Category Archives: Creative Inspiration

Words and ideas that inspire my art or to help inspire yours

2016 in a Plastic Brain

Trent - Computer Paint

OK, we are a month into 2016.  Time to be honest – when was the last time you accidentally used “2015”?  Funny thing.  For me the answer is infinite since I moved to 2016 on January 1.  And I changed to 2015 on Jan 1 of last year.  What is so amazing is that before 2015 it usually took me at least two months to get the year correct.  Sometimes by the time I finally got the year figured out, the next year had begun.  But for some reason my brain changed so this year thing isn’t a problem.

Over the years I’ve continued to learn new things, see old things in a totally different way, lose habits and gain habits.  My brain has changed, and despite my age, not always for the worse.  Sometimes, like with that year thing, it is for the better.   At work I’ve had to learn new things lately and I’ve usually succeeded in such a way that the system experts don’t realize i just picked it up, sometimes even making comments to me about others’ grasp of the subject.  I’ve always been a quick study, so that’s not new, but it shows that, yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Continue reading

The Unwritten Backstory (Again)

First step on a long winter's walk - Photo by Trent P. McDonald

(Originally posted December 27, 2013 – One of my first posts it received only one “like”…)

The stereotypical author is often pictured hunched over a beat-up old typewriter creating his or her magic on the spot, pounding ideas furiously onto the keys.  Of course today the “typewriter” has a softly glowing flat screen.  Well, this picture isn’t me.  I do most of my writing during my frequent walks.  Time banging on the computer is needed mostly to transfer the already written story from my brain onto the page.  Sure, I do a lot editing on the PC, but for a major revision I once again put on a comfortable pair of shoes and head out the door.  Storyline, major plot points and even the nitty-gritty of word choice are worked out on foot.

During my strolls I tend to think beyond the finished product, particularly when it comes to short fiction.  I often create a much larger, more detailed story and then whittle it down.  A lot of what gets cut might be called “backstory”.  Although deleted, it’s always kept in mind, influencing the final work. Continue reading

…But Fear Itself (Again) (Throwback)

Climbing the Ladder to Balcony House, Mesa Verde

Climbing the ladder to Balcony House in Mesa Verde National Park, mid 1970’s

(Originally posted 20 November 2013 – almost exactly 2 years ago)

Back in the murky time BC (Before (personal) Computers) my family made the obligatory pilgrimage to “Discover America”.  Just like the Brady Bunch we all piled into the car and headed west.  Of course we piled into a Chrysler “that’s as big as a whale” instead of a station wagon, but it was the same concept.

 We hit all of the important spots like Yellowstone, the Golden Gate Bridge and Hollywood.  I had the time of my young life.  What could be better than going from watching the filming of a game show one day to standing barefoot in the snow on a high mountain pass just a few days later?  Desserts, beaches, huge trees, soaring mountains, waterfalls, geysers and more: everything was just enchanting.  Ah, the best of times.  Not a problem or care in the world.

Well, almost.  You see, I forgot to leave my fear at home. Continue reading

Dabbler, Hobbyist, Amateur or Pro (Again)

Dabble - Sketch by Trent P McDonald

(Note – This was originally posted on January 15, 2014 and has been reposted twice before.  Yes, it is an old standby, but I like it ;)  I’m sorry if you’ve read it too many times.  If you haven’t read it before, I hope you enjoy!)

I’ve participated in many of the arts and have had formal instruction in a few.  I’ll admit that I’ve discovered a problem with trying to be a Jack of All Artistic Trades: it’s very easy to fall into the trap of Being a Master at None. Continue reading

It Started With a Dream

The Hamlet Symphny - Alt Image

It started with a dream. And a very strange dream it was (*read the dream at the end of the post). It jumped around and didn’t make any sense and yet seemed real. I thought about it as I went through my morning routine. On my drive to work I wrote a little story in my mind based on the dream. By the time I pulled into the parking lot I had it pretty much down. I also realized it was more of a single scene than a standalone story.  i was thinking four, perhaps five, parts.  I took a break from work midway through the morning and cranked it out as fast as I could type. The scene was in my brain, I just had to type it out. I took less than 30 minutes to type and post the more than 1800 words of “The Halley Branch (Part 1)”.

For a few days it continued like this. I would think of the next chapter as I drove to work. Half way through the morning I’d take a half an hour break to write up what I had planned on my drive and post it. After the forth part I realized the story was going to be a lot bigger than originally planned, perhaps book length.

After about the fourth or fifth part I started doing a lot of the writing at home in the evening. Continue reading

Finished? I Don’t Think So… (Again)

Half a Trent - Self Portrait in oils, manipulated digitally

(Note – This was first publish in January of 2014.  Something reminded me of it so I decided to bring it back)

“OK, I’m finished.”

The painting instructor came over to look at my work.  He studied it intently, his brow furrowing.  After a few minutes he asked, “You’re done?  Is this a study?  I think this looks pretty good so you should continue working with it.”  He left to check someone else’s work. Continue reading

Topic Switching Part 2 – Large Scale (Again)

Dark Moon(Note I posted this about a year ago.  Truthfully, I’m in the middle of a large scale topic switch – I am writing and playing music and have no time to write.  So, another summer rerun.)

My last post was on the subject of topic switching. A person who topic switches will change the subject of a conversion repeatedly and seemingly randomly. It is as if her mind is racing so far ahead she doesn’t realize she’s skipped big chunks of the conversation. Or that he is so impulsive he spits out anything as soon as it comes to mind.

This post is about something completely different yet, in a strange way, related. I will call it “Large Scale Topic Switching”. Continue reading

Making a Practice of Practicing

Trent's studio

An ancient bad joke: “Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Sure: Practice, practice, practice.” And then there is the even older saying, “Practice makes Perfect,” which is clearly untrue since there is no such thing as perfection in the arts. But the point has to be taken – no matter how much natural talent you have, you need to practice to gain skill. And not just have to practice, you need to practice a lot. For instance, a professional musician often puts in far more than the normal work week of 40 hours in practice alone. That is not including rehearsals, performances and recording sessions.

I put a lot of emphasis on my blog about my new studio setup. I’m finding I had reason to make a big deal about it as I’m now beginning to reap the benefits of the new setup. I have been practicing more and better. I have continued to do my scales, finger exercises and classical songs, but now I often just rock out. I’ve been learning new material and creating new music.

New Studio

Of course practice goes far beyond music. I have written over 70 new short stories for this blog in the last year and a half. To me this is fantastic practice for when I want to write longer forms. I’m also about to reach my 500th post on the blog, again great writing practice. I sometimes cringe when I reread some of my earliest short stories, but I’m sure I’d cringe just as much if I listened in to some of my early music practice sessions.  My work is getting better.

I’ve been skimping on my visual arts practice lately, but in the past I’ve spent hours drawing studies of mundane objects. Before I make a painting I might do a dozen drawings and studies. I’m now out of practice so it would take me a while to get back into it, but if and when I return to the visual arts you can be sure I’ll put a huge amount of practice in before I post anything.

I am far from perfect in any art and will never come close even if I quit my job and practice full time. Still, I can see the benefits; the results are tangible. I really notice the results when I stop practicing. My writing becomes sloppy and my playing is no longer crisp and clear.

How seriously do you take your practice?

Challenge Me! (Again!)

Hamlet Symphony - Trent P McDonald

(Originally posted January 7, 2014 – slightly editedAlso note – you have to be on my site to play the music)

A few years ago I followed a music forum.  One cool thing about this forum was the recurring composition challenges.  Participants would anonymously post a piece of music on a given theme.  We would then be given the opportunity to vote on our favorite.  The winner had the honor of creating the theme for the next challenge. Continue reading

I Want to be a Rock Star!

Trent's studio

Back in the very early days of my blog I wrote a post called “Pruning the Possibilities“.   The idea behind the post was that as we age and see some of our dreams die we should use it for the positive, to put more energy into our remaining dreams.  Here are the last two sentences of the post: If a dream dies don’t let that be an excuse to become depressed.  Make it an opportunity to make another dream come true.

It quickly became one of my more popular posts.  I had a lot of people on Facebook talk about it.  Of course “a lot” is a relative term, as is “popularity”.  At the time I posted it I could count my followers on my fingers and toes and have some to spare.   I was happy with 7 likes and zero comments! Continue reading