Musings is a blog by Dorah Blume is an author of historical novels including "Botticelli's Muse". Dorah has led Juiceboxartists writing workshops for adults in greater Boston, as well as in Tuscany.
Botticelli's Muse, historical fiction, novel, Dorah Blume, creative writing, juiceboxartists
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...on writing and all things creative

Routines Not Resolutions

Of the three powers: willpower, habit power, and environment power, willpower is the puniest. It’s the one that crumbles first for most people. When you bolster willpower with the momentum of habit power, then add environment power—people, places, and things that support, inspire, and encourage —it’s an unbeatable trio. Environment power can mean having my journal on my bed waiting for me when I awaken rather than keeping it out of sight in a drawer.

A guru whose name I’ve forgotten said, “It’s easy to learn the truth, but hard to remember it.” Learning habits that bring me closer to where I want to go—finishing a novel—is an important tool. Learning a tool without remembering to use it is an exercise in procrastination. Resolving without action doesn’t add up.

In his book Atomic HabitsJames Clear builds a case for what’s needed to make the changes we want to bring into our lives. Make it achievable (small actions). Make it obvious (the journal on the bed). Make it rewarding (a feeling of accomplishment because I did what I said I would do—I’m keeping my word with myself). When I write, I am a writer. Even if it’s only a sentence or a paragraph. Reading his book has inspired me to “build back better” the habits that will bring me where I want to go. Doing it the way he recommends, “tiny changes” can bring “remarkable results.”

The keyword in all of this is “action.” Planning without action, lists without action is a useless exercise—if your to-do list includes walking and you never get off the couch, you’re an idle dreamer, not a walker.

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Thinking Outside the Gift Box

There are many ways to give gifts that are not store-bought. Even though gift cards and gift return receipts enable the receiver to select something they want, receiving something from the heart and hands of the giver has its place.

Recycling possessions that no longer serve us as re-gifts is another option. Jewelry, a nick knack, a book that you have treasured over the years—items long admired by a friend or family member are legitimate gifts. In the interests of downsizing and decluttering, why not pass this item on to someone who might want it more than you do? Someone who can give it a more loving home. Someone who will wear that necklace, treasure that sculpture, read that book.

My six-year-old granddaughter Raquel gifted me with a hand-made bookmark (pictured here), and I will treasure it. Hand-made and recycled gifts are ways to show caring while also helping the environment without depleting your pocketbook.

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364 Un-Thanksgiving Days a Year to Say Thanks

In Walt Disney’s version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice crashes the un-birthday day party at the Mad Hatter’s table. This goofy host goes on to say that each person has 364 days in the year to celebrate their un-birthdays which are just as important as the one birthday day. Since it’s Alice’s un-birthday too, she is invited to stay and celebrate.

During this time of year when December gift giving too often trumps Thanksgiving, let’s celebrate 364 days of un-Thanksgiving Day with grateful living. Why practice gratitude only on a stomach full of turkey when we can practice giving thanks three hundred and sixty-four days of the year?A very merry un-Thanksgiving Day to you, to you, as well as the actual Turkey day before Black Friday when Christmas holiday shoppers too often trample away the spirit of saying thanks.

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Trick or Treat: Unexpected Inspiration

Trick or Treat: A great time to savor the treats of unexpected breakthroughs. As we shed our regular routines and disguise the everyday self, inspiration, Aha! moments, epiphanies, and surprising creative solutions often creep up on us like friendly ghosts.

Hippos gestate for 18 months, fruit flies for twenty-four hours. Everything has its growth process from conception to completion. Leonard Cohen often took years to complete a song, just waiting for the right word to be found, while Duke Ellington wrote the melody for “It Don’t Mean a Thing” during an intermission at Chicago’s Lincoln Tavern in 1931. Nineteenth-century German chemist August Kekulé saw the ring structure of benzene after dreaming of a snake eating its own tail.

Italian playwright Dario Fo painted in between writing projects, John Lennon drew cartoons. Everyone and everything has a timetable and can’t be rushed. Patience, perseverance and plain stick-to-itiveness, though necessary ingredients for completing creative work, aren’t always enough.

Sometimes taking a conscious break from the project is the only way to let the unconscious surface to offer the elusive creative solution. “Chance favors the prepared mind” is the case for not quitting a project when you’ve reached an obstacle. The chance of unexpected inspiration bubbles up because you’ve been working on something intensely and the brain needs a rest in order to receive the “treat.”

In addition to Linda’s story of her unexpected inspiration that led to the mystery novel she’s currently writing, we’re including excerpts from books and articles about how important it is to trick ourselves away from our work to create the conditions for the treat of inspiration to appear.

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Curiosity = Lifelong Learning

Adding to cosmic questions “Is there life on another planet?” or “What is the meaning of our existence?” I have plenty of mundane ones. YouTube helps answer “How do I cut a box spring in half so I can bring it up a narrow staircase then put it back together?” or “How do I remove water stains from my antique library table, untangle techno mysteries so I can get my computer to do what I want it to do, or create a podcast? (Thanks to YouTube, this week I learned how to do the visual mashup you see here.) Curiosity led me to pursue an MFA in creative writing 30 years after receiving my undergraduate degree. It leads me to research my novels. After watching a movie, curiosity leads me to figure out what I loved or hated about it.

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