Go Indie Now: The Latest Indie Trends

Indie is where you discover brave new adventures in creativity. My friend Joe Compton, author of Amongst the Killing and super fantastic supporter of all things indie, has started a website called Go Indie Now. It’s the place to be for live interviews, events, and more, all revolving around the latest in indie culture. Authors, musicians, movie producers, and loads of other indie artists are and will be featured constantly and consistently to give you your indie fix.

I was lucky enough to be featured on Go Indie Now’s very first podcast and YouTube video series! My chat with Joe was so much fun, you’ll feel like you’re sitting right there with us. Visit his video and comment so we can all discuss: https://youtu.be/taoN8PaU6Qg?t=48m53s. That link takes you right to my chat with Joe, but watch the whole video for more interviews, all so completely different: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taoN8PaU6Qg&feature=youtu.be. Don’t feel like watching a video? You can listen to the podcast of our chat: http://goindienow.podbean.com/e/goindienow-episode-1-interview-with-christie-stratos/.

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The next HUGE event is the weekend of April 8-10, when Go Indie Now will be having 72 hours of live coverage for the Brain to Books Cyber Convention. That’s 3 full days of interviews, chats, music, first-look book trailers, and all sorts of cutting edge things. Everyone will be talking about it, so be sure to stop by Go Indie Now’s site! I’ll be moderating a discussion between some amazing women in the publishing industry, and I’ll probably participate in more than one live event. Watch my blog for dates and times.

In the meantime, be sure to congratulate Joe on his wonderful support of all things indie!

Connect with Go Indie Now:

YouTube

Podbean

Twitter

Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Clearing Your Mind

Hello Monday. You’re unexpected.

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Sometimes when I’m overly stressed, I can’t concentrate on creativity easily. It’s not a flowing process, so I need to cleanse my brain’s palette. There are two ways that I do this:

  • I make lists of everything I need to do. One of the things I constantly stress about is forgetting what needs to be done, and that can even keep me from sleeping well. Luckily there’s a simple solution: always having to-do lists. That’s easy enough!
  • When I get overwhelmed and have a hard time clearing my mind, I write haikus. I typically look up pictures of nature or the beautiful landscapes in Morrowind and write haikus about them, which is especially gratifying since haikus were originally intended to revolve around nature. Somehow this has a calming effect on me and clears my mind enough that I can let creativity take over.

A couple of weeks ago I asked what others do to relax themselves when they’re overly stressed, and I’m going to do a video about that soon. I got some great suggestions, so hopefully they’ll help you too! In the meantime:

Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Creativity is Subtraction

Mondays are very sneaky, aren’t they? Just as you get used to living in the weekend, BAM, Monday wakes you up at 6 a.m.

YES. One way I personally interpret this – and I feel there are many ways to read it – is that editing is also creativity. In order for me to write and not edit as I go, I’ll include cliches and wrong words in the first draft of a novel or short story or even poem. I’m trying to get my ideas down, and in novels, twists and turns and psychology. Those are the most important things in the first draft. When I edit, I accentuate my writing style. I delete all unnecessary words and cliches. When I add something, it’s necessary, and when I change something, it’s to make it original. I adjust the character’s voice to sound like them in particular. I consider editing part of the art of writing.

Another way I interpret this is the very reason I love flash fiction, and the shorter the better. I recently wrote two 16 word pieces. I started with something 21 words long and whittled it down to 16 words with careful consideration of tense, anything that slowed it down, every word counting for more than it’s worth, and meaning behind the meaning. I came out with something much stronger than the 21 word version.

My opinion is that creativity is many things, and nothing can be left out. Creativity is subtraction (careful wording), addition (fleshing out characters), multiplication (creating series), and division (anthologies). It’s the only kind of math I care to do.

Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Do Share

Monday is only acceptable if you take the day off.

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I love this concept. In this day and age, with all the social sharing we can do, this has never been more true. We can share small works, especially passages from our current WIP and haikus and photography. Whether it’s through something formal(ish) like Wattpad or relaxed like Instagram, we can share our work and our ideas instantly and for free. I’ve never shared a whole book for free, only short works, but I do have a book or two in mind to share permafree.

Think about this too.

Libraries, art galleries, restaurants – these are all ways to share creativity, free or not. Whether it’s a novel, a piece of art, or a fusion dish, it’s something meant to bring beauty and inspiration, thought and emotion to us. Those who enjoy it get inspired to create something else, whether it’s something similar but with their own spin, or something completely unrelated. It’s because we can share our visions, our drafts, our final products that others catch the creativity bug. It’s about sharing and appreciating and interpreting. It’s about opening ourselves up to everything and deciding for ourselves what we’ll be and what we’ll create because others have shown us more than we could ever imagine. So share and share alike. I know I will.

Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Risk and Failure

Monday keeps coming around again, but I didn’t send it an invitation…

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This is so extremely true. Creativity isn’t about waiting for inspiration to strike, it’s about living in an inspired state. That’s how I see it. Some times are more creative than others, but if I don’t allow myself to live in my creativity, I start to lose my place in my writing. I literally can’t remember what I’m doing with a current work in progress.

That being said, taking risks and failing can be SO HARD! When you’re very attached to your work, it’s a part of you, so a risk is actually scary and a failure is devastating. This is what it’s like:

Risk: Let me try going in this direction with my story, I think that will work well. Yes, this is great, now I’ve spent a month on it and it’s really exciting. Oh wait, I hate it. Oh my goodness, it’s total garbage and doesn’t work at all. Oh no, now I have to start over!

Failure: I hate myself. I hate my writing. I hate everything I touch. I’m not worthy of a pen.

Yes, it’s that dramatic. But when we take these risks and we fail and we cry (and cry again), we also learn what went wrong and whether it could or couldn’t be avoided. We unveil another layer of our creativity, another secret to our inspiration. And finally, we learn that it’s worth it, through all that pain and torment, to do it again and again. And again.

Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Comparison as Development

Oh Monday, why are you so persistent?

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When I read a book, whether it’s in my genre or not, I constantly think about what I would have done differently. I don’t mean that in a critical way. I mean that I wonder whether I would have included certain details, whether I would have expanded some sections, what my own word choice would have been. It’s not a criticism of the author, it’s an exploration of myself. I wonder how different the book would be if I’d written it, what differentiates me from the author I’m reading.

Exploring differences is just as important as exploring similarities, only differences define you more clearly. They draw a line, whether a thin one or a thick one, between you and thousands of others in your genre. Thinking about what a book would have been if someone else had written it, or what a movie would have become if someone else had acted in it or directed it, is all part of expanding your creativity and your artistry. The more you can say, “I would have done it this way,” the clearer your own style becomes. And the more you can say that and still see why the author chose to do it the way they did – well, the broader your view, the more distinctive your own voice becomes.

Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Ditching Clichés

Aaaaand we’re back from the weekend. Happy Monday!

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I think this quote is true of success in general, but creativity in particular blooms from original thoughts about the same old thing. In particular, think about descriptions.

There are so many clichés out there, so many overused phrases that we accept in every single book. It’s really special when I read a description of someone frowning, or a gesture, or even a color in a way I’ve never read before.

As a writer, sometimes I think, “Well, how else am I supposed to describe a frown?” Really there is an uncountable number of ways, but we tend to automatically feel cornered into clichés like “brows knitted together” or “eyebrows drawn into a V” because they’re what we’re used to – pre-approved and always understood. Creativity is looking at simple things like that and turning them into something that works off the ambiance of the scene, the situation, or the personality of the character: “She didn’t frown – it was too harsh an expression for her, too base and unattractive. Instead, her face remained an unreadable stone, even blank where natural creases should have been.” Here we learn something about the character’s personality (self-righteous and cold), what she thinks of others who frown (vulgar), what she thinks of herself for not frowning (attractive and well bred), and her looks (wrinkle-free skin).

Creativity is thinking outside the box – way outside the box – so that everything comes alive in 3D ways you can practically reach out and touch.

 

Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Travel Through Imagination

Happy Monday! Ugh…work…let’s go somewhere else.

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I travel all over the place through my imagination.

When I’m over-stressed, I live in Morrowind. When I feel everything is too complicated, I live in the Victorian Era. And when I watch film noir movies, I live there for more than the duration of the movie. I get to be so many places I can never physically enjoy, all because of the power of imagination, and all those places can be what I want them to be. I don’t have to think about the constant threat of the cliffracers in Morrowind, I don’t have to think about the lack of equality in the Victorian Era, and I certainly don’t think about the health issues of all that smoking in film noir. I just live in my glorified paradise of imagination.

And sometimes, that’s what gets me through the day.

 

Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Ignoring Harsh Criticism

Happy Monday! I hope you have a great start to the week. Remember, Monday is the start of the runway to the weekend.

Now, let’s talk about harsh criticism. No, I’m not talking about feedback or critique, I’m talking about the stuff that makes people stop pursuing their dreams.

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Let me define exactly what I’m talking about:

Useful feedback / constructive critique: comments that point out how your work can be improved without using aggressive language; sandwiching honest but non-aggressive feedback on your work between compliments; having a positive attitude (i.e. using supportive language, encouraging you to keep up the good work).

Destructive criticism: comments that point out how your work can be improved while using aggressive language (i.e. stupid, useless, ridiculous, pointless); only providing criticism with no positive points; having a negative attitude (i.e. laughing or joking about your work, comparing you to “real professionals” and therefore insinuating you’re not).

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It’s hard to stay positive about work you love when you feel attacked, and while creative people have to have thick skin, that fact should be true so that we are able to accept critique, not attacks. For attacks, we need shields, and once those shields are up, it’s much harder to hear the useful critiques.

Unfortunately, unnecessarily harsh criticism will never stop, so it’s up to us creatives to sort out comments that count from comments that are intentionally hurtful. To accomplish this, we need to ignore adjectives meant to sting as well as insults, and sift out the actual critique that could help our work. So when someone says, “This sentence is phrased in an ugly way”, we need to hear, “This sentence might need some work” because remember, critique and criticism are both opinions, not fact. So take a look at that sentence objectively. Maybe it does need work, maybe it doesn’t. That’s your decision, and your decision shouldn’t be made because of embarrassment or irritation caused by a comment. It should be made based on neutral consideration. Remember to neutralize the next criticism you see or hear and then – and only then – should you consider it.

To those reviewing writing, artwork, grading papers, writing about an actor’s performance, etc., just remember:

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It’s all about helping each other, not tearing each other down, no matter what has happened to you in your personal life. So get out there and encourage the next person you see. You’ll both feel better for it.