Mind Mapping for Rich Creativity

Hello Writers and Creators,

Brainstorming is a critical piece of writing and creativity.  Mind mapping is one of the best ways I know to brainstorm effectively and quickly.

You can use the traditional pencil and paper for mind mapping, but if you want to be even faster, and have a neat presentation that you can use easily to develop your product you can use an app.  There are various apps that can be used for mind mapping, my favorite and the one I use regularly is Scapple.

On Scapple your mind maps are customizable, flexible, and you’ll have endless space, as well as the ability to create as many mind maps as you’d like.

Here is a quick and simple example:

Scapple is made by Literature & Latte, the maker of the amazing Scrivener.  It is available for $17.99 on the Apple App Store if you a Mac user here:

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/scapple/id568020055?mt=12


One of the great features of Scapple, is it’s seamless compatibility with Scrivener.  More on that next time.


Do you use mind mapping?  Let me know how it helps you in your writing?  

Thinking Like a Writer

It sits on my desk, keeps me company, and it’s one of the best and most inspirational books I’ve read.  Bird by Bird by the amazing Anne Lamott provides “Some Instructions on Writing and Life.”  

Besides Anne’s amazing insights that come from real writing and life experience (seasoned with fantastic humor), I found the book helpful when I am stuck, when I am not sure a particular morning of writing is going too well.  In fact, most mornings are difficult, hard to wrap my head around the writing.  When that happens, Bird by Bird is one of several books I open, read a few lines, and I’m back on track.

If I cannot possibly get back on track, even after reading those lines, and no matter what I try, simply does not work, and I see my fingers hover over the keyboard, muted.  Then I take one of her pieces of advice that are just genius. They really work!  

One of the most insightful revelations for me was about when things don’t go well, and how it’s just ok sometimes to do something else, until your thoughts settle enough and you can go back to your work, all refreshed and ready.  The ideas sometimes come when you don’t expect them too, on a walk, while taking a bath.  And then you have this moment in which you run to your desk, because something happens in your brain that simply cannot wait, you put it down on an index card, and…  You’re on track again.

Anne’s advice about index cards has been the most life changing for me.  I buy them in bulk now, different colors, I love the 4×6 size, and I just scribble away whatever comes to my mind.  You just never know when you’ll use it, or where it would lead.

So if you are like me, you get stuck often, you stare at your computer screen or notebook, and nothing happens.  It may not help to tell you not to panic, but it might help you to open Anne’s book and read a few lines.  The ideas will flow, your fingers will type words and sentences, Bird by Bird, you’ll get your writing done.

“One of the things that happens when you give yourself permission to start writing is that you start thinking like a writer. You start seeing everything as material.” ~Anne Lamott

7 Things to Inspire your Writing

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.”
Gloria Steinem

 

A dark smokey morning welcomes me, eerie and quiet, an orange halo wraps around my city. It’s been six months since the initial shelter-in-place order, followed by alternately relaxing and tightening the guidelines; I am no longer able to keep track of those. I drag myself out of bed and walk into the kitchen where my husband hands me a hot cup of coffee in a red mug, the word love is scribbled on it with soft white letters. The warm liquid revives my senses, I rely on it now more than usual to whisk myself into my work.

At my desk, still wearing my pajamas, my brain feels dull, the blinking cursor an endless reminder that I am at a loss for words, any words. Normal life may not return until 2021. Dr. Fauci’s words ring in the room like a nagging mosquito, invisible, whistling in my ear. On the edge of town, people are being evacuated to safety, some will never return home, fear is a normal part of our lives. We fear the virus, we fear the fires, the once-in-a-generation afflictions. I turn on Mozart Requiem, I don’t know what else to listen to while I’m trying to settle my mind. Mozart is reliable, promising concentration, but not too much stimulation. After six months of working from home without more than grocery store curbside pickup once a week, I miss the occasional eavesdropping in my favorite hipsterish neighborhood cafe, a steamy latte next to my open laptop, waiting for that one word from the adjoining table that will jump start my verbal exploration. But today, those small ordinary artist dates like taking myself to the art museum or a mindful stroll in the neighborhood have halted in the distant past. Our lives simulate a scene from Don DeLillo’s postmodern novel White Noise. A sigh escapes into the room, mixes with the laments of Mozart’s vocal lines , I take the last sip of coffee to rid myself of the smoke that settled in my throat, in spite of the shuttered house.

My brain is uncooperative, the routines of my morning ineffective, my fingers are frozen on the keyboard, even my expensive fountain pen reserved for such an occasion is not doing the trick. Outside, ash falls from the darkness, flakes of dreariness get lost in a chasm of denials. Requiem mourns the loss of logic. I need to switch gears, to escape a reality that is more bizarre than the fiction I will write today. I am depleted of my creative vitality, craving an external source of replenishment to breathe life into my work. And so I shuffle my index cards, a well of ideas to choose from (click on the images):

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My fingers are in position on the keyboard, energized, ready to go. I write, I print, I love the scraping sound of my pencil scribbling frantically on my WIP. Requiem’s dramatic final note resounds with a proclamation, the darkness and the rain of ashes stay out of my work for a little while, long enough to write a word, a paragraph, a page.

Photo on Visual Hunt

#48 Mastodon – Crack the Skye, 2009

Mastodon_Crack the Skye

Number 48 on the list of Prog Report Top 50 Prog Albums, 1990-2015, is Crack the Skye, by Mastodon.  I found it on Apple Music.

Crack the Skye is powerful, and from the first note I knew I wanted more.  The drumming is busy with great energy, and with so many vocalists on board, my ears were satisfied with harmonies, and a range of vocal colors.  The rock/metal/progressive blend, combined with the full heavy sound of the band, is consistent throughout the album.  The more I listened, the more I loved it.  I would very much recommend that you take a listen to Crack the Skye.  I am confident it will take you on an emotional and intense musical journey.

The title of the album, with its unusual spelling of the word “Skye”, was very curious to me.  I learned that Skye was the sister of drummer Brann Dailor, who committed suicide at age fourteen.  The song, Crack the Skye, as is the title of the album, is a tribute to Skye, and features vocalist Scott Kelly of Neurosis.  This powerful song examines the emotional complexity associated with loss, and I found it particularly compelling.  Of course, the title, could have so many meaning.

Crack the Skye is one of my favorite tracks.  Other favorites from this album include:

***Quintessence – the instrumental section is heavy and cool, reminds me a little of Porcupine Tree.

***Ghost of Karelia – reminds me of Tool.  Amazing depth and energy.

***The Last Baron – the last track is long and builds intensity in an amazingly effective way.  Great vocals.  I love the frantic feeling the song creates as it builds up.

Crack the Skye was new to me.  I would definitely recommend some focused listening so you can grasp the depth of this band.  Also, check out the lyrics for this album.  Super cool.

#49 The Flower Kings – Desolation Rose, 2013

Desolation Rose

Desolation Rose by The Flower Kings is number 49 on the list of Prog Report Top 50 Prog Albums, 1990-2015.

All eighteen tracks can be found on Apple Music for streaming/purchase, and on Amazon Music Store for purchase.  By the time I listened to this album three times, I developed some definite favorites.  I particularly enjoyed listening to it with headphones, which is when I could appreciate the vocal harmonies and the sound of the band.

The harmonies are present throughout the album, and soon enough I started to hear influences like Yes, King Crimson, and even Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra.  If you like any of these, you are sure to like this album.  If you are a Jon Anderson fan, you are sure to love Roine Stolt, with his raspy and, at time, dramatic voice.

If, like myself, you haven’t heard Desolation Rose before, listen a couple of times.  This music really grew on me and I enjoyed it more on the second and third listen, and again… don’t forget your headphones.

Some of my favorite tracks:

***Sleeping Bones – very cool sounding song, fun groove, great dark guitar

***Desolation Road – dramatic intro, melodic, great tension in the instrumental section, a variety of sounds

***White Tuxedos – just a fun song to listen to

***The Resurrected Judas – beautiful ballad, I like the instrumental build up

***Silent Masses – I just like it

***The Wailing Wall – instrumental, deeply beautiful and filled with longing

I took the time to find them on Facebook.  If you like their music, just click Like.  I did.

https://www.facebook.com/TheFlowerKings

On to number 48 on the list!

#50 Enchant – Wounded, 1996

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Album number 50 on the list of  “Top 50 Prog Albums for 1990-2015” is Wounded by Enchant, which was released in 1996.  As it was new to me, I listened to it for three consecutive times.  In general, I enjoyed listening to this album, as the songs are melodic and the vocals are amazing.

While listening to it, I felt that there was some simplicity to the music, and I was starting to want more heaviness, and more harmonic complexity.  I would have liked it to be a little darker, since I felt that too much brightness was coming through the songs.  I couldn’t really relate to that aspect of the album, that seemed consistent throughout.

Things I really liked about some of the songs:

Fade to Grey – a great instrumental section.

Pure – beautiful acoustic guitar intro, and the song is mellow.

Hostile World – I loved the cool bass riff, and fusion feel.  The song has great energy.

Distractions – I thought the melody line was interesting, and it was a lot of fun to follow along with the lyrics.

Missing – is cool and heavier in nature.

I found the album on Amazon Music, as it is available to stream for free to Prime members, with the exception of the songs Armour and Man of Our Times (Bonus Tracks).  Check it out on Amazon Music and let me know what you think:

http://www.amazon.com/Wounded-Enchant/dp/B000003ZBJ/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1452024806&sr=1-1&keywords=enchant+wounded

*Looking forward to sharing my experience listening to album number 49!

Baked Sole Fillet

Who hasn’t wondered around the food store hunting for good dinner ideas?  A few days ago I was doing just that and my feet stopped at the fish counter at the new Whole Foods store in my neighborhood.  A feast to the eyes, the selection of fish and seafood, combined with the expertise of the store employee was sure to make this a fruitful trip for me.

I have never made Sole before.  The store employee confirmed the challenge of cooking sole, saying that it flakes and breaks easy.  He told me about a woman that came back to the store complaining about how fragile the fish was when she attempted to prepared it.  Nothing like a little cooking challenge to inspire me to make something new.

A few hours later, with eight pieces of fillet (I am known to make giant portions of food for my family, and often there is enough for lunch the next day), I was contemplating how to make this delicate yet stubborn fish.

Here is what I did:

Started the over at 350 degrees.

Lined up a cookie sheet with foil paper.

Brushed olive oil on the foil paper.

Placed the fillet pieces on the cookie sheet, flat.

Seasoned with olive oil, Italian style bread crumbs, and a couple of roasted garlic cloves (can be found at Whole Foods).

Just like this….

Sole Ready for Oven

Then…

Bake in the oven, and remember that every oven is different.  So… I baked it for about 20 minutes.  But if you like it a little less dry, then you will need a little less time in the oven.  The quote I got at the store was 7-10 minutes, which did not work for me.  Just don’t leave your kitchen to for for a 5K run, and keep checking on the fish to make sure you don’t overcook it.

When you take it our of the oven, cool if off.  Here is the tricky part:  with a stainless steel spatula, carefully remove the fish portions and place in a serving dish of your choice, to look like this:

Baked Sole

I served it to my beloved family with some lightly buttered pasta (not real butter, but don’t tell them), and some sautéed fresh broccoli.  They loved it!!!!

Thanksgiving

Sara Josepha Hale is the Godmother of Thanksgiving.  After reading a diary of a pilgrim’s life, she was inspired to start a one woman letter writing campaign to make Thanksgiving a holiday. Her campaign lasted for many years and in a letter to president Lincoln in 1863, she asked the president to use his power to make Thanksgiving a national holiday “for all those classes of people who are under the National Government.”  The President was in the midst of the Civil War and agreed that Thanksgiving would be a unifying holiday, and announced that the nation will be celebrating the holiday every year on the final Thursday of the month.  She also published recipes for turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, and truly influenced the Thanksgiving menu as we know it today.

Last month, my family and many others, gathered around the table, and we had the honor of hosting friends for their very first Thanksgiving.  As everyone passed the filled to the brim platters of our Thanksgiving favorites, my heart filled with so much gratitude for this special time.  My son used a Martha Stewart recipe to make an amazing stuffing from scratch.  It was SO good!  He used real bread, which he toasted and let sit for a couple of days, along with fresh thyme, sage and parsley.

Stuffing Bread Ben's Stuffing

We of course had the turkey and all other delicious side dishes, and my personal favorite, candied yams with marshmallows.

Candied Yams Green Beans

As it does every year, Thanksgiving passed so fast, I miss it already.  I cherish the time we spent with each other and taking a moment to think about how fortunate we all are.  And not once did I wish that I were standing in line in a retail store to get the best deal on the latest flat screen.