Facebook Is Crazy…But Then Again, So Am I

So, I Facebook.  Many people do.  But there are many people who don’t.  They think Facebook—that putting your entire life online for the edification of others—is a completely crazy thing to do.  Maybe it is.  I don’t know.  But many other people (and some of the SAME people who think Facebook is crazy) also think that the act of creativity is crazy.  And sometimes, it is.  Sometimes I’m up all night with ideas that are positively foaming over in my brain faster than I can write them down.  Sometimes I’m incredibly depressed that there ARE no ideas.  Sometimes I ask my husband to bring strange things home from work, like clothes that will fit my cat.

And he actually BUYS these things.  Now THAT'S crazy.

And he actually BUYS these things. Now THAT’S crazy.

 

Sometimes I get so involved in whatever I’m creating that I make messes in the house, drink juice straight from the carton, forget to eat and sleep, and have to be told that it’s time to shower.  And that’s just WHILE I’m creating.  After I finish whatever project it is, I have to “get it out there”, which involves being open to criticism, and praise, or, worse than either one, just being ignored and disregarded.  Being successful at creative pursuits means you have to share it, and wait for the response, which makes you scared and happy and proud and depressed and all sorts of things that, depending upon their intensity, make you crazy.  Plus, a lot of people think that allowing yourself to be that vulnerable, well, that’s crazy too.  So, I’m crazy, Facebook is crazy…it all works for me.

And the reason I’m “on” about this today, is that I’m beginning a small “thing” on Facebook.  I already use it for promoting my blog, and my photography business.  I use it for a few personal, family things as well.  But it is mostly for business.  However, I’ve decided that that stupid “status update bar” needs to be filled with something more than what I had for supper, or how my husband’s toenail fungus is really disgusting (it is).  I’m putting some actual WRITING in there.  Not necessarily every day.  And not about ANYTHING specifically.  Just about some experience I had, or idea or concept that became clear to me.  See, I can be notoriously thick.  In fact, I feel that much of my days are spent saying “Wha?” as I walk around in my own little mental world.  But suddenly, and with no warning, my brain light bulb will activate, all 15 watts or so, and I will “get” something.  Or I will experience something with new eyes.  So, I’m trying to record those fleeting moments because I think, somehow, that is where the true gold of my creative life really lies, and I record them, at least in part, on Facebook.

So, here is this morning’s post.

I took the dog out into a cold, gray morning, bare branches above and dull ground underfoot. We go to the same corner of the yard each time, and while she does her business, I always survey the parts of the property that I can see. (Not that we have an estate or anything–we have a modest home on a modest lot, no biggie.) For some reason, as I was looking at two evergreen trees in the backyard, I spied a small “sparkle” through the branches, just for a moment, but bright. I’m sure it was caused by a streetlight shining through the boughs from a block over or something, but it didn’t really matter, because, instantly, I was transported. It was, for a brief but interminable moment, as if I was in the yard during a full-on June evening, with the warm sun just gone under the western horizon, the grass thick under my feet, and the air alive with bugs everywhere. The whole world positively seethed with life, and the sparkle through the tree branches that I had spied back in March was just one of about a million other sparkles from lightning bugs doing their mating dance in the muggy Iowa night. I stood there, in the summer-that-wasn’t and breathed in all the life that was-soon-to-be, and it was wonderful.

 I love all seasons. I can find beauty in every single time, something to appreciate, something to enjoy, and it is one of my few really great qualities in my large collection of rather human ones. Winter makes me feel like I’m resting, giving my brain a break from all the riotous color and activity of the other seasons. For me, it is a necessary balance. But, I’m ready now, for flowers peeping and mown grass and lightening bugs calling busily through the purples of summer evenings.

 Then, the dog gave a tug on her leash, and I was rushed back to Iowa, March 2013. The clouds hung low and unremarkable. We headed back inside.

Now, this isn’t Salinger or Hemmingway or Stephen King (I WISH it was Stephen King!), but it is me, and it is completely what happened to me this morning when the dog was doing her “thang” on my hard-as-winter-bones yard.

Sophia

The dog.

Not terrible.  And it felt good to write.  So, there it is.

I’m under no illusions that I will elevate Facebook, or get rid of the Harlem Shake memes, or the sometimes awful political bickering that goes on there.  I’m just going to reach out to people with me, and who I am.  That’s it.  And really, that is ALL art.

Facebook is a great place to get your work in front of people.  It is maybe NOT a great way to actually gauge how good your work is (depending upon who reads it), but it is super for just “getting it out there”.  So, whether you are an adult or a kid or a kid-like adult, just put it out there, and be human with others.  And if someone else puts a bit of themselves out there, read it, look at it, appreciate it, knowing it is maybe a very important part of that person.

Later, Gator.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

What Should I Write About?

As I am busily designing pages for Soda’s Valentine (and you can learn about that process here) I reflect upon the most difficult question posed to me by both children and adults–“What should I write about?”.  I have 4 kids myself, and they are often-times stumped by what to write about.  Factual reports and papers are actually pretty easy, because they are assignments, and usually, the topic is assigned as well, so that takes away all the work of coming up with a subject.  But for writing a children’s book, or an adult’s book, or a poem, or even a blog, figuring out what to write about is sometimes the hardest part. Ultimately, this question is best rephrased as “How can I come up with ideas?”

For me, it is usually about what I see in the world. Visual things flip the switch in my brain, and make me generate ideas.  I am a visual-spatial learner, and I need visual input to activate the writing parts of my brain.  Which, in many ways is a bit contradictory.  Speech is a left-brained activity, and image processing is a right-brained activity.  So, creative writing is an interesting mix of right and left-brained activities that don’t always mesh well.  I am a compulsive doodler, for instance, and when I went to school, back in the dark ages, I doodled through every lecture, at least on the corner of my page.  My children tell me now, that this is often frowned upon severely.  But for me, when I doodle, it makes my brain much more able to handle the verbal concepts that are being presented to me.  So, that’s what I did, and I did pretty well in school.  It makes me wonder if we should be teaching a doodling class in school, for children who are visual learners instead of auditory learners–kids who learn by visualizing instead of by listening.  Anyway…

Some people process information–and come up with ideas for their writing in other ways.  Listening to music will spur some folks to come up with ideas, and other people need to take a walk or a run, do yoga, have a shower–these are all reflective of the way your brain learns and processes information.  Everyone’s brain is different.  Use what works for you.

bikeonetwo

If a bike ride with the dog works, go for it.

 

Today, I’m talking about what works for me.  However, the list at the end of the blog is good for anyone, regardless of HOW they get their brain to turn on.

Sometimes I have a very striking, visual dream.  Now, usually, the dream doesn’t TELL me a story (although that HAS happened, and I scribbled down the high points in my notebook for later use) but rather, there is an IMAGE in the dream that really gets me going.  For Sylvia McBye Learns To Fly, I had a dream about….you guessed it….flying.  And when I woke up, I knew I wanted to write about a little girl who wanted to fly.  Then, we went for a drive on a windy day in April.  You know the kind of day–you can smell the springtime in the air, and the wind rolls across the treetops, bouncing all the new, baby-green leaves.  My brain lept to flying kites, a memory I carried from my childhood.  I put those concepts together—the dream of flying, and the memory of kite-flying, and the story began to percolate.  I needed a name for my character, and I briefly thought of naming it after my daughter Sailor, who was kind of the inspiration for the character, but, I rejected that.  I just don’t like to borrow THAT freely from my real life.  So, my brain offered up the name Sylvia, and coincidentally, I have a photography client named Sylvia, who, coincidentally again, I photographed in my Studio wearing wings as a very small infant.  The pieces began to fall together.  During this ride in the car, I wrote about 80% of the book in my brain–I made some notes on paper, but no real sense of anything.  Then, we got home, I sat down, and two hours later I had the completed story written–it almost wrote itself.  It took me an additional 6 weeks to do the 24 illustrations inside.

cover

Bug Summer is a bit different.  For those of you unfamiliar, my Bug Summer series of books is all about the insects my main character Zack, and his dog, Flash, encounter during their wanderings in Inclement, Iowa.  The books are heavily illustrated with art and macro-photography of insects–extreme close-up work, for those of you unfamiliar with the “macro” prefix.

sep_5093 copy

A giant spider….

 

I actually started photographing bugs roughly 6 years before I had a story written to go along with the photos.  I didn’t know WHAT the story would be, but I knew there would be a story.  So, I collected images.  And I drew sketches of who I thought the main character could be.  But I didn’t really DO anything with all this stuff for many years–I just kept the ideas, the images, and the concepts.

Bug Summer--Raining Ladybugs

Bug Summer–Raining Ladybugs

So, what does all this mean?  Does it mean anything?  Personally, I believe that it tells us that creative writing is a process of following breadcrumbs through a forest, just like Hansel and Gretel.  And what is important here—following the trail even though it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere.  I pick up the breadcrumbs that are there before me, and store them in my pocket (brain, or, preferably, I write them down in a notebook) and I don’t worry about how they all connect.  But those breadcrumbs that seem to lead in random directions, they accumulate.  And eventually, some of them make sense, some of them form stories, and, if I’m lucky, they form books!  So, maybe more than a writer and an artist, I am a collector of breadcrumbs (ideas). And I note them down–random stuff that appeals to me for whatever reason.  I do illustrations that way too.  In the same notebook, I have scritches and scratches of drawings (doodles!) that many times turn into pieces of real illustrations for books.

I also pick ideas that I know something about, that I really like, or that I want to learn about. I think most people do this naturally, but it is important to mention that you won’t be successful writing about a subject you just don’t care about.  I like childhood, art, science fiction, photography, insects, things that are a little bit mysterious, friendships, the environment, music, nature, magical things, wonder, Halloween, animals….the list really goes on and on.

Sometimes I am really brainstorming without knowing it, and a whole bunch of ideas will come to me at once.  This often happens early in the morning, when the sun is just peeping over the horizon and everyone else is asleep.  Writing things down is crucial–if you don’t get it down, it gets away.

sunrise_4100

This is magic idea time for me…

Read a lot.  I read every day.  I read things I love.  I don’t read as many children’s books as I used to, because my kids all read themselves, but I do try to sample what’s out there.  It really doesn’t matter though.  Find an author or two or five that you love, that makes you want to be like them, and read their stuff.  Ideas will flow from what they have written, and HOW they have written it.

So, how do you figure out what to write about?

1. Keep a notebook of ideas and sketches and words that you like.  Add to it daily.

2. Be a lifelong collector.  Your notebooks should be a storage place for all the weird stuff that strikes you as interesting or funny or scary or inspirational.  It may take YEARS for a unifying idea to help you make sense of all the “junk” you have stored away in your notebooks.  Don’t throw them away, don’t think they are stupid, and don’t feel you have to share them.  Your notebooks are for mental hoarding…keep them well.

3. Write it down.  Write down ANYTHING.  If you don’t get it down, it gets away.

4. Make a habit of putting something down every day, maybe at the same time.  Pretty soon, your brain will associate that time with creative idea-building time, and it will get easier.

5. Write about things you know about, things you love, things you want to learn more about.  Keep a running list of what those things are, so you know when you are on track.

6. Read every day, things that you love.  Reading and writing are inseparable.

7.  Do things that activate your brain.  I doodle.  I scribble.  Some people run, or move, or dance or listen to music.  Do whatever works for you.  Then record your ideas somehow!

8.   When you feel inspired, when the lightbulb goes off in your head, write.  Write your story, your poem, your paper.  If you are in the middle of something else, at least make NOTES for you to write from later.  This is very important!  Do it when the moment strikes!

9.  This is also important—there will be ideas you have that you will never use.  Just like there are trails of breadcrumbs that you follow and they never take you anywhere.  This is okay.  Just keep moving forward with ideas, keep picking up the breadcrumbs.  Something will come together.

So, I am back to page design for today.  Hopefully, I will have a bunch more pages to share over the course of this week, as well as other projects I am working on!  For now, start generating ideas!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

Snow Day

So, this is Winter Storm Q.  I am assuming it is named for the character from Star Trek, The Next Generation.  Whatever. There is NO SCHOOL TODAY.  So, I get time to work on “stuff” around here.  But here’s the deal.  There is also NO SNOW today.  At least, not yet. I laughed out loud when I read it on the local radio station that there was no school today.  It seems just a few years ago that they had school come hell or high water, and parents were complaining that they had to get out and pick up their kids in less than favorable conditions.  Which may be why they didn’t have school.  Regardless of reasoning, here is a shot from my front yard from 9:20 am.

feb_2351

And here are some of my FB posts from this morning–some of them more lyrical than others.

Wow, Sidney, no school? And not a flake in sight…Oh well, more blogging/writing/art/photography time for me today…or maybe not. 4 kids in the house instead of 2….

If this snow materializes, there is a very good chance the hubster will be sleeping in his office tonight. Must remember to pick up a bottle of wine or three before the snow flies…medicinal, you know…

I grew up the daughter of a teacher. I can remember snuggling in my bed, listening to the flakes tap-tapping against my window in the darkness of early morning. It’s true–if you listen hard enough, and if it’s quiet enough, you can hear the snow fall. And why was I up at 5am, listening so hard to the virtual nothingness in my house as the snow stacked up on the eaves outside? Teachers’ kids didn’t get the news of a snow day via the internet (there was none) or cell phone text (ditto) or radio or tv. Nope. I can remember the thrill in my heart when the phone would ring–a REAL ring, not some strange-assed ring TONE–before the sun came up, announcing the PERFECTION of a SNOW DAY! My mom would mumble into the phone, hang it up, and then move down the hall through the dimness to tap on the door and whisper through it what I already knew. And even though I had the whole of a glorious day ahead of me, the entire world and all the fun in it knitted up in a crystal-white blanket, I could NEVER go back to sleep again. I was up, elbows on the windowsill, my breath fogging up the glass, watching it all come down.

Talk about a “pregnant pause”…I don’t know if I felt this anxious waiting for the births of my kids! SNOW! There is NO school, so just DO IT! When I looked outside at 4am, nothing but the brown old world out there. Time to dress it up a bit, give it a little sparkle. And if it doesn’t? If that dry air just hangs tight? If we get a dusting and that is it ( and oh, there is a small, cynical part of me that does really think that might happen, just because of the weather-HYPE that is the forecast these days), there we will all be, bereft, with our brown winter-world, holding our collective breaths until Sunday-Sunday-SUNDAY…

And there are others.  Doesn’t really matter, except my day is noticeably freer to work on Soda’s Valentine and other creative projects I have going.  So, that’s what I’m doing–this SNOW DAY is now a CREATIVITY DAY!   Here is the list I made for my kids when they get bored–a THINGS TO DO list, that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a screen (which is, ironically, what I’m doing right now.)

list

My kids hate me…

I think I will post a lot today.  Maybe 5 blog posts?  Is that possible?  Of everything I do today that is creative.  This “snowpocalypse” could be the end, you know….and I want to go out with a creative BANG.  Keep your eyes out!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

 

Food and Conversation: One At A Time, Please!

I love restaurants that appeal to my imagination.  Then I can sit and gawk during my meal instead of trying to make conversation, which, I must admit isn’t an ideal activity for eating great food.  No one wants to see my food once it enters my mouth, and I don’t want to see anyone else’s either.  So, we need to come up with a pact: save the words for after the meal.  Eat.  Relish.  Enjoy.  Don’t speak.  Just worry about poking the food in and use your eyes and ears and nose to soak up the ambience.  Food and words most times don’t go together.  And stop on by Poe’s Pizza Pies…your head will spend delightedly and you will waddle when you leave.

 

Tracy Lovett is a wife, mother, author/illustrator and photographer living in Southwest Iowa. She has written and illustrated 6 children’s books in the past 3 years, the last being a novel for ages 12 and up called Buck’s Rodeo, which is available in dead tree format as well as a Kindle book. She is working hard to get the picture books on the Kindle as well.   You may find her books on Amazon, and by clicking here.  You may follow her on Facebook and on Twitter, and even dig her up on Pinterest.

Quotes From Buck’s—Ch. 17: The Magical Mud Trudge

Sometimes the most important things we sense aren’t detected with our ears, our eyes, our fingertips,  but rather they are like a double handful of glimmering water dipped from a fast-moving stream beneath reality–a cool pool of truth winking in our palms, that we see and taste for only a moment before it runs away between our dripping fingers.  And when it is all gone, we are left wondering if we ever really felt it at all.

Buck’s Rodeo…

Tracy Lovett is a wife, mother, author/illustrator and photographer living in Southwest Iowa. She has written and illustrated 6 children’s books in the past 3 years, the last being a novel for ages 12 and up called Buck’s Rodeo, which is available in dead tree format as well as a Kindle book. She is working hard to get the picture books on the Kindle as well.   You may find her books on Amazon, and by clicking here.  You may follow her on Facebook and on Twitter, and even dig her up on Pinterest.