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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Magic of Tidying Up

Our first guest post, by Deb Graham

Call me sensitive–when a perpetually neat houseguest bought me a book entitled The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it kinda raised my ire. The houseguest was my mother, alias The Recreational Cleaner.
After walking by the book for two days, I finally picked it up, planning to casually skim the first chapter or two. Sucked in, soon I was turning the last page.
I admit I learned a few things, such as Never Throw Away Other’s Belongings, of which I may or may not be guilty. But the Spread Out Every Item You Own, Touch Each, Have A Conversation With It, Asking If It Brings Joy Or Not, seemed outlandish to me. I set the book aside; just another self-help scheme.
And then the weirdness started. Dressing in the mornings, I’d find myself thinking, “Hm. Do I love this faded tee shirt? How much joy is left in it?” Unloading the dishwasher, I’d ponder stacking the green bowl neatly, or throwing it out. Did it make me happy? It felt like a spell had been cast on me, and I was annoyed.
I’m an author, a mother, a traveler, and on a daily basis, I’m swamped. Between husband, kids, grandchildren, friends, Church people, writer’s groups, I converse plenty, and I simply don’t have time to be talking with jackets and seven-year-old skirts.
I’ve written ten non-fiction books, including two best-selling cruise books, and around this same time, I began my first novel. Off to a great start, until the voices in my head began. Does this paragraph bring me joy? Is this character making me happy? Has this scene outlived its usefulness?
I reread Mom’s book. I know it plainly talks about sorting one’s Things, but it wriggled its way into my mind and changed my writing for the good. If “man is that he might have joy,” then I guess I’m entitled to some joy in my writing, too.
Meet our guest blogger, Deb Graham!

Peril In Paradise was released in January 2016, and is selling well already. I love the cover design. It’s a cozy mystery set on a cruise ship in Hawaii, with warm characters and descriptions so rich, you could plan a cruise with it. The process was fun, and –bonus–I also have more room in my closet since I began writing. What is it about The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up?

Check out her book:
Amazon link: Peril in Paradise


Monday, January 25, 2016

Start the New Year With a Little Zen by "Tidying Up"

by Valerie Ipson

What is it about this cover that just makes me so calm and happy? 
The restful clouds and peaceful blue sky...and the no-capital letters. 
I just want to open it and learn how decluttering will bring me all of those things. 
Of course, the red circle announcing it's a NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER helps too. 
There is a place for ALL CAPS in our zen-world and that is it! Now on with my post...

" papers...accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?"

Um, yes. Have you seen my house? Clothes, actually, aren't so much of an issue now that all my children but one are out of the house, but PAPER? PAPER is driving me CRAZY.

The first line of this post is from a blurb about the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo. (We're giving it away this month! Details HERE.)

Here's what else you find in the blurb... 
"...Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again." Even though, surely, it was too good to be true, that's the line that sold me.

She has a method--an order of what to tidy first, second, third, etc. Easy, non-emotional stuff first, like clothing and books (okay, maybe semi-non-emotional when it comes to books). But just the idea that eventually I would un-bury myself from the piles (snowdrifts--except that they absolutely will not melt, dang it!) of paper in my office and possibly discover a computer waiting with my current WIP* on it sounds lovely.

I've konmari-ed my clothes, now I'm on to books and looking forward to a clutter-free space, and brain, to work with.

What about you? What can tidying up do for your writing life?

*Work-In-Progress, for the non-writerly among us

Friday, January 22, 2016

Win a Copy of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

If you don't already have the number one best selling non-fiction book from 2015*, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, then here's your chance:

Sponsored by the authors of Five Pages of Something
Oh and just why the giveaway of this book? Best-selling books get our attention, but we also were so curious...was there 'magic' in 'tidying up' our lives? Would it have any effect on our writing? As mothers and authors, we've often talked about (lamented over) the near-constant tug-of-war between having a house of order and writing time. We decided to experiment, take on the challenge, and find out what 'tidying up' could do for our creative energies. And we're sharing what we discover with you. We'd love one of our lucky readers to discover the magic too. Check it out! Giveaway Ends Soon!

And for the record, we have no relationship with or connection to Marie Kondo -other than as some of her newest readers!

*Publishers Weekly

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On Tidying Magic and Writing Joy

by Tamara Passey

Does this outfit make me...feel joy?
When was the last time you asked yourself that question?
Well, if you've been reading Marie Kondo's best-selling book "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up," (enter to win a free kindle copy here) then maybe you have been asking yourself that very question. She tells her readers to hold every piece of clothing they own and ask, "Does this spark joy?"

I'd been itching to clean out my closet. Over nine years in the same house can contribute to some pesky clutter. Her mandatory rule of gathering every item of clothing and piling it in one place didn't even sound like work--this is what I need! A system! But the question is what I, well, questioned.

Since when did I expect clothes to spark joy? Could I expect a t-shirt from Old Navy or a blazer from my tax-preparer days to spark something as lofty as joy in my soul? Not that I didn't have standards for my wardrobe--I'm sure liking the clothes I brought home from the store had something to do with the purchase, but four or five shirts into the process and I could see just how far my standards had fallen. I'd hold a piece and think, "but this is the only thing that matches the gray skirt," or "this was such a deal." Better yet, "At some point I will find the right pants to go with this Chaps navy-and-white-polka-dot-dress-shirt." Joy? Where did that fit into the equation?

I persevered and began to find clothes that did, in fact, bring a smile to my face and an immediate, "oh I am keeping this," to my mind. And by the end of the day (okay two days) I had stacks of clothes for Goodwill, more room than I'd ever had in my closet, and clothes that I could honestly say I looked forward to wearing.

But what could any of this do for my writing? My creative energy? That question was what started this journey in the first place. An off-hand comment at the end of a writer's group meeting, a fellow writer said, "my sister told me about this book and if I can get my house in order, maybe I can get my writing to follow." Ooohh, the sound of that was so inviting! A house in order so it's occupant could be free to write in a blissful state of "a place for everything and everything in it's place!" Sign me up!

Two weeks later, I'd read the book (mostly) and started the process (because I'm impulsive). Didn't matter that it was the middle of December and the holiday was fast approaching. I tackled clothes and moved right into books and though I was having the time of my life, I hadn't been spending much time writing. I had to ask if I'd found another brilliant way to procrastinate the finishing of my sequel. What could all this gathering, sorting, and purging really do for my writing if I wasn't writing?

But something was happening. How many times can you ask yourself if something in your life sparks joy without it seeping into your psyche, taking up residence? At what point do you wonder if what you are about to make for dinner sparks joy, if your workout at the gym (the same one you've been doing for ten weeks straight) sparks joy? I'm telling you--it gets to you.

In a joy-sparking good way.

So one day doing the dishes, I asked myself why I hadn't been writing? Why wasn't I making the time for it in the same way I was making time for clutter-clearing and package-wrapping. And the question I'd been afraid of asking just bubbled right up: did my story spark joy?
I wasn't afraid of the question as much as I was of the answer. If it didn't spark joy, I didn't want to have to throw it away. But here is what I realized. A story has parts. And I discovered the story did spark joy, but some parts of it, not so much. The good news, I could change those parts.
Pretty soon the dishwasher was loaded and I had found the indispensable "magic" every author needs to keep writing a story--enthusiasm. By asking that simple question of myself, I came upon the very feeling that got me started down the writing path in the first place, the excitement over an idea and saying within myself "I want to tell this story."

I'm still in the tidying process. The paper category. Yes, I have a lot of paper (I'm a writer, think journals, writing notebooks, and lists galore.) And yes, I am asking if this paper, or that scrap, sparks joy. And no, it isn't easy at all. But it's working. And with every item I decide to keep, my creative energy grows. Trust me, the joy is worth it.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Tidying Up - It's Magic!

This month's book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is a game changer!

I have loved all the little tidbits of advice. This one comes at the beginning of the journey, "... when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too." Who doesn't want an orderly life?

She gives tools for deciding what to surround yourself with: only things that spark joy. It sounds crazy, but it really works. The biggest tool so far for me, though is Permission. Permission to thank something for its service and send it on to bring someone else joy. Permission to get rid of things that don't spark joy. It's beautiful and energizing. I'm excited to go forward on this journey and continue tidying up and sparking joy in my life.

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year, New Books

Mastering the Craft with Stephen Wilbers has been a blast. And we're going to keep our copies handy for future reference. But with a new year upon us, we have a new party plan (ahem, course of study.)

Instead of one book for the year, we will be discussing 12 (or more) different books. Some will be on craft, some on creativity, a few on the business side of writing and even a cookbook (crock-pot meals, of course, to help writers find a little more writing time in the day!) All three of us will chime in throughout the month. Watch for guest posts and giveaways, too. We're turning the blog into an online book club for writers. So grab your kindle (or fav ereader of choice) and a virtual comfy chair and check out the line-up.

The books*:

January: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up--The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing/Marie Kondo 

February: Bird by Bird/Lamott

March: Hooked: Write Fiction that Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go/Les Edgerton

April: Writing Your Novel From the Middle/James Scott Bell

May: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles/S. Pressfield and S. Coyne

June: Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir/Beth Kephart

July: The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain/J. Kounios and M. Beeman

August: The Creative Habit/Twyla Tharp

September: No Plot? No Problem/Chris Baty

October: Crockpot Cookbook

November: The Artist Way/Julia Cameron

December: Scene & Structure/ Jack M. Bickham
(*subject to change at any time, because you know--life)