Chronic Pain and Creativity 

When it’s hard to get out of bed, it’s hard to be creative. 

Pain comes in many forms. What floors me, and I do lay in the floor in pain sometimes, might not phase you. Sometimes we have no point of comparison to another’s pain. Pain has long been associated with artistry – one has only to look to Renoir and Van Gough. 

Keep Pressing On

The pain passes but the beauty remains. 

Renoir was one of my favorites before I read that quote explaining why he painted despite his pain. 

The time will pass no matter. I might as well muscle through it anyway. When I push through at least I can take satisfaction in knowing I worked towards something. 

Pain comes in many forms – sharp, dull, nauseating, and sometimes overwhelming. Knowing my limits is important, and that means I have to know when to stop. 


One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I was young was to not let the well run dry. 

If I don’t have enough rest, relaxation, and inspiration then writing becomes a challenge. 

Forgiveness Starts In the Mirror 

Last night I talked to myself. To be honest, I talk to myself often.  I asked  questions and then answered them to the best of my ability. What if my project is awful? At least I’ll learn from it. It’s okay if somedays my progress isn’t so great, or if I write crap. It’s not going to be perfect. That’s where drafts and editing come in. 

Here’s a great article from Happify about creativity. 
What keeps you creative on tough days?

5 Resources for Describing Characters 

Stephen King said:

We’ve all heard someone say, ‘Man, it was so great (or so horrible/strange/funny) … I just can’t describe it!’ If you want to be a successful writer, you must be able to describe it, and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition.

This is from a list of his quotes about writing. It makes me want to watch his Epic Rap Battle
Here are what my husband would call my “quick and dirty” resources. These are the pages I use the most. 

1 – Writing with Color: Words to Describe Hair
I found this article extremely helpful. It again not only lists hair colors, textures, and styles, but it also notes the terms that are offensive. I would think, however, that words like unkempt and unruly go without saying. When unkempt is used, I think an old homeless man with a beard that house a birds nest. 


2 – Obsidian Bookshelf’s How to Describe Eyes

Stale eye descriptions aren’t difficult to locate. Here is a good starting point.

My favorite description of eyes is Tolkien’s description of Treebeard’s hazel pair. He wrote that they were like ancient ponds in a wood reflecting their mossy greens and deep bark browns. 


3 – Writing Help’s 55 Words to Describe Someone’s Voice 

Most characters have dialogue. Make your  characters voices feel audible to the reader. 

4 – Reference for Writer’s Describing Body Types

In my reading I have often noticed George R. R. Martin describing heavier characters as jowly. What does a character’s build say about them, if anything ? Is their body being observed by a different character? What does the observation mean? How do other characters treat them because of their appearance?


Quote by Martin. Image by Blackwater Rush. 

5 – Writing With Color: Description Guide Skin Color 
This article discusses skin tones and comparisons that are not offensive. To sell the most books possible it stands to reason that you’ll want to appeal to the most readers possible. Don’t offend entire ethnic groups. 

Several novels I’ve read lately have assumed you know the majority of the characters are white. One didn’t bother to describe the main character at all except to say he’s tall and thin. The second waited until the third act to discuss the physical changes he’d underwent. I had chosen in my naïveté to imagine him differently.

These terms aren’t listed in the article about skin, but I feel the need to rant: don’t describe my skin tone as bloodless, glow-in-the-dark, or paper white. Doing so will vex me, white privelege and all. Lily white also hits a nerve with me. It brings to mind “lily livered”, and feels like I’m being lumped with cowards because of my appearance.  


This probably won’t help you describe, but the Pantone chart for human skin tones is intriguing. 

The Platinum Rule of Descriptions and the Estée Lauder Lady
The concept that we should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” permeates Western Culture. The platinum rule goes one step further: 

Treat others the way they want to be treated.

An older Estée Lauder sales lady at a Peebles department store told me when I was shopping for makeup for my wedding several years ago, “Well, you’re just one pale puppy. We don’t sell much makeup in your shades.” She proceeded to suggest I visit a tanning bed to look better for my wedding and match their products. 

My challenge to you is don’t be the Estée Lauder sales lady.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As the writer you are relaying what you behold in your mind’s eye with your standards of beauty and prejudices. Be honest, be evocative, but please ask, “Would this description be hurtful to someone who actually looks like this?”

Some people have dealt with cruelty and micro-aggressions their entire life simply because of the way sunlight refracts off their outer shell. Not all people are thin, tan, young bastions of Western Beauty. That doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful by other standards, different perceptions. 


What character description stands out in your mind? 

What resources do you use for describing characters?

Put me down for a marvel. 

This book was marvelous — I could scarcely put it down. Despite the post-apocalyptic setting, this story transported me to a world where anything could be possible. A gleaming blue dome protects New York City, but what of the horrors within? I can’t wait to read the next! Check out I.A. Ashcroft’s website for updates. 

The characters were carefully crafted. I could easily picture them and their environments. Anna is not a Mary Sue – she’s well developed and important to the plot. With unimportant, sexy characters pervading literature and the silver screen, it’s refreshing to read a book that can pass the sexy lamp test. 

If sexy lamps are your thing, buy one here.  

Even though Anna is striking, I enjoyed Jackson’s character very much. I had to know why there are things only he can see. What makes him different? What do the ravens mean? Who is the starry-eyed man? What happens when he doesn’t drink the crazy tea?


This is kind of how I imagined the Ravens in the book but with a post-apocalyptic background. 

I loved the ending of the book. It left me wanting more, but resolved appropriately. The pacing of the book was compelling.

What are you doing?! Go buy it already

Chasing Rainbows: Finding Magic in the Mundane 

In Cannery Row Steinbeck describes the early morning light like this:

It is the hour of pearl—the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself.

Usually during the “hour of pearl” I’m nursing a cup of coffee and thinking about the upcoming day. How did he see the morning light in this way when I do not?

Writing with beauty seems to require seeing the world with a little more magic and romance than others might find. This post is just about magic. 

 Shel Silverstein’s poem “Magic” seems to hold the answer:

 [This image was created by KimmyDesign.]

A sense of magic can be manufactured, it seems, but how?

I suggest chasing rainbows. Watching my kitten crane for a hot pink feather my husband floated above her made it dawn on me that the magic is always there. We just need to stop nursing the coffee, be still, and look for it. 

Yesterday My husband  and I drove to two waterfalls: Looking Glass Falls and Connestee Falls. We had both seen Looking Glass Falls before but not together.  

 [wpvideo KdDieHqN] 
The swelling hush of the cascading water let some of that transcending wonder seep back into my being. We relished this waterfall together and my husband pointed out to me a second rainbow. Busyness had not left me enough for me to take notice of the second one. I had stopped looking. 

This second waterfall (Connestee) was new to both of us and has only recently been opened to the public. Walking beside the creek to the viewing area, that sense of wonder and adventure grew inside me. 

What’s your method for creating magic?

3 Ways to Keep Motivated: Maintaining Momentum 

Now that Camp NaNoWriMo is over, I’m still working on my story. It has been a marathon, quoth someone who has never ran more than 5k.  I’m sharing three ways I keep motivated.

During the month of April, I pushed myself harder than normal to complete my goal. I feel like Zooëy, my cat, last summer after my cousin wore her out with a feather stick — completely worn out. 

To keep motivated I reward, rally, and face reality.

1.  Reward – The Light at the End of the Tunnel 

With one project last year my husband built incentive for me by offering to take me to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. When I asked myself, “Why am I even doing this?” It was one more reason to justify it.

2.  Rally – Figure It Out

Sometimes in writing a story things don’t come out quite the way you expected. When this happens, I try to rally my troops, i.e. the resources, be they characters, outlines, etc.

There is a passage in “A Circle of Quiet” where Madeliene L’Engle discusses character development. I can’t find my copy and can’t find the quote online, but she talks about how characters sometimes surprise the writer and don’t follow the outline.

Sometimes as I write a character and gain a better feel, they don’t behave like they should.

Other times I’ve found outlines to have tangents that don’t serve the end goal as well as they should. I save those ideas for later but let the story evolve.

When I rally, I make a new plan based off what’s working and what’s going wrong. Realistically, I don’t always follow the plan.

3 – Face Reality – Know Your Limits 

There’s only so much I can do in a day before I reach my limit. Once that limit is reached I stop gaining momentum in my work. It’s best to take a break or call it.

Certain things have not made the cut in the story factory I’m building in my life.

If I ignore the goal, I may run my internal well dry risking writer’s block or frustration.

In conclusion, by giving myself a carrot, adjusting my plans to meet the goal, and knowing when to stop I can keep myself motivated and maintain momentum.

How do you stay motivated?

Bonus: Here’s one of my favorite pieces of advice on writing.

For more advice from well-loved authors, click here.

How to Nail NaNoWriMo: Your Story Isn’t a Pie in the Sky

  Last November a friend of mine encouraged me to consider NaNoWriMo

The goal for National Novel Writing Month is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Should you succeed you are considered a winner. 

  I did not win, but here’s what I learned from the experience: 

1 – Write the Story You Want to Read

With many of my writing projects, I have looked at what’s on bookshelves now and tried to write a similar story. 

By the time a project is finished, the trends will have changed. publishes a monthly newsletter with updates on industry changes. Trends change faster than I can write.  

 Write the story that you want to read, because — chances are — there are other people who like what you do, and you might as well enjoy what you’re writing.  

2 – Make Sure Your Goal is Appropriate 

The default goal of NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words. This is the length of a novel. If you’re writing just because you have a story burning out of you, then go for it. 

Let’s say that you want to pursue publishing your story. Imagine you’ve spent the whole month writing only to find out your novel is too short. 

 The salable length for a novel varies by genre. 
Is this reality that important? Won’t an agent overlook this for a great story? I wouldn’t count on it. Here’s just one example:

 Find the appropriate length for your genre here on The Writer’s Digest. 

3 – Do What Works for You

During Camp NaNoWriMo this month I’ve heard Write Or Die mentioned. This approach doesn’t work for everyone. 

This would throw my stress level through the roof. 

Referring to my outline and pursuing the next step is more helpful than undue stress.  


Writing your story, be it a novel or script or memoir, isn’t a pie in the sky. 

Be true to yourself by writing the story you want to read in the way that works for you, but be mindful of industry standards. Think of it like a haiku — you may write whatever you will, but it must fit the pattern. 

There’s still time to set a goal for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. The next NaNoWriMo event begins in July. 

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? What are your pointers?