Confessions of a Rogue Ink Slinger

Grammar Cop

My biggest fear as a writer is that the Grammar Police will hunt me down, confiscate my Ink Slinger’s Permit, and sentence me to Life Without Paper Or Ink.

You see, I’m not officially Licensed to Write. I don’t have an MFA degree, creative writing workshop certificate or good high school English scores.

I do have a poet’s ear for language, a musician’s sense of rhythm, and a child’s irrepressible imagination.

I don’t write by the book. I write by ear, like a musician. I’m an outlining junkie but when it gets down to the writing, the words tell me where they want to go.

They clamor to go right there, so they can roll across a reader’s tongue sweet and slippery as a butterscotch disc, or over there, so they can shimmy down your ear like a lilting little melody.

They beg to go there, where the fields are ripe, and there, where the sky is swollen, and oh yes, there – there – there, where the stars collide and the air is thick and the river runs wide.

My heart and mind and ear collectively intuit where the words should go according to beat and rhythm and whimsy in much the same way Predictive Text makes an educated guess at the typist’s desired words and phrases.

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is . . . the inner music the words make.

~Truman Capote

This Is How We Work, The Words And I

I sweat and starve and go sleepless practicing the craft while the words cavort with metaphors under the bramble bush, lob spitballs at syntax from behind the library stacks and play pick-up-stix with a pocketful of rhymes.

They refuse to be contained or coerced or captured in my butterfly net of productivity. They wake me at midnight with the promise of pixie dust and vanish like fireflies in the sunlight.

They flirt with the poetry books on the desk, hiss at the grammar manuals on the shelf and shamelessly consort with the colored pens spilling out of the top drawer.

But the moment I give them up as lost causes, they come rushing in, letter by letter, word by word, and sentence by sentence, and fill my page with their rolling vowels and clashing consonants.

I’m not officially Licensed to Write . . . but I do have a child’s irrepressible imagination.

They come rum-tum tumbling out of my fingertips, splashing onto the page in a jumble of ink, pausing briefly enough to panic me before gliding across the wide open white places and building word palaces and paragraph thoroughfares and the loveliest of letter landscapes, as in this playful passage of a husband and wife reading together in my short story “Tahitian Sunset”:

“Why do you always race to the end of a story?” he asks, his fingers swimming through my hair like clownfish through anemone.

I shift in the sand, burying my toes beneath his. “That’s where they live happily ever after.”

His chuckle glides up my spine, cool as the evening tide. “No, my butterfly loach, they live happily all along the way. Don’t you want to hear the whole story?”

One word never took so long to utter, a lifetime of want in three little letters. “Yes.”

He rises like a dolphin breaching the surface, gazing at me through eyes wide as tidal pools and just as full of surprises. “Then we can’t afford to skip one page, one paragraph, one sentence. Every syllable is rife with meaning, my lovely little angelfish.”

In Which We Rally, The Words And I

Well, hmmm. A funny thing happened on the way to the confessional booth. Now that I’ve acknowledged my Big Fear, it in no way resembles the frothing beastie I’ve been dodging all these years.

Therefore, we will not go gently into that good night, the words and I.

Sure, an Ink Slinger’s life can be a strange and wild ride, peppered with self-doubt, pockmarked by friendly fire and riddled with rejection.

But it’s also filled with curious companions and creative conundrums and puzzling phraseology.  It’s riding on the coattails of quirky, hanging by the toes on a rippling row of rolly-polly o’s, and canoodling with consonance, assonance and their tow-headed cousin alliteration.

Watch me now. This is where I make my stand, folks.

From here on out, I’m adopting Elmore Leonard’s 11th Rule of Writing as my own: If proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.

Hear us well, all you over-eager grammarians, for this is the Rebel Yell of the words and I:
Give us cadence or give us silence!

Until they strip me of my pen and paper – I remain ardently yours

Lady Bullish, Rogue Ink Slinger




Ruth Long

Ruth Long is a forty-something administrative professional who enjoys fast-paced stories, vintage cars and southern rock. A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, storytelling is her passion.

You can read more of her take on the writing life at or by following her twitter feed @bullishink.


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Going Beyond the Beyond

Resuscitation Through The Art And Craft Of Story

The far side of Hell

I don’t like horror movies—even squashed bugs gross me out—but I love the movie Flatliners. I love that concept of what’s beyond the beyond.

You know how it is whenever we start a story, how we’re flames alight, burning up everything around us, the very atoms of the air fuel for our creation? Our characters walk among mortals like creatures from a visionary universe. They live and breathe, crack wise, laugh, put a tender hand on our arm. They learn bad news, and our eyes fill. When their hearts break, we’re sobbing as we type. Just sitting around the kitchen table with them all morning talking gossip as the sun crosses the window is as fulfilling as human contact can ever be. Everything we never get from real life is here, in these manuscript pages, waiting for us to wake up every day and join them again.

Fiction is our way of creating a tribe for ourselves.

Then we’ve gotten it all down, and we’re transforming it from our own personal tribe into, well, literature. The first part is about our needs. The rest is about everyone else’s. Now we’re creating a plot, an adventure for these characters, and we’re using what we know about them to tell how they would act in any given situation, to show how they get themselves from one pickle into another, what facility they have for disaster.

We don’t want to do dreadful things to them. But there is that reader out there. And the reader wants our characters to help them understand the turmoil of real life.

So we do that part, too. Then we go into revision. Because we’ve had to combine these agendas—ours, our characters’, and the reader’s—and naturally there are some glitches. This takes innumerable passes. At first we’re drunk on the reality. Then we’re drunk on the power of fiction to speak. Then we’re drunk on the sheer potential for transforming this world that has meant so much to us into something that could mean so much to a complete stranger, simply through the artifice of language and fictional tools. It happens. It really does! We’ve all read books of a beauty to take the breath away. And we too can be among those who walk with our feet in the stars.

Fiction is our way of creating a tribe for ourselves.

Finally we wake up one morning and go to our desk and pick up the pages . . . and something snaps inside. And we realize we’re never going to get those words to transform.


Our reach has exceeded our grasp.

By about five light-years.

So here we sit with our faces lying sideways on the desk, feeling the tears trickle ever-so-slowly down to the bridge of our nose, across it, and drop with the most delicate little irritating mosquito-touch from our nose to the desk under our cheek. Our neck hurts, but it doesn’t matter.

Nothing will ever matter again.

This is the point, in Flatliners, in which we have medically anesthetized ourselves to the point of death and just beyond, and we discover—much to our surprise—that the beyond is Hell.

And yet it seemed like such a good idea at the time!

Now, I am not here to act as our medical-student cohorts pulling us back from the anesthesia. I am not our pals reeling us in, waking us from the nightmare, patting everyone jovially on the back, and helping us off the table. “You’re not really dead. That didn’t really happen. Psyche!” Those are not the words coming out of my mouth.

Because I know something about that. I know when someone does that, Hell follows us home.

And when we are done, we will know something about life we didn’t know before . . . We will have gone beyond the beyond into the ephemeral . . . alternate reality of endless potential we knew was there . . .

And then we are well and truly haunted. The glaring errors remain and get worse. The stumbling blocks trip us up more and more, throwing us headfirst into the muck and mire faster and more heartlessly every time we attempt that impossible task of transformation. Peer critiques, if we get them, become more random and less predictable. No one can agree on what’s going wrong!

We might stick with it because the hype about Becoming a Writer is so powerful and omnipresent out there, and besides now all our friends are Becoming Writers too. Or because we’re stubborn cusses and don’t know when we’re beat. Or because we have a story we desperately want to tell. Or simply because we’ve always looked up to our favorite authors, all our life, and dreamed with our heart in our throat of the day we would join their ranks.

But the secret pain is crippling. And it is countered only by the numbness of turning ourselves into donkeys plodding in joyless drudgery after that coveted carrot.


I am here to do the opposite: to push us through—because on the other side of Hell is craft.

And we can’t get there by backing out. We must dive forward into the agony—sitting there with our face lying sideways on the desk—and discover within it every reason writing is an inanely bad idea.

Tackle a task we only know vaguely through the second-hand results of someone else’s lifelong efforts? Tackle it with the wild-eyed hope that, although it takes professional writers their entire lives to polish their skills, years to produce a single novel, and the nearly-unlimited assistance of publishing professionals they pretty much lucked into, it will take us a matter of months because, after all, didn’t Faulkner write As I Lay Dying in six weeks? Tackle it with the idea of supporting ourselves, even though the greats almost universally died penniless and unknown? Tackle it with minimal training and experience, barely a smidgen of comprehension, a whole lot of optimism, and the encouragement of people who stand to gain financially by our ambitions? Tackle it with nothing but our bare hands?

We will lie there and sob. Gnash our teeth. This is how we learn to be us.

And when we are done, we will know something about life we didn’t know before. We will know how to survive. We will have gone beyond the beyond into the ephemeral, multi-faceted, tactile alternate reality of endless potential we knew was there—we wanted so badly to believe in—all along.

And then we’ll have something to write about.




A. Victoria Mixon

Victoria Mixon has been a writer and editor for thirty years and is the creator A. Victoria Mixon, Editor, voted one of Write to Done’s Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2010. She is the author of The Art & Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual and the recently-released The Art & Craft of Story: 2nd Practitioner’s Manual, as well as co-author of Children and the Internet: A Zen Guide for Parents and Educators, published by Prentice Hall, for which she is listed in the Who’s Who of America. She spends a lot of time connecting with writers on Google+ and Twitter.

Victoria is now writing a column for the Writer Unboxed newsletter: Ask Victoria.

The Art and Craft of Story

The Art and Craft of Story

The Art and Craft of Fiction

The Art and Craft of Fiction

Interview with Joanna Penn


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The ART of Book Promotion

In the Digital Age, promotion is a daily part of most authors’ lives, whether they like it or not. Considered by many as two separate processes, writing is seen as creative and purposeful; promotion, a drudgery. Well, what if authors started thinking about promotion as part of their creative lives? What would a writer’s life look like if creativity and promotion were blended? As someone who studies book promotion all day long, I can tell you that authors who incorporate promotion into their creative lives are having a lot more fun, becoming better writers, building longer-term relationships with their readers, and selling more books than those who keep these two responsibilities separate.

What exactly am I proposing here? I’m suggesting that when we put the “art” back in book promotion, both authors and readers benefit. Let’s start by taking a look at a few examples of this “blending” done well.

I became aware of Colin Falconer (@colin_falconer) through a tweet that said his blog was “seriously addictive.” The link took me to “Looking for Mr. Goodstory…an author’s search for James Clavell’s ghost, a good bourbon, and the perfect role for Russell Crowe.” Before even exploring his posts, I knew I liked this guy. Why? Because he was clever and having fun. The first post I read was about famous last words. It was oozing with creativity, historical knowledge and whimsy.

I explored the site more fully, and found posts about Falconer’s fear of flying, “a phobia about the kind of people who end up sitting next to me on planes. These were humorous, short character sketches with which anyone who’d ever flown could identify: The Ear Popper, The Talker, The Sweaty Virgin, and so on.

Though I am sure Falconer mentions his books sometimes, none of the posts I read did. He simply let his writing speak for itself. He drew readers in with his craft, and he appeared to be having a great time doing this. Subtly stationed nearby was a bio, which explained that he was the author of more than twenty historical novels. Also found on the sidelines were book covers, which linked readers to more information about his books. Though historical fiction is not a genre I typically read, I wanted to learn more so I bought a digital version of Falconer’s book Seraglio.

Roz Morris is another author who came on my radar as a result of social media. I had already purchased her latest book, when I saw her January 10 guest post for Creative Flux called  The Black Dress.” Here, Morris shared a scene she’d cut reluctantly during final revisions of My Memories of a Future Life, a novel about an injured musician who must contemplate life without her passion.

Morris explains about the scene,

I like its simplicity, the tiny slice it showed of a musician’s life and the totemic responsibility Carol put into one garment….Even though it didn’t make it to the page, I like to think that she still did it, off screen in the moments we didn’t see.

Carol's DressThen, Morris commits another act of creativity and shares an elegant photograph she herself took of the dress, a family heirloom that inspired the scene. The response from readers revealed a high level of emotional engagement. Not only did they empathize with her struggle as a writer to cut a scene that she loved, but the story of the black dress took on a literary life of its own.

I especially identified with one reader’s comment.

This is a touching scene. After having read this book, I do agree that it reiterates what Carol [the musician] is feeling….It brings back all of those pangs that I felt for her….Thanks for sharing this melancholy reminder of a great read!

Do you think the next time Morris publishes a book, this reader will be there ready to devour it? Do you suppose Morris enjoyed creating the photo that breathed new life into a cherished but abandoned scene? I’m confident the answer to both questions is yes.

As a final example, I introduce the work of Harrison Solow, author of Felicity & Barbara Pym, a book I have now read twice. Like the other authors mentioned here, I discovered Solow’s work through social media. I dare you to tell me that you could resist clicking through tweets like these:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/HarrisonSolow/status/183323563556749312″]
[blackbirdpie url=”!/HarrisonSolow/status/171311093531164672″]
[blackbirdpie id=”175266655063121920″]
[blackbirdpie url=”!/HarrisonSolow/status/174495826415063040″]

Solow’s brilliant literary teasers make your neurons twitch until you click through and fall into a rich trove of stories, poems and reflections. Each tweet is an intimate invitation to explore the life and work of an artist. The more of her work you encounter, the more you want to read. And with each new post, her body of work as an artist grows. In this approach, writing and promotion are symbiotic…simply a writer sharing his or her unfolding body of work with the world. Herein, we discover the true “art” of promotion. Instead of drudgery, book promotion becomes an encounter with creativity that is a joy for both reader and writer.




Kathy Meis

Kathy Meis

Kathy Meis is a writer, ghostwriter, former award-winning journalist and passionate reader as well as founder and CEO of Serendipite Studios, a publishing technology startup located in Charleston, South Carolina. Stop by, and check out Pappus, the revolutionary eTool that lets authors blog directly from their books.




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Patrick Ross’ Creativity Tweets of the Week – 3/23/12

The Artist's Road


Patrick Ross

Patrick Ross

If it’s Friday, it’s time for my latest collection of links on creativity and writing I tweeted this week. There’s a lot to be said for reliability. Tourists will be coming here to D.C. through April 27th to take in our beautiful cherry trees in the 100th anniversary of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, but with this early spring, the trees are almost done blooming. I would suggest those tourists instead visit Traverse City, Michigan, and take in tiara-wearing beauty queens competing in a cherry-pit spitting contest.


  • How Creativity Works,” Maria Popova, Brain Pickings:In my last post, I highlighted how Jonah Lehrer in his new book Imagine: How Creativity Works discussed the notion of needing to stop focusing in order to have a creative insight. Maria highlights another point of the book, that creativity is the cobbling together of what already exists into new forms.
  • Jonah Lehrer on How Creativity Works: 5 Insights from Julia Child, Dylan & Picasso,”Michelle Aldredge, Gwarlingo: Another takeaway of the Lehrer book? “Art isn’t all fun and games.” Work never is.

Read more on “The Artist’s Road” . . .

Thanks, Patrick, for including Creative Flux in your Creativity Tweets!

Planner or Pantser?


One of the questions I pose to writers when they’re interviewed on my blog is whether they write from an outline or by the “seat of their pants.”

Some are strict outliners. These are people whose minds are so orderly that they can create a detailed outline and work a novel from it. Following is an example of one extreme of the method.

I attended a writer’s conference in Nashville, Killer Nashville, in August of 2010. The Guest of Honor was the internationally acclaimed author, Jeffery  Deaver.

In his address, Mr. Deaver said that he was an outliner.  As a matter of fact, he stated that his outline for The Bone Collector was 184 pages. The book has (on Amazon) 423 pages. My calculator shows that his outline was a little more than 43% as long as the published book.

That’s a detailed outline.

Most of the writers I interview say they work from a skeletal framework and allow the story to fill in the missing pieces. One person said that it was like using a map (yes, those paper things still exist!) to plot out a long journey.  The traveler knows starting and ending points and notes the major cities along the way. Noting the distance between the principal towns accommodates planning for overnight stays and stops for meals.

A writer using that method is employing a fusion of the planner and pantser methods.

The most memorable example of writing by the seat of the author’s pants came when my dear, departed friend, Anne Carroll George who passed away in 2001 told me her stories. We were sitting at her kitchen table with her husband, Earl, enjoying her marvelous Fifteen-Bean soup with cornbread.

She told me the tale of how the title of her first book, the Agatha Award winning, Murder on a Girl’s Night Out came to be.

“I’d sent it to my agent with the title, “Line Dancing at The Boot and Scoot. The publisher said that, for a cozy mystery, I had to have ‘murder’ in the title, so we settled on the final title as it was printed,” she said.

“So what are you using as a working title for the second one,” I said.

“Well, I thought that, since they want ‘murder’ in the title, I’d see what they said if I proposed, Murder on A Bad Hair day,”

Her eyes sparkled as she flashed her wonderful mischievous smile.

And, of course, that’s how the book was published.

Anne was a “pantser.”   When I was working on Piety and Murder she helped in innumerable ways. I asked her if I should be working from an outline. She said she’d tried it, but it didn’t work well. I remember her story as something like this:

“When I was writing Murder on A Girl’ s Night Out, I thought I knew who the murderer was, then he was driving along in Shelby County and somebody shot him. Now, I wondered, just who is the killer?”

Anne created such vivid, memorable characters that she let the people in her story drive the narrative. She asked her characters to solve the mystery.

She once said that she knew what the major points in each book were before she started writing.  She called the process of filling in the voids between major story markers, “trudging.”  Obviously, she loved the process and could barely wait until her people and keyboard took her to the next tale-telling juncture.

What do the two polar extreme examples tell the writer?

When writing a novel, the author should have a pattern, at least a simple outline in mind before activating the word processor. This may be a simple framework (maybe not even written) delineating major points in the book.  From there, the novelist should create characters; people he/she knows well, and let them propel the story between highlights.

Writer’s Block shouldn’t, ideally, happen during the writing of a story. The term is well named. It is a block from the writer. If the person clicking keys, knows the people he/she has created, then the author should ask them the telling question, “What happens now?”




About the author, Thomas Rowe Drinkard

Thomas Drinkard

Thomas Drinkard

Thomas Rowe Drinkard was born and reared in Alabama.  He graduated from the University of North Alabama with a degree in English.  At graduation, he was commissioned an Army second lieutenant. Within two years he completed parachute school and was selected for the U.S. Army Special Forces (the Green Berets).

After his active duty, he found his way into teaching and writing in the securities exam preparation business. Many of his articles and texts are currently in use.

Tom is now a full-time writer/ part-time editor. He is the author of Piety and Murder, Where There Were No Innocents and the novella, V Trooper – First Mission.  He is also the author of a chapbook of Vietnam poetry, Finding the Way Home.

A sequel novella, V Trooper – Second Mission – The Demon and a new novel, Overload will be published by the end of April, 2012. Two additional novels are works in progress.

For an earlier interview with Drinkard by Sirius Press, click here.

Audio clip of Drinkard and his wife, Marjorie Hatfield Drinkard, on Piety and Murder.

Piety and Murder

Piety and Murder

Where There Were No Innocents

Where There Were No Innocents


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My Journey into Memoir

For years, like many others, I have felt I have had a book inside me. I have enjoyed writing since I was about ten years old when I wrote plays for my maternal grandmother, Nan and all her little Italian lady friends. I can still see them gathered in the living room sipping coffee and chattering on in Italian. I never understood a word but I can still feel their fascination and loving attention as they hushed each other when I stood at the archway to announce the play would begin.

As I grew older and began facing life with all its complications, I found myself journaling my way through the heartaches of relationship failures, the searing pain of divorce, the exhaustion of being a single-parent, the terror of loving and living with an alcoholic son, the heart wrenching losses of my maternal grandmother, Nan, my best friend, Judy and the recent death of my beloved father as well as my own diagnosis of cancer. Journaling became my pathway to healing, capturing my moments of need, longing, passion, creativity, my life.

We all have our own stories to tell and we are the only ones who can tell them. But not everyone feels a need to write a memoir, which by the way is not an autobiography. A memoir is a slice of your life told as a story.

About three years ago, I decided I wanted to and here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. If I’m going to write a memoir, it has to read like a novel.
  2. The rules of fiction apply to memoir writing: an opening hook, plot, structure, character development, narrative arc, theme, conflict, suspense, resolution, and a distinct voice.
  3. Journaling is not a memoir. A journal is a tool to express and explore feelings and reactions. A memoir captures a story with a message.
  4. The memoir market is very difficult to break into. If you are not a celebrity, you need to become known through a strong author platform and a strong social media presence.
  5. A memoir should include reflection and insight into your story. It should not be written to disparage another or to work out your feelings (that can be accomplished through journaling) A memoirist needs to be far enough removed from the situation to be able to see it as a story.
  6. Writing memoir involves resurrecting memories, discerning the truth, facing the pain, facing down your inner critic.
  7. Writing memoir takes courage, focus, drive, persistence and honesty. I have been writing my stories for the past three years and am just beginning to shape all the vignettes into a story.

As a result of the above, I have learned to:

1. Study the art and craft of memoir through the Masters:

Take courses: A Google search of memoir writing will direct you to many sites. Here are a few I recommend:

National Association of Memoir Writers (NAMW) with Linda Joy Myers

The Heart and Craft of Life writing with Sharon Lippincott

Memoir Writers’ Network with Jerry Waxler

Women’s Memoirs with Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Men with Pens

The Memoir Project with Marion Roach Smith

Rachelle Gardner

Jennifer Lauck 

Shirley  Hershey Showalter 

The Christian Writer’s Guild Writing Essentials Course

Writer’s Digest website and courses

Attend conferences and workshops: There are many. Here are the ones I have attended:

The Writer’s Digest Editor’s Intensive

The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference 

The International Women’s Writers Guild (IWWG)

The Story Circle Network

The Firehearts’ Writer’s Institute with Heather Summerhayes Cariou

The Christian Writer’s Guild Writing for the Soul Annual Conference

2. Start a blog to develop an author platform. I started with a free blog and moved to a site that is self-hosted by Blue Host. I have also taken Dan Blank’s Build Your Author Platform Course and ongoing Mastermind forum.

3. Join a community of Memoir Writers:


She Writes 


4. Submit your writing to writing contests: There are many. Here a few I have submitted to:

Annual Writer’s Digest Competition

Story Circle Network Competition

Creative Nonfiction 

5. Join Lifewriters’ Forums:

Writer’s Digest Forum

Yahoo Lifewriters’ Forum moderated by Jerry Waxler and Sharon Lippincott

6. Study social media options and join the ones that suit you. I belong to Facebook, Twitter, Linked In,Google+ and Goodread. I’m intrigued by Pinterest

7. Develop a regular writing schedule, preferably daily

Find ways to get organized:

I use Evernote to organize my thoughts.

8. Develop a “deep-in-my-core” belief  in my own story

For me, that has happened through my writing. I have learned to listen to my muse and allow my story to unfold.

9. Define my readers and write to them. Writing with the reader in mind, even if it is just one person, can help you keep a focus. Visualize the reader.

10. My favorite quote that says it all is from Chris Baty (founder of National Novel Writing Month) in his remarks from the closing session of the recent Writer’s Digest conference:

“Have faith that someone out there has waited their whole life to read your book then give that reader the best you have to offer.”

My work-in-progress memoir is “Mazes and Miracles: One Woman’s Story of the Power of Hope through Faith.”



Kathy Pooler

Kathy Pooler

Kathy Pooler blogs at Memoir Writer’s Journey: Sharing Hope One Story at a Time and can be found on Twitter @kathypooler, on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Goodreads.

“I’d love to hear from you and hope you’ll join me at Memoir Writer’s Journey which I like to think of as a big kitchen table where people can gather to talk about writing and life.”

Kathy Pooler on YouTube: Welcome to Memoir Writer’s Journey


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John Magnet Bell: Photographer


suddenly (cropped) | Dec 5, 2006 | All images are © John Magnet Bell. All rights reserved


John Magnet Bell

John Magnet Bell | @StartYourNovel

John Magnet Bell is a writer, translator and blogger, and many of you already frequent his blog, “Start Your Novel.” This is the first writer-prompt site I ever discovered and I find his philosophy refreshing: “an adventure in open-source storytelling.” John freely gives away his ideas and encourages writers to run with them.

“Go wild,” he says. “I have tons of ideas. Why keep them all to myself?”

You will be amazed at his terrific prompts.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting John online and, carrying his generosity forward, he agreed to write a guest post for “Creative Flux”—the intriguing “You Hate to Love Them, But You Can’t Help Yourself.” Then, last month he honored me with a request to fill the opening spot in his new author interview series “5 Questions.” I extend my thanks to you, John, for your friendship and the opportunity to be a part of your community. You can check out my interview here.

Now, what some of you may not know is that John is also a published photographer. His work on Flikr  demonstrates impressive talent and remarkable imagination. A number of his fine works—my favorites—are included below, along with a brief Q&A of his creative process.

Click here to view his entire portfolio.

Q & A

What are the roots of your images?

In a nutshell… Eastern Bloc and Canadian animation. I was brought up on that stuff. It was (and is) far richer, in visual terms, than most commercial western cartoons. So three cheers for NFB-funded shorts, I say.

I didn’t fully realize it back then, but those short films, many of which did without any form of spoken language, were planting multiple seeds in me, the seeds of a visual vocabulary. As an adult, I came to enjoy the visually challenging work of the brothers Quay and their own idol, Jan Svankmajer. Thanks to YouTube you can now see plenty of their work online. I recommend Svankmajer’s tma/svetlo/tma (Darkness/Light/Darkness), it’s a wonderful little piece.

No less important was my mother’s influence. She earned a degree in Art History, so I always had access to art books. I was entranced by color-plate reproductions of Max Ernst’s paintings before I even knew what “oil painting” meant. There were also these Art Nouveau prints around the house which made quite an impression on me.

Why do you create them?

I need to. Can’t always explain why. Every human being has access to a part of themselves where verbal language breaks down and only symbols will manifest themselves. Some of us have a window on that landscape, others have a door and can step through it. (Max Ernst and Dali certainly had doors; contemporary painters Judson Huss and Siegfried Zademack have doors of their own, too.)

Stepping through that door and walking out into the unknown is exciting. You find unexpected things about your inner world. The joys of exploration — they’re the reason anyone creates anything, I guess.

What are the digital/traditional processes you use in creating your work?

More often than not, it’s a simple process. I keep a sketchpad on my nightstand. Sometimes I’ll have an odd dream or an image will… assault me. I sketch it roughly just so I won’t forget the concept, and save it for later, whenever I have time to work on it.

Once I have the concept, there comes the part where I either shoot stock for it, or go through the library for material I can use in my collage. Most of my pictures are photographic manipulations, after all. When I finally have all the assets I sit at the computer, fire up Photoshop and move this bit here, that bit over there, resize a thing or two, mask a bit, darken a bob. You know. Like the cut-and-paste you do in grade school, only slightly more time-consuming.

Kherson Oblast, 8 September 1965, 2:23 AM

Kherson Oblast, 8 September 1965, 2:23 AM | Aug 8, 2011


Awaken | Feb 19, 2011

box 34

box 34 | May 6, 2010


( | Jan 4, 2009


Kindred | Dec 13, 2008

one would take long walks in the morning

one would take long walks in the morning | Sep 28, 2008

evil, evil, evil

evil, evil, evil | Sep 8, 2008


Adagio | Jun 18, 2008

red vs. yellow

red vs. yellow | May 14, 2008

feast or famine

feast or famine | Apr 24, 2008

in the garden of gehenna

in the garden of gehenna | Apr 9, 2008

all things that live

all things that live | Nov 1, 2007

strings attached

strings attached | Aug 24, 2007

within her there are no words

within her there are no words | Aug 11, 2007


Offering | Aug 4, 2007

essence : light

essence : light | Jul 16, 2007


suddenly | Dec 5, 2006

vesica piscis

vesica piscis | Oct 24, 2006

Haunted nine

Haunted nine



John Magnet Bell is a translator, photographer and blogger with an MA in Comparative Literature. He intends to write 5,000 copyright-free story prompts and post them on his blog, Start Your Novel.

Connect with John Magnet Bell

Start Your Novel Blog | Twitter: @StartYourNovel


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What Artists Have to Say About Intuition



My favorite statement about how artists use intuition comes from Pablo Picasso. I have looked everywhere to try and find the precise quote, and can’t, but it went something like this…

Picasso told a friend that intuition was like having a carrier pigeon with a message land on your balcony. “The important thing is knowing that the pigeon has arrived,” he said, “you don’t have to unroll the message and read it.” Intuition is such a crucial, essential ingredient for artists. I recently asked a number of my art world Facebook friends about how the role it plays in their artistic process, and their replies were diverse and insightful. Below are some quotes that stood out. Following that are a few paintings linked to some commentaries that went into more depth.

Steve Macks Dilley (Ceramicist) “I start with an idea (sometimes not) but it is the intuition that leads me. I know it is right and true when I can feel it in my ‘gut’ (an acronym for ‘grand unifying theory’).”

Lisa Pressman (Painter) “Intuition in my studio practice is crucial. It is about trusting and not thinking. The thinking part comes later…”

Sheryl Humphrey (Painter) “For me, intuition is the DNA of an artwork — its nature. Intellect then molds the work — its nurture.”

Julia Schwartz (Painter) “I have written something like ‘my only intention is to paint without intention’ which means for me without conscious intention, i.e. because of course there are unconscious forces (intuition?) guiding the work.”

Raegan Russell (Painter) “There are always intentional forms, words and symbols which work themselves into a painting, but it is through an intuitive gut-felt impulse to paint out, scrape, and revise that the painting tells me what IT wants, rather than what I want it to be.”

Kim Niles (Artist and Illustrator) “To me, intuition is what I use to determine whether the mistake I just made is going to be a great ‘happy accident’ that takes the artwork into an entirely new direction, or if a fresh start is in order.”

Chris Messner (Photographer) “True inspiration unfolds itself, not by force or it becomes fake. True intuition is also the ability to be observant.”

Eric M. Davis (Painter) “Relying on my intuitive sense gives my work its natural and unique qualities, revealing the soul of my work. Through my choices others can see through their eyes what I have seen through my eyes.”

Karen Kaapcke (Painter) “I think we also all probably have tricks for getting at intuition — painting fast, painting tired, working first thing in the morning, getting into yoga, even drinking and other forms of mental disruption though of course those end up interfering…”

Catherine Ruane (Painter) “Intuition for me is that gutsy crimp in my stomach that says… no that’s not right, or yeah, that works. It is sort of like the patron saint of art.”

Kay Ruffini (Painter) “Intuition is the essence of the whole creative process. If art isn’t about feelings, then what is its purpose? Everything starts with intuition.”

Sally Weiner Grotta (Painter) “I don’t ‘use’ intuition. It’s simply is a path that I walk, the direction I go, pulled this way or that. The subconscious amalgam of inspirations, ideas, curiosity, vision and a hope that it will all string together once I apply sweat and know-how.”

Cecily Herzig (Mixed-Media Artist) “For me when painting, I’m most successful when I let all organized thought go; my eyes blur, and my pen goes. Whatever odd words pass through my mind I place on the page, where the edge of a paint stain looks like an eye or and arm or a mouth I let it become that, regardless of the logical nature of the form.”

Leslie A. Brown (Painter) “It is an overwhelming sense of knowing ,when you realize you are the vehicle and not the driver. You are just moving through it and it is moving through you. You become the ‘is’ or the ‘am’. and it is perfect; as perfect as it ever gets to be in this form.”

Gromyko Semper (Painter, Draftsman)

Gromyko Semper, "Daughters of Eve," 2011

Gromyko Semper, "Daughters of Eve," 2011

“It all starts like magic… a sudden gush of inspiration, a hymn, a whisper, an idea comes to mind, conscious of unconscious… phantoms or spirits or whatever other names they are called… premonitions and visions… automatisms and paranoiac visages… sometimes they come to me when I’m reading, other times they go as empty vessels…then I begin to create…”

Lambert Fernando

Lambert Fernando, "ABC 2," 2011

Lambert Fernando, "ABC 2," 2011

“It is widely said that the first five years of life are the most fundamentally important in terms of structuring the person you will develop into. I came to the United States from the Philippines when I was five years old. Even as a small child I absorbed the emotional charge and sense of place in an extremely visceral way in those years before I came to the States. The smells, the textures, the colors — these are all an integral part of my being as an artist, down to the quality of the wood floorboards and the faded patina of the wallpaper. What made a huge impression on me was the jarring contrast between my old memories of that early childhood and the glaring newness of suburban Long Island into which I was forcibly moved.

For me, color is intuitive. The color decisions I make when starting a painting dictate the atmosphere and feel of the entire piece. Memories of my former country come to me in quick fragments and colors, and this is when I usually begin a canvas — laying down sections of colors, layers, and materials. Creating a work of art is a bit of a literal and figurative digging into my elusive personal history. I will spend up to a year on one piece, carving, sanding away, and scratching into the paint and textures until I feel that it is finished.

The lexicon that I have developed over the years is also part of a very natural, flowing and intuitive process. The symbols are culled from a variety of sources; a few old photographs and video stills of myself as a child and long gone family members, maps, nature, and patterns and wallpaper bits that strike a chord with me subconsciously. A new recurring motif is the idea of the American suburban home, and I will photograph houses that I see driving around the country which represent my own vision of this idea. The houses then show up on canvases as falling or floating, or as small pieces in larger installation works.

Ultimately a finished piece for me is a hyper-real look into a moment of recognition of some lost bit of time in my personal history.”

Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman, "Quandary," 2011

Brenda Goodman, "Quandary," 2011

“With some exceptions all my paintings start with a surface full of random marks and gestures until it is completely filled. I step back and look until certain shapes emerge that I resonate with. Those initial marks that are now shapes and colors start tumbling around the picture plane while intuitively I am seeing and feeling what my unconscious wants to say. Most of the time it connects to what I am dealing with in my life I can never explain intellectually why a painting of mine works. If it ‘feels’ right, then it’s right and I know it on an intuitive level.”

Eric Wert

Eric Wert, "Peonies," 2011, 36" x 48", Oil on canvas

Eric Wert, "Peonies," 2011, 36" x 48", Oil on canvas | Courtesy William Baczek Fine Arts, Northampton, MA.


Courtesy William Baczek Fine Arts, Northampton, MA.

    “When I read or hear others speak about intuition, it’s generally as a positive or exciting experience, but I have the opposite response. When starting a painting or choosing a subject, there’s usually a point when I see something so complicated or challenging that the thought of painting it makes my stomach hurt. It’s like a cold, sinking feeling of fear and panic; and it’s not pleasant. Over the years, I’ve found that my most successful pieces have been the ones that begin with that feeling and where I struggle to overcome the anxiety. Maybe that’s a little personal — but intuition isn’t always fun.”

Originally published on January 10, 2012 by John Seed on Huffington Post: Arts



John Seed

John Seed

John Seed is a professor of art and art history at Mt. San Jacinto College in Southern California. Winner of a 2002 Society of Professional Journalist’s award in art and entertainment writing, he has written about art and artists for Harvard Magazine,Maui No Ka OiHonoluluChristie’s Hong KongYerevan, and Stanford. Seed is also an art broker and a writer for The Huffington Post.

Connect with John Seed
Email: johnseed (at) | Twitter: @seedhuffpost |

Books John Seed:

Nine Artists

Nine Artists

Arman Manookian: An Armenian Artist in Hawai'i

Arman Manookian: An Armenian Artist in Hawai'i

Edith Park Truesdell

Edith Park Truesdell


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Patrick Ross’ Creativity Tweets of the Week – 2/2/12

The Artist's Road

Patrick Ross

Patrick Ross

Your weekly treat has arrived early this week, as I’m reserving Friday for another post. Below find a highlight of links I tweeted on creativity and writing this week. Let me also invite any folks in the DC area who blog or are considering doing so to join me in a six-week workshop on blog writing I’ll be conducting at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The course runs six weeks starting the evening of Tuesday, April 17th; more information to come!


Read more on “The Artist’s Road” . . .

Thanks, Patrick, for including Creative Flux in your Creativity Tweets!

Creativity’s The Easy Bit

"It’s one thing to dream, but it’s completely another to engineer the final solution."

"It’s one thing to dream, but it’s completely another to engineer the final solution."

Some say that creativity, coming up with great new ideas is hard. I disagree. I have no problems coming up with really novel and interesting ways of addressing problems. It’s about the most fun you can have. You chew on the problem, explore data and whet your tingling nerve endings. Then maybe a bit of incubation and perhaps some deliberate creativity techniques, from using the dictionary to find stimulating random words to bouncing ideas around with other people.  And before long, there’s all kinds of great thoughts spouting out and spreading around.

But that’s not the half of it. When you have the idea, you next have to figure out how to make it work in practice. It’s one thing to dream, but it’s completely another to engineer the final solution. You may have to design shapes, connections and so on. You may need to figure out how to make it really cheaply and in a way that is easy to manufacture. And of course take into account all the regulations about recyclability, toxicity and so on. You may even fret about packaging and how to ship it from A to B in one piece. And before all this there’s all the stuff about usability, learnability, aesthetics et cetera. Maybe also you’ll be lucky and be dealing with something more conceptual, maybe just something that people should do.

Then comes the hard part. Or maybe the hard parts. This is about the people stuff. Because before you even get to spend any money on development, you’ll have to persuade other people that the idea is great. You’ll need to persuade them that the problem that your idea solves is worth solving. And worth spending money on. Even if it is blindingly obvious to you, you’ll find that there will be people who think it is stupid and a waste of time and certainly a waste of money.  And if you’re developing a commercial product, then you’ll also have to persuade people to use your idea, customers to buy, retailers to stock, marketers to sell and so on.

But don’t worry. All this stuff about persuading people is also about creativity. Because now you are in the territory of social innovation, where you can be creative about how you influence, sell and change minds. The problem that many innovators face is that, while they are great in their home territory, they are lost when it comes to persuasion.  The solution is not easy, but it can be fun. You just have to roll your sleeves up and study psychology and social influence. It’s a big field and there’s lots to discover. But if you want to really make a difference in life, you’ll find it the best investment you can make.



How To Invent Almost Anything

How To Invent Almost Anything

David Straker is a creative professional who has spent many years in R&D (hardware and software), won a few patents for his employers, and since the 90s, has been a business consultant—training people in blue-chip companies around the world. He has written a number of books, including two on problem-solving and one on inventing.


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