Flash Fiction Creative Habit: Attempt One

As promised, here’s the report-back from my attempt to start a new creative habit, “From the Frontline,” as it were.

flash fiction attempt one

The effect of attaching a new task (writing 3 pages of flash fiction) to a weekly task (laundry) was … postponement:

“Well, the hamper is full, but I don’t really need to do laundry today.”

This happened from Monday all the way to Friday, a delay of four days. By then, I was ready.

I chose a new notebook, checked pockets for tissues, and pressed go.

Then I sat down and I wrote 3 pages longhand (in cursive, in case you’re of the same persuasion). I had an idea of someone in an attic, and that developed into a multi-perspective domestic tale of class and deluded grandeur. An interesting new storytelling technique for me.

My initial observation on this attempt is that even though the process of attaching a new habit to a trigger event is supposed to make it easier to get started and develop a routine, I chose something that could be put off rather easily, and so it probably wouldn’t be the best choice for others.

However, since I’m only using laundry for this new, experimental task, I think it’s okay that I do it only once a week, and can flexibly start or postpone it until a time when I I felt ‘fruitful.’ I’m also doing other kinds of writing (blog post, journaling, letters) that are blocked into the schedule in other ways, so this isn’t the only way I’m getting myself to the writing ‘Hot Seat.’

flash fiction notebook 1


Thus, my resolution going forward shall be that there doesn’t have to be a flash fiction product for every load washed, just that I probe those depths–‘Anything there at the moment?’- every time there is, in order to give the creative muscle a chance to say,

“Yes, God, yes! Lemme out of here so I can stretch!”

A sort of walk-the-dog type of exercise, to make sure those creative skills are being search-lighted regularly. So there we are: my effect, observation, and resolution.

Have you tried to start anything? Are you gearing up to start something in the New Year???

Let us know in the comments so we can come around and poke you about it!


P.S. I made my second attempt this morning, and managed the full complement: flash fiction for the wash, and blog post for the dryer. What you see before you is the result of the latter. Huzzah!

P.P.S. Oh, and in case you missed it (ICYMI), I published my second novel last week just before Christmas. Go here for the link to check it out on Amazon!

Creative Habits, Triggers, and Morning Pages

I’ve read so much about creative habit formation recently that the following information can not be fairly attributed to any one source. However, I know that Agile Lifestyle does very thorough research, so if you’d like more detail, definitely visit his site and hop around.

In my more lackadaisical research, I’ve found one concept in the science that works for me: creating triggers for certain desired actions.

chewed pencil dryden quote habits

For example, if you want to quit smoking, you probably already have an ingrained trigger in eating or drinking: you want to smoke right after or with the other hand, right? To replace this trigger with your desired habit, you might pull out the chewing gum after you eat, or handle a stress ball while you’re having a beer with friends. This is a good way of taking the desires of the body and retraining them.

We can apply this to the creative habit as Julia Cameron has with her Morning Pages concept. Basically, when you wake up, let thy first thought be Morning Pages: three handwritten pages of whatever you can scrape, or weave gracefully, together–depending on your state.

I have at various times in my life had a go at Morning Pages, but no longer have the habit. Today, though, I wondered to what other activities I could attach such a habit. What is something that everyone does regularly enough that it would be a useful trigger? My brainstormed list:

  • go to the bathroom (not much time before or during, however)
  • brush teeth (hands occupied)
  • make coffee or tea (5 min or so, then while drinking)
  • do laundry (yes!)
  • wash dishes (while they dry?)
  • visit the bank (enh)
  • fill up the gas tank (once a month, not often enough)
  • pay bills (once a month, but maybe a special kind of writing?)
  • empty garbage (might lend itself to a specific kind of writing, e.g. the decay of Suttree’s first pages)

So there was a sample list for me. You might have other things for every day or every week, and those would be the most useful. Now, how to start?

I’m going to choose laundry. Just laundry. You shouldn’t try to do more than one at a time, as that diminishes the brain’s ability to ingrain the habit(s).

Laundry is also a good one because I usually hate listening to the hiss of water and thump-thump of Spin Cycle, so I try to leave the house. This may get me to ignore the noise with a more productive result!

I do about 2 loads a week. I’m going to try to use the half-hour in the washer for a flash fiction story, then the hour in the dryer for a blog post. These will both need to be edited later of course, but editing is not a creative task for me, so here I am simply trying to inculcate additional creative tasks with the trigger of the laundry chore.

I’ll have one chance before I go home for Christmas. I’ll report back on how I do (another handy step in the habit formation literature- accountability partners), so until then:

Happy Christmas!

harry potter trio christmas at three broomsticks


Images via Harry Potter Wikia

Prep and Circumstance

Along with Girl Scout cookies and Boy Scout popcorn, one of the more recent fundraising gigs that schools have picked up is magazine subscriptions. This year, I bought one for pure fascination: Town & Country. I received the first issue today.

From its website, I knew what to expect. I figured it would give me a new perspective, possibly one I could use in a novel: the sophisticated but utterly directionless young cygnet (that’s baby swan to you) that meets Life for the first time, something like that.

preppy boy diagrammed

The appeal in this magazine for most people, including me, probably comes down to voyeurism. Another’s life, seemingly so different from one’s own, showing luxury after ostentatious luxury, consumption after conspicuous consumption. It can be hard to look away sometimes, like at a traffic accident.

prince charles princess anne queen elizabeth prince philip old color photo
Isn’t the royal family cute at this young age? Love this photo.


Whenever I read about Princess So-and-So or Duke of What’s-It-Called, I head to Wikipedia to look them up, and place them in the larger canopy of royals still living out their days in peace and prosperity (and paparazzi).

The British Royal Family is of course a huge draw for millions of people, and so I include this article link here of Will and Kate in Canada as a peripheral link between the topic (the fascinating 1%) and my new book, now available on Kindle, forthcoming in softcover. (You’ll find that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge engaged in several activities that can be found in Dulci’s Legacy! Bonus points if you can point them out in the comments…)

will and kate prince edward island 2011

On the lighter side, there are the trappings of wealth, the props and labels we carelessly use to refer to these bastions of taste and money. Those can be fun to discover and manipulate in fiction.

I stumbled upon this one a while ago, and have been saving it up. Town & Country’s own list of  “Preppiest Nicknames.” (There’s also a Dulci’s Legacy hat-tip in there!)

What would your prepster nickname be??


**Dulci’s Legacy is out of review and on the shelf!**

Virtual shelf, that is. Check it out on Amazon Kindle and sign up to the newsletter to find out when the softcover version goes live! Also, be sure to add it to your shelf for the Giveaway if you’re on Goodreads!


Images via Emteatime

In Honor of Librarians

Cutting libraries during a recession is like cutting hospitals during a plague.

– Eleanor Crumblehulme

Maybe you’ve heard (I’ve seen it on Youtube and heard it on the radio, and I try to avoid media):

There’s a new show on TNT called, The Librarians:

It looks totally cheeseball, but maybe that’s what you need right now, in time for the holidays?

I happen to have another link ready to tie in. (Magic!)

Quotes about libraries and the people who work in them (librarians)

My two favorites are the one at the top of this post, and this:

Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.

–Anne Herbert

When was the last time you went to a library?


Updates on Book One and Book Two

For those of you wondering about the next book, it’s “in review” at Amazon.

That means that there may be one or two more iterations of formatting and whatnot, but essentially, the manuscript that is Dulci’s Legacy is Off. My. Desk!

Here’s the cover, as a teaser:

dulci's legacy book cover

I will email those on The List to announce when it’s available on Kindle and in Paperback, so if you’d like to be in the know, just sign up here.

In other news, my first novel, Memory’s Hostage, is now available in FIVE (count ’em!) physical bookstores. Find locations on my Books & Works page.

They are all in Oregon, so you will simply have to come and visit the great Pacific Northwest for the delightful experience of finding one on a shelf.

For now.