Welcome Fall! I've been working away at projects, but I had to blog about my favorite season. There is so much happening at this time of year. Let's start with a party! Over 20 different paranormal authors from romance & humor to suspense & horror are teaming up for a fun Halloween Facebook event on October 15th! There will be special deals, an online scavenger hunt, free stories (including a new one from me), and a prize basket. You can join the party here. Can't wait to see you there!
There's more Spooktacular fun in store Oct 1-Oct 30. Over 60 authors are giving away one of their paranormal romance books COMPLETELY FREE! All you have to do is click the link below between Oct 1-Oct 30 to cash in on some great free reads. If you haven't read my erotica romance shifter novella, Turn to Me, now's your chance to snag a copy.
Get Your Free Paranormal Romance Books
There's yet ANOTHER a party going on at LoveRomanceReads.com. I told you we love to celebrate fall! Every day this month the blog will celebrate all things October with a post by a guest author. Head over on Oct 20th to learn why I'm attached to this lovely month and get to know a bit more about my family ghosts.
Midwestern Book Lovers Unite is an annual free book signing with over 30 of your favorite authors. This year it's located in the water park capital of the world - Wisconsin Dells. Marie Piper and I will be sharing a table, so stop by and say hi.
My first solo book in four years hits online stores November 2. Filled with short stories old and new, The Arts of Love explores the way art, theater, music, and the written word can bring people together.
You know what they say about those creative types...
Playful, rebellious, sensitive and passionate, nobody loves like an artist. These sixteen stories set the stage for racy encounters with bad boy rock stars, sensual actors, and artists seeking their muse. Inside this collection you'll find:
* A drummer aching to satisfy the one woman who doesn't recognize that he's a rock star
* A writer unaware that his fans and former assistant find him undeniably attractive
* An eccentric college professor enticing her protégé with informal lessons on dance, drawing, and desire
* A stage manager struggling to remain professional with the show's sexy director
Whether you're looking for a playwright provoking her friend's uptight cop neighbor to help with blocking, two choir men battling for the affection of the girl-next-door, or a struggling writer finding an unusual muse in the Japanese countryside, this collection will have you ready for romance.
Preorder The Arts of Love Today
It may be fall, but you can still get a little taste of summer. Keep warm on chilly nights with these stories about love at summer festivals. Get Summer Fair Today.
Summer Fair has been getting some great reviews. Like these:
Susan Prager 5.0 out of 5 stars
Wonder read. Short, easy stories that get you thinking, laughing and smiling. Great writing by all the authors. I really think it is a great addition to my library.
Mobookworm 5.0 out of 5 stars
I have to be honest, only bought this for one author, figured if she was in it, it would be good!!
Man this set may kill me, new people to stalk, er follow now.Was a great, versatile set that worked great together. Definitely got my moneys worth and will be telling people about this one!!!
If you'd like a taste of the book, Abigail Rakocy from Abigail's Voice did a few lovely promo spots for the book. I've posted them below so you can get your listen on.
That's all for now. See you soon.
This is going to be a quick one. I wrote a guest blog for LoveRomanceReads about one of my favorite family vacation places. If you've never heard of or experienced Grand Marais, Minnesota, I hope it gives you a taste of what the town is like. If you have gotten to visit, I hope it brings back good memories. I loved my childhood visits to the Great Lakes. Share your favorite vacation spots in the comments. I'm always looking for new, fun places to visit.
I'm a big believer in fresh starts. I see them as a way to revise and recommit yourself to what's important to you. January brings a new year. Monday brings a new week. Chinese New Year. Easter. Beltane. Diwali. Even the first day of the month, a day filled with new submission calls and conference announcements for me, offers an opportunity to try again.
Today is the solstice, the first day of a new season, and don’t we all need it. It seems we’ve been inundated with divisive news in the world, the United States, and even the writers community, a space I once thought fairly safe. The seemingly endless wave of atrocities has made it hard to stay positive lately. I’m depressed. I’m finding it hard to write. I’m not the only one.
Yesterday a friend sent me this amazing, profanity-laden blog post by Chuck Wendig. Being a writer, Chuck focused on the power of words, but if you’re otherwise creatively inclined, simply substitute art, music, dance, theater, etc. to meet your needs. The overall message is the same: When we are surrounded by darkness, creative endeavors can seem pointless. Don’t give up. Your craft is part of you and will be what helps you survive. It may be what helps others endure.
If you are struggling like I was, find hope in the first day of summer. Use it as a fresh start. As the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, today leaves little room for darkness. Let the sunlight burn away all the hate, anger, and fear, leaving us renewed to work toward something nourishing. Let us grow strong and true to resist anything that seeks to divide rather than unify. Use the gift of today to set yourself back on your creative path so you can thrive and use your gifts to help repel the darkness.
In 2016 I joined a small collection of authors who have since dubbed themselves The StoryPenners. It’s an informal group dedicated to producing charity anthologies to fight the darkness in its many incarnations. That first year, we created a book of novellas about couples who got snowed in. We called it MELT, and we continue to send proceeds from the book to a charity supporting mental health research and aid. 2017 brought HAUNT, a collection of nine spooky tales that benefits Chicago-based homeless charities. This year, we focused on the unexpected romance that can happen at summer festivals. We called it SUMMER FAIR, and decided that proceeds will be sent to a charity that supports survivors of rape and domestic violence. We thought it appropriate to have the cover release on the first day of summer.
This stunning cover was created by Aleisha Knight Evans, who has kindly donated her time and effort to design the covers of all three of the StoryPenner anthologies. The book comes out in exactly two months on August 21st. A pre-order link is already up on Amazon. There's a blurb below and you can find more info on my Summer Fair page.
For today, I hope you enjoy the start of the new season. I hope summer's warmth reminds you not to give up. Use your creativity to do some good in the world. I wish you the joy of a fresh start and a fair summer.
SUMMER FAIR Book Blurb:
Summer festivals bring the aroma of popcorn, the excitement of rides, and the promise of real-life enchantment. Seven authors bring you original love stories, each set at a different summer celebration. You’ll experience the thrill of the Chicago World’s fair through the eyes of a plucky girl reporter and the quiet desperation of a teen working a summer job at a traveling carnival. Get whisked away on romantic journeys around the world from a sweet Texas Dewberry Festival to a lantern-filled temple celebration to a surprisingly rowdy New England Founders Day. Whether it’s the magic of a Renaissance Fair, the excitement of a Theater Retreat, or the pulse of a Music Festival, you’re sure to get geared up for all things summer with this delightful new collection.
Riding the Wave by by Annabeth Leong
Amaryllis and New Lace by Gregory L. Norris
Salty and Sweet by R.L. Merrill
Dewberry Kisses by CM Peters
All the World by Marie Piper
Carnie by Sienna Saint-Cyr
The Storyteller’s Side by Harley Easton
With Stars in His Eyes by Arden de Winter
This website uses marketing and tracking technologies. Opting out of this will opt you out of all cookies, except for those needed to run the website. Note that some products may not work as well without tracking cookies.Opt Out of Cookies
.As an indie author, I didn't think I'd ever get to hear my stories acted out. I have no delusions of grandeur. I write my stories and sometimes people like them and they get placed in anthologies or posted online. There is no expectation I'll ever be the next Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, or Diana Gabaldon.
Enter my friend, Abigail Rakocy, and her new voiceover business. When she began building her portfolio, we discussed scripts and her interest in book narration. We did some work together and, as a thank you, she gave me the 30 second audio clip she recorded from my very first novella, TURN TO ME. I mentioned it in my last post because I was so excited.
Imagine my happiness today when she surprised me with two more audio clips, both longer than two minutes, Each one is from a sensual section of my short stories. Though she recorded these without my input, Abigail has an uncanny knack for reading dialogue the exact way it sounded in my head while I was writing. Like all good actors, her interpretation slips you right into the story, letting you experience the scene with the characters. It's easy to forget you're listening to narration.
I am thrilled with how these turned out! But rather than take my word for it, you should listen for yourself.
The first story, Laws of Attraction, can be found in LOVE SLAVE: SCHOOLED. The second story, Shakespeare in Summer, will be available as part of my self-published short story collection due out later this year. I'm reposting the TURN TO ME clip, just in case you missed it.
WARNING: Wear headphones and/or do NOT listen to these at work/in front of the kids. There's some seriously steamy stuff here.
April and May went by like a whirlwind, sweeping me right along with it. Between some family concerns and a new day job, I didn't get to post much, but I've been far from inactive.
As I've mentioned before, The StoryPenners (producers of HAUNT and MELT) are releasing SUMMER FAIR, a charity anthology about summer festivals. The cover is gorgeous. I'll post it here for you in a little over two weeks (June 21). All the stories are in and we're looking for people interested in reading advanced copies in exchange for a fair and truthful review. If you're interested in reviewing or blogging about Summer Fair, contact me. The book launches August 21. Proceeds from SUMMER FAIR are going to a charity supporting survivors of rape and domestic violence. Legally, we're never allowed to actually name the charity we donate to, but we continue to write the checks as books are purchased.
Sadly, my short stories from March didn't get picked up BUT I got the nicest rejection letter I have ever received from Timeless Tales Magazine. If you're a fairy tale fan, you should check them out. They set a high standard in fairy tale retellings.
A new book is in the works that will combine my short stories from all the Love Slave collections with a few that have never been released before. I'll keep you posted as that gets closer to completion.
Upcoming on the calendar -
July 21 - Writers On the River is happening in East Peoria, IL. I'm a sponsor because it helps support Thistle Farms and the Center for Prevention of Abuse. Swing by if you're in the area and visit with some really talented authors.
November 3-4 Midwestern Book Lovers Unite is having a game and book signing weekend in Wisconsin Dells. Marie Piper and I will both be signing, so this is a great time to get your print copies of MELT, HAUNT, and SUMMER FAIR. Print books are currently being processed and I hope to have a pre-order link available closer to the book signing so you can get them right there.
As a final note, my friend Abigail Rakocy has started a voiceover business and one of her first recordings was an excerpt from TURN TO ME. Enjoy the snippet below.
This month’s creative is a photographer, graphic designer, and Etsy entrepreneur who is used to creating her own art opportunities in new cities. Aleisha Knight Evans says she likes to surround herself with pretty things. When moved to a city without traditional graphic design opportunities, she took on the challenge of creating her own studio. Now she experiments with a variety of mediums. Pieces of her work can be found in this interview, and you can connect with her on her website or Etsy store.
Describe your passion or your current creative project.
My degree is in Graphic Design, so I started my career as a designer, which led to photography and then video production/editing. When I became a military spouse, I took the opportunity to be more of a “fine artist”, showing in galleries and selling at art shows. These days, I'm a WAHM (work at home mom) trying to make a niche for myself somewhere between traditional graphic design, photography, and fine art.
What called you to be creative/how did you begin creating?
My parents are both very creative, talented people – my dad supervised the print department at Craft House and is an excellent guitarist, and my mom is a visual artist and a teacher. Growing up, I spent a lot of time at gigs and craft shows. On quieter weekends at home, we'd be working on home improvement projects, woodworking, sewing, painting, making maple syrup, basket weaving, pouring ceramics... As an adult, my first impulse is always to think about how I might make something myself, rather than buying it. I was really fortunate to have parents who valued the creative process as a way of life.
Do you stick to one form of creative expression or do you have multiple creative outlets?
I would probably be a lot more successful if I could get myself to focus on just one creative outlet. I'll be happily working on a graphic design project, when I get an idea for a photography shoot, which leads me to start sewing a costume. The sewing will inspire me to sculpt a headpiece. Before I can even get my supplies out, my kids will need something, and *poof!* my work time is gone before I have accomplished much. I've learned to work quickly and efficiently, but finding the balance between creative work and parenting is hard. I have a lot of ideas on my list, just waiting for enough free time to be realized.
How do you deal with negative feedback about your projects?
Learning to gracefully accept constructive criticism, ignore the nonsense, and most importantly, distinguish one from the other, is the most important skill any artist can have. There is always room to improve, always something new to learn. I try to stay objective, and at least consider even the worst feedback. Sometimes a terrible suggestion will lead me to a good solution I hadn't considered. Sometimes I have to stand my ground, and have faith in my own instincts. Deep down, most of us know when our work is at its best (or worst). Never put up with abuse from people who fundamentally don't value you or your work, even if it means giving up a job or a networking opportunity.
Who are your biggest influencers?
I'm really attracted to art that is both beautiful and weird or macabre. Growing up in the 80's was great for that! Jim Henson (working with Brian Froud and David Bowie) and Tim Burton (his early work, anyway) were very influential. There are a bunch of imaginative editorial fashion photographers producing great work right now. I particularly like Tim Walker. I love the Surrealists in general. I'm reaching the point in my career where I've done enough work over the course of enough years to see a pattern of subconscious choices emerging. It's fun to see the influences that I didn't realize were there at first. My Art History professor would be happy to see that his lecture on Rembrandt and chiaroscuro (in short, a very high-contrast style) stuck, apparently.
Tell me how you continue creating during emotionally difficult times.
I'm much better at visual communication than written or (yikes!) verbal communication. In a picture or video, I can show all the complexities and nuances of a feeling. Nothing gets left out because I don't have the right words to describe it. Making art usually keeps me fairly happy and sane. I try to not be too literal in my work, but whatever is bothering me in real life tends to appear in some form, even if it's obscure. When I stop making art, I lose my ability to communicate, and I start feeling depression almost immediately. Depression leads to creative block, which keeps me feeling depressed – it's a vicious cycle. The only way out (for me) is to consume lots of art until I can't help but feel inspired by something.
Have you ever suffered from imposter syndrome?
Don't we all? I'll never forget how nervous and exhilarated I felt when I signed up for Drawing 101 in college. I'd been a fairly good artist all my life – I'd even won a few art competitions as a child, and still felt like I didn't belong there with the “real art students”. I've been successfully making a living as an artist for 15 years, and still have days where I feel like a complete fraud. Every now and then, I'll see a respected photographer/digital artist's work up close (you can't fake technical precision at 100% magnification) and realize that maybe, just maybe, I actually am pretty good at my job. Most of the time, I'd love to hide in a cave and anonymously make art while someone else sells it for me, though.
Do you have a creative community you work with?
Having a supportive community where I can share ideas and frustrations is absolutely essential for me. With every stage in life, and every new military assignment, that community has looked and functioned a little differently. In general, I've felt that the face to face situations were healthier and more constructive, but online communities can provide opportunities too (even if it's the opportunity to practice forgiveness, humility, or to grow a thicker skin).
What would you say to people just beginning to explore their own creativity?
I would encourage people who are beginning to explore their creativity to find others who are doing the same, but in different mediums. When you take the unintentional rivalry out of the situation, it's easier to be more genuinely supportive during each others' trials and triumphs.
Three weeks to deadline and I was stalled. My characters were no longer speaking to each other, let alone me, and I’d been struggling with a scene transition for several days. Trying to shake my story, and myself, out of my funk, I’d taken walks, read a book on my subject, listened to music, switched writing spaces, cleaned my closet, discussed the story with my husband, and generally lost all hope that I’d finish in time. I was debating whether to drop the story altogether when I got a text from a fellow writer working on the same submission call.
“If you’re stuck, I’m happy to help. What’s the conflict? What are the stakes?”
After a brief exchange where I spelled out my characters and basic plot, my story was not only back on track, but moving so fast my fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain.
This is the good that comes from being part of a creative community. It’s easy to get in a rut, to tell yourself that your project is unwanted or unimportant. That’s why even the most introverted creative can benefit from a group of people genuinely excited to share the journey and offer the help we need to make us better. There are clear benefits to joining a community or building one of your own.
A basic need
In his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”, Abraham Maslow defined five basic needs that all humans have. Basic physiological and safety needs are first, but social belonging needs come right after. Without intimate social connections and the sense of belonging acquired through these connections, Maslow argued that a person can not move on to the realization of their potential. In basic terms, a group of collaborators, mentors, and friends are what help a person thrive. Your circle will become your support when you need encouragement, your connection when you are isolated, and your knowledge base when you’ve hit a roadblock. Everyone needs a place to feel safe and accepted. It’s the only way to get encouragement and keep moving forward.
A place for understanding
It’s helpful to gather where everyone has a core knowledge and uses the same language. Your creative community is where people understand writer's block, cyclical breathing, Rosco gels, or whatever terms apply to your particular art. This is where other people can relate to your frustrations and experience. Creative groups are usually formed because members need a forum to discuss concerns that aren’t important or aren’t considered outside their discipline. For that very reason, many creative groups make themselves approachable to new artists seeking more information.
A chance for growth
It sucks putting your heart and soul into your work only to have it blasted by someone who doesn’t understand the difficulty involved in creating. Being criticized by other makers is a whole different experience. People in your circle should understand that discipline and maturity are a process, not an endpoint. Whether you’re struggling or succeeding, these are the perfect people to offer suggestions for improvement. They have overcome similar problems and offer new perspectives. Your community is the best place to hone your abilities, ask ‘dumb’ questions, find information about workshops, and allow yourself to fail. The right community will help you thrive by offering advice, and asking for some in return.
A way to give back
Being active is a major part of a community. Just as you are given help, you get the chance to share your wisdom with newcomers. Ask about the abandoned stories of your peers. Offer insight on great places to get art materials. Take something that was difficult for you to master and make it easier for the next person by offering your insight. This can be the best part of a community, because you’ll often see the impact of your advice in the output of others. Giving back can remind you why you first got interested in creating.
Whether you find a creative community or build your own, simply having a group to share your ups and down can be the best part of the creative process. The people that understand you, encourage your growth, and offer you opportunities to share your hard-earned experience are people worth keeping around. Whatever your passion, finding your people will help you and your art.
A few days ago I had a startlingly familiar conversation with a writer friend of mine. The gothic-styled urban fantasy idea she’d been thrilled about only a few weeks before, one I thought held real promise, was now causing her no small amount of stress. She wanted to write the story, but it wasn’t working for her.
“I had this whole outline almost done,” she said. “Then I just lost confidence in it.”
“Why?” I pressed. “The idea is worth exploring.”
“I miss writing vampires and people with abilities,” she agreed. “But everybody seems to write vampires.”
There was the crux of the issue. She was feeling drained because the idea didn’t feel fresh to her. She felt like she’d stolen parts of the world she’d dreamt. It wasn’t unique compared to the published and unpublished material she’d seen. To quote the Barenaked Ladies, it had “all been done before.”
That song is a perfect reference. “It’s All Been Done" was the second single off the band’s 1998 album, and while it wasn’t as internationally popular as “One Week” from the same album, it peaked at #1 on the Canadian Singles Chart. In a sense, it’s also stolen material, or, at least a rehash of a very old idea. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9
Yep. There’s an argument to be made that Steven Page ripped off the Bible. And is he ashamed? Not one bit! Should he be? Not according to Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist. Find your favorite book, song, play, piece of art, Kleon says, and you will find echoes of ideas from other times, cultures, and artists. Even Mother Nature repeats ideas. That’s why we have the German word doppelgänger and why the internet graces us with photographs of civil war soldiers that look identical to Nicolas Cage.
In truth, it’s not a bad idea for creative people to look to others for inspiration. Steal Like an Artist highlights the benefits of mimicry. Kleon advocates strategically selecting pieces that resonate with you, learning the styles and signatures of your influencers, then finding unexplored intersections between those influences. In that space, you are free to play and remix their ideas into something perfectly your own. He quotes writer Jonathan Lethem’s idea that all creative works are only called original when others don’t know or recognize the sources the work references. “What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before.”
In his review of Kleon’s book, T.K. Coleman goes beyond suggesting you should steal like an artist. He says that the pursuit of originality is actually detrimental to the creative process. Coleman warns that chasing the dream of a completely original idea is a distraction. “It usually leads to a self-obsessive focus on saying what’s never been said when all that really matters is saying what you believe, saying what you feel, and saying what you mean.” In his opinion, lack of originality means you are finding your voice, learning your craft. What you need to do is continue adding to your pool of influences and pushing yourself so that your unique style emerges.
The best way to help that style emerge? Kleon advocates artists should play. Creatives have what my family calls “Ooo, shiny!” Something bright and new will catch their eye. If it holds their attention, they’ll start messing around, toying with the idea, picking it apart to see how it works and why they find it so fascinating. Kleon says, “Stuff that’s just play. That’s actually the good stuff. That’s when the magic happens.” Your best work will come out of the unexpected when you’re just having fun.
In the end, my friend decided that playing was exactly what she’d do. She decided to pursue the idea and see how it developed. I applauded her choice. Steal like an artist. Introduce yourself to some new ideas, quit worrying about being original, and make sure you have some fun in the process. It might just be the best idea you can steal.
This week begins a sort of artist spotlight that I'm calling Questions for Creatives. If there is interest, I'm hoping to make this a recurring feature on the blog.
Our first creative comes from Québec where she works in the communications field and writes in her spare time. CM Peters has penned everything from short erotica and fan fiction, to romance novels and elaborate fantasy epics. Her focus is complex, relatable characters, and she's currently editing her new romance/coming of age novel. An excerpt from her story "Body Heat" follows this interview, and you can connect with Peters on her facebook page.
Describe your passion or your current creative project.
I’m a writer through and through, with all the creative aspects, self-doubt, aspirations. I’m in between projects at the moment; waiting on news from a query and deciding what to throw myself into next.
How has your creative process changed or developed over time?
I’ve moved on from fanfics to original works and from writing in French to English. My native tongue in French, but since college, the inspiration to write in French has left the building, mostly due to creative differences and muffling of my talent by professors.
How do you continue to find new ideas?
I don’t find them, they find me. I have tons of characters walking around in my head. Some come a-knockin’, asking to be written. So, I usually go with what inspires me the most.
What was the first thing you created that you were truly proud of?
Wow, uhm… It’s hard to answer that question. Seeing people respond to something I’ve created, written or anything else, usually makes me proud. But taking pride in something, I’d say my first novel, Pawns. From a short story idea, I wrote twenty-eight chapters! I felt a void when it ended and missed my characters.
Do believe in creative block? And if so, what do you do to overcome it?
Very much so. It’s happened to me a few times, for different reasons each time. Time and patience, reading other works, but again, patience with yourself.
Tell me how you continue creating during emotionally difficult times.
It’s my anchor. Writing has saved me from myself more than once. I fuel my energy into it, sometimes to avoid those hardships, sometimes to feed from them.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given about creativity?
To allow myself time, to be softer with myself about my failures, to take a break once in a while.
What is the best quality for a creative person to have?
An open mind. You never know what’ll come to you.
What kind of research do you do before beginning a new project?
Extensive. It’s one of my joys to do research and plan a new project. I love being as specific and realistic as possible when my project takes place in the real world.
What would you say to people just beginning to explore their own creativity?
Don’t let fear stop you. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it! If you’re a writer, find a pencil and paper that are water resistant and bring it into the shower. The best ideas come while in there!
Excerpt from Body Heat by CM Peters
He roared when he reached her, pressing her against the door to kiss her. He rubbed his cold nose on her cheek. “I think it’s now time to toast me toes by the fire!”
Carina giggled, kissing his nose. “Alright. Go to my room, start a fire, and I’ll get some of tonight’s chili for dinner. The next customers to come in will only arrive tomorrow so we have the night to ourselves, so some time for some body heat,” she said, wiggling her eyebrows.
Liam purred and grinned. “Oh yes! What a lovely plan, doll!”
Snuggling in an oversized quilt in front of the fire for the evening, the couple made plans for a small Christmas, agreeing on only one gift for each other. With chili, corn chips, and whiskey, they were stocked for the night and didn’t move until Liam began snoring in front of the movie they’d started. Carina sighed and nudged him, so he’d wake up.
The evenings were started to get boring, barely three weeks after his arrival. She knew that he was working hard during the day, but she missed spending time with him. At least at the bar, we worked side by side. But she couldn’t hold it against him; he’d traveled thousands of miles to help her.
It was late; everyone was dragging, and it was too warm under the stage lights. The union steward had called the orchestra out on a much-needed break fifteen minutes earlier. Offstage, orchestra members clumped in small groups to grumble or quip about the situation. Onstage, a few individuals silently worked difficult fingerings and wrote notes on sheet music, trying to work out why the sound wasn’t coming together in rehearsal the way it had in their solo practice. They were all strong performers, creative individuals, professional musicians, but right now, they didn’t sound like it.
When everyone returned to their seats, the ensemble started into the same section they had been trying earlier. It wasn’t a particularly difficult movement, but even these seasoned performers tended to rush through. Time after time, the conductor stopped everyone, asking them to mark their music, to wait for his cue. Time after time, the orchestra began, only to fall apart at the same measure. The group was out of sync, and frustrations were high. Finally, the conductor put down his baton. All instruments came to rest on laps.
“We’re not losing the tempo or speeding up,” he declared. “We’re shorting the rests. We’re not giving them their full time because we’re in a hurry to get to the next note. The notes get their moment. Give full time to the rest. When we forget to rest, we never have enough time.”
As if to emphasize his point, the conductor paused a moment, letting the words sink in before he raised his baton. This time, there was a different energy when the orchestra began. The air was not tense. There was less frustration. Everyone knew that all they needed to do was give proper time to rest. They did, and the piece came together.
What an astonishing idea, to give ourselves time to rest. As creative people, we often are focused on productivity: finishing an edit before the deadline, polishing a work in time for performance, completing enough pieces to be juried into a show. What we often forget is tranquility, the quiet needed for the creative process.
In her book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less,, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, suggests that everyone needs active rest. Pang argues that our best work is done four to six hours a day, all at once or in individual segments. That time should be spent focused on work, and the remainder of our time requires rest. This suggestion is echoed by a Scientific American article that delved into Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime. The article highlights Mary Helen Immordino-Yang’s 2012 research paper showing rest is essential for the mental processes that understand identity, human behavior, and ethics. Like stories, identity and ethics are composed of sensory experiences, hypothetical questions, and moral judgments. It’s not surprising that related research suggests that especially creative people use these sections of the brain more often than the typical person.
It’s easy to fall into step with a never-ending to-do list, to keep life so busy that we don’t have the proper time to process information and make something new. We can start to feel guilty about resting or playing. Before we know it, creativity is harder to access. It becomes something we obsess about, a draining task instead of a renewing force. As research shows, we need to remember that we are at our most creative when we set aside time to sleep, play, and enjoy the process.
Similarly, when we are in a hurry to see the reward of our creative efforts, it’s easy to forget the value of letting our work, whatever it is, settle. Actors can come back to a scene the day after rehearsal to find the notes now make more sense. Artists and writers that allow a ‘cooling off period’ return to their work with fresh eyes, ready to make corrections and improvements. Audio and video engineers that leave an individual track come back to it with music or effects that enhance a scene, creating a deeper emotional connection with the audience. During the creative process, taking a step back from your work often culminates in taking a leap forward in the quality of your project.
The mind and body need time away from a project to process information and see the work objectively. As a creative, give yourself and your project a little downtime. Sleep. Meditate. Read. Travel. Bake. Take your rest in whatever way works best for you. Don’t be in a hurry to get to the next scene, book, or note. Create time for rest and it will create time for you.
Harley Easton is a Renaissance woman dabbling in everything life offers. She's worked at a theme park, found expert witnesses, been a guest lecturer at a national museum, and worked with medical students. Putting experience and insanity to good use, she's become an author specializing in erotic, romantic, and speculative fiction.