27 Feb 2011

Springtime Sing-a-Long: Oh No!

One of my favourite feelgood finds is the Welsh/Greek singer-songwriter Marina Diamandis, aka. Marina and the Diamonds.

She's a great artist and I like her style, her wit and her sense of humour. But I'll let you decide for yourself:

You can find more information about her and her music (and buy it!) over at http://www.marinaandthediamonds.com/ or on her Youtube channel.
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

25 Feb 2011

5 Months, 10 Most Popular Blog Posts.

Now that I've been blogging for 5 months, I thought it was time to give an overview of the 10 posts that have been most popular in that time.

Here we go, in reverse order:

10. My blog banner contest.

9. The article about changing education paradigms: 'The Times They Are A-Changing.'

8. The New Year's Eve photograph post: 'The Faces of Love.'

7. Part 4 of my 'ecological body weight management' series: 28 ways to be more active in your daily life.

6. My 'lucky 13' favourite quotes by women writers.

5. Halloween inspired: story settings for scary stories: 'Haunted House and Gruesome Graveyard.'

4. Part 3 of the 'ecological body weight management' series: Exercise.

3. My article about photographer and land artist Andy Goldsworthy.

2. Part 2 of the 'ecological weight management' series: Healthy eating.

And ... based on the previous list, this will come as no surprise.

*Drum roll*

On number 1: Manage your body weight - the green way, which has currently been read by over 650 people.

I guess this gives an indication of what many people are interested in. It didn't hurt, of course, that the 'green weight management' series got a shout-out from Krista at stumptuous.com.

It will be interesting to see what will happen in the next five months, where my quest for sparkles of life, love and authenticity will take me. I hope you'll be there for the ride!
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

22 Feb 2011

First Signs of Spring ...

Tonight, when I got home from work, I spotted the first crocus in our front garden. Yay, spring!

That's probably one of the advantages of being back at work after my 4 month writing sabbatical: I go out more. I tend to be a bit of a recluse when I'm writing full-time. I'm a person who's easily distracted, so I need to withdraw from the world in order to get the words out.

Now that I'm back at my job, I do miss the freedom of being in control of my own time, all the time, but it's good. I love teaching, and it gives me distance from my manuscript, which is always a good thing when editing and rewriting.

Now, as a quick update, what's new in the writing and blogging part of my life?


In the past months I've finished the 1st, 2nd, ... and nth drafts of my novel, and I'm of course still editing and rewriting, which I will be for a while longer.

Most of all, these months have taught me how much I love writing (and reading, for that matter). It's worth all the time, effort and energy I put into it. I am so lucky, to know and feel every day that I'm doing what I am passionate about.


I love blogging, and I don't think that's going to change any time soon. It's great writing practice, and it helps me to organise and collect my thoughts on the different topics I'm interested in.

My blog might feel a bit all over the place, but it's not, really. It represents my never-ending quest for value and authenticity: in life, in love, in thoughts and emotions.

If something captures my attention, I take a closer look, experience, analyse and share. This is my way of becoming more whole, of getting to know myself better and figure out what I can contribute to the world we live in.

On top of that, through writing and blogging I have met a lot of interesting people so far, which will only increase in the future.

That's one of the reasons why I've decided to take part in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. In April 2011, 300 bloggers will make daily posts, based on the letters of the alphabet.

It sounds like a great community event, and I'm expecting to have a lot of fun and meet a bunch of interesting folks along the way.

Feel free to say hi if you're also in! :-)
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

20 Feb 2011

Lucky 13: Women Writers about Writing.

Photo credit: Jim Kuhn

"Write what should not be forgotten."
-- Isabel Allende

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect."
-- Anaïs Nin

"Lock up your libraries if you like, but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind."
-- Virginia Woolf

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."
-- Maya Angelou

"Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter. I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for."
-- Alice Walker

"A word after a word after a word is power."
-- Margaret Atwood

"Writing is like making love. Don't worry about the orgasm, just concentrate on the process."
-- Isabel Allende

"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear."
-- Joan Didion

"Every word a woman writes changes the story of the world, revises the official version."
-- Carolyn See

"There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know were they'll take you."
-- Beatrix Potter

"Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls."
-- Ursula K. Le Guin

"If you wrote from experience, you'd get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy."
-- Nikki Giovanni

"Novels give you the matrix of emotions, give you the flavour of a time in a way formal history cannot."
-- Doris Lessing


Which of these is your favourite?
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

18 Feb 2011

Listen-to-Your-Heart Week.

Photo credit: Seyed Mostafa Zamani

Earlier today, I read an article about the book 'The Heart Speaks' by cardiologist Mimi Guarneri. It deals with the effect of our emotional state on our heart's health. Coming from a family in which heart disease is quite common, heart health is a big topic for me.

More and more scientific discoveries confirm what we instinctively already know and feel: anger, anxiety, grief and stress aren't good for us. Negative feelings trigger stress hormones that cause changes in our heart rhythm. They create a chaotic pattern that has a negative effect on our entire body.

In a similar way, positive emotions such as love and appreciation can make our heartbeat more stable and regular, which helps other organs function better.

So, for many reasons, I pronounce this my 'Listen-to-my-heart week'. For the next 7 days, I am going to take extra care of my heart, in its entirety.

I plan to concentrate on all that is good and positive in my life. There is so much to be grateful for! I will focus on hope, serenity, beauty and abundance. I pledge to love, laugh, treasure and enjoy. I promise to create, build, share and... write.

Are you with me? VC53HJQ52JP7
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

16 Feb 2011

Ode to My Kindle.

A few months ago, I got myself a Kindle.

It had been a difficult decision to make, because I really, really love books. I'm one of those people who washes her hands before touching them. I read them half-open to avoid wear and tear. I only lend copies to people I trust with my life books.

Part of what made this such a tough decision was the fact that I resented the idea of an electronic device replacing those paper wonders: hardcovers and paperbacks to store, display, fondle, re-read and share. I was afraid the practicality of technology would destroy the magic of reading.

Isn't it pretty?
Now that I've had my Kindle for a couple of months, I can only say I absolutely adore it - as well as its burgundy cover.

I've always been a passionate reader, but now I read even more. I carry it around wherever I go. I've discovered new authors, genres, styles of writing that I might never have come into contact with if it hadn't been for my e-reader.

I especially love the 'samples' option. At amazon.com, you can download a free sample of every novel that's available for your type (and nationality) of Kindle.

A sample usually consists of the first 1 to 3 chapters. It's become my new novel test: if, after reading the sample, I really want to know what happens next, and the style of writing doesn't turn me off, then I buy the book.

My Kindle has changed the way I read. The first page of a novel has always been important. It's what I look at in a bookstore, when I'm trying to decide whether or not I want to buy the book. The cover, the back flap and the first page.

With my Kindle, I don't really care about the cover. Most of the time I don't even see it. I look at reviews, download a sample, and read that. They have to draw me in. I also take that into account in my own writing.

What I find most interesting is that my Kindle doesn't replace books. I still buy paper copies of the ones I really like, the ones I want to lend out, the ones I want to display in my bookcases, stare at and thumb through. It's simply another medium, another way of reading.

This is also why Kindle books need to be cheaper than paper copies. They don't have the same value, so they shouldn't be priced the same. Sure, e-books have advantages: the sample option and the instant download as the most important ones.

But they're not books. You can't touch them, they're virtually invisible (compared to a book on a shelf), and they don't have the social charm of paper books: you can't share them and you don't interact about them with your friends, like you would with a book that's lying around in your living room or proudly perched on a shelf.

Do you own an e-reader? Would you consider getting one?
If you have one: what does it mean to you? Has it changed how you read?
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

13 Feb 2011

10 Creative Contradictions.

I'm a big fan of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's books and research on creativity.
(In case you were wondering, he's of Hungarian origin and his last name is apparently pronounced cheek-sent-meh-hai-yee.)

If you're interested in creativity, psychology and/or personal development, I would highly recommend his 'Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention'.

One of the chapters in that book deals with 'The Creative Personality', where he explores the characteristics creative people from all walks of life have in common.

He comes to the conclusion that creative people have complex personalities. They contain contradictory extremes, and they are able to move from one to the other if the situation requires them to.

He distinguishes 10 pairs of traits he has discovered:

1. 'Creative individuals have a great deal of physical energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest.'

They can concentrate for a long time, work long hours, but manage to radiate enthusiasm because they are so focused. These periods of activity are followed by times of reflection and idleness. Alternating those two are very important to their success. They are able to control their energy and recharge their batteries when they can.

It's also interesting what he writes about sexuality, as one of the manifestations of energy. Creative people seem to be paradoxical in that respect as well:
'Without eros, it would be difficult to take life on with vigor; without restraint, the energy could easily dissipate.' (1996 : 59)

2. 'Creative individuals tend to be smart, yet also naive.'

They seem to be able to solve well-defined, rational problems (convergent thinking) as well as have the mental flexibility to come up with a lot of ideas (divergent thinking). They can follow one idea through, but also switch perspectives to come up wtih unconventional solutions.

3. 'Creative people are playful and disciplined, responsible and irresponsible.'

They have a certain light approach to life, but are also capable of sinking their teeth into a problem and persevering.

'Despite the carefree air that many creative people affect, most of them work late into the night and persist when less driven individuals would not.' (1996 : 62)

4. 'Creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy at one end, and a rooted sense of reality at the other.'

They are able to escape reality by imagination and come up with original ideas, but those ideas are still rooted in reality. By going beyond what is real and true now, they create a new reality for the future.

5. Creative people seem to be both extraverted and introverted at the same time.

Personality is a highly debated topic in psychology, but extraversion and introversion are considered the most measurable and stable traits that differentiate people. Creative individuals seem to be both sociable and solitary.

6. Creative people are humble ànd proud.

You would expect many of them to be arrogant or sniffy, yet when you meet them, they are self-deprecating and even shy. They have a sense of perspective about their own work, knowing they themselves stand 'on the shoulders of giants'.

At the same time they are aware of what they have accomplished, which gives them a certain confidence and pride.

7. Creative individuals, to a certain extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping.

The women artists and scientists in his research tended to be more assertive, self-confident and openly aggressive than women are generally brought up to be. The men generally showed a greater preoccupation with their family and a higher sensitivity to subtleties in their environment. Still, they retained the 'usual gender-specific traits' as well.

Csikszentmihalyi calls this a kind of 'psychological androgyny', referring to 'a person's ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender.'

'A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses and can interact with the world in terms of a much richer and varied spectrum of opportunities.' (1996 : 71)

8. Creative people are rebellious as well as traditionalist.

It is impossible to be creative without having learnt and acquired a domain of culture. In order to learn its rules, they have to see the importance of that domain. But being only traditional doesn't motivate to change that culture, while being only rebellious without regard for what has been valued in the past, rarely needs to new ideas that become accepted as an improvement.

Creative individuals are grounded in tradition, but willing to break with its safety in order to realise interesting ideas.

9. 'Most creative people are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.

Without the passion, they would lose interest in the difficult tasks they have to take on. Without the objectivity, they wouldn't be able to take criticism and improve on their work.

10. Creative individuals' openness and sensitivity 'often exposes them to suffering and pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment'.

The sensitivity that drives the quest for novelty can cause a lot of anxiety. Being at the forefront of a discipline exposes a person to criticism and misunderstanding.
'Most would agree with Rabinow's words: "Inventors have a low threshold of pain. Things bother them." A badly designed machine causes pain to an inventive engineer, just as the creative writer is hurt when reading bad prose.' (1996 : 73)
At the same time, they thoroughly enjoy the process of creation, the fun and the excitement.


Which of these creative contradictions do you recognise in yourself?
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

10 Feb 2011

John Cleese on Creativity? Yes, Please.

A few years ago, John Cleese was one of the keynote speakers at the Creativity World Forum in my home town. Parts of that talk are available as an online video, and I want to share it here for several reasons:
  1. I think he's brilliant.
  2. Monty Python (and many other projects he was involved in), has had a huge impact on my sense of humour. (Whether or not that's something to be grateful for is of course open for debate.)
  3. I totally agree with what he says, especially about the importance of giving our unconscious minds time and opportunity to digest information. He also talks about creating the right mood for creativity rather than using brute force.
Here's the (10 minute) video:

3 takeaway quotes:
  • 'Each day I want to learn something new, because I'm very very old and will be dead soon, so I want to be as well-informed as I can possibly be when I die.'
  • 'You have to create boundaries of space, and you have to create boundaries of time.' (Interruption is disastrous to the creative process.)
  • 'To know how good you are at something requires the same skills as it does to be good at them.' Or, put differently: 'Most people who have absolutely no idea what they're doing have absolutely no idea that they have no idea what they're doing. It explains a great deal of life.'

Which part of what he said stood out for you?
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

8 Feb 2011

Write or Die!

I woke up this morning to bright blue skies and sunshine, with a bunch of ideas that would fix a weaker part of the novel I'm currently writing. After weeks of rewriting and revising, I finally got to write new scenes, which was actually more exciting than it probably sounds to anybody who hasn't been there.

Either way, as if by cosmic coincidence I found a blog post that mentioned the writing software 'Write or Die' as a great way to churn out first drafts. I love adding gameplay elements to everyday life, so I just had to try it.

I loved it. It worked really well for me, by muzzling my inner editor and forcing me to focus and keep on going without getting distracted. If you stop typing for more than a few seconds, your screen starts turning red and you are punished by an awful sound of your choice, from babies crying or an air raid siren to scary disco songs you happen to have on your hard drive.

The part I like best (I'm all about positive reinforcement, really) is the triumphant sound when you achieve the goal you've set for yourself. You have the options to set a time goal (in minutes) or a word goal.

Like in games, you can choose the difficulty level at which you want to 'play'. The hardest one, 'Kamikaze' will - when you stop writing for too long - delete the words you've last written. Eek!

And there are many other features to fiddle around with, but I'll let you discover those for yourself. I got the desktop version (10USD via Paypal), but you can try out a free online version as well at http://writeordie.com/.

Have you tried it before? What do you think?
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

5 Feb 2011

Lucky 13: Favourite Quotes by Women Writers.

Writing in the sand
Photo credit: Carlie Kiggans.

"The library is inhabited by spirits that come out of the pages at night."
--Isabel Allende

"When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your life does..."
--Nora Ephron

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
--Maya Angelou

"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."
--Toni Morrison

"You refuse to own yourself, you permit others to do it for you"
--Margaret Atwood

"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."
--J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

"My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it."
--Ursula K. LeGuin

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
--Anaïs Nin

"What the mind doesn't understand, it worships or fears."
--Alice Walker

"That is happiness, to be dissolved into something complete and great."
--Willa Cather

"When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."
--Audre Lorde

"If you knew it all it would not be creation but dictation."
--Gertrude Stein

"There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors."
--Adrienne Rich
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

2 Feb 2011

Twitter hashtag: #eyesinspire

Inspired by fellow writer and positive Twitter force Ron Vitale, who recently created #swimupstream, I want to introduce a new Twitter hashtag: #eyesinspire.

Images or pictures are a great source of inspiration for stories, worlds and characters. Many ideas enter our thoughts through our eyes: when we travel, when we pass people on the street, or when we look at photographs that show us the world in a different light.

The #eyesinspire tag is about sharing images that inspire you to write. Pictures that spark stories, settings and characters. Photographs, paintings or drawings that take you to a different time or place, that evoke an unknown or unexpected atmosphere, that make you aware of another layer of reality or that glow with a pure, ancient or dark magic, so strong you can almost taste it.

#Eyesinspire is a tag for writers and photographers, for artists and travellers, for people with imagination and the desire to see beyond the obvious.

I am hoping many of you will join me by sharing the images that inspire you. That way, if we ever get stuck in a story (or lost without one), we can explore these rich visual worlds to spark new ideas. And our stories in turn can inspire new images.

Here are a few examples of questions that can help trigger ideas:

  • For images of settings & scenery:
    • What kind of character would I expect to find here?
    • What kind of character would be the least likely to be/live/appear here?
    • What if those 2 characters (or peoples, races, ...) would meet here? Which conflicts would arise? Would they find a way to cooperate?
    • If certain elements in this landscape would be transformed (be much smaller, much bigger, transparent, invisible, made of different material, ... (go wild here)), how would that affect the landscape, the living conditions, etc.)?
    • What would this setting have looked like in a distant past? In a distant future? (Both constructive & destructive scenarios)

  • For portraits and photographs that include people:
    • Who is this person / these people? Name? How old?
    • What happened right before the picture was taken? (positive & negative scenarios)
    • What did he/she/they do in the past few days?
    • What are they about to do right after the picture was taken? (positive & negative scenarios)
    • What are their plans for the future? (short & long term) How could those plans be disturbed?
    • Which emotions do you detect in this image/picture?
    • What is this person thinking?
    • Who was the last person he/she saw? Who is the next person he/she will see? What will happen?
    • What would happen if you took that person out of that picture and dropped him/her in a very different setting? (experiment with various settings here, depending on your genre)
In short: look for opportunities for conflict, obstacles, interaction, unlikely scenarios, turning things upside down, etc.

I hope you have found this useful and I'm looking forward to seeing you on Twitter!
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...