or choreographing a dance or counseling a friend. Nothing that really calls you is ever for you alone. 3. Does it turn up the volume and increase the vibration of your life? Whenever you're engaged in the business of who you're meant to be, you're more awake, alive, and ready to play a vital part in your world. When others see your light shining, they'll be inspired to shine theirs, too. Whatever you’re doing right now, stop and ask yourself these three questions. And don’t worry if you can’t yet answer yes. Our 4-step fulfillment workbook will help you get there! Read more:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Painter's high by Robert Genn

Painter's high April 20, 2012 Dear Sherrie, Recent studies of "runner's high"--the well-known euphoria that kicks in when humans run or jog--seem to show an evolutionary base. Apparently humans have traditionally enjoyed running for its own sake--even when avoiding predators or going after game. Humans rate a 2.6 on what the researchers call the "endocannabinoid" (sort of like endorphins) scale. We humans were beaten by some other "cursorial animals" (those who chase things), particularly dogs, who rate 3.3. Dogs, as we all know, love to run, particularly in large areas like beaches. Some of the tested animals, like ferrets, rated zero. They feel good when they are hiding and sleeping. Wondering whether there might be an evolutionary base to the kind of high we sometimes get from painting, I consulted six painter friends. Five said they definitely got it when they painted. The other one said he became depressed because he was always progressively disappointed. He said he felt rather like hiding and sleeping. Interesting. One fellow, a much-in-demand demo-doer, said he got the biggest charge "from painting a good one in front of a lot of people." Several painters followed up on the exhibitionism angle. We discussed the business of demonstrating prowess, particularly to members of the opposite gender. "It's a survival thing," said one. "For those of us who are not very good at running, our demonstrated creativity makes us desirable." I made a note of that. This last thought brought up the problem of painting in a vacuum. How do we show off our prowess if no one watches us or sees the stuff we make? "It's a fall back to our atavistic self," said another. "We get satisfaction from our art whether anyone sees it or not." This certainly sounds like a built-in instinct that we can't do much about. Another artist, an elderly one, said it has to do with the fear of death. "Throughout history, man has tried to dodge death's door," she said. "Many religions are built around this principle. Apart from the immortality we get through our children, art is a reliable means of leaving something of ourselves behind. Defying death gives us a giddy high." I was doing my survey on the telephone while painting. I was thinking about cave art as an early manifestation of individual expression and how we're all just an extension of this evolving impulse. When we paint, we say, "Me, me, me." Feels good, doesn't it? Best regards, Robert PS: "Art is man's distinctly human way of fighting death." (Leonard Baskin) Esoterica: University of Arizona anthropologist David Raichlin, one of the researchers in the running study, noted that "Inactive people may not be fit enough to hit the exercise intensity that leads to the neurobiological reward." This finding might lead us to conclude that it takes a fair degree of proficiency to get a "high" out of painting. I'm not so sure about this. Many amateurs and incompetents seem to get their thrills, too. Maybe evolution is dictating that art is a democratic turn-on where all comers have an equal opportunity to get "blissed out." I'd like to extend my study. What do you think? Current Clickback: "No fish today?" looks at finding inspiration by working. Your comments will be appreciated. Read this letter online and tell us about your euphoric painting episodes. Live comments are welcome. Direct, illustratable comments can be made at

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rebecca Berta "Why You Need to Know Fairy Tales"

Cheat from my homework: Why you need to know fairy tales
March 5, 2012

Put your hands up if your parent or guardian never read you fairy tales as a child. No one? Okay, how many of you remember the morals to the stories? I promise these answers are really easy:

Little Red Riding Hood courtesy of Wikipedia

Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH): Be careful when visiting people’s houses and don’t trust a stranger.

Rumpelstiltskin (R): Don’t be greedy.

The Three Little Pigs (TTLP): Do hard work and it will pay off–do it right and it will last.

Have you considered how other details are pertinent to a writer’s knowledge-bank as a modern storyteller? The “cheat from my homework” part comes into this post because fairy tales was the topic of my class today. It was after I had an uh-ha! moment that the class’ message began to click into place.

Since numbers make up a large part of symbolism in fairy tales, when the teacher was talking about symbols, themes, etc, I thought this:

What if the three-act-structure evolved from fairy tales?

This may or may not be so; however, legions of advice has been published about fairy tales and their meanings so what I wanted to hone in on are two aspects which were brought up in class.

1. Recurrent themes (today’s post)
2. Recurrent motifs (future post)

I’m going to run through various themes that are common amongst many fairy tales. As you read through the list, remember each story, notice how they give a different spin on each theme, and how this applies to us as storytellers today.

* Quest – LRRH: A little girl is travelling to visit her sick grandmother; TTLP: sent out by their mother to “seek their fortune”.
* (includes breaking) Law – Cinderella: must be home by midnight (Cinderella knew she had to be home by midnight according to her fairy godmother’s rules); LRRH: The girl’s mother told her to go straight to her grandmother’s place (breaking the law/promise: instead, she stopped to pick flowers and this is how the wolf caused her trouble).
* Death of a parent – Cinderella: Cinderella is an orphan; Snow White: Snow White’s mother, the original queen, dies almost as soon as her daughter is born.

Here are others, which I’m sure you will recall the fairy tales where they occur in:

* Love
* Dungeon/Tower
* Birth
* Separation
* Adolescence
* Injustice

You know what I’m going to say next, don’t you? As I wrote this post, I realised that my favourite series is all the above!

Wait for it (if you haven’t guessed) …

The main trio in the first film and the final installment

The Harry Potter series

As I did above, here’s the list relative to the Harry Potter series. (Note that the ending of the series featured fairy tales directly, via the Brothers Grimm fairy stories, which tied up the point of the series!)

* Quest – Harry Potter and his friends must find a way to kill Lord Voldemort without Harry dying too.
* (breaking) Law – Harry constantly breaks the school rules (usually ends up costing him 50 points for Gryffindor at a time) to save the day.
* Death of a parent – Pretty much self-explanatory. Harry’s parents are killed–not just at any time, but when he is a baby (similar to the way it happens in fairy stories).
* Dungeon/Tower – Moaning Myrtle in the girls bathroom, Sirius in Azkaban, basically the whole darn Hogwarts is a dungeon trapping them in sometimes.
* Adolescence – We, the readers, watch as Harry and his friends grow from little children to the adult age in wizardry.
* Injustice – Throughout books one to six, Professor Severus Snape is overly mean to Harry no matter what he does, for no solid, known reason to the reader.

And it goes on!

Now: HANDS UP if Harry Potter has influenced you as a writer or as a person significantly more than any other book you’ve read.

Harry Potter isn’t just a success because of the amazing trio (Harry, Hermione and Ron), or that children can overpower strong and magical adults, or that the trio go on cool adventures. The moral/message/themes/motifs/etc in Harry Potter are so powerful because they share commonalities with fairy tales.

Fairy tales have been told for centuries because they teach messages to children that help them grow into better people — and they tell it so easy to understand in an effective way through story.

Harry Potter is still one of the most popular series (and I expect will be in centuries to come too) fifteen years after it was first published because it teaches us more about life, people, morals, etc. Understanding and expanding your knowledge of fairy tales will help you develop your storytelling skills too.

Remember to stick around because I’ll be following up this post with another one on “Motif”.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Plot Whisperer for Writers and Readers: Backstory into Front Story

Plot Whisperer for Writers and Readers: Backstory into Front Story: The front story is determined by the characters’ goals and beliefs and traits . Behind the front story of each character is a unique world ...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

25 Insights on Becoming a Better Writer

25 Insights on Becoming a Better Writer
by Jocelyn K. Glei

When George Plimpton asked Ernest Hemingway what the best training for an aspiring writer would be in a 1954 interview, Hem replied, "Let’s say that he should go out and hang himself because he finds that writing well is impossibly difficult. Then he should be cut down without mercy and forced by his own self to write as well as he can for the rest of his life. At least he will have the story of the hanging to commence with."Today, writing well is more important than ever. Far from being the province of a select few as it was in Hemingway’s day, writing is a daily occupation for all of us -- in email, on blogs, and through social media. It is also a primary means for documenting, communicating, and refining our ideas. As essayist, programmer, and investor Paul Graham has written, "Writing doesn't just communicate ideas; it generates them. If you're bad at writing and don't like to do it, you'll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated."

So what can we do to improve our writing short of hanging ourselves? Below, find 25 snippets of insight from some exceptional authors. While they are all focused on the craft of writing, most of these tips pertain to pushing forward creative projects of any kind.

1. PD James: On just sitting down and doing it…

Don't just plan to write—write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.
2. Steven Pressfield: On starting before you're ready…

[The] Resistance knows that the longer we noodle around "getting ready," the more time and opportunity we'll have to sabotage ourselves. Resistance loves it when we hesitate, when we over-prepare. The answer: plunge in.
3. Esther Freud: On finding your routine...

Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don't let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won't matter to you that the kitchen is a mess.
4. Zadie Smith: On unplugging...

Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.
5. Kurt Vonnegut: On finding a subject...

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way -- although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.
6. Maryn McKenna: On keeping your thoughts organized...

Find an organizational scheme for your notes and materials; keep up with it (if you are transcribing sound files or notebooks, don’t let yourself fall behind); and be faithful to it: Don’t obsess over an apparently better scheme that someone else has. At some point during your work, someone will release what looks like a brilliant piece of software that will solve all your problems. Resist the urge to try it out, whatever it is, unless 1) it is endorsed by people whose working methods you already know to be like your own and 2) you know you can implement it quickly and easily without a lot of backfilling. Reworking organizational schemes is incredibly seductive and a massive timesuck.
7. Bill Wasik: On the importance of having an outline...

Hone your outline and then cling to it as a lifeline. You can adjust it in mid-stream, but don’t try to just write your way into a better structure: think about the right structure and then write to it. Your outline will get you through those periods when you can’t possibly imagine ever finishing the damn thing — at those times, your outline will let you see it as a sequence of manageable 1,000 word sections.
8. Joshua Wolf Shenk: On getting through that first draft...

Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of "Lincoln's Melancholy" I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly.
9. Sarah Waters: On being disciplined...

Treat writing as a job. Be disciplined. Lots of writers get a bit OCD-ish about this. Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words a day. Jean Plaidy managed 5,000 before lunch, then spent the afternoon answering fan mail. My minimum is 1,000 words a day – which is sometimes easy to achieve, and is sometimes, frankly, like shitting a brick, but I will make myself stay at my desk until I've got there, because I know that by doing that I am inching the book forward. Those 1,000 words might well be rubbish – they often are. But then, it is always easier to return to rubbish words at a later date and make them better.
10. Jennifer Egan: On being willing to write badly...

[Be] willing to write really badly. It won't hurt you to do that. I think there is this fear of writing badly, something primal about it, like: "This bad stuff is coming out of me…" Forget it! Let it float away and the good stuff follows. For me, the bad beginning is just something to build on. It's no big deal. You have to give yourself permission to do that because you can't expect to write regularly and always write well. That's when people get into the habit of waiting for the good moments, and that is where I think writer's block comes from. Like: It's not happening. Well, maybe good writing isn't happening, but let some bad writing happen... When I was writing "The Keep," my writing was so terrible. It was God-awful. My working title for that first draft was, A Short Bad Novel. I thought: "How can I disappoint?"
11. AL Kennedy: On fear...

Be without fear. This is impossible, but let the small fears drive your rewriting and set aside the large ones until they behave – then use them, maybe even write them. Too much fear and all you'll get is silence.
12. Will Self: On not looking back...

Don't look back until you've written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the preceeding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in... The edit.
13. Haruki Murakami: On building up your ability to concentrate...

In private correspondence the great mystery writer Raymond Chandler once confessed that even if he didn’t write anything, he made sure he sat down at his desk every single day and concentrated. I understand the purpose behind his doing this. This is the way Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower. This sort of daily training was indispensable to him.
14. Geoff Dyer: On the power of multiple projects...

Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it's a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It's only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I'm bunking off from something.
15. Augusten Burroughs: On who to hang out with…

Don’t hang around with people who are negative and who are not supportive of your writing. Make friends with writers so that you have a community. Hopefully, your community of writer friends will be good and they’ll give you good feedback and good criticism on your writing but really the best way to be a writer is to be a writer.
16. Neil Gaiman: On feedback...

When people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
17. Margaret Atwood: On second readers...

You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You've been backstage. You've seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.
18. Richard Ford: On others' fame and success...

Try to think of others' good luck as encouragement to yourself.
19. Helen Dunmore: On when to stop...

Finish the day's writing when you still want to continue.
20. Hilary Mantel: On getting stuck...

If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem. But don't make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people's words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.
21. Annie Dillard: On things getting out of control...

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight... it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, ‘Simba!’
22. Cory Doctorow: On writing when the going gets tough...

Write even when the world is chaotic. You don’t need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair, or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes and a writing implement.
23. Chinua Achebe: On doing all that you can…

I believe myself that a good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it. Just think of the work you’ve set yourself to do, and do it as well as you can. Once you have really done all you can, then you can show it to people. But I find this is increasingly not the case with the younger people. They do a first draft and want somebody to finish it off for them with good advice. So I just maneuver myself out of this. I say, Keep at it. I grew up recognizing that there was nobody to give me any advice and that you do your best and if it’s not good enough, someday you will come to terms with that.
24. Joyce Carol Oates: On persevering...

I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes... and somehow the activity of writing changes everything. Or appears to do so.
25. Anne Enright: On why none of this advice really matters...

The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.
How About You?

What great writing tips have helped you change your ways?

Monday, February 27, 2012


Monday, February 20, 2012

Walk Briskly And Carry A Big Pen from Robert Genn

Trust your steps

February 21, 2012

Dear Sherrie,

Walking briskly, pushing the blood to your extremities, alone and with minimal distraction along the path, concentrating the mind on the thighs' movements, you trigger imagination and focus. In other words, brisk walking is a form of creative meditation. You need a notebook to scrawl the thoughts as they come. After the walk, you need to reassess your scrawls. I like to clarify them in my laptop. I put my really stupid thoughts into trash, but I don't delete them.

The ability to focus is challenged in our society--not just with the nerve-jangled adults but also with the new batch of kids. Richard Davidson, a psychologist known for his behavioral research with Rhesus monkeys and studies in meditation with the Dali Lama, has made some interesting discoveries. Children (some of them with learning disorders) were invited to lie on their backs with a pebble placed on their tummies. While deep breathing, they were to focus on the pebble going up and down. After this exercise and for a period of time, they enthusiastically concentrated on schoolwork and other tasks.

I haven't tried watching pebbles going up and down on my tummy, but I sometimes look down at the movement of my feet while walking. It induces a lovely trance. I don't recommend doing it in traffic.

Brisk walking removes dark clouds, refreshes the artistic mind, encourages the interbreeding of thoughts, and plucks new ideas out of the blue. Walking itself is a time-honoured path to spirituality (think Camino de Santiago across northern Spain). There can be no doubt walking stimulates the imagination. Walking is a readily available antidote to a sedentary life. Different artists get different results. Mine are all over the place. Here are a few purged from my laptop: "The same object seen from two sides." "A work of art dependent on gradation alone." "Teaching art by not talking, just showing." "A way of temporarily gassing fanatics so they just lay down their arms and become nice." "Encouraging autonomy in others by being autonomous yourself." "A better way to fix that sky."

With the brisk walk, you make up your mind. It's as if someone is walking along with you, helping you with your thinking. No matter how long the walk, the best stuff comes during the second half. You may find the last minute is spent running to the studio.

Best regards,


PS: "She was wrapped up and sold, coming home from an old fashioned walk." (Irving Berlin)

Esoterica: Dr. Davidson thinks happiness, compassion and a sense of well-being are simply skills learned in the same way a person might learn the violin, tennis or painting. Time and practice are necessary. Apparently, the brain is built to change in response to training and the use of ploys. Whether you are a Rhesus monkey or a student in third year industrial design, focus is key. There are many ways to improve focus. Trusting your steps is just one of them. The system is just outside your door, and it's free.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Five skills worth learning by Robert Genn

Five skills worth learning

February 14, 2012

Dear Sherrie,

Drawing mastery is understanding our world and understanding relationships. Contrary to popular belief, drawing doesn't mean trailing a line around things--it means seeing and reporting the relative distances between things. Drawing is a non-literary way of looking--and the skill to put down what you see in a two-dimensional way. Drawing mastery takes time and patience.

Colour mastery involves knowing the properties of pigments, both in theory and as chemicals that have certain effects on one another when juxtaposed or mixed. Colour mixes that call for opposites on the colour wheel (complementary), as well as nearby on the colour wheel (analogous), or even so closely related as to appear to be one colour (monochromatic), make for lively and sophisticated effects. Colour mastery takes time and patience.

Abstract understanding doesn't mean arbitrary sloshing and messing. Abstract art is controlled visual magic based on laws and methodology. Abstraction generally involves implication, suggestion and mystery rather that obvious description. Like a good poem, a good abstraction attacks your feelings before your understanding. Abstraction within realism adds zest and excitement to otherwise dull subject matter. Abstract understanding takes time and patience.

Compositional mastery is a variety of traditional rules that beg to be broken. That's why composition is the queen of the skills. With composition you learn to control and play with the eye and move it within the picture plane. Composition includes the golden mean, the rule of thirds, big and small, dark and light, activation, circulation, focus, pattern, stoppage and a pile of other ploys, many of them developed by you and unique to yourself. Compositional mastery also means the avoidance of lineups, homeostasis, and a jungle road of potholes too tedious and disheartening to include in a 500-word letter. Learn to compose intelligently in your own vocabulary and you can get away with murder. Compositional mastery takes time and patience.

Emotional evolution means combining basic skills--such as the above--so that a unique voice and engagement occur. Finding yourunique voice may not be everything, but it's way ahead of whatever comes next. Emotional evolution takes time and patience.

Best regards,


PS: "Skills aren't enough on their own. Emotion has to come through. But when you've got the various skills sewn up, that's one thing you don't have to worry about." (Zoe Benbow)

Esoterica: You can choose to make unskilled art if you wish. Unskilled art has its allure. The mere act of moving paint around can produce joy. Knowing little or nothing in the "how to" department and failing to inquire about it can probably make some people happy and may even be good for the soul. But if you persist in this direction, your unskilled work will be like that of so many others--and you will begin to bore yourself. On the other hand, the skills I suggest are worth learning for their own sake--and they will stand you well no matter what you try to do. They are hard won. We value most what is hard won--and so do many others. Skills worth learning take time and patience.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Robert Genn on "What turns you on?"

What turns you on?

February 7, 2012

Dear Sherrie,

The business guru Peter Drucker admitted motivation was a sticky wicket. "We know nothing about it," he said. "All we can do is write books about it." Our own Resource of Art Quotations holds a huge variety of angles on the subject. Picasso, for example, felt it oozed from the world around us because of the variety of material at our disposal. He also felt it had something to do with "the passion we get from women."

I wonder where that leaves the women. Do they get it from men?

Cicero thought motivation was all about obtaining praise. Others suggest the big thing is desire, and I agree, but nobody seems to be able to properly define what desire actually is. Some cynical ones figure motivation is all to do with fear, poverty, hunger and pain. Ouch.

Fact is, when our lives are free of clutter and we're "rolling pure," the stuff that turns us on is found as easily as shells along a tropical beach. But there's more to it than that. We follow our particular noses. Some are in it for sentiments, others as salve for their "inner selves." Still others feel the need to dig deeply for universal meanings.

Flawed though I may be, I've always trusted our universe. In the art department I'm looking for complexity, pattern, design, and just ordinary wonderful stuff to get the brush around. It seems to me that if deeper meanings are to be had, they'll somehow find a way to the end of the brush.

This naivety is not unique. It starts with what can only be called "love." Maybe that's where the women come in. Whatever, it's a growing love affair with a desirable and particular thing, often privately discovered and often from our youth. Specificity drives desire. Take, for example, the passion of many wildlife painters and illustrators of nature. Something to do with honouring--it's a high emotion that daily brings out the pencils and brushes.

Best regards,


PS: "Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly." (Stephen R. Covey)

Esoterica: Give yourself permission to fall in love and you'll partake in the miracle. Life may not be fully understood, but art is one way we can try. Drawing, for example, is a flashlight on the path to comprehension. Trying to master colour is to flirt with the gods. Composition makes us one of them. It's quite a turn-on.

But we artists needn't suffer the delusion that we're the only ones turned on. This morning I had a haircut and a beard trim in a beauty salon in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Accompanied by her own humming and singing, Murielle took her time and did a truly masterful job using only scissors, comb and a straight razor. Proud as rum punch, she kept admiring the two of us in the mirror. "My goodness I love cuttin' your hair, Mr. Bob," she said. "Come back tomorrow 'cause I need bad to dye it black." I'm thinking about it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

7 Ways to Spark Your Creativity

7 Ways to Spark Your Creativity
Instant inspiration, courtesy of designer Anna Rabinowicz
From the February 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
Anna Rabinowicz
Photo: William Abronowicz

1. Read Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis
A rabbit sits in a cardboard box and uses his imagination to transform it into a racecar, a mountain, a robot. The lesson? "Anything can be anything," Anna says.

2. Go outside
Nature informs most of Anna's designs: "A pinecone, a caterpillar, some gnarled gourds from a pumpkin patch—the natural world is full of bizarre, beautiful stuff."

3. Start a collection
Curating your own little exhibit of similar objects makes you more attuned to what's special about each one. "Try to figure out why the designers made the choices they did, and you'll get a peek into their creative process," Anna says. "I collect toothbrushes. They have to do something very specific—and it's not a very exciting something—but their simplicity is an opportunity for imaginative design."

4. Touch stuff
Everywhere Anna goes, she picks up objects she sees. "I get acquainted with a thing's thing-ness. I experience it with my hands, not just my eyes."

5. Travel solo
"Once in a while, go somewhere alone," says Anna. "It's much easier to experience everything around you and to cover lots of ground. I decided to be a designer at the top of the Antoni Gaudí cathedral in Barcelona, because I was so moved by the architecture." But you don't necessarily have to cross an ocean. "You can get inspired by traveling practically anywhere, as long as you're open to what you see."

6. Go analog
"Don't check your e-mail when you're creating," Anna says. "Nothing earth-shattering is going to happen in an hour or two."

7. Grab every opportunity
Hosting a group of friends? Make party favors. Received a gift? Write a handwritten note. "If you're having dinner at home tonight," Anna says, "why not make something you never made before?"

Unleash Your Creativity

* A day in the life of a creative renaissance woman
* You don't need to be an artist to have imagination
* Where do poets get their inspiration?

Read more:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

6 Procrastination Busters

6 Procrastination Busters
January 26, 2012
By LJ Innes
Tips to Get Moving On

The one thing a perfectionist and a lazy person have in common is procrastination. The perfectionist always wants to do it perfectly or not at all, and the lazy person just keeps putting things off. Believe it or not, both types of thinking can lead to procrastination which can eventually lead to feelings of being over-burdened, overwhelmed and even agitated.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” By putting things off, you may be buying time in the present, but it may leave you scrambling later when more things pop up.

Here are six procrastination busters that will get you moving when you need to so you can relax when you want to.

1. Do just one thing. Procrastination can give you that anxious feeling, that leaves you staring at your “to do” list like a deer in headlights. Do just one thing on that list, even if it’s the smallest, quickest, most inconsequential thing on it. Crossing it off the list will give you that empowering rush of accomplishment, making you want to do more.
“It’s all about distraction.” – Shyla ext. 5431

2. Skip the commercials. You may reward a hard day at work with a trip to the couch to catch up on all the latest TV has to offer, but what about those commercials? Use commercial time to empty the dishwasher, take out the garbage or throw a load of laundry in the washer. When your show resumes, you can plop yourself down again and relax, and you’re still getting stuff done.

3. Reward yourself. You and that chocolate chip cookie have been flirting with each other for hours. Bargain with yourself that you can eat that cookie, but only after you clean out your closet and box up some clothes for a local charity. After that, it’s all about you and the cookie. Enjoy.

4. Turn up the tunes. As Madonna would say, “Dance and sing, everybody get up and do your thing.” Put on some loud music, something with a little kick to it that makes you move. No one has to know you danced with a vacuum. Two for one bonus: In a short 20 minutes, you can cross vacuuming and cardio workout off of that to do list.

5. Imaginary company. Pretend your new boyfriend just called from his car, down the street, and he’s got a friend with him. You’d be surprised what a motivator imaginary company can be. Plus, if real company shows up unexpectedly, you’re prepared.
“Guilt is living in the past, anxiety is living in the future; live in the present.” – Blythe ext. 5339

6. Clear your head. Moving at a snail’s pace? Can’t get motivated? When procrastination settles in, just go outside and take a short walk or drive, breathe in fresh air. Doing something as simple as getting out of your own head for a while can beat down that procrastination monster. Wipe the slate clean, and see all of your obligations in their true perspective and priority.

Whether at work or at home, it’s worth it to try one or all of these 6 suggestions. Nothing feels better than getting things done.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Robert Genn talks about the importance of journaling

My little black book

January 6, 2012

Dear Sherrie,

Like many artists, I've gone through periods of writing down fleeting thoughts in a little journal. Some of the entries are pretty personal--which I'll tell you about later.

Right now we have a worldwide viral epidemic of "gratitude journaling." This is where folks put down a few nice things that happened during the day. A lot of the good stuff takes place under the covers at bedtime, and is not meant to be shared. As my daughter Sara says, "It's not a journal, it's a brain exercise." Fact is, there's considerable evidence it makes us into better people, maybe better artists.

Sara just closed out last year's Moleskine and started this year's. The Italian company that makes these beautiful books with ribbon bookmarks, elastic closures and acid free paper follows a tradition started in Paris about 1850 by a small stationery company that allegedly supplied Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, and Henri Matisse. The celebrated Australian traveller and Songlines author Bruce Chatwin used the little books so voraciously that in 1986 he bought up all copies then available.

These books are more than journals. They're a way of life--key, says the Moleskine promo, to "culture, imagination, memory, travel and personal identity."

Understanding that we become what we think, advanced Moleskiners avoid three main negatives--nostalgic regret, adherence to outcome, and fearful anticipation. These sorts of thoughts, common to all humanity, are banned from the tiny pages. Proper Moleskiners stick to a positive, optimistic outlook.

I find mentioning things that no one else must know about, even if I have to erase it right after, to be particularly valuable. For example, last night I wrote, "Three square inches in the lower left centre of that 11" x 14" are rather excellent." But I wouldn't want this sort of flagrant boasting to get around. Keep it under your bonnet, eh? And even though I erased it right after, I wouldn't want my journal and all that positive erased info getting into the wrong hands.

Best regards,


PS: "To lose a passport was the least of one's worries. To lose a Moleskine notebook was a catastrophe." (Bruce Chatwin)

Esoterica: Painter Nicoletta Baumeister uses her journal for another purpose: "A poem, haiku or a small drawing at night has the effect of driving all other thoughts away. The narrowed focus and purity of intent creates a sense of calm after a day of supersaturated activity. It also affords feelings of satisfaction, job well done, if only in the tiniest work, so that I slip seamlessly into excellent sleep. Too many people out there have insomnia!" Baumeister does it again in the morning: "Gratefulness thoughts in the morning light are about the setting of the daily lens. What will we take in, what will we seek and what is today's sense of self? Feeling grateful puts my feet on solid ground, able to work out the next step; whereas, asking what I don't have sets my day on a frantic course."

Go here to see more of Genn's posts:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A gift of words from SFWC Director and Founder Michael Larsen

Now a gift of words from SFWC Director and Founder Michael Larsen...

A Holiday Wish List for Perfect Days
If your days were perfect, what would they be like? They might include

* waking in early morning light next to your beloved, passionate about pursuing your missions
* living as if every day were your last
* spending time with a family that is a source of love, renewal, encouragement, and wisdom
* having a home filled with love, light, color, art, books, and music that enlightens, entertains, and inspires everyone who enters it
* sharing simple, varied, beautiful, colorful, delicious, nutritious locally produced food
* filling the day with challenges that inspire your creativity
* loving what you do so much you don't notice the time
* learning about what excites you and you need to know
* striving to improve whatever you do
* seeing the value of people, information, and experiences to give them the attention they deserve
* staying informed about what's important
* transforming anger about problems into action
* laughing and making others laugh
* balancing desire and necessity; thought and feeling; serving others and yourself; screen time and the rest of your life; work, home, and leisure; planning, flexibility, and spontaneity
* putting short-term goals in the service of long-term achievements with enduring value
* having patience with yourself, others, and life's problems and obstacles
* being debt-free, meeting your obligations, and saving for the future you've planned
* exercising your mind and body
* renewing your sense of wonder at the beauty and grandeur of nature
* understanding your significance in 100 billion galaxies
* having a spiritual practice that brings you peace of mind
* celebrating your achievements
* expressing gratitude through giving and service
* making love as if it were the first time
* ending your day knowing you've done all you can as well as you can
* uninterrupted sleep that begins the moment you snuggle your beloved

We hope your days will be as close to perfect as you can make them during the holidays and the new year. Please feel free to share the list. I hope it inspires you and the people you love to make your own lists and share them. The list will always be a work in progress, and I'd like to learn from yours.
Happy Holidays!
Mike Larsen
Michael Larsen-Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents /

"Love and anger" by Robert Genn

Love and anger
January 3, 2012

Dear Sherrie,

During the past year, Canada's Leader of the Opposition, Jack Layton, died of cancer at the age of 61. In his final message Jack said, "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world."

These words resonated across our country. It has always struck me that both love and anger are two of the main motivators in the making of art. Both emotions can work equally well. It's just that love is so much the more pleasant of the two.

Discouraged early on by economic conditions, disabilities, contrarian parents, peer pressure, teachers or others, a few artists are able to fight the uphill battle to overcome or at least channel their anger. Daily they are driven to "show the world."

Other creatives take a more gentle, loving path. It can be a love of some particular someone, a family, a principle, a passion or a charity. It can be that peculiar and miraculous state of simply doing something for the love of it. Each work we produce is our very own baby brought into the world for a span that may extend beyond ours. It's been my observation that these main brands of working love can be bound together into a wholesome bundle where tangible, finished work is key to hope, optimism and a sense of well-being. "Work," said Kahlil Gibran, "is love made visible."

The finding of love within our work unlocks the studio and prompts the actions of hand and mind. The extraordinary prevails and even ordinary and well-trodden subject matter can be freshly explored and rejuvenated. One might even be blessed with the aura of popular greatness. "He alone is great," said Gibran, "who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving."

In my last letter of the old year I mentioned the gentle productive hum of studios. Between the turning on and the turning off of the lights there's a span of privilege. Held steady by the gentle hand of love, we begin, we keep going, and we sign off. There may not be a higher calling.

Best regards,

PS: "In the arts, as in life, everything is possible provided it is based on love." (Marc Chagall)

Esoterica: One of the great features of studio life is the capacity for renewal. Daily love manifests itself and is a fairly reliable prod. Some projects can be measured in no time at all. Sometimes three or four projects can be performed and completed in a single day. Other projects progress over days or weeks, dependent on the uncanny sleep-work that lies between. "Love does not just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." (Ursula K. LeGuin)

Current Clickback: "Occupy art studio" talks of the co-dependent nature of the artist and his studio. Your further input will be appreciated.