7 Ways to Increase Your Creativity Through Workspace Design

This blog appears in its entirety on the Writers in the Storm Blog today.

The life of a writer can be unpredictable. Family, medical issues, housing issues, and many more personal-life interruptions can disrupt the flow of words. Many of you may not have options and write when and where you can write. For example, right now I’m writing in the waiting room of a car maintenance shop. The environment here is nice, but definitely full of distractions. 

When we can choose our writing environment, it makes sense to choose a space that optimizes how we write. Keep in mind that not all of us will respond in the same way to the same physical space. In the list of elements I offer below, choose the ones that speak to you, that feel more creative to you. 

Brain Science

The theory that people are right-brained (creative, intuitive) or left-brained (logical or linear) or both is a popular myth unsupported by neuroscience. The brain’s right and left hemispheres are not separate organs. While the right-hemisphere performs more complex functions, and the left hemisphere controls most (if not all) physiological functions, the two hemispheres work together.

While the right- versus left-brain theory is a myth, it’s an easy way to understand how people think. At the extremes, a few of us are nearly 100% logical-thinkers and a few are almost 100% creative-thinkers. A few of us fall into the moves fluidly between the two. In a reality, we are all a mix of the two. Many of us continue to perceive one or the other thinking style is our primary way of perceiving the world. We’re not wrong, but it’s more complex than which hemisphere controls what. Still, we can use brain science and psychology to help us set up a work environment that supports our creativity.

Space

Environmental psychology is the study of how our physical surroundings influence us. One of the newer sciences, it came into existence in the 1970s. 

Our mental space stands in direct proportion to our perception of physical space.

Donald M. Rattner, Architect

In other words, our physical space affects us both as it actually exists and our intuitive interpretation of that space. The more we perceive a space to be open, the more we are open to new ideas. 

Height

The height of your ceilings affects your perception of openness. Tall, vaulted ceilings give us a sense of openness. Things that draw our eye to the height like pendant lamps or images enhance our sense of openness. 

Lateral Space

Most of us cannot do anything about the height of our ceilings. We can increase our perception of space by focusing on lateral space. 

Artwork of landscapes or faraway places can give us a sense of space. A window or a doorway with a view of the outside makes a space “feel” open. Furniture placement and a lack of clutter also affect our interpretation of the lateral space that surrounds us.

Some will say that they do better in cluttered spaces. That may be true for specific individuals. Maybe you would feel more creative with an uncluttered and more open environment. Try it. If it doesn’t work, clutter is easy to accumulate.


Learn how to engage your senses in your workspace in the rest of the article. If you don’t have the luxury of a dedicated workspace, there are other ways support your creativity.

What do you use to make your workspace support your creativity?


Image Credits

Top: Ernest Hemingway in London at Dorchester Hotel 1944, National Archives and Records Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons 

Make Music with Character Voices

On the Writers in the Storm Blog, I offer suggestions how you can create characters with voices so distinct that your readers can “hear” theme music for each one.

Bright jolly vector staves with musical notes on white background, decorative major wavy set of musical notation symbol.

Do your characters feel flat? Do they all sound like you and only you? Tune in to the music of character voices, make them sound more like the different instruments of a band or orchestra. Make music with your character voices and your readers won’t be able to get enough of the stories you write.

Great characters are the key to great fiction.Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel

Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel

What or Who Your Character Is

There are many things to consider when creating your story characters. Many how-to-write articles suggest creating a detailed profile of your characters. Delving into a character’s birth place, likes and dislikes, job, hair color, and using tools like spreadsheets and fill-in-the-blank questionnaires can be helpful, but characters are more than the details on a spreadsheet or form. Character are more than their story role, more than the point of view you choose for them, and more than what they do in the story. Your characters each need a voice, a unique voice. But how do you create that?

The Key to Understanding Characters

When a writer is told they’re too young or haven’t lived enough life to write about it, it’s often because of a lack of understand the basics of character or even life. A general understanding of psychological personality types will go a long way to helping you create varied and interesting characters. 

Learn about the fundamental personality types. Go deeper than Wikipedia, though it may give you an overview that is helpful. There are literally millions of sites on the internet that discuss variations on personality types. Choose one that’s reliable like psychcentral, psychology today, and The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Psych Central has a helpful explanation of what is personality. Psychology Today discusses the basics of personality traits. NIMH has a great resource on personality disorders. Those three sites offer multiple articles on personality, personality traits, and personality disorders. 

Read about establishing your character’s musical pitch and more in the rest of my post at the Writers in the Storm blog.

Create a Compelling Plot with What-But-Therefore

Lynette M. Burrows

You can have interesting characters in a striking setting and have a boring book. Plot structure can create tension that keeps the reader engaged and eager to finish your book. But learning how to plot is confusing. Many writers have their own theory on how to create an interesting plot. Some argue the number of types of plot structure and they name anywhere between one (man against man) to seven. Others talk about the elements of or the stages of plot. Those folk teach five, six, seven, nine, or more elements they call stages, or doors, or plot points. They say to use a diagram or an outline or to write freely and figure it out as you go. What’s a writer to do? Learn as much as you can. A good place to start is 7 Plot Structures for Pantsers by John Peragine. If you’re looking for a simple and effective tool for creating a cause-effect, can’t-stop-reading plot use the WHAT-BUT-THEREFORE method.

Image is of an open book with an illustration on the two visible pages. The first page shows a grassy area with a small pond, a flowering tree, and mushrooms. A picnic basket and blanket are beneath the tree. On the second page is a dry and cracked section of dirt with flames leaping from the top of the page. How does the What-But-Therefore help you get from one page to the other?

What is Plot?

At its most basic level, plot is the chain of events that make up a story. But a basic chain of events does not make a story. Consider this pared-down version of Rumplestiltskin by the Brothers Grimm:

The miller says his daughter can spin straw into gold.

The king gave the girl a room of straw to spin into gold.

The girl made a bargain with a droll little man.

The girl spins the straw into gold.

The king marries the girl and she becomes queen.

The queen gives birth to a little girl.

The droll little man wants his end of the bargain.

The queen guesses his name, and he goes away empty-handed.

Illustration from Rumplestiltskin showing the imp dancing around a pot on a fire in a forested area with a charming cottage in the background.

As a plain chain of events, this classic story has no tension. It’s boring. 

A more complex definition of plot is the sequence of events which causes a character to react in a way that affects the next event through the principle of cause-and-effect. With this definition, you can still create an unexciting story. The tension must rise.

The way I make certain story tension grips the reader is to use a What-But-Therefore outline of each scene.


Read More

Read how the What-But-Therefore sentences work for Rumplestiltskin on the Writers in the Storm blog. (Sorry, I had the link wrong but it’s fixed now.)

A Note to My Readers

Thank you for your patience. I’m consumed with the packing up of nearly thirty years of furniture and life accumulations so my floors can be refinished. For readers of my newsletter, I am moved into the basement and a little less than halfway through the huge task of having my floors refinished. Next month you’ll get a glimpse of the before, life in the basement, and (I hope) a few of newly painted rooms and my beautifully refinished floors. I estimate the move back in will finish near the end of August. I plan to return to my usual blogging and writing schedule then. In the meantime, enjoy this post on WITS or stay here and search for similar how-to write posts.

A Month of Changes with More to Come

June has been a busy month of changes. Those changes come at a cost of my time and energy. That means that despite my best intentions, not much writing is getting on the screen. But positive changes can be a good thing.

image of a chalky, chalk board with the words "Time for Change" written in white chalk. We all are facing changes

Intentions

Instead of goals or resolutions, I use intentions. You can miss a goal. You probably break most resolutions. But an intention is a focus. When life gets in the way of your plan, take care of that event or disturbance, intending to return to your primary plan. Every morning begins with a renewed intention.

Making

There are three more days this month, but I doubt I’ll get any more making done. Somehow, I got my newsletter out and five blog posts written and posted. Beyond that, there’s a lot of thinking while doing other things and some note taking on two separate but related projects.

It will probably be September before I can make any real fiction writing progress. SIGH. Read on for the why.

Managing

Very little done in the managing area, not even keeping up with routine business chores. 

Marketing

Even less was done in the marketing department, but I have plans… oh boy, do I have plans. 

Home

Home has been where almost all of my focus and energy have gone. I am finally going to have my worn and stained and poorly patched wood floors repaired and refinished at the end of July. However, that means I have to move every stick of furniture, clothing, and anything else out of the main living areas. 

My two-year-old grandson, J, visited recently and voiced his opinion of this:

Changes are happening at my house. This photograph shows a floor littered with shreds of paper, boxes to be made, empty boxes and a box full of books with a book titled the Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo on the top of the pile.

“It’s a mess!”

Grandson J

Me: Yes, it is, J. It’s a huge mess right now.

My late husband and I may have been related to pack rats who fill their nest with all kinds of things. After almost thirty years in this house, the accumulation of stuff is overwhelming. Fortunately, my grandson, C, and son have been helping—a lot.

C and I held a garage sale during 95˚ F weather. We stayed in the shade, under a fan as much as we could, and drank a lot of water. 

Cleaning out my late husband’s art studio has been… challenging and a long, slow process. 

Going Forward

After I finish sorting and clearing out things I don’t use, need, or want any more, my son and grandson will help me move everything else into the garage or basement. Then I will attempt to paint all the walls in this three-bedroom ranch before they refinish the floors. Wish me luck in getting all of this accomplished in thirty days. 

Writing time will continue to be minimal until the end of July. 

While the floors are done and drying, I’ll start writing again. Halfway through August, I’ll begin moving everything back to the main level again.  

Everything Changes

This black and white illustration shows the scales of justice out of balance with one hanging very low and the other very high. Sadly, this is what our justice system looks like post roe v. wade.

Big and small changes happen all the time. Some changes are more than not good. The SCOTUS decision to strike down Roe v. Wade is the worst. I am a Christian and am horrified at this outcome. Outraged that some states are taking it so far as to declare that they may prosecute a woman taking care of her personal physical and mental health. It’s terrifying how closely this resemble the religious totalitarian society in my series, The Fellowship Dystopia.

Taking away freedoms is NEVER the right thing, the Christian thing, to do. This SCOTUS decision will lead to more changes. We who believe in the right of free choice must make certain the next change is a positive one.

When bad things happen, we must commit to changing what we can, but we need also to lighten our load by looking for the good. Some changes are good for us. I choose to look at my long process of home improvement as a positive change for me. Ultimately, it should save me time and and make my environment more comfortable. 

What positive changes are happening in your life?

Image Credits

Top image by  Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Middle photo by Lynette M. Burrows

Final image by kalhh from Pixabay 

Exploring Mars Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow 

public domain image of Mars from space, Going to Mars book reviews, lynettemburrows.com

I posted a series of book reviews titled, Going to Mars Word-by-Word, in September 2012. It was a fun exploration of the portrayal of Mars in classic to modern science fiction. In real life, we’ve been exploring Mars in new and better ways since then.

The number of launches to Mars is too long, international and complex for a single post by a space enthusiast with limited aerospace knowledge. We’ll focus on a few of the NASA missions. 

Odyssey

Mars Odyssey launched on April 7, 2001 and arrived on October 24, 2001. It is an orbiting spacecraft that studies Mars’ surface. Its mission is to detect water, shallow buried ice, and to study the radiation environment. 

It is still operational.

Spirit and Opportunity

Spirit was a Mars Exploration Rover launched by NASA on June 10, 2003. Its twin, Opportunity, launched on July 7, 2003. About the size of a golf cart, they carried the same scientific instruments. They landed on opposite sides of the planet on January 4 and 25 (UTC), 2004. 

They searched for and characterized a wide range of rocks and soil for clues about past water activity on Mars. Scientists planned for the rovers to drive up to 40 meters (approx. 44 yards) a day for up to 1 kilometer (about three quarters of a mile). 

These mechanical geologists exceeded their creators’s wildest dreams. Spirit concluded its mission in 2010. Opportunity worked for almost fifteen years. Scientists lost communication with it on June 10, 2018, during a planet-wide dust storm. It drove 45.16 kilometers (28.05 miles). The findings of the two rovers showed scientists that a very long time ago, Mars had salty seas and may have looked a lot like water on Earth.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) blasted off in 2005. On March 10, 2006, the orbiter reached Mars. Its scientific instruments studied the planet’s surface from orbit. The mission was to seek the history of water on Mars with extreme close-up photography. 

The MRO’s last communication came on December 31, 2010. 

Mars Phoenix

The Phoenix Mars Lander launched on August 4, 2007 (UTC) and landed on May 25, 2008. It studied the Martian arctic, searched for evidence of a habitable zone, and assessed the biological potential of the ice-soil boundary.  

On July 31, 2008, NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander discovered water ice on Mars. The sample contained the same elements as water on earth. Elements we believe are important components of the building blocks for life. 

The Lander also observed snow falling from the clouds and found salts and minerals that suggest Mars ice had thawed in the distant past. The lander also exceeded its life expectancy. After five months, instead of 90 days, its mission ended November 2, 2008. NASA lost contact with the lander completely in 2010.

Curiosity

Artist's rendition of Curiosity Rover exploring Mars shows a collection of metal boxes on a platform with four wide all terrain wheels and a camera on a stalk above the over and a robotic arm extended to rock in front of the rover.

Mars Science Laboratory, also known as Curiosity, is twice as long and three times as heavy as the twins, Spirit and Opportunity. Launched on November 26, 2011, it landed on Mars on August 6, 2012 using precision landing techniques similar to the way the Space shuttle landings on Earth. Its landing inspired me to launch my blog series, Going to Mars Word-by-word.

This rover’s mission was to study martian rocks and soil in greater detail to understand the geologic processes that formed them and to study the atmosphere. Its design and power supply gave it an expected lifetime of a full martian year (687 Earth days.)

As of June 2022, Curiosity is still active.

Exploring Mars Today

According to NASA, there are five missions exploring Mars at present: Perseverance, MAVEN, Ingenuity, InSight, and Curiosity.

Other countries and space agencies have current missions on Mars as well. Some of these Mars missions are multiple nations and space agencies’s cooperative efforts.

For an international list of missions to Mars, see Space.com’s post or its brief history of Mars missions.

Going to Mars Word-by-Word

Illustration of a spaceship approaching the red planet, Mars, by Robert W. Burrows © 2013 for the post Exploring Mars on author Lynette M. Burrows' website

There are eight book reviews in this series. The first one reviews A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the last one is Mars Crossing by Geoffrey Landis. Wouldn’t itl be fun to explore the series to see if new information gained from exploring Mars changes my review?

What new information have you learned about Mars in the past ten years?

Image Credits

Middle image Curiosity Rover, NASA/JPL-Caltech, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Last image by Robert W. Burrows © 2013.