Thoughts on the Writing Process

There are times, like today, when I write and feel like the pen doesn't capture exactly what is coming out of my mind. It's like the language and words betray that perfect image I have in my head. It frustrates me and I get down on myself and think that I am not worthy of being a wordsmith, a writer.

Then, I read something like this quote from Neil Gaiman (in an interview he did on

And I'm glad I waited. I think it's a better book than I set out to write 23 years ago, and I feel like the gods smiled on me, and I got very lucky. Normally, in anything I do, I'm fairly miserable. I do it, and I get grumpy because there is a huge, vast gulf, this aching disparity, between the platonic ideal of the project that was living in my head, and the small, sad, wizened, shaking, squeaking thing that I actually produce. And then there is The Graveyard Book, which is, I think, the first time I've felt really satisfied.

And suddenly, I don't feel so bad about what I have written.

What's your personal kit?

RenArt Moleskine+3x5In my post about my workplace gear, I noted that there had been a certain divergence between the gear I use in the office and the gear I use for my own personal and creative time. Essentially, the office gear is quite polished and uses a Circa system as a base, complete with fancy zip folio and plenty of DIYP forms, while my personal gear is far more... raw.

I've always maintained that structure is important when you have a lot to take on and keep organized, and having a well-built planner (whether digital or analogue) is key to that. But --although my home life does require some degree of organisation-- it's far less than the myriad projects I have to manage for work. In fact, some simple to-do lists and a calendar is about all I need, along with the occasional contact look-up. Thus, part of my kit is a few DiyP HipsterPDA Action cards and a month-view calendar. I copy down pertinent appointments and to-do items so that I can ferry them and sync with my other planner and online tools as needed.

A far bigger concern for me is creativity. Now, creativity comes in many forms, and that's one of the reasons why I created the DiyP Creative Pack, which is a separate pack in Classic and integrated into the HipsterPDA size pack. Having those prompts can help you manage plots, devise (and remember) characters, keep tabs on story props (like that elusive Holy Grail you keep losing), shuffle your storyboards (did Han shoot before or after?), and otherwise structure your ideas. So, part two of my kit: a selection of DiyP creative cards, which may vary according to the project I'm concentrating on.

Zentangles : A Review

In my pursuit to find fun and new ways to express my creativity on paper, I stumbled across a new art-form called Zentangles. A zentangle is a method of creating images from imaginative patterns. You start by dividing off sections of a small piece of paper and then you draw repetitive doodles and designs within each section. (These are known as tangles). Each doodle and design has its own special and unique name and of course, you're welcome to make up your own tangles. When you are done filling in each space with a different design, you've completed a unique piece of art.

The Zentangle website provides extensive information on the benefits of this art form, where they came from, and how to get started with one of their kits. In my haste to start utilizing this simple-yet-elegant art-form, I ordered one of their Zentangle Kits for $49 USD. Each kit comes with 34 tiles (pre-cut pieces of thick, watercolor paper), 2 Sakura Micron pens, pencils and a sharpener, an instructional book and DVD, a 20-sided dice, and a small Legend that contains 20 tangles to get you all started with.

Costume Details Reference Sheet

My daughter is a costumer for theaters, and she uses this sheet at the beginning of each show to take all the relevant measurements for each character/actor. Some of the items might seem odd, until you remember that sometimes a female plays a male character and vice versa.

The bottom part of the form tracks who did what alterations, repairs, etc.

At the end of the show, she files the form and builds up her library for future reference.

Usage advice: 

The Open Office template is included if you want to use this as a starting point for a personalized size reference.

Paper size: 
Classic (5.5 x 8.5)
Creative Commons
Applications required: 
Adobe, Open Office


Why not record your month in doodles? Anything goes!

Usage advice: 

Doodle something in each box - share at the end of the month with other DIYPlanner fanatics!

Hello !, Ygor here. With Sara's kind permission, I am adding to this template. I whipped up an Open Office Drawing of the 7 by 5 grid of round-cornered rectangles. They are grouped into a single object. The neato-nifty thing you can do with this is draw to ANY size paper. Just open the document, set your paper and margin size, and then just resize the group of rectangles to fit your page.

Paper size: 
Multiple Sizes
Creative Commons
Applications required: 
pdf reader, Open Office

Create Word Art with Wordle

I was reading Neil Gaiman's blog today and came across this interesting link. Someone had taken some of his prose (the infamous "I Believe" passage from American Gods) and rendered it in Wordle.

It's a word-art site where you feed it passages of text and it spits it out in a mind map sort of visual-word poetry/art. You can create your own account, upload all sorts of interesting passages, see how the site creates renders of what you add and share it with others.

I'm making all sorts of word art with it to use as covers for my journals, greeting card covers and just fun background image art.

Imitation Writing

Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, used to write and rewrite poems in college so she could memorize them. She writes,

In college I was in love with literature. I mean wild about it. I typed poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins over and over again so I could memorize them. I read John Milton, Shelley, Keats aloud and swooned on my narrow bed in the dormitory.

I copy bits and pieces of my favorite writers prose down in my journals, tucked between entries of daily life and my own imagination. I keep various quotes and story snippets from writers I admire among my index cards. While I write them down, as the pen makes scratching marks across my pages, I look at the language: how it runs off my pen (or mind's tongue), how long the sentences are, and what words were used. I like to think that it helps me dissect language down into uncovering what makes them work and "so great."

Have you ever attempted to imitate your favorite writer's prose? How well did that go? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

Polyvore: A Web Collage Creation App

Last year I wrote a post detailing ways to use collage as a tool for motivation.

Today, while perusing the RSS feeds, I stumbled upon this site, Polyvore. Apparently, this site allows you to collect images from all over the site and mix and match them into your own collages. You can then share these collages with anyone. Rolling over and clicking on any of the images in the collage, takes you back to the original site where you can buy it.

I have yet to try this app (wanted to share this with you all first); but in my quick perusal of the site I did see that they teach you how to use their editor. The potential to use this tool as a powerful and visual way to create motivation collages that can then be shared with others is amazing. I can see many kids also using this as a way to create wish-lists for holidays or any occasion.

Keeping a Career Research Binder

People keep journals for many reasons: to keep a history of their lives; to record stories and poems; and to get the chatter inside their head out of their mind and on paper. And sometimes, research. Research and notebooks go hand and hand, it seems. At least it does for me. I have many three-ring binders filled with various magazine clippings, web page and graphical printouts; and articles about the many topics I'm interested in. Sometimes, however, people keep journals of their own work history.

One of the biggest notebooks that I keep is the one I keep for my career as a technical writer. I store all sorts of things in this binder: from notes about my jobs to articles taken from various trade publications like the Society of Technical Communication. I also have sections for productivity tips and techniques and links to useful grammar and writing websites. Basically, I stuff anything I feel I can use in my career over a long term goes into this binder.