Portable Muse: Never Run Out of Ideas Again

Last year I wrote about how using prompts can help you spark ideas for those days when you can't think of anything "good" to write about in your journal. I showed you many sites and books that you could use for resources. Just think, wouldn't it be cool if you could take all those sites and all those books I've suggested with you, where ever you go? Of course, you can take all the websites with you as long as you got wireless connectivity AND a laptop. But it's not very cost effective. As for all those books, you could use Steve's EXTREME planner idea and always carry your personal library on you at all times.

While it's not efficient to carry your laptop with a library of books at your side all the time, you can carry a stack of cards printed with prompts and writing ideas. I'm going to show you how you can create and use your own personal, portable oblique idea generator that can be easily tossed in any bag. This Portable Muse is a small bound notebook filled with images and quotes and questions that will never allow you to go without a quick jolt of inspiration. Never will you run out of ideas again.

Going on Safari... A Journal Safari

This weekend marks the first in a series of long weekends for us Americans. I'll be heading out tomorrow to the "Great Outdoors" with camp gear in toe for some serious camping. I'm excited! I love camping. Of course, I'll be bringing my trusty Moleskine journal with me and a few extra supplies to record thoughts and maybe some sketches of gorgeous Mt. Hood. So, this week, I'll leave you all with a little homework assignment. Don't groan, it'll be fun and you don't need to escape your home for the wilds of the Great Outdoors. You're going on safari!

First, you'll need to grab a few friends. Or not. But going on a safari is definitely more fun when you got a few friends to pal around. Discuss where you want to go, what to see and what themes to write or sketch about in your journals. If you like, make it more than one location throughout the day. The change in venue helps spark creativity and helps you to make multiple entries. Or go to your local museum and spend various days entering information about the various rooms your museum has. Point is, gathering friends up means you'll be making the commitment to attempt this fun outing and that you follow through with it.

Mr. Sandman, Bring Me a Dream

Last weekend, while my husband and I were at breakfast with a friend, we discussed dreams. First, my friend told us about her's; using bright words and concrete images. I was amazed at how real and vivid she described her dream as being. It was almost like listening to a recap of a favorite television show. Then kender spoke up and described his dream and how weird it was. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to share in their storytelling. I knew I dreamt, but wasn't able to recall what I did dream about. And this bummed me out, so I decided to work on what I could do to recall my dreams and then write them down.

Why do so many of us have a hard time remembering our dreams? Is it because of the deepness of sleep we achieve? Does the inability to recall our dreams hinder our personal development? Or maybe some of us cannot recall because we just dream deeply and are cursed with the inability to recall fully. I know that I, personally, LOVE dreaming. There are times I try and sneak daily naps in just so I can have more dreams! I believe that anyone, given enough practice CAN recall their dreams. With the help of a dream journal.

Keeping a record of your dreams brings out the storyteller in all of us. And who doesn't love to tell a fun story? All you need is a journal (or your planner) and a pen and setting some morning time aside to get your thoughts down. The idea is, when you first wake up in the morning, you write down the story, symbols and scenes that took place in your head while your eyes were closed. The entries do not to be too long-- however, I've found that it's more fun to try and write dreams down as if they were fictional stories than it is to just list symbols and places and people. This includes being able to add as much colorful description and dialog as you can. Some people don't have any problems writing down their dreams. They're able to write full recounts of the storyline, recall things that were said and they even know exactly what each symbol in the dream meant and how it reflects back to their life. However, for some of us, trying to remember our dreams can be tough. And this requires a bit more ritual and preparation.

Three Goddesses, One Line

It was a grim and rainy Spring evening in the backwoods of northern France, where I had been hitchhiking from town to town in the efforts to gather legends, folk tales, inscriptions, antiquated books, photographs, and other historical research related to King Arthur. I toted a soggy photocopied hiking map of the heavily forested area, but was without a compass, and the dimness of the day and the heavy and incessant downpours of that pitch-dark night had conspired to leave me wandering without a clue as to my direction. I had some recollection that there was a tiny cluster of houses and a gîte d'étape --a stopover place for hikers-- nearby, but I had given up my hopes of finding it and was looking for an overhang or a dense conifer that might afford some degree of protection from the bitter-cold rain. Then, the faintest glimmer of light caught my eye from between the trees.

Picture imPerfect

There are some moments that I’d call picture perfect. These are snippets of time, that seem to defy the normal timeline and settle deep within my core. Hours spent on the sofa, reading a favored Neil Gaiman book, sipping tea while the rain outside gives the world a fresh spring bath. Knowing you nailed an interview for the all-too-perfect job at your dream company. Relaxing out in the backyard, enjoying the sun, as a squirrel or rabbit or bird hops by your side... these moments make life alive.

Memories like these stay in my head and become sources of my daydreams. I often wonder what I can do to recapture the feelings and moments more often. Repeating them over and over in your mind is one way to do it and a good way to romanticize the past. However, repeating them also creates longing and I've learned that it's never too good to dwell in the past. The best way I've found is to capture these moments, in words or in images, in your journals. Distill the feeling and picture of that time in your life down to it's core and immortalize it on a page.

An Epica Review

Three Epica journals

I have just finished writing a brief thank you for one of the nicest books I have ever handled. Just before Easter a card arrived from the post office; a package had arrived, could I collect it? Being Easter and not realising its significance I left it languishing at the sorting office until Tuesday. When I arrived, the parcel, carefully wrapped in brown paper, was placed on the counter while I showed my identification. Looking at it lying there I realised it was too small for paperwork and the wrong shape for an Easter egg. So what could it possibly be? I carefully slid the blade of my Swiss army knife down the tape and removed the paper. Inside there was a cardboard box, not unlike the type seen in the old tobacconists. The name EPICA was printed in sepia and underneath "World Class Italian Leather & Paper Products"....

Recycling Planners in the Name of Art!

Last week, I lost my day job. Now I'm not looking for sympathy, it's a part of my life as a writer (we're always the first to go, it seems), but I realized something. Today was the first day I spent looking at all the things I took home from my old office. Earlier today I carefully dragged the three boxes of paper, books and the colorful nicknacks that adorned my desk and bookshelf. I went through the boxes and carefully pulled out much of the bits and bobs that I wasn't going to be needing for the "next" job and set them aside. About 99% of that pile was papers. Papers from meetings, project planner forms detailing jobs and lots of one-on-one forms. Looking back at all those forms is like looking back at 50% of my life in the past year. I wrote manuals, created fliers, and had plans for brochures and newsletters. And like most people who leave their jobs, things like these papers get tossed right into the recycling pile. (Come on... we all know that these forms get tossed or recycled. I'm not the only one here.) Well, not today.

Instead of saying adios to my last job by unceremoniously dumping the papers into the trash, where they make a great THUMP sound, I'm keeping many of the project cards and one-on-one forms that helped me focus and stay productive on my job. I'm going to use these forms to decorate my walls or paste in my journals. (I'd rather turn them into journal covers than let them decompose slowly in the cold.) Those forms helped define and shape my career over the last year. In effect, they ARE journal entries and creative memories of what I did in my life to pay the bills. Who says your art and journal entries need to be clean and messy. You now have permission to reuse those forms, save them from the landfills and go make art with them.

Creating a Custom Circa Notebook Cover

When I was in high school back last century, it was before computers had taken ahold of society. There were no inkjets and no print-it-yourself scrapbooking ephemera from CD-ROM collections, and even "clip art" collections --usually of the Dover variety-- where generally only available in messy third-generation Gestetner reproductions from unclean woodcuts and etchings. (You folks older than 35 probably know what I'm talking about... you kids, you just hug your svelte little Macbooks and thank heaven for Epson.) In short, it was nowhere near as easy to create a custom notebook or journal without grabbing your X-Acto knives, some glue, scraps of leatherette or thick paper, and a bunch of markers or paints. Yup, those were actually a lot of fun, those little craft projects, but for every personalised tome worthy of keeping, there would inevitably be five sorry-looking collections of folded scraps sporting misshapen heads you drew, glued beads and plastic charms from gumball machines that would fall off within two days, and perhaps a photo-machine strip of yourself and a friend making goofy faces. Not that these didn't have a personal connection of some type, but you just knew everybody would make fun of you if you took it out of your knapsack in public.

Now, it's not so much that a Levenger Circa Notebook out of the box is a plain thing. In fact, it's rather elegant in a way. But sometimes you just want to make something your own.

Two Quick Journaling Techniques and a Hack

The sound of a gel pen scratching words across the surface of a Moleskine fill the house. The scent of red chai waifs into the air and into my nostrils. And as I write, my body relaxes and releases the tension of the day out. Images of spending hours on the sofa, delicately crafting beautiful and meaningful journal entries, always seem to dance around in my brain. Reality is, there's always more stuff to be done in one day than Nature allows. And more often than naught, promises of writing in my journal or playing in the studio before bedtime, go unfulfilled; lost to the shuffle of cleaning the house and laundry.

Do you wish there was more time in a day to do more? I know I do. Between work, chores and responsibilities (and diversions like WoW) I never seem to be able to journal as much as I want. Until now. For those of us who find ourselves constantly with less time and more on their to-do list, here's two quick journaling tips and a hack that remind us all that journaling doesn't require scheduling a special time.