Painted Bones

Growing up in the country, we always had a couple of dogs, our version of an alarm system. For a treat, Momma would give them bones leftover after cooking roasts and pork chops, and they’d carry them into the yard and happily gnaw on them for hours. Sometimes my sister and I would step on them while playing outside. It hurt for a minute but was just a part of our life.

Until that afternoon.

I was five or 6, my sister three years younger. Daddy was mowing the yard, and Great-Aunt Kate, who lived with us, was walking around outside checking on her chickens and flowers. Suddenly, there was a loud “clunk” as the mower picked up a bone and forcefully threw it out the side of the mower and into Aunt Kate. Daddy stopped the mower and jumped off while yelling to Momma to come help. Aunt Kate had been badly hurt.

After they got her in bed, my sister and I were given the job of walking through the yard and picking up all the pieces of bones we could find, to prevent this happening again. As we found bits and pieces, we proudly piled them on the steps to the back door. When we thought we had found them all, I told Momma, who thanked me and told me we could go back to playing.

My sister, however, had another idea.

Gathering her watercolors and brushes, she proceeded to paint the bones we had collected. Nothing fancy, just transparent blotches of colors on the dirty, chewed bones. Momma came out as she was finishing, and oohed and aahed over them, telling her what a good job she had done.

A few days later, a friend visited to see how Aunt Kate was doing. As Momma described all that had happened, she showed her the painted bones. The friend looked at them 0and said, “how creative!”

It was creative to see the bones differently, not as trash, but as a canvas to create on. It was creative take something that had caused pain and beautify it. And what I felt was that since I didn’t think of it, I was not creative. I think I’ve always believed that you either are creative, or you aren’t. It isn’t something to be learned or developed. And since I didn’t have the idea to paint the bones, I wasn’t creative.

Every time I have difficulty writing my stories, my first thought is I’m not meant to be writing and need to just move on to something else. Every time I look at Instagram and see the beautiful photographs, see the creative ideas people have for sharing their stories, I wonder why I have trouble coming up with ideas to post, and think, yet again, that I’m not creative. But I am tired of holding myself back, tired of assuming I’m not creative and want to challenge the assumption I’ve held for too many years.

I want to expand my definition of what creativity is. It isn’t just about seeing old bones as a surface that can be decorated. Taking leftovers and making a good meal out of them is creative. Finding a way to bring in more money is creative. Finding a way to change your life, however slowly, is creative. Some of us may naturally be more creative, but it is a skill we can all learn. Maybe it is more like a muscle that needs to be exercised, developed, refined.

In 2018 I want to challenge myself to explore being creative. Tell myself, as often as I need to, that I am a creative person. Accept that some days writing is hard, and keep working on it anyway, because that is what creative people do – keep working and trying different things.

Let’s see where a creative mindset will lead me!

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Submissions Spreadsheet

One of the tasks of a writer is to keep track of where, and when, you have submitted articles. You need to know where so you don’t resend to a publication that has previously rejected it. You need to know when, so you can follow up when you don’t hear back.

There are numerous ways to keep track of them. What I use is a spreadsheet system described by C. Hope Clark in her article Keep 13 In Play. This system made sense to me, so I created a spreadsheet based on her suggestions. I like the spreadsheet and find it helps me keep track of things. The biggest drawback for me is there are 3 sheets to complete for each submission – one by date, one by title and one by publication – but I believe having access to the information in multiple ways helps me be more organized.

Click the link to start the download – Submissions Spreadsheet Blank,

It downloads in .xls format and you can edit it to suit your needs. You can move, rename and add columns, as well as change the size of the rows and columns. I’d love for you to give it a try and see if it works for you.

If you find it doesn’t work for you, google “free submission tracker” and see what else is available.

Good luck and keep writing!

Writing By Hand

I have owned a personal computer since 1985. After typing term papers on a manual typewriter, where edits beyond typos meant retyping an entire page, using a word processor was a huge time saver. Since then I have continued using computers for typing papers, reports, forms, letters and, since the internet became available, emails. So when I began writing my stories, I naturally typed them on my computer. I type faster than I write, so it made sense to get the words out of my head as quickly as possible before I forgot them.

But, it turns out, typing my initial drafts doesn’t work for me. I find the physical act of writing on paper works much better. Seeing the words form from my hand somehow helps my thoughts flow better, and somehow, my handwriting is able to keep up.

Here’s how I currently write, the method that works best. I handwrite my first drafts on legal pads. I like having lines so I can write fast and not slope to the edge of the page. I leave every other line blank to make it easier to read, and to allow room to write edits.

Until this summer, I always wrote with a pen. Because of arthritis in my thumbs, I used rollerballs since the ink flow is smoother. Of course, that ink also easily bleeds through paper and can make a mess if it gets wet. Then I heard Danielle LaPorte say she used a mechanical pencil with a larger size lead to write in her planner.  And the light-bulb went off in my head.

I bought a couple of mechanical pencils and found the 1.3 mm lead worked well for me. It flows across the paper, can be erased if needed, and is easy on my fingers.

After I complete the first draft, I read through it, making notes and edits on the blank lines and the margins. Then I handwrite the 2nd draft, and edit again. By this point I am usually ready to type it on the computing, editing as I go. I double-space the text so I can print a copy to read aloud and edit by hand. Yes, I want a physical copy to edit; that’s what works for me.

An added bonus for me is that the paper-and-pencil method is portable. I can write from anywhere without having to carry a computer, worry about batteries dying or having access to electricity.

The biggest negative for me is the amount of paper that I go through. I hate to waste anything, and all that paper I use seems like a waste. That was part of why I tried drafting on my computer, to save paper. However, it just doesn’t work for me, and I am learning to be OK with it.

I’m not the only one that finds value in writing by hand. Here’s another writer, TE Shepherd, who also drafts by hand, and in this article, he talks about why it is beneficial to do so. Then this article from the Huffington Post delves into how your brain benefits when you write by hand.

Writing by hand may not be the best method for everyone, but I encourage you, whether writing professionally, for fun, or just keeping a journal, to try writing by hand. See the results then decide whether or not to continue. I may even change my system as time goes by. But for now, I’ll always have a supply of legal pads and mechanical pencils close by.

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