Seven Ways to Turn a Plain Room into a Creative Writing Workspace

Most of us are working from home these days, either slaving away on a blog or writing for an employer. We can become so absorbed in our computer screens that we forget to notice – and enjoy – the space around us. That’s why it’s important to create a space that is fun and creative and lifts your spirt. Even more important, you want a space that will inspire you to produce your best work, no matter what type of work you do.

According to Mindspace, an online magazine about flexible work spaces, poorly designed spaces can affect a person’s psychology, motivation and creative output. Mindspace recommends some basic elements to make a positive impact. Start with comfortable seating which can increase your energy level and keep you more alert and engaged.

Emphasize natural lighting if at all possible because it is better than artificial lighting. Fluorescent lights are harsh and can cause long-term eye strain. Let’s face it, natural lighting is simply more beautiful too.

Bring in natural plants which freshens indoor air quality naturally. But if you’re the type of person who forgets to water plants, artificial plants will suffice. The greenery is easy on the eyes and has a calming effect on your mood.

While having a desk, chair and computer are imperative, they’re not enough to inspire creativity and productivity. You need to add elements that not only inspire you to do your best work but also expresses your creative side.

Here’s how you can spice up your workspace and make it more fun and creative.

  1. Rearrange your furniture. Before you add any new accessories, try rearranging the furniture. Switching around furniture pieces can change the energy in the room, say home décor experts. If your space feels stale, try removing one piece and see what happens to your energy level. While you’re at it, it might be a good idea to declutter too. Many of us have one or two pieces of furniture that we really don’t need. By subtracting, you’ll actually be adding to your productivity by creating more real space. When space opens up, it allows more air to move, and more ideas to flow along with it.
  2. Repaint the room. If you feel bored or experience the winter blahs, spice things up with a splash of color to your surroundings. Sometimes all you need is a fresh coat of paint to brighten your mood. If you don’t want to paint a whole room, try doing one accent wall. For example, if the walls are white, try a bold, bright color on one wall. The sudden splash of color can awaken your senses.
  3. Add wall décor. Once you’ve repainted the room and rearranged the furniture, don’t forget to add wall décor. Add a framed print of a famous person you admire, or a soothing landscape scene or a photo with an inspirational quote. If framed prints are too boring, try other options like a colorful handmade wreathe, a woven wall hanging or cut-out words that spell out a  favorite quote. Let your imagination be your guide. The last thing you want to see are bare walls, even if the paint colors are more interesting.
  4. Add unique lighting elements. If a desk lamp is too boring, bring in special lighting with different colored light bulbs, though be careful not to work under those lights, which might cause eye strain. Use those lighting elements to spark a creative mood rather than for productivity. For more advice about proper lighting for your space, check out this article from The Spruce.
  5. Switch out accessories. Add new throw pillows on your bed or sofa which can make an immediate impact. A few small votive candles can put you in the mood to write poetry, and a potted plant can bring in some of the outdoors. If you lack storage space, add a few shelves by your desk to hold your supplies.
  6. Create an inspiration board (or mood board). Need something to spark your imagination every day? An inspiration board contains photos, artwork, and phrases that help you focus on your writing goals or a specific project. Inspiration boards aren’t for everyone and they take a lot of time and effort, but they can provide the motivation you seek to be productive. (Some people call them mood boards, though I don’t know why. The boards are meant to inspire creativity, not affect mood. But that’s my two cents.) Check out the Lit Nerds for tips on creating mood boards.
  7. Keep a fun drawer. Who doesn’t love a fun drawer? That’s where you keep small trinkets and toys, your favorite candies and handheld games. I suppose it should be called the distraction drawer instead because that’s what those items are meant to do – create distraction. The fun drawer serves as a reminder that writing is not all work and no play, and that it’s okay to take a creativity break. You never know when one of those little distractions inspires a fresh story idea.

    Writers spend a lot of time in their work spaces – plotting stories, doing research, penning that masterpiece. Why not make it the most creative, inspirational place to work? Hopefully, these suggestions will spark some ideas on how to maximize the space you have and turn it into a fun place to work and play.

What to Do When You’re Not in the Mood to Write

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Photo by Karyme França on Pexels.com

I don’t know if there’s ever a right time to write or a right place or even a right mood. If you always wait for just the right spirit or mood to strike, then you may never write a single word. Then all your brilliant story ideas would collect dust bunnies in your brain. What good are brilliant story ideas if you don’t begin writing them?

But sometimes you’re just not in the mood to write. Either you’re bored with the project you’re working on, or you’ve been at it for too many weeks and you’re not seeing the results you want. Maybe you’ve spent too much time away from writing, either due to illness or injury or a family emergency. In those times, it can be difficult to find the motivation to begin writing again. But you don’t have to be in the best writing mood to make progress toward your writing goals.

Ironically, it is the very act of writing that can put you in a positive writing mood. But beyond that, what else can you do to put yourself in the mood to write. Here are a few ideas.

1. Create an inspiring environment. If your environment feels stale, try mixing it up by surrounding yourself with things of beauty, like fresh flowers. If you are moved by music, play some classical music softly in the background. Find a comfortable chair to sit in, use your favorite pen to write, or even sit outdoors in the sunshine and watch nature unfold. Surrounding yourself with beautiful things can bring out the artist in you.

2. Start small. Set small easily attainable goals for yourself. For example, set a time limit of 30 minutes. See how much you can accomplish during that short time. Author Jack Smith in his book, Write and Revise for Publication, suggests trying the “dribble method.”  Try reaching a small goal, like 100 words. More often than not, you will surpass that goal and will want to keep writing.

3. Re-read what you’ve written already. If you’re working on a lengthy project, like a novel or non-fiction book, go back and review what you’ve already written, particularly the previous chapter. Your brain will automatically switch into edit mode. When you find yourself reaching for that red pen, that’s usually a strong sign that you’re ready to get back to work.

4. Switch up genres. Perhaps you’re not inspired to write because you’re bored with your latest writing project. Try switching to another genre, writes James Duncan in Writer’s Digest. If you’re writing a novel, try writing a poem or two. If your memoir is beginning to feel emotionally exhausting, work on a short story instead. You are still writing something even if it isn’t the project of your dreams, and it might just give you the motivation you need to keep working.

5. Begin with a freewrite exercise. Freewriting is the act of writing for a set time or number of pages without stopping to edit or revise. Think of it as a stream of consciousness that you put on paper. Freewriting for ten minutes can jumpstart your imagination and begin the flow of words. At the end of those ten minutes, you won’t want to stop, and you’ll want to jump back into your writing mode.

6. Read about the writing. Even though you’re not putting any words on a page doesn’t mean you’re not working at your craft. Even reading about your favorite genre, whether it’s memoir writing, science fiction or a historical romance, can help you gain useful insights that you can apply to your own work. It can also inspire you to experiment with a different technique, thus sparking more creativity.

7. Read the works of your favorite authors. Pick up one of their best books and begin reading. What is it about their writing that you always enjoyed? What can you learn from their approach to storytelling?

I recently came across several books I had in storage from a couple of my favorite authors, Mary Higgins Clark and Joy Fielding. Both books had been signed by the authors, which was probably why I was still hanging on to them after nearly two decades. Re-reading their notes of encouragement has inspired me to keep writing today. I’m gradually re-reading these novels, this time with a more expert eye on their writing style.

8. Talk things over with a writing buddy. Sometimes taking a time out or a well-needed coffee break can break the monotony and loneliness of writing. They may have insights that you had not considered. Hearing about their successes and struggles can inspire you to get back to the table. Knowing you have someone supporting your efforts can bring you back to the present with renewed energy.

You don’t always have to find the right mood to begin writing. But you can cheat a little with these little tricks. But really, there’s only one true antidote for getting in the mood to write when you don’t feel like it. Just write.

 

Book Review: Writing from the Heart

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Writing is easy, but getting started can be a challenge. Many writers use any number of excuses to avoid getting started: no time, the kids, no privacy, no inspiration, no place to write, too busy.

You get the idea.

Perhaps the most pressing reason that many people can’t get started writing is because they are emotionally stuck. The stories and words will not flow because it’s been shut off by fear, guilt, disappointment, pain — you name it. To get those stories flowing, you need to release those emotions. Yet, ironically, writing is one way to release them.

In her book Writing from the Heart: Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice, author Nancy Slonin Aronie addresses many of the issues that stop us from hearing our internal voice. (Some of you may know Aronie from National Public Radio’s All Things Considered  program.)

Though this book was published more than 20 years ago, Aronie’s writing advice holds true today as much as it did then. Below are several of my favorite suggestions from her book. You might find them helpful too.

1. Look at everything as if it is new to you. You might see a place, a thing, a person every day and you can become so accustomed to seeing it that you don’t every really see it. You might notice the tree in your front yard, but do you really see it? Do you notice the change in leave colors, the change in the bark, the thickness of the branches, the way the leaves sway in the breeze, the ants that crawl up the bark? Do you notice it throughout the seasons or at different times of day? Look at that tree as if you are seeing it for the first time. What do you see? Do the same for any person or thing in your life. You may never look at any one thing the same way ever again.

2. Feel your feelings, deal with them and heal yourself. Before you can open yourself up to the writing process, Aronie advises writers to allow themselves time to feel the hurts and disappointments of the past. By staying with those feelings, you learn to face them with courage and dignity. The hurts of the past may never dissolve completely, but they are there to remind you of what you have experienced. And you can always draw into that life experience to write your stories. It is through writing about them that you can heal.

3. Focus on the process of writing, not the end product. Writing should give you joy on the inside. It’s an internal process. But when you focus only on the end product, you lose that enjoyment because you are looking for external gratification. If you want to write with greater joy, focus on the process, the way the story develops. With each step forward in the writing process, new scenes and characters will reveal themselves to you, bringing with them a sense of mystery and wonder. It’s these unexpected developments that what make writing fun.

4. Write for yourself, not for someone else. To make writing work for you, write for yourself, and only for yourself. Write for your own enjoyment. Write for your personal growth and professional development. Write to challenge yourself. Write to express your creativity. Write to heal your hurts and share your joys. Write because you want to, not because you have to. When you write for someone else, you are listening to their feedback in your head before you’ve even written a word. When you write for someone else, it is their words you hear in your head, not your own. When you write, you need to write your own words, not someone else’s.

5. Define what creativity means to you. Some people avoid writing because they think they are not creative enough. Most people have the idea that being creative means having some artistic talent, like being a musician, a dancer or photographer. But being creative means more than that. Being creative means finding creative solutions to problems, looking at the world in a different way, or writing a story with a unique point of view. Writing is just one outlet for creativity. There are many more. Once you define creativity on your terms, writing becomes much easier.

6. Look at the world from a different perspective. To shake up your creative juices, look at the world through a different pair of eyes. You might remember the day you graduated from high school, but ask your friends, your teachers or your parents to share their memory of that day. How did they experience that day? What did they notice that you might have missed? Look at the same event through their eyes and perhaps you will begin to see the same event in a different way.

Writing from the heart is an emotional process, rather than a technical one. Once you release old wounds and trust your inner voice, the heart opens to new possibilities, paving the way to writing stories that reflect who you are.

16 Quotes About Gratitude

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Wherever you celebrate Thanksgiving here in the U.S., enjoy this time with family and friends. Take time to smell the turkey and reflect on what is important in your life.

No actual story this week. Instead, enjoy the following motivational quotes that are sure to inspire you and warm your heart. Happy Thanksgiving.

1. Count your rainbows instead of your thundershowers.  – Unknown

2. If you count your assets, you always show a profit. – Robert Quillen

3. I cursed the fact that I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet. – Ancient Persian Proverb

4. Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. – William Arthur Ward

5. Gratitude is one of the sweet short cuts to finding peace of mind and happiness inside. No matter what is going on outside of us, there’s always something to be grateful for. – Barry Neil Kaufman

6. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. – Melody Beattie

7. Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. –- Marcel Proust

8. In the bad times, choose to grow stronger. In the good times, choose to enjoy fully. In all times, choose to be grateful. – Unknown

9. I’m thankful for my struggle because from it, I have found my strength. – Unknown

10. The more you thank life, the more life gives you to be thankful for. – Unknown

11. The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become. – Robert Holden

12. No matter what language you speak, a kind and smiling Thank You always speaks to everyone’s hearts. – Unknown

13. Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul. – Henry Ward Beecher

14. Gratitude turns what we have into enough. – Anonymous

15. Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart. – Seneca

16. Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you sue it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf. – Alan Cohen

Defining Your Career Mission — in Three Words

 

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Photo courtesy of Hubspot Marketing

Could you define your life’s work, your career motto, in three small words? Every time I asked this question of association members for their magazine, it made me think long and hard about my own response. What would I say? What is my life’s work, and could I describe it in three words? Talk about an editorial challenge!

While many people may scoff at this question, considering it too full of fluff for high-level executives, asking that question even of ourselves forces us to think about our careers with a sharper focus. What do I bring to the table? How do I make myself stand out? How do my services help others? How can I contribute to the greater good?

These are all serious questions. If we want to be successful in our life’s work, no matter what type of work we do, we must begin with in-depth self-analysis of our own place in this world. Many people trip over this idea of defining their personal motto or mission in three words. They claim they need more words to describe it.

Once we find those three words, however, that motto can drive our decisions in our personal and professional lives. When stuck in indecision, we need only to return to that little phrase to guide us to a resolution that is aligned with our motivations. When confronted by tragic circumstances – a job loss, a death in the family, money woes, or a personal or professional crisis, thinking about this motto can be a source of wisdom, courage and inspiration to help you survive the darkest moments of your life.

Inspired by my routine question to our high-level real estate members, I spent time thinking about my own three-word motto. “Act with integrity” came to mind. So simple, yet so potent and empowering. I think of these words every time I am faced with a crisis of consciousness. And it has helped me through some dark times too.

I can think of a few others: “Believe in yourself.”  “Be kind, compassionate.”  “Think before acting.” Use whatever words work for you. Keep it simple and straightforward. There are no wrong answers. There’s no need to publicize it or put it on your business card, unless you really want to. This little three-word mission statement is for your heart and soul alone.

If you’re looking to find inspiration in your career or life’s work, think about three words that defines who you are. These three little words can inspire you, motivate you, and drive every decision you make. To get started, here are a few tips for creating your three-word motto.

1. Start with an action verb. Words like think, believe, act, help, move, etc. gets the action going, and it serves as a reminder to you to be an active participant in life, rather than an observer. Make it empowering, inspirational and proactive.

2. Be positive. What do each of the mottos mentioned above have in common? Each one paints a positive, sunny picture that is sure to brighten your spirit. The more positive you can make it, the more energy it will give you.

3. Be results-oriented. Say something that reminds you to commit to doing something good and brings positive results.

4. Focus on your power as an instrument of change. What influence do you have in the world? Do you want to write, teach, heal, build homes, sing, or make people laugh?

These ideas are just a starting point. Try out several sample mottos to see if they resonate with you. Do they match where you are in the world at this point in time? Mix and match different words until you find the right combination that best describes your life’s mission.

When you’ve finalized your motto, write it down and keep it somewhere where you can readily refer to it – the bathroom mirror, your wallet, or your computer screen saver. Meditate on its meaning or use it as a mantra so that the message seeps deeply into your soul. With time, that motto simply becomes a part of who you are. It will be so deeply ingrained that you won’t need to see it on the bathroom mirror anymore.

Find Inspiration to Start Writing — and Keep Writing

sunflower-1421011_1280Like many writers, I am often intimidated by a blank page. It’s like staring at an artist’s canvas or a vacant room in a home that’s ready to be redecorated. But a blank page doesn’t have to be feared. Embrace it for the opportunity it is to express yourself, and the writing will come more naturally. 

Some say the hardest part of being a writer is getting into a routine and writing regularly. Others say they draw a blank and don’t know what to write about. The empty space, they claim, is inside their own head. To get past both obstacles, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned to develop a regular writing practice.

Do it first thing in the morning. Just like exercise or meditation, writing first thing in the morning can help you get it out of the way. Some people swear by completing morning pages – writing continuously without stopping for three pages. For some, morning pages helps remove the toxic thoughts and feelings that have built up over the previous 24 hours so your brain can operate more freely and creatively. Others choose a method like “500 words a day” to establish consistency in their practice. Whichever method you choose can help you become more productive. Once it’s done, you can move on to other tasks, and you can feel good about your accomplishment.

Schedule it in your calendar. If you don’t have time to write first thing in the morning, schedule time on your calendar for later in the day. Make an appointment with yourself to sit at a desk or computer. Set aside at least one hour, and just write. This time is for you, just like scheduling a massage or haircut. Putting it in your calendar shows you are serious and committed about giving your writing attention.

Skip the computer. I find it helpful to keep a notebook for writing. It’s where I jot down story ideas, webinar notes and bullet points for blog posts. It’s also where I write rough drafts for my stories. Then I will turn on the computer to do a more complete second draft. If you turn on the computer first, you’re more likely to edit as you write. Avoid doing this because it slows you down. Get your ideas down on paper first, then go back and rewrite and edit.

To keep inspiration flowing, check out these ideas to stay inspired and kickstart your creativity.

Play writing games. I keep a small plastic container filled with slips of paper. On each paper slip is a word. It can be anything – car, dog, photograph, telephone, mystery – you name it. There’s about 100 slips of paper in this container. Whenever I’m feeling stuck with writer’s block, I pull out three slips and reveal the words. Then I write a very short story, a few paragraphs, making sure to include those three words. If you want to challenge yourself further, choose five words. The more words you choose at random, the more challenging it becomes to include them all in your writing.

Once I’ve used a word, I set it aside. I’ll do several stories in one sitting, so I will set aside words I’ve already used during that session. At the end of that full session, all the words are put back to reuse in a future writing session.

Keep a writer’s journal. I started keeping a writer’s journal earlier this year. It’s where I keep story and blog ideas as I think of them. It’s where I keep notes from webinars and workshops I attend. If I come across a quote that I like, something that moves me deeply, I add that to my journal too. Any miscellaneous idea I have about writing and creativity I add to my journal. When my ideas run dry, I turn to my journal and look for inspiration.

Find quotes that inspire you. We’ve all seen the memes on Facebook. Some are funny; others are meant to inspire and make us feel better about ourselves. We find one we like and share it with our friends on Facebook. Is there a quote that resonates with you? Does it remind you of a situation or person in your life? Use it to write why it has meaning for you. Another potential source of writing inspiration: tea bag tags found on Yogi tea.
Similar to the memes you see on social media, the sayings on these tea tags are often profound and thought-provoking, ideal fodder for writing inspirational essays.

Seek out writing prompts. There are numerous resources available about writing – essay books, magazines and websites – that offer writing challenges and prompts. Writer’s Digest has an online prompt tool you can download to kickstart your writing. Many books about writing contain brief exercises to get you started thinking about writing. For example, “Crafting the Personal Essay” by Dinty W. Moore contains several essay writing exercises and writing prompts to keep you writing for a long time.

Find a writing buddy. I’m not talking about collaboration here. I’m talking about creating a support system for yourself. If you have a friend who also writes for a living, join together as a support system. You can talk about story ideas, exchange writing tips, critique each other’s work, etc. Having a writing buddy keeps you motivated and accountable for your progress, just like having a workout buddy. You don’t want to slack off knowing your friend is pushing you to succeed. This is especially helpful if you are shy about sharing your work with others and are reluctant to join a writers’ group. All it takes is one person to share your writing efforts with to keep you writing day in and day out.

Using one, two or any combination of these ideas can give you the confidence you need to start writing – and keep writing.