How To Build Your Creative Toolbox

Joanna Campbell Slan and I met almost 20 years ago at an National Speakers Association of Illinois

Through the years, we have been blessed with years of friendship, creativity,
laughter, writing, and personal and professional encouragement!

Today, I am honored to have Joanna as my guest author. I’m sure you will enjoy learning how to build  “Your Creative Toolbox.”

Here’s  Joanna…

When my son moved into his first apartment, we assembled for him a
starter toolbox. Nothing fancy, mind you. Just the basics: hammer,
wrenches, pliers, tape measure, nails, screws, and scissors.

After writing 15 books, I’ve assembled a similar toolbox for my work as
an author. I’ve written 11 non-fiction books and four mysteries, so I
can vouch for the fact that these tools have served me well. Whether
you’d like to write a book, or you just have a project to tackle, they
will open the creative floodgates for you, too.

1. Who cares?  Start by visualizing the audience or stakeholders. Why
do they care about your project? What fears/desires/needs do they have?
How old are they? What is their educational level? What’s a day in
their lives like? For example, my textbook Using Stories and Humor:
Grab Your Audience appeals to would-be speakers, teachers, clergy and
businesspeople. In fact, Benjamin Netanyahu’s speechwriter praised it
as an invaluable resource. But my mysteries serve another purpose—pure
entertainment. That audience is looking for laughter, romance and
intrigue from the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series.

2. What do they expect? People buy non-fiction for the information, so
they expect an index in the book. They expect clear labels and
information that’s easy to access. They want illustrations. The steps
to completion should be broken down for them. But with fiction, people
want to use their imagination. When reading fiction, readers typically
expect—and long for–emotional engagement.

3. What do I already know? The best way to get started is to list what
you know, which is more likely to be what you THINK you know. During
this process, you’ll quickly find gaps in your research or questions
you need answered. I like to use a mindmap for this process because
mindmapping is non-linear. Linear thinking can be restrictive rather
than enlightening.

4. What would happen if? Ah, now we’re at the heart of the project.
Take everything you know and turn it upside down. Really, why re-hash
the obvious? Your job is to bring something new to the task at hand. To
think out-of-the-box, you must give that box a twirl. In fiction, this
is often called “the inciting incident.”

5. What happens what things don’t work right? In a mystery, we are
dealing with life going wrong for somebody. That’s a powerful idea.
Every day we wake up with an expectation that most of the day will go
right. That the lights will work. That we’ll have food to eat. Clothes
to wear. Simple stuff. But throw the proverbial monkey wrench into the
works and all our expectations become jumbled. In the confusion, we can
see new possibilities.

6. What is this like? What is it different from? Remember that Sesame
Street ditty that says, “One of these things is not like the other?”
Comparisons are helpful. They allow us to categorize. They also
jumpstart your project. If someone else has done something similar,
study it carefully. What works? What could be improved on?

Of course, these don’t begin to cover all the tricks and tips I’ve
learned to pull out of my hat when I’m writing. But these six steps
will go a long way toward helping you think in ways that are exciting
and useful.

Joanna is “Blue/Orange Brainer” an accomplished scrapbooking expert and
writer. She combined both her talents when she wrote her first mystery novel
entitled, Paper, Scissors, Death, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her second book is entitled Cut, Crop & Die .

Photo, Snap, Shot, the the third book in the series, will be released in a few week (May 2010).

To learn more about my creatively talented friend, visit her website.

Click the “Like ” button on my new What Color Is Your Brain? Facebook Fan Page
Sheila N. Glazov , Author, Personality Type Expert, Professional Speaker and Educator
Take a Brain Color Quiz , and learn about my What Color Is Your Brain? book and workshops  
10% of the royalties from the sale of my book is allocated to JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) 

Please Spread the Word



  1. Sheila Glazov Author Speaker on April 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    You are welcome. My  pleasure. I hope you will share it with your social network. I shared it with mine. Let’s spread the word about you! Best of Luck. Sheila

  2. karen hanrahan on May 17, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    found this very informative, warm and encouraging – doesn’t surprise me that you surround yourself Sheila with this author/friend!!

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