Tag Archive for: creativity

Wisteria Wars and Creativity in the Time of Covid—by T.K. Thorne


     Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.

Most people assume, as a writer, that I’m eating up the hours a little virus has bequeathed to us by WRITING. They would be wrong. Yes, I am working on a novel, but it’s in the editing stage. That means I’m calling on some craft skills, but mostly just plain old boring, repetitive checking for errors.
This piece is the first thing I’ve actually tried to pull from the creativity well, and I have no idea where it will go. But that is okay. I give myself permission to ramble and see if anything worthwhile will arise. (I encourage you to do the same.)  So here we go.

I’m fortunate to live on several acres of property surrounded by beautiful woods. Our nearest neighbors are cows. For the ten years before we moved here, I lived in the city, and tried to grow on a tiny patch of land what I felt was the most gorgeous of plants—a wisteria vine. For whatever reason, the one I planted with hopes of it gracefully climbing the crosshatch wood panel on the side of my front porch and spilling grape-like clusters of blossoms—never bloomed. When we moved, I dug up a piece of the root and planted it in my front yard, determined to keep trying. The ground was so hard, I ended up cutting off most of the taproot and throwing a small piece of it into the woods on the side of my house.

Thirty years later, that little piece of discarded taproot has been . . . successful.  That is like saying a virus replicates. It did bloom, draping glorious purple curtains from the trees.

At first I told it, “Okay, as long as you stay on that side of the path.” It didn’t. Then, I rationalized, as long as it stayed behind the fence in the backyard. (I didn’t actually go in my backyard very much, being busy with life stuff.)  But I looked one day after covid-19 hit, and it had eaten over half of the back yard.  I couldn’t even walk to the fence line. Two huge trees went down, strangled, and too close to the house.

It was time for war.

This engagement, like those in the Middle East, will never end. Wisteria sends out shoots underground and periodically forms nodes that may change the direction or shoot out its own horizontal and/or vertical roots, so each section can survive independently and pop up anywhere.  Of course, I have the most pernicious variety, the Chinese kind that takes over the world (challenging even kudzu, which fortunately, hasn’t found my house yet.)

My first priority was to save the trees near the house. The vines were so thick at the base, no clippers would suffice. I girded myself with a baby chainsaw and determination. It hurt to cut into those old, twisty vines, to destroy something so beautiful, but the trees were more important. I imagined that with each cut, the tree could feel the release from the vine’s embrace, the reprieve.  I was taking life, but I was giving it too.

I sprayed the growth in the yard and pulled up (some of) the root systems.  If you want a mindless, exhausting, frustrating, impossible task—pull up established wisteria roots. It will take your mind off anything, even a pandemic.

One side benefit of the fallen trees was that a little more light found its way into the yard, and I decided to try growing vegetables. Another feature of my backyard is an old fashion clothesline with rusty steel posts. Periodically over the past decades, I’ve thought we should take them down as they are eyesores, but another part of me (the part that worried what young girls with flat stomachs would do during the famine) worried that we would have a pandemic one day or some kind of disaster that would require actually hanging clothes out to dry, so I left them, as well as the abandoned rabbit hutch in the far corner.  We would be ready, if not attractively landscaped.  And worse case scenario, maybe the hutch, in a pinch, would hold chickens.

I thought my creative well was dry, but looking at those old steel posts, the pile of wisteria roots, the vines I had pulled up and cut down, and a package of bean seeds that has been sitting in a drawer for a few years, something started stirring. Beans need something to climb.  One of the fallen trees had taken out actual wire lines of the clothesline, but the poles were set in cement. They will be there when I am dust. The pole surface might be too slick for a bean to be able to curl up, but maybe—
And so, as a product of WWI (Wisteria Wars Episode I) and covid-19, I found that the outlet for creativity isn’t always words on a page. If my beans grow, they will be beautiful and feed me, and if they don’t, I will at least have a couple of funky art pieces in the backyard.

Foreground: Metal pole with wisteria roots and vines. Background logs
from tree felled by wisteria, the carcass of another felled tree, and
old rabbit hutch.

T.K. is a retired police captain who writes books, which, like this blog, roam wherever her interest and imagination take her.  Want a heads up on news about her writing and adventures (and receive two free short stories)? Click on image below.  Thanks for stopping by!


Fifteen Minutes

by Bethany Maines
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this year is all about
trying new things for me. From submitting to contests and magazines to trying
different kinds of writing I’m attempting to push myself into growth. I truly
want to understand not just what makes good writing, but how to construct a
story. One of the things I’ve discovered is that forcing boundaries onto a work
can actually improve the work itself. 
From outlawing specific words (swear words, oh how I miss you!) in some
pieces to declaring that certain elements must be included (there has to be a
dog, OK?) by working against/with a constraint it forces creativity. But one
boundary that I consistently seem to be rubbing up against these days is time—I
don’t have enough. Particularly since the birth of my daughter, the effort to
carve out extended periods of time to be creative is monumental.
I have managed in some cases to do this by ignoring other
areas of my life (Dishes? What dirty dishes?) or through the understanding of
my husband who swoops in and carts our kid off while I’m furiously typing up
some scene or another.  But on many days,
there is no “vast, unbroken slab of time.” Which is why I found this article
about What You Can Achieve in 15-Minute Bursts of Creativity to be an interesting articulation about the approach
I’ve developed. Working on a project in smaller chunks does allow the project
to always stay fresh in my mind and churning away in my subconscious. It also
forces me to stop waiting for the perfect time to think or do something. I had
not realized that the “perfect time” was such an illusion or that I clung to
the illusion so much until I switched to a “do it now” approach. The
accumulation of tiny chunks of time allows for a productivity that would have
seemed impossible to me before the process was forced on me. This bit by bit
approach does work. It may be a constraint I didn’t want, but like many of the
other boundaries, it has forced me to come up with creative solutions that I
might not have otherwise discovered.
So if you’re out there despairing of finding the few hours
you want to do something – don’t give up. 
Take your fifteen minutes and do the thing (whatever the thing is) now.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. You can undo half of it tomorrow if you like,
but it’s still more than you had before.

Check out the most recent accumulation of fifteen minutes. (Cover reveal coming in September!!)

The Second Shot:A drunken mistake in college cost US Marshall Maxwell Ames the love of Dominique
Deveraux. Six years later, he’s determined to fix the slip-up, but there’s just one tiny problem – someone wants the Deveraux family dead. Now Max must make sure that the only one getting a second shot at Dominique is him.

Join my mailing list to be alerted when additional platforms become available or pre-order now on Apple


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author
of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous
short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some
serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her
daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel.
You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Einstein, Oz, and Ms. Poppins by T.K. Thorne

Writer, humanist,

          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.

This glorious spring, scientists finally took a “real” picture of a black hole. All the ones we’ve been seeing have been artists’ renditions because black holes are really not visible. They swallow light. Creative astrophyicists used a multiple array of telescopes hooked together to get an image of light bending around the massive gravity pit, just as Einstein predicted!

Einstein was right about so many things—space/time, gravity, quantum physics, even a big something scientists of his day scoffed at and he decided he was wrong about—the cosmological constant. Okay, he was a little off, but the concept was not, and modern physics has gone back to it. Albert used math, but first he used something we all have and think too little of—imagination.

Einstein visualized what-if’s.  What if I could ride on a wave of light? What if I were inside a plunging elevator? All in his mind.

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”—Albert Einsten

It makes you wonder if we are so busy stuffing knowledge into children, we neglecting to teach them to use their imagination. But Children are born with creative genius. The better question is, what are we teaching them that stiffles that creative thinking and problem solving?

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”—Einstein

I’m not going to admit how old I was when I finally accepted that I would never be able to coss the Deadly Desert and find Oz. I wept, believing that I had lost something precious and irreplaceable.
But I was wrong. 
What was the Deadly Desert really, but that pesky voice that says, “No you can’t,” or “That’s impossible.”

 If anyone ever told Einstein it was impossible to ride a beam of light, it’s an awfully good thing that he didn’t listen. And neither did the scientists who took a picture of nothing. Maybe they both listened, instead, to Mary Poppins, who said:

“Everything is possible, even the impossible.”

T.K. Thorne’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama.  “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” In her newest novel, HOUSE OF ROSE, murder and mayhem mix with a little magic when a police officer discovers she’s a witch. 

Both her award-winning debut historical novels, NOAH’S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, tell the stories of unknown women in famous biblical tales—the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. Her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE, the inside story of the investigation and trials of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. 

T.K. loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. She writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap. 

 More info at TKThorne.com. Join her private newsletter email list and receive a two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.

Creativity–Where Does It Come From? by T.K. Thorne



      Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.

To be a writer requires the ability to tap into creativity. It is the sine quo non, the foundation of  being novelist or a poet. This is not to denigrate the years of learning and work that go into the writing craft. But without the essence of story, craft and skill are tools without a job. 

What is creativity?  How does it work? How do we turn it on? 

Photo by Praveesh Palakeel on Unsplash

Let’s start with what it is. According to the dictionary, creativity is originality, progressiveness or imagination, more specifically, the ability to “transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations.” 

Scientists like Dr. George Land, who has spent his career investigating the enhancement of creativity performance, have determined that there are two kinds of thinking. One he calls divergent and the other is convergent. Divergent thinking is when our brain is coming up with new possibilities. Convergent thinking is where the brain is making a judgment, testing, criticizing and evaluating. Although the two sides of our brains (left and right) have specialized areas that contribute to these types of thinking, much more of the whole brain is involved when a person is using their imagination than when using convergent thinking or analyzing. 

Louis R. Mobley says creativity can definitely be taught and the key is asking radically different questions in a non-linear way. He also suggests that self-knowledge, giving yourself permission to be wrong, and hanging around with creative thinkers are important elements or learning to be creative. 

What kind of specific things can writers do to stimulate divergent or creative thinking and get the whole brain engaged? Here’s a partial list:

  • Bubble mapping
  • Creating artwork
  • Maintaining a journal
  • Subject mapping
  • Devoting some time to meditation and thinking
  • Building lists of questions

All these activities can trigger divergent thinking. What works for one person might not for another and vice versa.

Photo by Praveesh Palakeel on Unsplash

For me, oddly, it’s being in a car for extended periods of time, such as driving on the Interstate. I go into a “zone” where my imagination creates scenes, and characters talk to each other. 

Where did that come from?

When I was a patrol officer on the late shift–yes, sometimes all hell would break out–but often there were long, boring hours of patrol. I learned to let part of my brain be observing what I was seeing out the window while the other part was writing a novel.

Those days are long gone, and I don’t drive that much anymore.  Can’t write a novel based on trips to the grocery store. So I’m trying to create that zone state when I walk, but, like “falling” asleep, it doesn’t happen with willpower. You can’t “make” yourself fall asleep. You can only create the circumstances that make it more likely and “let go” of activities and thoughts that create an anti-sleep environment. Then sleep happens. 

It’s the same with daydreaming or being in a creative state and involves giving the mind permission to wander, a kind of “letting go” that doesn’t put requirements on what I am thinking, just a repetitive nudge in the direction of my current story. Random thoughts can splatter the bubble, but often, if I bring my mind gently back on track–like returning focus to breath in meditation–valuable things happen. 

Do you have a method of getting into the creative zone? I’d love to hear from you.

T.K. has written two award-winning historical novels, NOAH’S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, filling in the untold backstories of extraordinary unnamed women—the wives of Noah and Lot—in two of the world’s most famous sagas. The New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list featured her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE, which details the investigators’ behind-the-scenes stories of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing case. 

Her next project is HOUSE OF ROSE, the first of a trilogy in the paranormal-crime genre. She loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. T.K. writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, Alabama, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap. She blogs about “What Moves Me” on her website, TKThorne.com.  Join her private newsletter email list and receive a two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.”

Writing – A Walk in the Park

At the end of
January, I quit my day-job to write full-time. A dream come true. 

 My last day of
official employment was on a Friday. I gave myself the weekend to relax and on
Monday I plunked my hiney in a chair, stretched my fingers above the keyboard, and wrote.
250 words.
Not good words.
Not terribly
alarmed, I grabbed a legal pad and wrote long-hand.
Not good words.
What was wrong
with me? This was the DREAM. I had a plan. And that plan included 3,000 words a
My brain had
other plans.
Dratted brain.
The plan: I would be one of those SUPER-prolific authors.
“No, no,” said
my brain. “No super for you.”

Good thing I
know a way to get around my brain.

There’s all
kinds of research about physical activities and brain waves and what stimulates
For me, walking
and creative ideas have always gone together.
Now I’m clocking
12,000 to 15,000 steps a day and the book is half-finished (still not according
to plan, but so much better than 250 not good words or a blank page).
The other bonus
of writing in my head while walking is that my aforementioned hiney is
shrinking rather than growing to meet the edges of my chair.

The scenery isn’t bad either!

 Look for a new
book in a new series soon!

Are you
following me on Bookbub? In addition to telling you about fabulous sales, Bookbub
will let you know whenever I have a release!

Julie Mulhern is the USA
Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. 

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of
Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her
family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house
spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is–she’s an
expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust
bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions. 

Running on Empty

by J.M. Phillippe

I have been trying to write this blog for several hours now. I wanted to write something about Charlottesville, VA, and about white nationalism (how it came to be, and why we can’t just abide it). I wanted to write about meeting anger with compassion, and the struggle to do that.

I also really want to write about Game of Thrones, because the last two episodes have been amazing, and it’s one of my favorite shows (in part because I also write fantasy). And it would be easier to write about that than pretty much anything else I could come up with.

And I also want to write about my struggle at work with clients who have little to no tolerance for the fallibility of others (including their therapist) and how hard that is to hold, again, with compassion.

But I just feel so bleh about it all. I am trying to hold on to the idea that what I write matters, both in this blog and in my fiction. I have been struggling to hold on to the idea that art matters, that novels matter, when I feel like I should be out marching instead of writing, or calling more senators and house representatives.

I am struggling to have enough energy to balance out all the things I want in my personal life with the national tragedy that is all around us. I am really struggling with dealing with the fact that so many people (again, including clients) don’t believe there is a national tragedy or fear the rise of white nationalism (and literal Nazis!) in our country.

I know that art matters. I know that it doesn’t have to be high and mighty, capital A Art to matter either. I know that distraction is not a bad thing when there is so much bad news happening all the time. And I know that for myself, I do best when I engage actively in creativity on a consistent basis.

And I also know that I am not the only one struggling right now, so I’m just going to put this here:

I’m going to go practice some art — even if I do it badly — so that I can refill my compassion well. It’s been on empty for a while.


J.M. Phillippe is the author of Perfect Likeness and the short story The Sight. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She works as a family therapist in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free-time decorating her tiny apartment to her cat Oscar Wilde’s liking, drinking cider at her favorite British-style pub, and training to be the next Karate Kid, one wax-on at a time.

Hearing Voices

By AB Plum
I hear voices in my head.
Most of the time.
Not every minute of the day or night. But . . . in countless places, at lots of moments—some inappropriate, such as:
·         While conferring with my tax-guru husband about my business expenses
·         While reviewing my latest marketing plan
·         While creating a FB ad
·         While struggling to grasp using video in FB ads
·         While listening for half a second to political callers (usually at dinnertime)
·         While zoning out in front of TV
·         While falling asleep

And . . . mostly, while writing at my computer. 

E.L. Doctorow said, “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

When the voices stop—especially when I’m at my computer—I’m in trouble. Major trouble.
Which means I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere in my story. (My characters absolutely refuse to be forced into a situation or action or thought that contradicts who they are). Ignoring me is the quickest way to get my attention.

Two years ago, though, I got hit by the flu. Not the coughing, sniffling, aching kind of flu. The kind that hospitalized me for ten days. I spent seven days in ICU, totally unaware of my surroundings or my brush with death, I heard neither the voices of the medical staff, my husband, nor my characters.
On Day 8, my doctor sent me to quarantine in the Continuing Care Unit. Coughing occupied most of my day and night, and I had the energy of wilted lettuce. I wondered if I’d ever feel ‘myself’ again. Excellent nursing, support from my husband, and my insistence on getting out of bed several times daily helped.
On Day 9, one of my characters popped into my head in the middle of a wobbly circuit around my room. A couple of more showed up before the doctor came by. They hung around after he left. Did I plan to loll around for another nine days? When did I plan to resume telling their stories? Didn’t they deserve a little empathy for their patience?

By the time the doctor returned that afternoon, I made the argument to go home.
And I did. The next day. Late on Day 10. With a cast of characters filling my head with their music.
What about you? Had your flu shot yet? Do you hear that little voice shouting, “Do it!”
Me? I’m scheduled for October 20 because the voices in my head believe in prevention.
AB Plum was born reading—according to her mother.  She started writing shortly thereafter. After publishing two romantic comedies and two romantic suspense novels, she has turned to psychological suspense. Look for release in late October of The Early Years, Book 1 in The MisFit Series.

The Story Starts Here

by Bethany Maines
One of the most common question a writer gets asked is
“Where do your ideas come from?”
Once my brother made me lay on his floor so he could tape
outlines of me all over his bedroom carpet as though his room had been the site
of a mass murder; we found it was surprisingly difficult to get just the right
pose so that all the limbs were showing and you didn’t just have weird potato
shaped outlines. (Yes, I know that was an odd transition, but I’ll circle back
I promise.) When was 12, I told my Dad I had a stove box to make a Halloween
costume out of he got out the black and white spray paint and turned my best
friend and I into Two Fools in Pair-o-Dice; our heads came out the one dots – naturally.
My mom’s friend once had eye surgery and had a rather large bandage, so my mom painted
on an eye over the bandage and added a great set of false lashes. Why did we do
these things? Honestly, the question never occurred to us. Had you asked at the
time we probably would have said, “Why not?” My family has a culture
of creativity and odd projects from passing thoughts are the norm not the
exception. And as is often the case with cultures, I didn’t think to question
it until someone from a different culture asked, “So why don’t you put
mayo on fries?”  Or in the case of my
writing, “How do you come up with your ideas?”
The people asking don’t mean anything by the question, they
are genuinely interested. The problem is that at any given time I’m vacillating between two of my personalities, Helpful Instructor Bethany and Diva Artiste
Bethany. Helpful Instructor is usually nice, but Diva Artiste is kind of…
well, I won’t use the B-word as we are in a family friendly forum, but you get
the idea, and sometimes it’s a struggle to rein Diva Wench back in. Helpful Instructor
realizes that the questioner was not raised in a culture of creativity and they
are asking for help understanding the creative process. Diva Artiste
imperiously demands how anyone cannot have ideas. Ideas are literally littered
on the sidewalk, in the newspaper, on the radio, sleeting through the universe
like a tiny meteorite looking for a receptive brain (Terry Pratchett, you are
missed) and all you really have to do to have an idea is make your brain
receptive. It’s easy to do – read blogs by creative people (thanks), buy creative people presents (ok, maybe not really on that one, but I like books, you know, just in case), try new things. But the number one tip that Helpful
Instructor or Diva Artiste both agree on, is to ask “What if?”
Any topic can work. Earlier this week there was a news story
about a man who ran from the police and got stuck in mud.  What if you had been that man – up to your
knees in river mud, unable to move, sinking slowly? What would you do?

What if I… What if you… What if they… The story starts
there and you can decide the ending – just answer the question.
Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie
Mae Mysteries
, Tales from the City of
and the forthcoming An Unseen
You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video
or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Mother Lode

by Susan McBride

Today is my mom’s birthday, although we won’t talk about her age (since she doesn’t act like it anyway). As you read this, I’m doubtless at the casino with her, playing the penny slots, since we make a pilgrimmage every year to celebrate. Usually, she wins, and I don’t. But I try to make up for it at the buffet (free coupon!).

I’ve always appreciated mothers, my own in particular, even more so recently (if that’s possible). I’m not sure where I’d be right now if not for my mom’s wholehearted endorsement of my doing this writing thing. I knew I wanted to be a novelist at 19, when I wrote my first grown-up novel in between transferring colleges. While my business-minded father bemoaned my even leaving college to write a book–and to figure out “who I am”–my mom was behind me all the way. “You have to do what makes you happy,” she told me on no uncertain terms. “And no one can decide what that is but you.”

When I knew what I wanted to do, she backed me up, and I watched her do the same with my brother and sister. My father clearly didn’t understand the need to be creative (well, he was an IBM guy, through and through), but my mom did. Even though she wasn’t any kind of artist, nor did she strive to be, she was one of the most creative people I’ve ever known. She made up songs as we drove to the grocery store or to the zoo (something I do to this day!). She helped me with school projects (never doing them for me, just assisting), and I had the best time creating Conestoga wagons out of shoeboxes and cutting up old encyclopedias to do a map of Big Cats Around the World.

You’ve probably even heard me mention her creative meals. I never knew what I was going to see when I opened my lunchbox. On holidays especially, it could get very interesting. I remember sandwiches cut in the shape of four-leaf clovers on St. Patrick’s Day (and, that night, green milk and green mashed potatoes with dinner). One day, she packed cookies shaped like dog biscuits, which I loved and which freaked out my friends.

Christmases and Easters were incredible. Mom was–and still is–a decorating fiend. And, oh, did we get gorgeous Easter baskets! Each one hidden somewhere in the house so we had to find them. She dyed eggs, too, every color imaginable, and she hid them outside. There was always something to look forward to.

As I got older and as we moved around, I realized what a grounding force she was. No matter where we lived–or what kind of troubles we had adjusting–she tried to make things better, or at least remind us that we wouldn’t be the new kids forever, that sometimes life sucked but that didn’t last. Even when we disagreed, I respected her point of view. I’m pretty sure she respected mine as well.

Just the other day, I mentioned the idea that we all have a gift, even if some of us might not realize what that is for a long time. To which, my mom remarked, “I still don’t know what mine is.” And I said, “It’s being a mother. You’re great at momming.” She laughed, but I meant it.

So much of what’s in the novels I write involves mothers and daughters. I didn’t do it consciously, but it’s there just the same. Maybe it’s because of the amazing complexity of mother-daughter relationships. They grow, they change, they evolve. They’re full of push and pull and compromise. And they have a life-long effect on us.

When my grandmother passed, I could only imagine how hard that was on my mom. I want to think my mother will live forever and see me through whatever else life throws at me. On today, her birthday, I want to thank my mom and moms like her everywhere, who’ve taken on the hardest job there is and who do it with such passion. May you all continue to blow out the candles on the cake for many more years to come.