Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Finding your Stories When Life is Too Loud, or Looking for Stars at Noon

Looking for Stars at Noon
Felt Charm/Bookmark
wool blend felt, cotton embroidery floss, metallic embroidery floss, thread, metal jump ring, cotton fabric

Yesterday, I was in an internal uproar. It was my day off of work and I wanted to write a blog post and I knew what I wanted to write, more or less, but I couldn't find a way in. And then I just stewed in my discontent and spent a lot of time on line and did a lot less than I wished.

The thing is, I'm a writer, and I need to write in order to be happy, but it's often such hard work to write that I get wrapped up in the difficulties and knotted up in not being able to write and just get, well, un happy.

I have a novel that is sitting in my drawer, waiting for me to finish it. And it is so close to being finished, it's like I am sitting on its chest, not allowing it to take its first breath. 

So here I am with my internal discontent, my thwarted creative jones, and my poor unloved novel. It would be a good place to just get blocked.

But I've learned something about my creative process through the years, and I've learned something about not being so hard on myself for not being perfect. 

In order to get back to the place to where I can tackle a big project like that last revision, I have to condition myself, to build up my creative muscles, so to speak. Just like athletic training. You don't jump up from the 24 hour couch to do a marathon. You need to get back into shape. You need to stretch. You need to get your head in the game. Is a marathon a game? Well, the point stands.

Here are some of the things I do to condition my creativity.
  • Browse pinterest. Yes, indeed, I use pinterest to fuel my creativity. It is not just an obsessive waste of time for me. I find things like this, and this, which get my brain thinking, and then I do things like make today's book mark.
  • Make things that use other parts of my brain. It might be cooking. It might be sketching. Today it was stitchery. What does this bookmark have to do with writing? Well, follow with me down my thought path. So I saw the cross stitch thing on pinterest which reminded me of stars in the sky, then I thought of this gray felt I had, then I thought, 'Hey, white thread on pale gray would almost be like stars, but when the sky was light. Hey, that's almost what it's like trying to write when my day is so full of living, working, raising kids, cleaning house, cooking food, just being. It's like I'm trying to find the bright lights of my story in the even brighter light of the day time sun.'  And then voila, here I am making my book mark which reminds me to find the starry story in my day to day. 
  • Read things that remind me about what it means to write. Books like Finding Water, by Julia Cameron (she of The Artist's Way) or articles like this or this or this. I found these starting with a pinterest search. In fact, I started a To Write board so I could keep my online writing inspiration organized. It helps.
  • In fact, I've got a couple of boards for writing. I pin images that remind me of stories I'm writing, or give me glimmers of ideas for stories I am not writing just yet. Far from being a waste of time, these kind of boards keep your head in the story, they allow ideas to rumble around and bump up against each other in your subconscious. Being active in looking for ideas for your stories means you are actively thinking about writing. Even if you are not writing, that's part of what writing is. Thinking about writing. Ruminating over ideas. Collecting moments and characters that belong to your story.
  • Get back to business. I'm thinking about being productive again, after this long winter. Thinking about my blog, actually writing my blog again. While this is not "the novel" it is writing, and these muscles are being stretched.
  • Speaking of, I'm writing in my journal again. It's astounding to me that I pretty much stopped writing in my journal for a while. There is nothing like writing in a journal to practice those writing muscles. 
So here I am, slowly getting back into writing/fighting shape. Have I picked up the last draft and started going over it yet? No, I have not. But I tell you what, in my mind I have picked it up. I have considered how I will pick it up and which direction I will turn it when I start revising it again. I have thought about what to do with that chapter I need to get rid of (which is what stopped me where I was the last time) and I have practiced in my head just how it would work when I opened up that file and got back to work.

 Here's the other side of the charm. Is that the story that's looking to be told?

Hmm. And do you have any ideas or suggestions for ways to condition your creativity? Any hints for getting creative again?

Oh, I actually do have one more hint, one that I am not quite ready to try myself, but I know, that is what it comes down to in the end.


Rachel said...

This is the first time I have visited your blog (- I saw some of your images on Pinterest - went to look at your boards, loved them and now I'm here -) I have only read this post so far but I just had to thank you for writing such an honest, insightful and really helpful post. What you say is so encouraging; I hope to remember your wise words when I find myself avoiding the page or canvas and generally letting life get in the way. I'm so looking forward to reading more!

Thank you

Jessica said...

I agree with Rachel! Great post. Here from pinterest, as well, and will be back.

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