Archive for the ‘creativity and inspiration’ Category

What Color Is Your Writing Hat?

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Writers wear two different hats.

Now that summer is over, I’m getting my hats ready for the new school year.

I’m not talking about the vintage hats in my collection of unsubtle disguises. I’m not talking about the lumberjack hat I begrudgingly wear when I venture out into the frigid Michigan winter. I’m talking about my writing hats.

We writers wear at least two hats at all times, whether we know it or not. The first is the hat of the creative writer – the generator of new material. My writing hat is always blue.

Why blue? Because scientists have discovered that exposure to the color blue encourages creative thinking – the generation of the brilliant, zany, surprising, and sometimes merely ridiculous new ideas that make writing interesting. (You can read more about the impact of color on the brain in Science Magazine, where the study was first published in 2009.) Blue is the color of oceans and skies – the color of summer. Just try not to relax when you think of the color blue. Now put on your attractive blue writing hat and pour yourself a glass of lemonade. As you write, allow your mind to soar across the landscape of your ideas. Your work will be messy and rough, but you are discovering your territory and collecting the raw materials for your story.

Of course, the blue WRITER hat is always too easy-going when it comes to the brutal thrashing needed to get a story published or marked with a shiny “A” by your English teacher. “This is such a super-fun story, Gilda!” my blue WRITER hat seems to say. “The only thing that could make it more fun might be another witch and a few more pink rabbits. Oh, and some grape bubble gum. I think it adding a subplot about grape bubble gum makes sense in this report about the American Civil War. Don’t stop to edit, Gilda, because you’re fine just as you are. Go for it, girl! Woo hoo!!”

If I don’t force myself to tear off my blue WRITER hat, I end up with red pen all over my work from annoyed hand of my English teacher.

And guess what color those scientists linked with enhanced attention to detail? That’s right! The color of stop signs, fire engines, grumpy teachers, and cheap valentines is also beloved by editors. I wear my red hat when I’m switching from my dreamy, inventive role to my opposite role – the persnickety EDITOR dressed in a tweed jacket and flat loafers.

My friends know that wearing the red EDITOR hat doesn’t come easily to me. Why? Because the editor’s job is to shine a flashlight on hidden, festering problems and then do the grimy work of fixing what isn’t working. This means that I have to read through some of my favorite sentences with a very grumpy, unfriendly attitude. My red hat forces me to ask myself annoying questions: “Does this paragraph really work?” “Does this sentence belong here?” “What are you really trying to say?” How could this be improved?” “Did you check whether grape bubblegum was even invented during the nineteenth century?”

The bottom line: wearing the editor hat can be a big pain in the you-know-what, but it’s as crucial to the success of my writing as chocolate is to the success of my much-loved banana-and-peanut butter sandwiches.

So both the blue WRITER hat and the red EDITOR hat are necessary. The trick is to avoid wearing both hats at the same time. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but if you’ve ever suffered from writer’s block, you should keep your two writer’s hats in separate rooms of the house.

Writer’s block happens when we wear the stern, nagging red hat while simultaneously trying to tell a delightful, surprising story that nobody has ever heard before.  If you’re at the beginning of anything, put on your blue hat because the red one will make you way too tense. Getting started almost always benefits from the breezy attitude of the blue hat. If you wear the red hat while trying to explore your ideas, you might start biting your fingernails and chewing up paper instead of writing on it. “Whoa! Slow down there, girl!” says the red hat. “Fix that! Get out of there immediately! Cut out this rubbish! This makes no sense! What a lot of rot!” Sometimes the red hat gets so mean that I stop and yell back at her: “Listen, Miss Irritating Red Hat. I’m not writing ANYTHING until you shut your pie-hole!”

If you experience an outburst of this nature, you should gently put away your red hat and retrieve your relaxing blue CREATIVE WRITING hat. Just take your time, follow your ideas, let the first draft plop out onto the page in all its formless, ugly glory.

If you have time for a short vacation before your assignment is due, this is a good time to leave town. If you aren’t so lucky and your paper is due the next day, you should quickly return to your work wearing your red hat. (Note: I personally prefer a plastic fireman’s helmet borrowed from Wendy Choy’s little brother. Accessories include red lipstick, face mask and heavy work boots to achieve a proper editorial mindset.) Once I’m wearing my red hat, it’s time to be brave. “Look Gilda,” my red EDITOR hat always seems to say, “Someone’s got to fix this, and it might as well be you.”

So along with your new notebooks, binders, and pencil cases filled with gumballs and lip gloss, don’t forget to find a couple “writer hats” for the new school year – one red, and the other blue. The next time you have to write a paper, you’ll need both of them!

–Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator

Why Re-read a Favorite Book?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Jennifer Allison and "reader extraordinaire" Kaleigh Young

Once again, more than thousands hundreds seven readers have been left wondering what happened to me. And once again, I can only explain that if you knew you would run to your bedroom and hide under your mattress for the rest of the week. Luckily, I’m keeping my own life to myself, and tactfully turning my attention to the media’s favorite means of avoiding the craft of writing – the “interview with an expert.”

In that spirit, today marks the launch of a new feature on the GILDA JOYCE website – Our “Gilda Joyce Reader-of-the-Month” (or possibly “Reader-of-the-year” or “decade” depending on how long it takes me to find my way back to this blog once I sign off).

Today I am honored to feature 5th grader Kaleigh Young, who is a GILDA JOYCE reader extraordinaire and an aspiring writer!

GJ: So Kaleigh, tell us why you are featured as our first GILDA JOYCE reader-of-the-month.

K: I have read all of the Gilda Joyce books 5 times.

GJ: Did you say FIVE times for each book?

K: Yes! I especially like to reread my favorite – The Ladies of the Lake and The Bones of the Holy. I also listen to them on audio books.

GJ: What makes you want to re-read a favorite book? Do you notice different details at the second (or third, or fifth!) reading? Why go back and experience the same story again?

K: I think that by rereading you can see more details and enjoy the descriptive writing over and over again. I can read my favorite parts knowing what is going to happen next, and sometimes by pretending that I don’t know.

GJ: I think re-reading shows that you’re sensitive to language – not just what happens in the story.

K: Yes.

GJ:  You have said that THE LADIES OF THE LAKE and THE BONES OF THE HOLY are your favorite GILDA JOYCE books. Why these two?

K: I like The Bones of the Holy because it takes place in one of my favorite cities to visit, St. Augustine, Florida. I like how the ghost stories in the book remind me of the ghost tours that I have gone on in St. Augustine while visiting there. I like Ladies of the Lake because I feel like that is one of the most descriptive books. For example, the part when the girl is stumbling through the woods blindfolded…. I can almost feel how cold and uncomfortable she was.

GJ: How have the Gilda Joyce mysteries and other favorite books inspired you in your own life?

K: The Gilda Joyce series has inspired me in my own life in many ways. One of them being, as soon as I read my first book I immediately wanted a typewriter and to be a psychic investigator! I got my typewriter for Christmas and I still use it often today for my writing. I feel like I can express my ideas better on a typewriter than on a computer. I also rarely by department-store clothes anymore; most of my clothes come from vintage clothing shops.

GJ: Kaleigh, I applaud both your fashion sense and your writing methods.

K: Thank you!

GJ: Can you suggest some other books that Gilda Joyce fans like you might enjoy?

K: I would have to recommend Jerry Spinelli (Stargirl) and Sharon Creech (Ruby Holler). They are my other two favorite authors (But don’t tell Jennifer Allison that I have other favorites!)

GJ: It’s just between you and me, Kaleigh. Thanks so much for sharing some sources of inspiration for us today; I’ll look forward to reading one of your novels in the future!

K: I hope so!