Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another Book is Brewing

That's right, another book is brewing...or perhaps I should say gestating. The life cycle of a book in some ways mirrors the life cycle of other living things. It begins with a seed - a thought. It grows organically, based on the genetics or outline created for it at the start. Even though there's a general plan, the growth of each individual organism or book is never the same as any other.

When you write a book you may know how it will end, but you don't always know how it will get there. If it's fiction you may find that your characters take over at some point. They surprise you with what they say, or they become stubborn and refuse to go where you send them. The plot that you thought was carefully constructed can take a twist you never saw coming.

In non-fiction such as my newest project - The Dog Lover's Book of Days - even with a good framework already in place, you cannot know for sure what the book will be until it's done. Just today I received an email from a woman who took the time to tell me about how her first dog died tragically young, and yet how that young life lead to another dog who is still with her. Better yet, she discovered a passion for rescuing and caring for dogs that has led her to a whole new phase of her life that gives her great satisfaction. That's a great story and I'll find a way to include it even though I had not intended to focus on pet rescues for this book.

And there's the secret whether you are writing a book or selling a house or simply taking a walk: Have a plan but be open to taking advantage of surprising changes as they come. See the opportunity and beauty that can come from something you didn't expect.

Now please pardon me while I go find a dog to interview. Think I'll start with my new neighbor, an adorable little West Highland Terrier who is all energy and wiggles. It should be fun to see the world through puppy eyes that are about 8" above the ground!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Creativity Kick-Start

For the last couple of months it's been difficult to get into the groove. Maybe you know how it is; something happens that knocks you off course for a while and you find yourself wandering around, being busy, but not actually doing anything.

When that happens, I need a change of scene, a creativty kick-start. As a writer and publisher, I can only wallow around in research so long (reading books, following internet links, getting side-tracked with interesting stuff that doesn't actually go anywhere!)  What to do?
John Simpson with videographer
I've found two ways to give myself that whack upside the head that can clear the cobwebs and get me back to productive work again, and both have to do with other people.
Porcelain jar with cats on topCeladon porcelain with cat on topFirst tactic: Find a craft show where there is an abundance of creativity and eye candy. Go look at what artists and craftspeople are doing - they are all living their passion, and some of it will certainly rub off on me. A favorite is the ACC show in Baltimore, of course, which Margaret Rome and I visited last month. A few minutes in Josh Simpson's booth, soaking up the glorious colors of his glass and chatting with this very approachable artist, clears my mind and feeds my soul. I also could not resist the work of Barbara Sebastian who makes exquisite small porcelain pots with carved cat beads on top; I loved the celadon green, but this one in earth tones with the mother and kitten came home with me.

Second tactic: Find a group of people who are doing what I do, but doing their own version. In this case, it's a group of independent publishers in the MidAtlantic area. We get together several times a year for sharing information and acting as a mastermind group for each other. The room fairly crackles with creativity! And I come home with new ideas that move me in a new direction. This time I presented the group with a question about what my next Book of Days topic should be. I gave them three choices, and they all looked at me with that "Are you really so dense?" look. Then almost in unison they said, "Dogs!" Yep - even though The Cat Lover's Book of Days is popular, I actually had not put The Dog Lover's Book of Days on my list! It is now, and I'm starting to collect the dog names, stories, and photos that will become my next Book of Days.

Finding and being around creative people works for me...what have you found to kick-start your creative juices?

Publisher of The Cat Lover's Book of Days and Zen and the Art of Negotiation: Successful Negotiation for People Who Hate to Negotiate.
The Cat Lover's Book of Days cover Zen and the Art of Negotiation Cover