Jump-Start Your Creativity With the "Creative Hour"

"Where do you find the time to write a novel?" 

I often get asked this question, from family, friends, and even strangers. The simple answer is that I make the time to write. With a day job, husband, and two young kids, I'm like most of the parents I know: making time for passion projects is extremely difficult. It took me a whole year to develop a daily practice of what writers call, "butt in chair." But it is possible. If you've ever wanted to start a passion project of your own, I recommend jump-starting your creativity with the "creative hour."

Jump-Start Your Creativity With The "Creative Hour" | Dany Chan

Jump-Start Your Creativity With the "Creative Hour"

What is the "creative hour"?

The "creative hour" is simply the one hour every day that you've committed to being present for your passion project. For me, it meant sitting at my desk every night at 9pm to write. After we put the kids to bed, wash the dishes, pack lunches, and prepare for the next day's dinner, I put my butt in the chair and be available for the writing muse for the next hour.

Why one hour?

Well, like most people, it takes me about 20 minutes to switch tasks, to really get into the flow of writing creatively. So, if I commit to one hour of butt-in-chair time, then I can hope for about 40 minutes of producing new words. At the end of the hour, I am free to stop or keep going, depending on how I feel.

This idea of the "creative hour" is very similar to the "genius hour" concept being applied in the classrooms. Students are given one hour during the school day to explore their passions and creativity. Genius idea!

But don't let the kids have all the fun!

I encourage you to try it. Commit one hour every day to being present for your passions. It will be really  hard at the beginning. Remember, it took me a whole year to develop a daily writing habit. So, cut yourself some slack, believe in the process, and enjoy the time you will have with your creative self.


Let's chat!

What passion project have you been dying to start?

Will you be giving the "creative hour" a try? If not, why?


What is a "Summer Read"?

Summertime is upon us, and summer reading lists are cropping up everywhere online and in your local bookstores. And to be honest, the selections tend to skew towards contemporary fiction or "chick-lit," like Crazy Rich Asians (a delightful read, btw). It got me thinking: what is a "summer read" anyway?

Why the Idea of a "Summer Read is BS | Dany Chan

What is a "Summer Read"?

What is a "Summer Read"?

When I think of a "summer read," the first image that comes to mind is of me lounging at the beach with a good book. This is why a "summer read" is often interchangeable with a "beach read," a marketing category that appeared in the 1990s. In either case, it is defined as a book that doesn't require a lot of the reader to enjoy it. Summer reads are usually described as "fun," "frothy," or "gripping." "Cerebral" is rarely descriptive of a "summer read."

Summer Learning Loss

Perhaps we need to look to the schools to find the origins of the "summer read." Since 1906, education researchers have identified a phenomenon referred to as the "summer learning loss," whereby many students return to school after the summer break dumber than when they began the break. Reading over the summer is a suggestion to combat this loss, and the activity more impactful if the student chooses books that interest them.

My Definition of a "Summer Read"

So, the two criteria for a "summer read" is now clear to me. It is: 

  1. a book that interests you, and
  2. a book that you read during the summer months

Simple, right? :-)


Let's chat!

What is your top suggestion for a "summer read"? Why?


How I Get S* Done With My Planners

I love planners.

Every year, I buy a stack of new planners, each with their pristine calendar pages that promises a bright year ahead. Yet, I can't use them all, so I end up with a stack of half-filled planners. I confess, it's a problem. But, I really enjoy the process of planning, or, in the words of Leslie Knope:

Hobbies? Organizing my agenda. Wait. That Doesn’t Sound Fun. Jammin’ on my planner!
— Leslie Knope

Those who know me know that I do actually get s* done, and I do it all with my planners. This year, my planning system involves two (that's right...) planners: a Blog + Life Planner and a Day Designer Planner.

How I Get S* Done With My Planners | Dany Chan

How I Get S* Done With My Planners

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for your support.

What is the Blog + Life Planner?

The Blog + Life Planner is my main planner that I carry around everyday. It has several unique features that suit my needs this year.

Since I started blogging, the planner offers specialized pages that help with blogging, such as a place to draft my blog business plan and a blog metrics page at the end of every month. For my life and work planning needs, the planner offers undated monthly calendars and weekly views with a to-do list that are separated into personal to-dos and business/blog to-dos. Also, it has a ton of notes pages in the back.

Plus, the planner is just so darn colorful and cute!

I use this planner to plan out my yearly, monthly, and weekly schedules and goals.

Photos courtesy of Wonderlass

What is the Day Designer Planner?

The Day Designer Planner* stays on my desk at work. It offers dated monthly calendars, but I use it solely for the daily planning pages. Each weekday takes up one whole page. And the page is uniquely divided into an hourly schedule on the left side and a to-do list on the right side. Plus, there is room at the top of the page devoted to identifying your "Top 3" goals for the day. Along the bottom of the page is a "Notes" section and a "Gratitude" box. 

To my Type-A mind, all of the various designated boxes and grids puts me at ease when I open to a fresh page every day. Somehow, these daily pages gives me hope that I can at least try to design my day to my liking.

Photos courtesy of Day Designer

How I Use Two Planners to Get S* Done

As I mentioned earlier in the post, I put everything into my Blog + Life Planner, and I use it for planning out my year, months, and weeks. Then, when I go into work every day, I open the Day Designer Planner* to that day's page, and, referencing my weekly schedule and to-dos, I would fill out that day's appointments and meetings, list out my to-dos specific to that day, and identify my "Top 3" goals or must-dos. The daily page is where I make a mess as meetings are cancelled or new tasks arise throughout the day. When the workday is over, I leave it on my desk and walk away, becoming a symbolic act of leaving "work" at work.

So, in the end, I think I need multiple planners because there currently is no planner that offers me a space for yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily planning. At least, this is what I tell myself to justify my planner obsession :-)

*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for your support.


Let's chat!

Do you use a paper planner or a digital planner?

How do you keep up with your schedule and to-dos?


3 Best Fictional Friendships of All Time

In my novels, I love to feature the theme of friendship. Though fictional, my characters help me explore how friendships develop and their impact on people's lives. Over the years, I've encountered some great fictional friendships in books, movies, and TV shows. And they undoubtedly serve as models for the friendships that I create in my stories and also for the friendships that I nurture in real life. Below are my picks for the 3 best fictional friendships of all time.

3 Best Fictional Friendships of All Time | Dany Chan

3 Best Fictional Friendships of All Time

Frodo and Sam and the Fellowship (Lord of the Rings)

The friendship between the two hobbits, in particular, is the the most aspirational on my list. Why? Because the trials they went through together to secure their bond - journeying into Mordor to cast the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom - are simply unrealistic for us mere humans. Yet, friends in real life do support each other through life's catastrophes, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment. And when they come through such trials, their friendship will either be stronger or will have collapsed under the weight of such hardship.

Frodo and Sam represent the former. They began the terrible journey armed only with hope and survived it, because even at their darkest hour, when Frodo seemed ready to give up and cast himself into the fires, Sam's love pulled him up, literally and figuratively. There are several moments throughout the movie where we get reaffirmations of their friendship, but my favorite moment occurred during the Fellowship's reunion (view the clip below). Amidst the raucous of Frodo's reunion with the other members of the Fellowship, the quiet understanding between him and Sam packs the emotional punch.

Holmes and Watson (Sherlock)

I admit it: I'm a Cumberb*tch, a woman who has a deep fascination with the actor Benedict Cumberbatch (definition via Urban Dictionary). The actor's portrayal of the iconic Sherlock Holmes as a brilliant, social miscreant appeals to me, much like Hugh Laurie's Dr. House.

 Photo via  ScreenerTV

Photo via ScreenerTV

Holmes and Watson have an unlikely friendship, seemingly full of contrasts: Holmes is anti-social, Watson personable; Holmes cerebral, Watson earthbound. Yet, they complement each other so that, together, they make a strong team. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, as they say. What is most appealing to me about their friendship is the impact they have on each other. In finding a friend in the other, Watson begins to heal from his psychological war-scars and Holmes discovers a reason to continue living.

Monica, Ross, Chandler, Rachel, Joey, and Phoebe (F.R.I.E.N.D.S.)

Ah, F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

After 10+ years together, I think I know more about Monica, Ross, Chandler, Rachel, Joey, and Phoebe than I do my own husband (shh, don't tell him that).

These 6 fictional friends are important to me because they actually helped me through the tumultuous years of early adulthood. In my 20s, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. became my surrogate friends. Back then, I often felt lost, which fed into my depression. And although I had strong friendships in real life, my depression was such that I could not allow my friends to try to help me through it. Oddly, I turned to fictional characters such as these 6 for solace. Their comedic storylines and over-the-top personalities was just far-enough removed from reality that I could enjoy them from a safe distance. And during my lowest moments, when I felt the most alone, the characters' decade-long friendship offered me hope that one day I may find such friendships of my own.

Plus, they always brought on the laughs when I needed a good laugh :-)


Let's chat!

What do you think of my 3 picks?

Which fictional friendship is on your all-time favorite list?


3 Reasons Why Reading Fiction is Good For You

I love to read.

Although there are many benefits to reading nonfiction - history, memoirs, or the news, for example - reading fiction is my forte. On my own, I gravitate towards fantasy, science-fiction, and magical realistic fiction. I joined a book club specifically to read outside of my favorite genres, such as contemporary or literary fiction.

Yet, a story of fiction is, at its heart, make-believe or pretend. And it is this very nature of fiction being a well-told lie that actually benefits the reader in many ways. The following are three important reasons why reading fiction is good for you.

3 Reasons Why Reading Fiction is Good For You | Dany Chan

3 Reasons Why Reading Fiction is Good For You

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for your support.

Reason #1: Exercises Your Imagination

In writing fiction, the author uses her imagination to creatively tell a good story. In reading fiction, the reader also exercises his imagination to “suspend disbelief,” an act of temporarily allowing himself to believe something that is not true.

Along the spectrum of fiction, there are several types of stories that demand little from the reader’s imagination, as well as some genres that put the imagination through the ringer.

  • A work of fiction such as Olive Kitteridge* that is grounded in contemporary life

VERDICT: not much stretching of the imagination is needed to believe the story

VERDICT: the fact that a story is imagined in the historical past takes some effort on the part of the reader to believe parts of the story

VERDICT: hands down, magic of any kind requires us to suspend our disbelief

VERDICT: reading and enjoying these two genres require an imagination boot camp

In short, the farther removed from your current reality the story is, the more you are asked to stretch your imagination to believe the story. When storytelling is done right, readers are easily able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the work of fiction.

And, the greatest fictional stories do become real for their passionate fans. An enchanting world or a lovable character can inspire such enduring memes as “Frodo lives!”

Reason #2: Helps Build Empathy

A recent study reported in Scientific American suggests that reading fiction, especially literary fiction, builds empathy and may improve social functioning.

“Literary fiction...focuses more on the psychology of characters and their relationships...This genre prompts the reader to imagine the characters’ introspective dialogues. This psychological awareness carries over into the real world,...They [the characters] support and teach us values about social behavior, such as the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.”

Empathy has long been believed to be an important soft skill to learn. And it may very well be an essential component for repairing human society.

Reason #3: Fills the Well

For a fiction-writer like myself, reading fiction is an activity that renews my spirit and fills my creative well. This concept of "filling the well" comes from Julia Cameron’s creativity guide, The Artist's Way.* Cameron insists that we need to maintain an inner reservoir from which to draw if we are going to continue to create.

I would add that we also need to maintain this inner well if we are going to continue to thrive. So, for many people around the world, reading fiction becomes an activity of rest, relaxation, and escape from the busyness of modern living.

 

Since the creation of the world's first novel - which by the way is arguably the Japanese Tale of Genji,* written in the 11th century - fiction continues to offer readers these three benefits along with many more.

I invite you to make time to read fiction, whether it be your favorite fantasy book or a compelling literary debut. For the sake of your well-being, it will be so worth it.


Let's chat!

Why do you read fiction?

What other benefits of reading fiction did I miss?

*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for your support.


Where Do Your Ideas Come From? (+ Freebie)

I am in the middle of revising my novel, The Forgotten Fathers Club (FFC), and boy is it an experience! It's been arduous, tedious, exciting, and challenging. I've written the first drafts of two novels, but I have yet to complete a revision, so this process is all new to me. Thanks for following along  :-)

I also have an exciting update for you at the end of this post!

But first, allow me to tell you the story of how the idea for The Forgotten Fathers Club came about.

Where Do Your Ideas Come From? | Dany Chan

Where Do Your Ideas Come From?

In 2014, my family and I visited Denver, and while driving to drop off the rental car, we chatted about the book Wicked* and the movie Maleficent,* both of which we have read and seen, respectively.

And I remember saying something like, "They should make a movie about the fathers of these fairy tales. You never see them again after the first scene." And then, "That would be a cool story idea: The Fairy-tale Fathers Club." 

Well, I wrote down the story idea in my notebook, and four years later, I'm revising it. The moral of this story is: always carry a notebook.*


Now, for that exciting update I mentioned at the beginning of the post. I have for you 3 brand-spankin' new chapters (1-3) of The Forgotten Fathers Club. Just sign up for my newsletter below to download it!


Let's chat!

When and how does inspiration hit you?

Do you carry a notebook everywhere?

*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for your support.


Why You Should Read: The Fifth Season

So, many famous writers have said that to be a good writer, you must read good stories. Recently, I've lucked out with a few excellent books, in both the fantasy and sci-fi genres. This month, I would like to share with you a Hugo-Award winner, The Fifth Season,* by N.K. Jemisin.

Why You Should Read: The Fifth Season | Dany Chan

Why You Should Read: The Fifth Season

My Top 3 (Reasons to Read This Book):

  • unique world

    • The Stillness is a land rocked by catastrophic quakes and tremors with which a vengeful Father Earth punishes the inhabitants.
  • refreshing story

    • This is the way the world ends...for the last time. How cool is THAT premise?!
  • roguish characters

    • The heroine and her love interest are morally ambiguous, mischievous, don't like people much, and have great heart...I secretly wish that I can be like this in real life.

Let's chat!

What awesome book would you recommend?

What is your favorite genre(s)?

*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for your support.


How I Plan to Rock My Writing Life This Year

Happy New Year!


I want to begin this new year with you by sharing some goals for my writing practice. I love beginnings, so I started planning these new goals since last fall (I admit it: I'm a planner nerd). If 2017 was a good year, then 2018 is intended to be a great one :-)

How I Plan to Rock My Writing Life This Year | Dany Chan

How I Plan to Rock My Writing Life This Year

5 Easy Steps to Set Goals

But, before I list out my writing goals, I first want to describe my simple 5-step process for setting goals, just in case you need a little help in determining your own goals and resolutions. I have found this particular process to be effective for me, so I hope that it will be useful for you as well.

The five steps are as follows:

  1. Do a brain dump of every goal or idea that you can think of.
  2. Select the most important and/or the most exciting goal to you now (no more than five).
  3. Break down each goal into actionable tasks.
  4. Set a deadline for each task.
  5. Schedule each task in your calendar or planner.

My 2018 Writing Goals

  • Goal #1: revise The Forgotten Fathers Club (DUE: Jan - June 2018)

  • Goal #2: maintain my author platform (DUE: all year)

  • Goal #3: hire an editor and polish The Forgotten Fathers Club (DUE: July - Dec 2018)

  • Goal #4: research and compile list of literary agents (DUE: July - Dec 2018)

  • Goal #5: research: how to submit query letters (DUE: Dec 2018)


Let's chat!

What are your goals for 2018?

How do you keep yourself accountable?