W is for Words #atozchallenge

Creativity is a lifestyle for me, not an action. This month I’m exploring twenty-six quirky ways I keep my creativity flowing.

As a writer I find words to be incredibly wonderful. They’re tools I use on a daily, most of the time hourly, basis. With them I craft sentences, I convey thoughts, create worlds, pass along messages, share hope, and a million other little things that are hardly ever thought about. 

Words sound delightful to my ears as I listen to the people around me speaking. I often times have an audio book or singing playing in the background as I work. I read words wherever I go, my eyes catching signs and headlines and brand names. Books contain thousands of words, just waiting to be sucked in. After reading, words come seemingly unbidden to my brain where I processes what I just learned and come up with new ideas. 

Words can be fantastic, beautiful, melodic, and soul-feeding. My favorite way in the entire world to be creative is with words, and I’m so thankful to have them as a tool. 

V is for Vacation #atozchallenge

Creativity is a lifestyle for me, not an action. This month I’m exploring twenty-six quirky ways I keep my creativity flowing.

Right now I’m on vacation and it’s really amazing; there are white sandy beaches, the ocean with a dozen different shades of blue and green, and lots of fun games with my siblings. I’m also getting a ton of work done, soaking in the fact that I’m not engrained in my normal routine and can therefore step out and try new ideas. 

Vacations are great times to stretch creativity and come up with new ideas. There’s nothing like brainstorming on a quiet day or going for a long walk to troubleshoot. Vacations are also wonderful for learning new things or trying your hand at an interesting craft. 

Do you know what I’ve discovered, though? I don’t have to have a real vacation in order to feel like I’m getting one. Instead I can take an afternoon or evening and turn it into vacation mode. I can curl up with a book, set aside a task and play a game with my bro, or even make a special meal for the family. Stepping out of routine changes up life and is good for me, even if I don’t always like it.

There’s also such a thing as taking a vacation from being creative. Sometimes I get tired of being creative and I just want to glide through life for a few days by rote. And that’s okay, as long as it doesn’t last for very long. In fact it can be quite helpful cause it not only gives me a break, but it also reminds me of how much more alive life feels when it’s stoked with creativity.

And now I’m off to get some work on a sun encased patio with an azure blue sky encompassing the world and coconut tree fonds rustling in the wind all around me. This would seriously be an amazing setting for a book… Maybe after I catch up on my non-writing job for the day I’ll be able to write some. 

U is for Uno #atozchallenge

Creativity is a lifestyle for me, not an action. This month I’m exploring twenty-six quirky ways I keep my creativity flowing.

Sometimes you have to take normal games and change them up. My little bro and I play Uno a lot – last week alone we probably played a couple hundreds hands. I wasn’t really into Uno until my best friend told us the way her family plays the game and then we tweaked a few more rules and came up with a fast-paced game that you have to be fully engaged in to win. Changing up rules and creating new ways to play games is a fun way to exercise creativity and quite rewarding as well. 
Today I thought I would share our rules with y’all so maybe you can enjoy this version of Uno as well. (I’m explaining how it works with two people, you can play it with more using the same rules, but it works out slightly different.) 
1. Start out with each person having 7 cards like with a normal game and begin the same way.
2. Whenever a card gets played, people can play matching cards, even if it’s not their turn. (For example, if I play a red 4, I can also play another red 4, or a green 4, or a blue 4… Any 4 can be played. Same thing if my bro plays a 4, I can jump in and play several cards right in a row.) This makes the game really fast, because you try and play the next card before the other person can play a match. 
3. You can skip, reverse, and build up Draw 2s and Draw 4s. This makes the game quite crazy and it’s not unusual to have to draw 10-16 cards at once. Let me explain how it works: If I put down a yellow Draw 2, my bro can then play a Draw 2 of any color, a Draw 4, a yellow skip, or a yellow reverse. If he plays a red Draw 2, then I can play a Draw 2 of any color, a Draw 4, or a red skip, or a red reverse… And you get the idea. 
It’s not surprising to be able to play 10 or so cards at once, especially when there are just two players, because when you play a skip or a reverse, then you get to play again right away (unless the other player jumps in with a skip or reverse before you can go on). 
This is an example of a long row of cards one person would be able to play in one turn: 
And that, my friends, is the way we play Uno now. It seriously makes the game about 60x more fun than the regular way and also takes some strategy (you have to keep skips and reverses to protect yourself so you don’t have to eat your own Draw 4s or Draw 2s, etc…). 
Do you ever change up rules to games? Does this way of playing Uno sound like fun to you? Games are so much fun and I enjoy discussing them. 
* * * 
It’s that time again where we get to choose where Annie goes for this week in our Friday Series, Around the World in Fifty-Two WeeksAnd our destination is… Norway!

T is for Twist and Turn #atozchallenge

Creativity is a lifestyle for me, not an action. This month I’m exploring twenty-six quirky ways I keep my creativity flowing.

I have so much fun taking average and ordinary things and twisting and turning them around to see them from a unique perspective.

Try reading a familiar book upside down for instance. Or taking an every day task like eating and writing and doing it with your non-dominate hand. Sometimes I act like I’m riding a horse when I go for a jog or like I’m flying an airplane when I’m cutting grass with the zero-turn.

Next time you’re a passenger in a car try imagining you’re riding a (really fast) horse along the berm of the road. What obstacles can you jump over, which ones do you have to go around? (I actually gave up on the horse a while ago and traded it in for a liger… Pretty much the coolest animal ever.)

When I am vacuuming the house using the sweeper hose, I always pretend like the hose is my pet elephant’s trunk. I like to try to do normal hand activities with my feet (crocheting doesn’t work all that great because I can’t quite figure out how to hold the hook the right way), or multitask with opposites. (Back when I took piano lessons if I had a slow song to practice I would listen to “The Woodpecker Song” by Buddy Davis on full blast next to me as I plinked along… I guess it’s no wonder my piano playing never progressed very far.)

Every day (and seemingly mundane) life activities are actually catalysts to spur creativity to greater levels and I throughly enjoy finding ways to exercise the experimental and artistic side of my brain. 

S is for Scenery #atozchallenge

Creativity is a lifestyle for me, not an action. This month I’m exploring twenty-six quirky ways I keep my creativity flowing.

A change of scenery can do wonders to get my creativity flowing. If I have a big day of writing in front of me, I can almost guarantee you that as soon as it’s light outside I’ll be out walking or jogging. A crazy deadline to meet? I’ll be out jogging again. A plot hole that needs fixed? A leisurely walk generally generates the answers I’m looking for. Need to have a brainstorming session? I’m back outside striding around with my phone in hand to take notes on. 

I travel a lot and in each new city and landscape ideas plop into my head, inspired by the world around me. I don’t need to have a physical change in scenery though, if I’m lacking in creativity when I’m at home, I simply google images from whatever country it is I’m interested in at the moment and ideas flood in. 
A change in scenery works wonders for my creativity, and I think that has something to do with the fact that God is creative and He has created the world with so much diversity and then created us in His image. Pretty cool, right? 

R is for Reading #atozchallenge

Creativity is a lifestyle for me, not an action. This month I’m exploring twenty-six quirky ways I keep my creativity flowing.

Reading is one of the best ways I’ve found to expand my creativity. Today I thought I’d share some of my favorite books with y’all.

Over the Divide has been one of my favorite and most read books during the last seven years. The best part of the book is the voice of the story, it’s so clear and extremely real. Plus the author hit the perfect balance with what details to include; even now I can picture the setting to a T, although it’s been months since I last read it.
The story takes place during a backpack trip over the continental divide, and parallels the internal journey the main character, Jacy, goes through.

Love Does tells the fantastic true account of the author’s life and how he lives each day to the fullest to bring glory to God. What I like most about this book is how he doesn’t worry about being like everyone else. His life is one big, difference-making adventurous and creativity plays a key part in what he does.

Homer Price is a book my mom read to me when I was a kid and then eventually I began reading it for myself. It’s been a couple of years since I last read it, but I remember it being quite funny and really creative in it’s delivery.

You can find out about more of the books I read and enjoy over at my Goodreads account, and if you’re on Goodreads, I’d be happy for book recommendations. 

Q is for Questions #atozchallenge & Writing and Life Update

Creativity is a lifestyle for me, not an action. This month I’m exploring twenty-six quirky ways I keep my creativity flowing.
I really like asking questions. I’ve even had friends tell me that asking questions is my hobby, which I took as a compliment. Each person has such a unique view of life and has experienced things I’ll never get to do first hand, but can live virtually through their stories. There are so many facts and ideas and quirky little facets that escape me unless I purposely seek them out. 
If I were to meet you in real life, I’d doubtlessly ask you dozens of questions. The questions may seem inconsequential, but each question asked and answered helps me see life, and the person answering the question, in a bit of a new way. 
Here’s a list of questions my family said I generally ask when I first meet someone:
“Who’s your favorite author?” 
“Do you like to read?” 
“Do you like to read fiction or non-fiction?” 
“What kind of books do you like?” 
“What’s your middle name?”
“Do you have any nick-names?” 
“How many siblings do you have?”
What are questions you generally ask when you first meet someone? If you leave a comment with them, I’ll answer them and other readers can, too, if they want. 🙂 
And, of course, since I haven’t met most of y’all in person, I’d be delighted if wanted to answer any of those^ questions in the comments. 
* * *
The weather has been delightful here. Even though it’s been rather hot and we don’t have any AC, the breeze from the ocean and the shade from the palm trees has kept our surroundings pleasant. The colors, textures, sights, sounds, and smells have been blending together creating a tranquil atmosphere and renewing my mind. 
I finished the draft of WLHYL I was working on at around 4:00 yesterday morning, which was a rather big accomplishment for me and just barely within the time frame of the deadline I had. I was merging what used to be book one and two in the series, making it just one book. During the last couple of months I’ve done a lot of editing and cutting, taking the two books from a combined 150,000 words to just over 86,000 words.  

Today I took a break from most of my writing work, and instead had good family time, caught up on some reading, and took several long walks on the beach. In reality I just walked back and forth in front of our section of the beach, but it didn’t feel redundant because the rolling waves changed the scenery each time I went past.

I walked a little over ten miles, which felt like a good workout since I was on the sand and walking on the sand is a good way to invest energy. Plus, it’s ties with my longest walking workout since I began training for the marathon, only I spread it out doing half in the morning and half in the afternoon, instead of all at once.

I’m looking forward to the next few weeks and maybe starting another writing project. Or maybe I’ll just catch up with my reading… 

P is for Practice #atozchallenge

Creativity is a lifestyle for me, not an action. This month I’m exploring twenty-six quirky ways I keep my creativity flowing.

Practicing creativity? It sounds almost like an oxymoron, yet it really does work… At least for me. Sometimes I practice being creative by stretching beyond my afore-reached heights and trying something new. Sometimes I make myself sit down and work on a creative outlet that I’m not very good at, like drawing a picture. Sometimes I make a random goal for myself like coming up with a list of 35 words that start with the letter “d” and see how fast I can do it.

The thing is, when practicing creativity, it doesn’t matter how the thing your practicing on turns out, because it’s just practice. This gives you freedom to have fun and express yourself in ways you’re not used to. 

So next time you’re feeling bored or non-creative, why not take a few minutes and practice being creative? You can tell a story to a child, make a meal using a new recipe, create your own board game, design a greeting card, walk barefoot on gravel and think of ten words to describe how it feels, or learn several words in a new language… The options are nearly endless. 

O is for Optimistic #atozchallenge + Pictures from Cancun

Creativity is a lifestyle for me, not an action. This month I’m exploring twenty-six quirky ways I keep my creativity flowing. 
I was born a rather pessimistic person, but over the years I’ve trained myself to become an optimist. It’s not always easy to find the good in each situation, but it’s worth it. Philippians 4:8 tells us “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

The pessimistic side of me thinks, “Oh wait, I’m becoming good friends with this person. That means I’m going to be hurt some day when they die. I should just cut off our friendship now so it’s not as hard.” 

The optimistic side of me jumps in with, “Wait, wait, wait! This friendship is a beautiful gift. No matter what happens in the future I’ll always have the wonderful memories and know that we made a difference in each other’s lives. Instead of focusing on me, I’m going to focus on them and wow, God has really blessed me by putting this person in my life. Thank You, God!” 

I’ve been doing this for so long now, that the pessimistic thoughts don’t even fully form before I’m chopping away at them, thinking of the good in each situation. There are times when I have to get creative to think on the bright side, but it’s worth it. I don’t hide from reality, but I choose to focus on the uplifting sides of it whenever possible. And it really does make life better. 

* * * 
Yesterday we left Cancun, Mexico, for Merida, which is about a four hour trip across the Yucatan Peninsula. Before we left I took some pictures of the lounge where I spent a lot of the week working on editing WLHYL. 

There were lots of gorgeous flowers in the hotel. Flowers make pretty much everything better. I’m nearly constantly delighted by the wonderful and diverse flowers God has created and how they look, smell, and feel so beautiful.

There was a coffee/tea bar open all the time and sandwiches and little desserts from 12:00 until 4:00 each afternoon. It was so much fun editing and drinking lots of coffee and iced tea and nibbling on little cakes. The best part was it was all free. (Technically the company we work for and earned the trip with paid for it, but it was a flat fee and so we could take as much or as little as we wanted.)

The view out the one side was bright and lovely, the sun shinning brightly through windows that are bigger than my office.

On the other side, we could see down about four stories to a courtyard. When we were at the same hotel five years ago, there was ivy growing from the top floor all the way to the bottom – that was a sight to behold. 

And, above the courtyard was a brilliant dome with lovely stained-glass.

Now we’re staying at a very delightful old coconut plantation. I’m looking forward to sharing pictures of it with y’all during the next few weeks.

* * *
It’s that time again where we get to choose where Annie goes for this week in our Friday Series, Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks. And our destination is… Georgia! (The country.) 

M is for Make #atozchallenge

Creativity is a lifestyle for me, not an action. This month I’m exploring twenty-six quirky ways I keep my creativity flowing. 

Choose something and then make it. There are literally millions of things that can be physically made: A meal, a bed, a wig, a piece of art, a tree house, Etc… There are also nearly innumerable concepts you can make: memories, decisions, challenges, goals, attitude adjustments, and the list goes on…

On any given day I have the honor to make and create and use my imagination to turn the common into the uncommon. Sometimes I  make memories by stopping what I’m doing and challenging my little brother to a round of dominoes. Sometimes I choose to step outside of my comfort zone and make a step in my personal development by doing something that freaks me out. Sometimes I decide to make a special meal for my family. Other times I want to make a difference in someone’s life.

In March I spent a lot of time making art with my hands, instead of with just words. I worked on a mosaic, colored pictures, painted, created things out of clay, and stretched my art-challenged (other than words) self. I did all of this because I’d been feeling uncreative and I wanted to revamp that part of my life. And guess what? It worked.

* * *
What are some things you enjoy making?