Professional athletes, trainers, and coaches tout the merits of cross training: doing a
variety of activities that develop different areas of fitness. A tennis pro may lift
weights to beef up her back hand. An NFL running back may take a ballet class to
improve his balance. Almost every athlete seems to add running to their workout
to increase endurance. But what about writers? How can we cross train to enhance
our creative skills?

On International Women’s Day, rather than waxing poetic on the awesomeness of
being a Girl, I painted a quartet of lovely ladies. My best friend Patti Stickler, a
popular Northern Colorado artist, and I were inspired by the work of Laurel Burch,
famous for her iconic stylized cats, flowers, and women. We each outlined the
women’s shapes on our blank canvases and proceeded to fill in their features with
colors and mixed media swatches. I followed my friend’s lead—I’m better at
slapping a wall with a bucket of paint than detailing eyes & noses. But after a
while—OK, after a beer or two—I diverged from the model and shifted into my
own untutored style. I realized I was creating characters—a proud Black woman; a
vain ingenue; a pink-haired adventurer; a nurturing Indian mother—and developing
a back story with a plot to explain why they were together. Perhaps since this
medium wasn’t my forte, my demanding inner censor (and the alcohol) allowed me
to go with the flow and just have fun. BTW, my painting is the one on the bottom.

Later, my friend and I played John Denver songs on guitar and ukelele before
attending a tribute artist concert. As we sang and strummed, I got lost in the scenes
his words portrayed—the deep passion of For You, the power of nature on a Rocky
Mountain High, the salt-sprayed exuberance of Calypso. I felt the sorrow in the
minor chords and the enthusiasm in the faster rhythms. Music often takes me to a
memory or a time in my life, and brings forth emotions I can transfer to my story
and characters.

Since social distancing now has so many of us working from or stuck at home, it’s
a great time to dive into current or postponed projects—and to venture into
expressing ourselves outside our normal venues. Any form of creative activity can
awaken untapped areas of our brains that might help to generate ideas, trigger out-
of-the-box approaches, or rouse us out of writer’s block. Scavenge through the
basement shelves for that dusty clarinet you played in high school; get started on
the craft project still in the Hobby Lobby bag; snap some images from a window or
a walk of life during COVID. Or check out old and current movies or shows with
artistic themes; download books outside your usual genres onto your E-reader;
listen to songs not on your typical play list. Anything to prime the pump and get
creativity flowing. Who knows? You could stay healthy during this crisis, and
find new avenues of artistic endeavor. Stay safe, sane, and inspired.


  1. Oh my GOODNESS or shall I say “ Goddess”, Diana! Brilliant writing as always. I’m that Patti she just wrote about. We constantly inspire each other!!

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