Posted in Creativity

Finding Writing Inspiration in Creative Cross-Training

I was honoured to be a guest blogger on “A Writer of History” thanks to historical fiction author M.K. Tod whose own work is well worth exploring.

All about historical fiction

Grace-Note-by-PJ-ParsonsI met Patricia Parsons, author of several non-fiction and fiction works, at my daughter and son-in-law’s wedding. In that strange process of serendipity, Patricia has now moved from Halifax to Toronto and become a friend. Her novel Grace Note: In Hildegard’s Shadow is a compelling story with the premise that Hildegard of Bingen may not have written all the music attributed to her. Today, Patricia muses on the notion of creative cross-training.

Finding Writing Inspiration in Creative Cross-Training by Patricia (P.J.) Parsons.

A few years ago the magazine Fast Company published a piece by writer Jane Porter (who writes both fiction and non-fiction herself) called “Five Ways to be Inspired by Your Everyday Life.” Her suggestions about feeding our curiosity, learning to manage risks, un-programming our thinking, using creative exploration and scrutinizing the unfamiliar all carried within them a single thread of commonality: each of them suggests to us that inspiration is fired by doing something different

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Posted in Backstory, Ideas generation, Journals, Writing craft

A writer’s letter to Santa Claus

christmas treeWhat do you give a writer for Christmas?  Most of the lists of suggested gifts are filled with things like computer writing software, printer paper and coffee cups emblazoned with bon mots from writers who have gone before us.  I have a different view of what a writer – like me at least – really covets.  So, apart from the Moleskines which I covet every year, Santa Claus is really the only one who can fill this list.  I’d like to share my 2014 letter to Santa with other writers and aspiring writers.

“Dear Santa:

So we come to the end of another year.  It’s been a year of writing, not writing, writing some more, editing manuscripts, madly searching for a publisher, and taking a foray into self-publishing.  Well, you know what I’ve been through this year.  I’ve worked hard so I know you’ll look kindly on this writer’s little Christmas list.

  1. First, I would like a few Moleskines.[1] I know that they’re expensive as notebooks go. I know that other people in my life can provide these as well – but one can never have enough Moleskine notebooks, can one? After all if they’re good enough for Ernest Hemingway, they’re good enough for the rest of us. I also know that most of my work is digital. But I can’t shake my addiction to those brightly-colored covers. I seem to be inspired to write just by looking at them. Or at least I’m inspired to think about writing. That’s a first step in any project, isn’t it?books
  2. Now to the things that only you can give me. First I’d like the gift of a continually open mind. Let me see ideas everywhere I go and in everything I do (then the Moleskines become very useful, right?). Let that open mind accompany me when I read the newspaper, eavesdrop on conversations in restaurants and airports – well, you get the idea.
  3. I’d also like the gift of patience in the rewriting and editing process. That feeling that comes at the end of a finished manuscript at long last is wonderful, but can put me off from the rigors that are then required in the revision process. I need that forbearance more than anything else to get me through that part of the writing process.
  4. Then, Santa, although I know it might be difficult, I’d like the gift of compassion for all those agents and editors who can’t seem to answer their email in a timely fashion – even when they’ve requested the proposal or manuscript. *deep breath*
  5. I’d also like the gift of creativity so that I can see old ideas in new ways. I have journals filled with all those ideas from my sometimes open mind (see #1), but they are often derivative or jotted down on a whim leaving me without a clue as to context later. Please let me revisit those journals and consider how to turn those ideas on their heads or inside out to come up with a truly innovative approach to the material.
  6. Finally, thicken my skin just a little bit as I prepare to send out a manuscript to readers for pre-publication comment. I’m sure they won’t all love it (as they should).

Well, that’s it for this year Santa.  I’m planning another hard-working writing year and hope to be able to share with you at the end of 2015 just how far I’ve come with these gifts of Christmas 2014.  Merry Christmas!”

[1] For the uninitiated, Moleskines are (as their web site says): “…the heir and successor to the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway…”  You can read about them at and buy them all over the world in book stores and online.  The paper is great and the array of sizes and colors amazing.

Posted in Backstory, Writing

Mining the wisdom of the ‘crone’

Senior woman contemplatingCrone.  What an awful word.  And yet I’ve been thinking about her this week, and how I might tap into my own inner crone to see if she has any wisdom that might inform both my writing and my day job these days.

Some definitions of the word suggest that it refers to an old woman who is ugly, thin, withered, cranky.  Wikipedia’s entry on the crone says she’s “…disagreeable, malicious, or sinister…”—a  folkloric character.  But it also suggests that crones are magical, and that they are the archetypical wise woman.

Some years ago I spent a lot of time reading and listening to Clarissa Pinkola Estes (who famously wrote Women Who Run with Wolves) and her stories about the archetypal crone, or as she sees her, the wise old woman.  She conceptualized the three stages of a woman’s life as maiden, mother, crone, implying that if we live long enough, we’ll all enter that final stage.  The crone.  But Dr. Estes doesn’t see it as so bad.  In fact, listening to her tell stories about crones often made me look forward to the day when some of the following might be a part of my life.

  • Not caring what anyone else thinks about what I do…
  • …but tempering that lack of care with the wisdom to know when not to hurt others…
  • …coupled with the accumulated years of decisions, choices, and knowledge that when mixed together and applied judiciously result in wisdom.

And so, I’m thinking about how much wisdom I might have accumulated at this point in my life.  Do I have enough wisdom to be able to stand back and let my younger colleagues make their own mistakes, to let them take the view that older is not better, to let them believe that their considerable erudition is a match for wisdom?  Do I have enough wisdom to apply it to my writing?  Can I mine those choices, that knowledge (of myself and others), those decisions?

The website Crones Counsel says this about the crone:  “Crone women fly directly into the face of ageism and sexism. They refuse to be put down. They do not walk meekly on the road to old age. They are keen to assert their presence if not their influence.”[1]

I guess the part of this that I have had the most difficulty with in recent years is asserting presence without asserting influence.  I’m not sure what happened this week, but I seem to have had an epiphany.  I seem to no longer feel the need to influence external factors.  Perhaps that will serve me well in my interior life where my writing lives before it gets out onto the page /computer screen.

Crones Counsel also says: “…a Crone is an older woman who has learned to walk in her own truth, in her own way, having gained her strength by acknowledging the power and wisdom of the totality of her experience. She is “a wise old woman.”[2]

I’m going to do as they suggest and celebrate the place I am in my life.  It’s time to let go of a few things so that I can embrace my own truth.