July 27, 2014

Top 10 Things I Learned at BlogHer. Okay, top 11.

I just returned home from BlogHer '14. This was my second BlogHer conference, and although nothing can compare to your first BlogHer, I still learned quite a lot. Here are my top takeaways from BlogHer '14.

1. It is okay not to want to "monetize" my blog or promote brands, unless I'm promoting my book.

2. It is time for me to start my book.

3. There are really interesting changes happening in the publishing world and when I do finally get that book finished there are several ways to consider publishing that. I plan to write a post on that soon.

4. Twitter is still relevant. Especially if you are trying to find your friends at a blogging conference.

5. My blogging/Facebook/Twitter friends are also fantastic people in real life.

6. Some conversations are better had in person.

7. There is power in storytelling.

8. Kara Swisher is really smart and funny. So is Arianna Huffington.

9. I really need to get one of those portable charging devices. I spent a good amount of time sitting in the hallway with my phone plugged in, getting my power fix. This one from MyCharge seemed to be a pretty good one.

10. Jeff is a really great dad and husband who enables me to go to blogging conferences and come and go as I please for three days while he watches the kids, takes care of bedtime, meals, and swimming lessons. He didn't complain about it once. I know I would if he left for the better part of 3 days.

11. Although I definitely want to keep blogging, it is time for me to evolve this blog. I am not giving up on it, but I will be making changes. It could be a while, and I plan to do it slowly and carefully. Now I have to figure out what those changes should be. Feel free to make suggestions.

I met so many friends, new and old, but I want to give a special shout-out to these writers and friends who are as wonderful in real life as they are on their blogs: 

Adrienne from No Points for Style
Jill from Yeah. Good Times (and a Voices of the Year 2013 winner!)
Lexi, formerly of Mostly True Stuff, but who will be announcing a new blog soon
Kristin from Running to be Still. I am still figuring out how I can keep her from leaving the state.

And a new friend, Jen from Born Just Right who is just all sorts of awesome. And I don't use that word lightly.

July 22, 2014

A World of Pure Imagination

“But that’s impossible!” said little Charlie, staring at his grandfather.
“Of course it’s impossible!” cried Grandpa Joe. “It’s completely absurd! But Mr. Willy Wonka has done it!”

I work as a writer for a web company. I also write on my own, sometimes on this blog, and sometimes in a journal (but my journal entries are often like unpolished essays). Very occasionally, I write fiction. It is something I want to do more.

For me, fiction is the hardest to write.

Creativity with constraints is so much easier. Blog posts are constrained by reality. I try to relay events, or memories or emotions in a way that evokes feeling, but that is still based on my true experience. And reality has its limits.

But fiction has no constraints. Letting go of those constraints can be liberating, but it is also overwhelming. When the possibility of writing something becomes the possibility of writing anything, how do you even start? But it is only when you let go of those constraints, when you are no longer governed by the rules of what is possible, that you can invent gum that is actually a three course meal. Or an elevator that goes in every direction, including up and out of a building. Or a little boy who finds a golden ticket and enters a “world of pure imagination.”

Pure imagination.

I have worked in Silicon Valley for a long time, and seen a lot of creative ideas. As part of a design team, I think a lot about creativity. How do you evoke new ideas? How do you nurture a creative environment? But even the most entrepreneurial tend to think with constraints: business constraints or computing constraints (maybe even legal constraints). It is very hard for someone to come up with a truly original idea, to think freely without the limits of what is possible.

But when we write, we don’t need to worry about those constraints. Don’t have the computing power? Write it down, and now you do. Can’t figure out how your character is going to be in two places at once? Just write it down - you’ll figure it out later. In fiction, your characters can fly, be invisible or go days without eating. They can be everything and nothing, and things we haven’t even thought of yet.

It is hard to free your mind in such a way. But when done right, amazing things can happen.

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This post was inspired by the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.

Head over to From Left to Write to learn how you and your child can have a chance to win the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes where the grand prize is a magical trip to New York City plus much more! For every entry submitted, Penguin Young Readers Group will make a donation to First Book. Then, join From Left to Write on July 24 as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As a book club member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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