Why Every Brilliant Thing Is Brilliant

“Look with new eyes,” I tell the writers I coach. “See through the eyes of Dream Kid. Then write about what you see.”

Dream Kid is that hope-filled inner dreamer, blissfully engaged in any given moment. She is taken with wonder and notices the intricate, quirky details of everything.  As adults, however, we are rushed, challenged, stressed, and injured by the grown-up problems in our lives, and we seldom take time to hang out with these micro-joys. As responsible, critical-thinking people, we lose the tiny miracles that make up a life.

The play, Every Brilliant Thing, takes us by the hand and brings us back. We follow a charming, deep-feeling, curious, caring, seven-year-old who finds a way out of painful adult-induced problems—by concocting a list of all the brilliant things in life. He hopes to convince his suicidal mom that life is worth living. With each addition to the list, he cultivates this magical quality of seeing.

It’s a difficult quality to describe, this way of being absorbed in the minute and wondrous. And so it kind of boils down to things. A kitten, a newborn, a sunset . . .

Wait, this kid’s list is much better:

A ham and mayo sandwich without the ham

The word ‘plimpf’

Water fights

Gatefold sleeves

How long can this list get? What will it take to keep growing the list when the hopeful child becomes a troubled adult?

Isaac Lamb, who performs Every Brilliant Thing at Portland Center Stage, is warm, disarming, convincing as both a kid and the grown-up he becomes. I can’t imagine anyone else in this role; he invites audience participation in such a genuine way.

There’s a moment when he launches into a bongo-drum induced dance, so uninhibited and goofy that you can’t help grinning for joy. He runs offstage with a quick, “Talk amongst yourselves!” grabs a breather and swig of water, then rushes back without skipping a beat: “What’d you talk about?”

Spontaneity is present whenever we look with new eyes. It invites concrete, interesting noticings. It reminds us to live in the moment, which is the only way we get through the really hard stuff.

Hard stuff like family problems, suicide, depression.

“That the list could combat hardwired depression was incredibly naïve,” the performer tells us. And yet,  it offers a gateway to wonder. We can examine the most difficult things along with the most brilliant, seeing the wonder when we take them apart, moment by moment.

It’s what we do when we tell our stories.

It’s what writers do. And all of us who are keeping our Dream Kid alive.







Why I’m All Over the Place: My Three Blogs

Some folks have asked me lately, “Tell me again, which blog should I go to?” Because I’m all over the place with three different blogs. I know, I know. Confusing.

Lemme ‘splain.

I have different ways of being, in different parts of my house. They’re all me – but they serve different functions. So here’s the breakdown when it comes to my blogs.

Wildfire Writing (christikrug.com) – the front door. This is what you’re reading now. It’s the place to greet and be greeted. I’m aware of my community here, and what makes it all work. It’s where to check in and see what’s going on.

Kindling the kitchen. This is the creative space where I serve up prompts, and share creative conversation with others who want to play and hang out.

A Fire By Nightthe room upstairs. In my house, the room upstairs is where I pray, journal, make art, and process my life. I do yoga. Sometimes I just sit and look out the window. This blog is that space for me – an intimate setting where I reflect on the big picture of my life, relationships, and spirit.

So there you have it.

I didn’t want you to be confused anymore.


Willamette Writers Conference – Video Sneak Peek on Procrastination

In nearly two decades of working with emerging writers, I’ve noticed that many don’t acknowledge the grip procrastination has on them. At some level, they feel bad about putting off what they know they should be doing. But in their procrastination, they often hide the truth from themselves and pretend they are just too busy to write.

If that’s not enough, they’ll actually manufacture problems at some level in their lives . . . so that they don’t have to face their creative struggles.

How about you? Are you honest about your problem with procrastination?

How do you recognize it? How do you overcome it?

I’ll be helping writers slash their procrastination at my August 3 Willamette Writers presentation. Here’s a sneak peak at insights I’ll be offering at the conference.

The Creative Process: Station Four

revision village
Welcome to Station Four in the Creative Process!

Revision Village is where you revise, edit, and polish your work. You’ve got to be ready to bustle about in town, make connections, and to make decisions.

Just today, in Wildfire Writing Master Class, ten writers looked at drafts and considered options for revision and editing. Questions arose such as:

  • Do I need more about this character? Here, where I’ve just touched on her past, should I delve more deeply?
  • What happened in this paragraph, where my readers/listeners got confused? How can I create a transition that helps them understand where I’ve taken them?
  • How can I make the most of this beautiful sound at the end of the line in my poem? I see that I’ve added extra syllables and interrupted the lyricism. What can I rearrange so that I land on my favorite word?

Week after week, these writers are visiting their work and making decisions. They’ve created in full-on creativity mode, without gumming up the process with all these kinds of questions. They’ve followed their thinking to put together whole drafted chapters. They’ve taken a bit of space and created distance through pausing. And now, they’re objective and listening and weighing and encouraged and moving forward, and fine with whatever the work needs.

It’s a busy time . . . it’s an engaging process . . . and feedback and support are invaluable.

You need the critic, as long as he minds his manners and uses his polite, in-town voice. In the same way, you may gather a team of positive but discerning writers and readers. Through these efforts, you’ll try on different things in order to learn what is the effect of your work on the reader.

Feel free to pick up new ideas, too, if you happen to do a little shopping while you’re in town. You should make the most of your stay, after all.

Thing is, Revision Village can be a place you stay for quite a long time, and though you may feel ready to move on, every minute here is worth it.

Come Out of Hiding and Be Celebrated


Last week in Wildfire Writing, I led an exercise where writers pair up, share their work, and take turns reporting to the class what they enjoyed and experienced in their partner’s writing.

We do this a lot. I don’t usually take part. Then I noticed we were one person short.

So I teamed up with a fabulous writer, Elizabeth, and we read our writing to each other, and then I took my place beside her in the sharing circle.

Highlighting Elizabeth’s piece for the group – fun!

Listening as Elizabeth talked about my writing – whoa.

I didn’t know what to do with my eyes. I looked down. I swallowed. I hunched over. Afterward I asked, “Hey, is this what you guys experience every time I have you do this exercise?”

“Absolutely,” they said.

“Sitting and being talked about is hard!” said Sabrina. “Getting applauded is uncomfortable. This is just plain – weird!”

“Yeah, it’s awkward,” said Janine. “It’s not something you do every day.”

“You feel pretty vulnerable,” said Terri.

It reminds me of an improv exercise I did with Brody Theater last fall. Our instructor, Jess, had us take turns telling a story to the group.

The hardest part of the exercise was at the end. You were supposed to stand, and wait while the group cheered and applauded wildly after your story.

It took a lot of strength to smile, nod, bow, and wait, and receive it all.

Being celebrated is hard work.

 See if you can let it happen to you today.


(Okay, I’ll take my own advice. Sharing the article about me recently published in the Columbian.)





We’ve all felt stuck in our writing. Teresa Rodden, a life coach and writer in the Burn Wild workshop, colors this feeling in a new way. I love the wisdom of her poem, generated during National Poetry Month.


No inspiration –


A resounding thud.


Is anybody there?


Thoughts dropping from mind to mouth,

Yet not one tasty enough to swallow.

Where did she go,

That lovely dream chick who can make me smile?

She lights up my eyes. She amazes me with her silly word tricks.

Is she hiding behind overwhelm?

Did she run for the hills seeking escape?

I don’t know where my darling flew.

I will not chase her; she knows best.

To receive the gifts meant especially for me

Sometimes I just need to be still.

– Teresa Rodden



Pushing a Poetry Manuscript to a New Level | Revising a Collection | WritersDigest.com

See on Scoop.itWriting

In part 2 of Robert Lee Brewer’s series on getting a poetry collection published, the revision process is explained. From cutting out poems to rewriting them, acceptance doesn’t mean the work of writing is over.

Christi Krug‘s insight:

A look at a poet’s editing process.

See on www.writersdigest.com

How to Make Memories of Things That Never Were

See on Scoop.itWriting

Scientists say they have created a false memory in a mouse, providing detailed clues to how such memories may form in human brains.

Christi Krug‘s insight:

This is fascinating.


As a writer of memoir and autobiographical fiction, I’ve noticed something strange. I’m pretty darn sure I have "new memories" of my life which I’ve created in the writing process.


There is a rewiring of the brain. This makes it hard to recognize which part of the story comes from the original memory and which part is fiction.


It can affect my life in some really cool ways I never suspected. It helps me distance myself from my story so that I feel much better about the past and less responsible for it. I have shed much shame and embarrassment over the past in this way.


Also, as a coach as well as a student of writing, I hear many stories about contradictory memories.


Family and friends argue about what really happened. Oddly, even writing partners can absorb an experience they read about in the other’s piece, and begin to think of it as their own memory. It’s a sort of unplanned hypnosis.


My guess is that, much of the time, when writers have had these experiences, they don’t know it. They are no longer aware of what part of the story their brain has adopted.


One thing I try to do, to seperate out the original memory (which even then, is often obscured by gray areas and fiction) from the fictionalized version, is to write the story first, including only what I actually remember.  Then I add another layer, making stuff up.


In the end, though, memory and imagination are intertwined. They work in mystery, and affect us deeply. There is great delight in letting our minds do whatever creative thing they need to do, while we enjoy the inventive journey. 


Also posted at www.christikrug.net.

See on www.nytimes.com

10 Writing Tips From Joyce Carol Oates

See on Scoop.itWriting

Joyce Carol Oates is one of our favorite writers and writing personalities. A prolific tweeter, the 75 year old today put out 10 pieces of great advice for writing on her Twitter account.

Christi Krug‘s insight:

I love learning from this author, and when I read her work, I always seem to pick up something.

See on www.huffingtonpost.com

36 Surprising Ways to Boost Creativity

See on Scoop.itCreativity

Gaze at something green; swig some whiskey; sit outside a box. Find out how these and other tips help bring out our most creative selves.

Christi Krug‘s insight:

Some simplistic ideas, and some pretty quirky. Worth exploring when you want to stay on your most creative toes.

See on greatist.com

My Favorite New Writing Resource

See on Scoop.itWriting

I love people who exude positivity, people who look at the world and see opportunities to grow and learn. That kind of glass-half-full outlook is contagious. Christi Krug, the founder of Wildfire W…

Christi Krug‘s insight:

I love it when people tell me how the book has helped them! Some keep it on their nightstand, others have placed it on the bookshelf next to (eep!) Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird or even Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. I’m so honored by this, but here is the purpose of the book: to cheer you on. 

See on laurastanfill.wordpress.com

When You’re Stuck in the Middle of the Muddy Muddy Puddle – Combustus

See on Scoop.itWriting

When it comes to learning how to tune down the inner critic, the affects can be far-reaching: Not only can you free yourself up to be more spontaneous and adventurous with the project you’re working on, but, as Krug points out, the benefits can…

Christi Krug‘s insight:

It was a delight getting to be interviewed by the wonderful Deanna Piowaty, editor of Combustus! She is a brilliant art curator, writer and creator who is very interested in the creative problems we face in "middles." 

See on www.combustus.com

Plot Is The Backbone, by April Henry

See on Scoop.itWriting

As a mystery and thriller writer, I’m all about the plot. A good plot will have you turning the pages at a rapid pace and staying up too late to read “just one more” chapter. Basic plot Something h…

Christi Krug‘s insight:

Great insights by a wonderful novelist and human being I’m happy to have chatted with in person a few months ago. Her books bear it out–she knows what she’s talking about.

See on writingteennovels.com

Contact Christi