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Lunchtime Reads 12.23.13

Taste of the Valley Latte

Are you working the Monday before Christmas, which awkwardly falls in the middle of the week this year? I’m sure your mind is wandering from work anyway, so here’s some lunch break goodness to help you take your mind off the hustle & bustle.

Ever feel like the really successful artists, writers, & hyper creative people have some hard mental ish going on? Scientific American takes up that common misconception & shares the  real link between mental illness & creativity: “It seems that the key to creative cognition is opening up the flood gates and letting in as much information as possible. Because you never know: sometimes the most bizarre associations can turn into the most productively creative ideas.”

This is a really great reminder, especially during this season when baked goods & other deliciousness abounds: What People Really Look Like

Soon after I signed up for a Skillshare calligraphy class, I found this. What a rad idea. Plus her lettering style is brilliant. I’m super tempted to try this in the new year: Modern Day Snail Mail

I don’t have a daughter (yet?), but if I did, I’d want to teach her all of these things, too. Except the bit about Springsteen, maybe: 34 Things I’ve Learned in Life That I Want to Tell My Daughter

Elizabeth Gilbert had a significant writing life before Eat, Pray, Love. This interview makes me want her to adopt me as a mentee. She’s got so much wisdom regarding working cycles, creative blocks, and straight up hard work: Here’s How Elizabeth Gilbert Writes

And, perhaps my favorite of the bunch, Erin Loechner kills it yet again. This one writes in such a way that I feel she’s crawled inside my soul & spent some time there before coming back out and addressing what ails me. This time, it boils down to the fact that we are all so much more than who we are online. We are complex souls with stories, and we choose to share or not share certain pieces of our lives in a very public sphere. I’m not even on the radar compared to the audience Erin has, but these are questions I ponder daily and I’m so grateful she shared this: Life as a Blogger


Have a little faith

Grand Canyon SunsetSo it seems I took a bit of an unannounced break from blogging. It’s time to explain the radio silence. In addition to a bunch of travel (which I’ll be sharing about shortly!), I’ve been scheduling most of my time with development projects, and I couldn’t be happier about that!

It feels like just weeks ago I quit my full-time proofreading job to spend most all of my time learning web development, freelance writing, meeting amazing people, and working on projects I’d only dreamed of.

But that was last October. It’s been almost a year.

At the beginning of 2013, I mapped out a tentative plan for my year. A timeline, to make sure that I stayed on track and didn’t lose focus. I told myself that by late summer to early fall, I should have learned enough to start ramping up the number of freelance clients that I accept or to be looking for a full-time job that would allow me to learn development even faster.

At the beginning of July, I realized that the benchmark I set was nearly upon me. I started to feel like I hadn’t done enough, learned enough, met enough people. I hadn’t been advertising or marketing myself. I hadn’t been telling people how to hire me, and my time was ticking away.

But then, just as I had hoped and planned, inquiries started to come. Work started to flow. And all without a word of “marketing” or sleazy sales-yness from me.

What Chad had been telling me had come true: Just start building things, and the work will come. I’ve been divinely provided for over and over and over again, and this time was no exception.

I’m incredibly grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity to work with some truly lovely people on great projects, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you all soon.


Interviews with Interesting People: Sophie of Spark

Spark DeckI’m excited to be launching a new, semi-regular feature here, highlighting people who are doing things I find interesting — creating, collaborating, and sharing new things in new ways. Mainly, it’s an excuse to meet and chat with people I’d like to meet and chat with over coffee. Sometimes that’s just not possible, as is the case with Sophie, creator of the Spark Deck, as she lives in Australia. The Spark Deck is a pack of creativity cards for writers that can be mixed and match to create new writing prompts and inspirations, and Sophie was kind enough to answer some questions about the process of creating them, the importance of writing, and some of her favorite things.

Sophie of Spark

What is the story behind the Spark Deck? How and why did you decide to create it? What led you to it?

I have a note on my iPhone dated April 13, 2013, and it simply reads: ‘creativity cards’. I jotted this down on my commute home on the train, tired and exhausted from work, and feeling flat as the creative writing course that had been feeding my creativity over the past few weeks had finished. Doing the creative writing course had unlocked words I had been holding in for a while. I had always thought of myself as a writer – a ‘one day’ writer – but I was just waiting for the right time to come along for me to actually put pen to paper. It was something in the distance, something I could do, but wasn’t yet. After doing this course I realised that there was no ‘one day’ to look forward to; there was only today, and every day, and that I should (and must) write now.

When I reflected on what had made the creative writing course so effective, it boiled down to three simple things: inspiration, motivation, and structure. Inspiration in the form of writing prompts and character ideas, motivation that came from having a safety net when I faced the blank page armed with story starters and memory triggers and guides to write a story, and structure from having something that I could sit down to do each day, something that didn’t require hours of reading but that thrust an idea into my hand and said write. I couldn’t afford to take endless creative writing classes, so I thought about how I could recreate the same concepts at home – and so The Spark Deck was born.

Why is writing important?

The philosopher Alain de Botton recently tweeted ‘So long as we have such trouble telling other people how we really feel, there’ll be a role for literature’. For me, this sums up most of why I feel writing is important (fictional or otherwise). Writing can reveal another layer of ourselves, one that perhaps can’t be spoken, but can only be expressed on the page. It’s an intensely personal exercise that forces you to collect, clarify and crystallise your thoughts – there’s no multitasking while you’re writing – and I find the writing process a wonderful pocket of peace, of creative energy, and of reflection, especially when life can feel so busy and overstimulating.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Eek, this is tough! If I had to choose, there are a few authors that I would always reach for – Kazuo Ishiguro, Siri Hustvedt, Jeffrey Eugenides. There is an elegance to the way they write – they capture intimate pieces of life in a very beautiful but restrained way. Ishiguro in particular creates narratives that are so simple but so clever, and I find that his stories often linger long after I’ve put the book down.

What advice do you have for those just starting out in their writing journey?

Just write. There is nothing more and nothing less to it. The easiest way to get started is to set some time aside – I find early in the morning best – and just free write for ten to fifteen minutes, letting whatever is in your head spill out onto the page. Be prepared to write crap, and embrace that! It can be quite liberating. They key is to make writing a habit, fold it into your life, every day, and don’t be afraid of the shitty first draft!

What is your ideal day?

Being woken up with hot cup of earl grey tea prepared by my boyfriend to be sipped slowly and lazily in bed, perhaps while reading a book or a magazine, followed by a few hours of writing, then a walk somewhere fresh and green. Lunch with friends at a cafe in the sun (I find eating lunch out so luxurious and indulgent!) then – assuming I have control over the weather too! – a late afternoon storm that necessitates watching a movie on the couch covered in blankets. And the ideal day would always end with a negroni, some sort of pasta dish, and dessert!

Thanks so much, Sophie! Would you like to be interviewed or nominate someone for Interviews with Interesting People? Let me know!

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CR Part 3: Food

Fresh Pineapple in Tamarindo, Costa RicaWhen I think of Costa Rica, I think of coffee, pineapple, dulce de leche, arroz con pollo, fried plantains, Salsa Lizano, and gallo pinto. My missions trip to Costa Rica in 2005 was my first independent travel experience, and I have a special place in my heart for the people, culture, and food.

This time around was no different. I met a wonderful barista named Lorena, ate fresh pineapple, got my hands on some Salsa Lizano to bring back with me, and met a older woman who runs the closest thing to a food truck in Tamarindo. Dona Rosa has been selling casado out of the back of her station wagon for over ten years!

I love eating while traveling, and I’m privileged to be able to write about many of my foodie adventures while traveling for The Town Dish. You can more read about my favorite spots to eat in Tamarindo over at the Dish now.

Do you have favorite places to travel and/or eat while traveling?