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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Painting with Words

By Ruth Douthitt

As an artist, I’ve learned how to see things. Painting and drawing are basically “seeing” and then expressing what one sees onto paper or canvas or any other desired medium. 

Is it possible for art and writing to be similar? I’ve blogged before about how running and writing are similar, but what about drawing or painting?

I’ve only been writing since 2004, published since 2008, but I’ve been an artist all my life. I can easily tell you the answer is YES! There are many similarities and that’s what makes me love both art forms. I’ll share what I’ve learned from both mediums of artistic expression with you and let you decide for yourself…

Creating art typically requires a process. This was something my art professors drilled into my brain over and over again. Conceptual development came first. What’s the context? Who is your audience? What is your theme? What are the comparisons? What other artists inspired the work? What is the purpose? How will it be created and why?

All this must be decided first before an artist even attempts to create art for a showing or exhibit. A concept brainstorm can be a long arduous process, but I found it fun. I suppose that’s why brainstorming a writing project is fun for me, too.

In the creation of art, it is always best to know the medium of choice. What are its strengths and weaknesses? For instance, oil painting. What are the strengths of oil as a medium? Gorgeous color and texture. It lasts for a lifetime. Blends easily. Its weaknesses? Odorous, requires proper ventilation. It is very expensive. Requires additional resources for preparation and preservation, which can be costly. It dries slowly, so the process requires patience.

What about with writing? It is always best to know the strengths and weaknesses of the tools you select for writing: MS Word, Scrivener, Open Office, etc. What about where you write? Can you work in uninterrupted bliss?

In art, a rough draft does help. My one art professor required at least 15 (minimum) paintings/sketches that he would approve of before we even attempted to work on a painting for our show. I grumbled about it at first, but after a while, I realized how much this process helped to produce a “rough draft” of a painting or drawing first. Not only did it save me money on canvas or paper (my professor didn’t care about what we used for the 15 paintings or sketches…), but it forced me to slow down and truly settle on an idea that I had worked through. I loved that! I learned how to settle on a composition and explain why I did so.

Doesn’t this remind you of writing? When we sit with our editor to explain our plot premise of the rough draft, if we cannot explain it in an interesting way to him, then how will our readers understand it? A rough draft forces us to slow down and truly work out the plot details.

In art, the focus is intense. I can stare at my work for hours at a time. A wise artist will pause to take a step back in order to inspect his work from a different focal point. In fact, my professor always challenged us to turn the piece upside down! I definitely agree with this approach because the errors in the painting or drawing always pop out when turned upside down. I also look at my work in a mirror to find errors. In writing, taking time to step away from a work-in-progress is most helpful. When you come back to your work, errors glare at you. You are more capable of checking for point-of-view and the voice of the characters.

So, these are just some examples of how visual art and writing reflect one another. One can see why they both are part of the Fine Arts. Structure, planning, plotting, and preparation are necessary for both types of artistic expression.

Because I dabble in both mediums, I find it most fascinating how writing and art align so nicely. I suppose that’s why I love both art forms. Music, theatre, visual art, and writing…the Fine Arts are each unique threads in the tapestry of artistic expression. If you excel in one, you will probably discover that you can excel in the another! I am learning to play piano and violin. I also sing with a praise and worship band. Maybe, someday, I’ll try acting.

What about you? Why not give another form of artistic expression a try? You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

For information about my books, please visit my website:
For information about my artwork, please visit:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Beauty of Distracted Writing

by Laura L. Zimmerman

I used to think I couldn’t write unless I had an hour or more to devote to it. Of course this would rarely happen, since a little thing called ‘life’ would get in the way. 

The idea was sound: I wanted to avoid distraction. I never wanted to settle for a 5-minute block of time, or writing with kids around because it seemed pointless. I couldn’t do my best writing in that environment, right?

But a few years ago I read an interview with a well-known author who claimed there was no excuse for writers who said they didn’t have time to work on their craft. While in college, she’d write on her Blackberry in the few minutes downtime she had before class, and that’s how she wrote her first bestseller. No amount of writing time was too little to get her book written.

So I made my own attempt. I wrote first thing in the morning, even if the kids were already up. I wrote at night, when it was past bedtime. I wrote in the middle of the day, as ‘Cupcake Wars’ blared in the background. Sometimes these only consisted of ten minute increments, at best.

Here’s what I discovered: It is absolutely possible to write this way. Not only that, but it’s rewarding! Is my writing perfect? No. That’s where edits and revision come in. But at least it’s a start. A writer isn’t a writer if there’s nothing on the paper, after all! Dropping my preconceived notion that I must have a specific amount of time to write has greatly improved the amount I get written.

I challenge you to do the same. Make an effort to write as many words as you can in the few minutes you have each day and see what a difference it will make in achieving your writing goals! 

Laura L. Zimmerman resides in Phoenix, AZ and is a homeschooling mom to three beautiful daughters. She is thankful for a supportive husband, who is always quick to encourage her love of singing, reading and drinking coffee. Laura writes young adult and middle grade fantasy fiction. You can learn more about her at, on Twitter @lauralzimm , and on Facebook. Laura is represented by Cyle Young through Hartline Literary Agency. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Finding Your Way

                                   by Dana McNeely

Soon after I obtained my driver’s license, I learned the most ominous words in the English language. As I prepared to embark on my first cross-town errand, my mom rattled off directions involving cross streets, stop signs, and a fire hydrant on the corner. She closed with these words, which first inspired confidence, later fear:

You can’t miss it.

In writing, as in the rest of life, you can indeed get lost. Not everyone has a finely honed sense of direction, but if you get lost, you can find your way again! I struggle with plot. You may struggle with characterization, pacing, or dialogue. Writing workshops and craft books can inspire and guide our writing journey, but they can also overwhelm us. This is when we need to stop, breathe, and think about how we do our other work - our day job, caring for our family, planning a get-together with friends. We plan. We make lists. If we need  something, we go out and get it.

The Germ of an Idea

Ideas sneak up on us like a sports car in our blindspot. Pull over, grab your notebook, and write the complete idea - everything in your brain at that moment. Don’t just write “green hedgehog” because later, you’ll have no idea what that meant. Next, sit down and explore that idea. Make lists of things that might happen, where they happen, and who they happen to. Think about your main character, her friends, and her opponents. What are the worlds she lives in? There are probably more than one - her home and neighborhood, her work, where she goes for fun. What are the connections between the people in those worlds? Make sure there are connections - and collisions.

Small Goals

When I have a new idea, it’s a merry jaunt as I write those first chapters. The time comes, though, when I stall. Maybe I’ve come to the end of my ideas, maybe my day job has upped its demands, maybe there are familial issues to deal with. Days go by as I mull things over, but I can’t seem to get back in the driver’s seat. The last time this happened, a writer-friend  suggested writing just fifty words that day. “Start with writing about why you can’t write.” I learned that writing about what’s keeping me from writing, is naturally followed by solutions. If it’s the job or family, can I find 15 minutes to read what I last wrote? (Of course!) If it’s a dearth of ideas, could this silly thing happen? What if this other thing happens? Soon, I’ve written my fifty words, but nearly always it’s many more. And some of them are keepers.

A Writing Journal

The mystery author, Sue Grafton, has spoken about keeping a Writing Journal for each novel. When I learned this I zipped on over to her website and found several examples. In those journals I found validation for several of the behaviors I had already begun to discover, but I also learned more about discovering plot. Take a look at this little blurb from her “G is for Gumshoe” journal.

“Just checking in to have a little chat. I'm in Chapter 3 and feeling pretty good, but I'm wondering if I don't need some tension or suspense. We know there may be a hit man after her. She's currently on her way to the desert and everything seems really normal..nay, even dull. Do I need to pep it up a bit? She's almost at the Slabs. I've been doing a lot of description but maybe I need to weave it into the narrative better. Flipping back and forth from the external to the internal.”

A Hitchhikers Guide

Finally, in real life, I would never recommend picking up a hitchhiker. But on your writer’s journey, I recommend offering to proofread a friend’s manuscript, write a helpful review, or share your favorite writing tips. In fact, now it’s your turn.

Now its your turn, share your favorite writing tip!

Dana McNeely
2014 Semi-Finalist, ACFW Genesis Contest
2013 & 2014 Finalist, OCW Cascade Contest

A longtime desert dweller, Dana McNeely dreams of rain. She lives in an oasis with her husband, Mike, two good dogs, and migrating butterflies.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Enough . . . a journey in writing

                                 By Barbara Bras

Thank you for inviting me to be the featured CWOW member this month. It’s an honor. In thinking about what may be interesting, I thought I would answer a question I often receive:  what inspired me to write and publish two books within a year?

It’s a bit of a story. Unlike many authors, I didn’t always write, nor did I yearn to write. In fact, the opposite was true for me; fear of judgment discouraged me from writing. Judgment from my mother, an English teacher and a strict perfectionist who demanded excellence in everything, especially writing.

In spite of the circumstances, my love of reading led to my first profession, teaching English at the high school level. Teaching laid the foundation for my career, which ultimately resulted in twenty-five plus years in various corporate environments as a Human Resources leader. Naturally, during my career I wrote a great deal, including proposals, papers, and communications of all kinds. But never anything creative, I never even journaled.

Almost two years ago, our Pastor handed out little pieces of paper during his sermon that said, “ENOUGH.” He questioned our inane desire to accumulate things when we already have the one thing that is needful. Just as Mary choose to worship at the feet of Jesus rather than be distracted by the world, so must we choose what is most important. (Luke 10:42) It struck a nerve.

Shortly thereafter, I made the decision to leave my position of ten years. Unsure of my next move, I focused my energy on a burning desire. Ever since the Lord provided a son for us through a miraculous adoption, I believed He wanted me to share it as an encouragement to others. I had tried to write the story many times without success. I signed up for retreat that promised, “Write your book in a weekend!”

The three-day retreat required nonstop writing, first in long hand, then on the pc. Amazingly, at the end of the third day I had not only finally written the story of the miraculous adoption, I had shared the incredible disappointment and heartache of the years that followed, all captured within the context of my life and the life of my ancestors. Wrapped in God’s Grace, a Life Rediscovered had materialized. I felt a great release and I thought that would be the end of my writing.

Over the next few months as I edited the book, I followed the system of editing for 45 minutes, and writing new material for 15. What emerged during those 15 minute segments became Cassandra’s story, or She Who Knows, a Tale of the Heart. The story unfolded in front of me, inspired by the woman who supervised my student teaching in Honolulu back in 1977.

Barbara Robinson was an inspiration to me both as a teacher and as a person. As we worked together that semester, she shared many stories and took me under her wing. She told me the story of how her grandmother, a musician, had come to islands and married her seafaring grandfather. She spent a great deal of her childhood isolated in the mountains on Maui, presumably to recover from an illness. When finally allowed to return to school years later, her years of isolation and her archaic English made for a lonely life. She also believed she that she had an usual gift, which she decided was better left unused.

So what began as an effort to share my story and encourage others has developed into a love of writing and a desire to serve the Lord through my new passion.

Soli Deo Gloria. To God Alone Be the Glory!
Barbara Bras