My Wish List

Wish lists, such as things you want to accomplish before you turn thirty (or forty or fifty) or things you want to do before you kick the bucket (I finally figured out that’s what a bucket list is!!), seem to be perennial favorites as blog topics, so I though I’d share my list:

1.

Yep that’s it. A total blank. Looking back, there are only two things that were ever on my mental list of things I wanted to do with my life when I grew up: read and write. For most of my life, I indulged my habit of reading rather than doing something that might have been more lucrative, such as striving for a high-powered career. I also tried to write a novel when I was young and it was one of the regrets and sadnesses of my life to discover that I had no talent for fiction, yet eventually, I did become an author. (Proof that you don’t need an innate talent for writing but can learn how to tell a story in a compelling way, which in itself is sort of a talent.)

There are things that I would have added to a life list if I had been aware that I would experience them. I would have wanted to be deeply connected to another human being, to have the privilege of being there at the end of his life, though I had never aspired to doing either of those before they happened. I would have chosen to experience for a brief time such disparate places as a mesa in the high plains of Colorado, the edge of the north woods of Wisconsin, the high desert of California, but again, those are not things I would ever have added to any list since I’m not easily uprooted. I would have also wanted to reconnect with my best friend from high school, and now I’ve done that. (The visit was wonderful, by the way, and wonderfully strange considering all the years that have passed since I last saw her.) Besides, now that I’ve done these things, I would have crossed them off any list anyway, and the list would still be blank.

A couple of times I tried to do the creativity stimulation exercises in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and I generally stuck with the morning pages (three pages every morning to write whatever came to mind) and the artist’s date (a weekly date with yourself) but always, when I got to the part about making lists, the excercises screamed to a halt. There are various exercises in the book involving lists: What would I try if it weren’t too crazy? What would I do if it weren’t too selfish? What five things would I never personally do that sound like fun? What do I wish for?

I’d like to be able to make a living with my books, of course, but other than that, no wish comes to mind. I’ve never had any desire to go to Paris or London, never had any desire to travel to exotic locales to see ancient ruins, though I wouldn’t mind seeing such places if I could figure out a way of simply being there without having to make the long trip. I did have a desire to see the Olmec heads, and one came visiting at a museum nearby, so I satisfied that desire.

I’m not sure it’s possible for me to become a wisher. I used to want things, of course, but too often I didn’t get what I wanted, so I learned not to want. I know it’s important for a character to want something — it’s what makes them compelling. But is it important for us to want things? Or is it better for us to be more zen in our approach, to accept what comes our way? This is where I am now, stuck somewhere in the middle of those two questions.

Maybe this could be my list?

1. Find something to wish for.
2. Wish for it.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

Put On a Thinking Cap to Help Increase Creativity

The phrase “thinking cap” or “considering cap” goes back at least 400 years, probably much longer since by the time it first appeared in print, the phrase needed no definition. Most people assume the cap has always been metaphoric, but donning a real cap can help focus one’s thoughts.

In an odd twist, “dunce cap,” which has become synonymous with stupidity and foolishness, started out as a thinking cap. John Duns Scotus, a master philosopher born in 1266 in Duns, Scotland, believed that wearing a high conical cap helped funnel knowledge to the brain. (He’d noted that wizards wore them.) In the 1600’s, when his philosophies were ridiculed as foolish and obtuse, the dunce cap became known not as thinking cap but a fool’s cap.

Scientists today have created a high-tech thinking cap that stimulates the brain and seems to increase creativity, but you don’t need hi-tech devices. If you are dealing with writer’s block, for example, you can use colored caps.

How color vision actually works is still a mystery, but there is no mystery about the profound effect color has on human physiology. Red tends to raise blood pressure, increase pulse rate, and excite brain waves. Blue tends to have the reverse effect, and green tends to be neutral.

So, if you wish to increase your creativity, try a little color therapy. It can’t hurt; at the very least it will give you something besides your computer screen or those same old walls to stare at. And it has the benefit of being exceedingly simple. All you have to do is choose your color from the following list, wear it, hang it on the wall, find a knickknack or a bouquet of flowers that color to put on your desk, then focus on it.

Purple will boost your creativity, and help stimulate your intuitive abilities.

Yellow can help you feel optimistic if your blockage is making you anxious and depressed. It can also induce enlightenment, which is what you are looking for.

Dark blue encourages meditative thinking, so it’s especially helpful if are having difficulty focusing.

Green helps promote harmony if your inability to write is making you irritable.

Red will energize you if you’re too tired to think.

Even if the color therapy doesn’t bring about the effect you wish, playing around with all those colors will give your mind a rest from writing, and perhaps when you return to your keyboard, the problem will have resolved itself.

A couple of other suggestions to cap off this article: you can give your character a thinking cap, such as Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker cap, which might help you refocus on your story.

Or you can forget writing altogether, put on any hat, go for a walk and let your thoughts wander — that’s what I do.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+