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Category Archives: Creative Process

One Month Down!

One month down – I have officially kept up with this experiment for a whole month.
Wow! (Or should I say, “Whew!”?)
It feels very good to be writing more. I have been so focused on one series that I haven’t written much fiction outside of that. I think I’ve only written poetry once or twice in the last decade (I can’t believe I can say that truthfully), and I’ve never attempted some of these styles before. It’s good to be able to flex my mind and my writing skills and try new storylines and genres. I’m hoping to add some short stories or maybe a short story series and maybe some plays and… who knows? None of that may happen, or all of that may happen.
The main point is that it feels wonderful to be creating.
At the same time, it is very strange to publish projects as I write them. What I post is first-draft-level work, and anyone who looks will get to see it (aaaaaahhhh!). Also, the fact that some of them are novels is especially strange. The poems can stand alone, but putting a novel out there for people to read as I finish a section or a couple of paragraphs is both exciting and terrifying. I have been trying not to edit what has already been posted (except for typos and grammar mistakes), which means sometimes I have to think harder about what’s coming next. I can’t go back and change the past to make the future I want more plausible. The further I get into them, the harder it will be to obey this rule.
That said, I’m going to try. One of the reasons I’m going to do my best to follow this rule is that it is an excellent exercise for me to improve my plotting and overcome the urge to edit. I have always struggled with going back and editing as I write. Although I have gotten better, I admit that I had to fight myself every step of the way to finish my first novel. I still haven’t finished the first one I started working on. Every time I worked on it, I kept re-writing what I’d already written and changing directions at the same time. Even on my current book, I find myself making pretty big changes every few months. It’s a big step from where I was, but I think I can still do better.
This project is going to push me to do better. Some of it is going to be a major struggle (all the more so since people can see it). Knowing that it will improve my writing helps keep me going.
So does knowing that people are reading. Thank you for your interest! You have front-row seats as I ride this rollercoaster of a project. Welcome to Month 2. For all that it has been a month, this is only the beginning: the beginning of these stories, the beginning of this project. Where it’s going, I can’t say. I guess we’ll find out together.
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What It’s All About

A couple of years ago, I started writing again after a big gap. Writing was always fun and easy (relatively) for me, so I wasn’t worried about getting back to it. Well, it was harder than I thought. I didn’t end up writing whatever I was trying to write that day. I wrote this instead.

            I’ve heard many people say that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. After too many years of wasting mine, I can only say that a mind is a terrible thing to waste away. I tried to think today, and I felt like someone who’s been lying in a hospital bed for months, trying to get up and walk. I can remember being able to do it, but my body doesn’t remember how.
            I used to think. Honest. I remember being able to think. To reason, even. I remember being able to create words on a page, create stories, bring what I imagined to life. I swear I used to do that. Now, I’m staring at this page thinking… Well, trying to think. Mostly I’m staring at the page. Head in my hands, I’m looking at the screen as if I expect it to do tricks. I know it requires my input. Words will not appear on the page if I continue to sit and stare at it. That would be nice (pretty awesome and freaky, actually), but it’s not going to happen.
            So how to relearn to think? The hospital patient would get physical therapy for their muscles and weight training to build then up again. I picture weight training for the brain, and all I get is an image of a hand weight in a pile of gelatinous goo. Oops. That’s not it. Maybe it would be reading serious books, well-written books with big words in them. Maybe I should do math problems. Heck, maybe I just need to write. Write everyday. Write and write and write whatever crap comes out until it starts to be good again.
            And hope it’s not too late.

That’s what this blog is about.


When IDEAS Attack

             Anyone with the smallest creative bent has had that moment when an IDEA kidnaps your focus. And I do mean IDEA. Not a measly little idea that makes you think, “That would be cool,” but a Russian dominatrix IDEA that grabs you by the balls and demands fulfillment now and on her terms. Metaphorically, speaking. The point is you will do it, and you will do it now.

            This is when the artist becomes the slave to the art, and it’s not the type of moment that happens conveniently behind closed doors when you ask politely for inspiration. No, IDEAS come from outside stimulus. Whether it’s a Youtube video of a band, a comment from your boss, or a passing action by a stranger, something about the turn of phrase or thought catalyzes a reaction in the brain and gives birth to a cerebral traffic cop, re-routing priorities and upsetting any plans or schedules. This could be a brief delay or an entire detour that you cannot escape without consequences.

            Let’s say you’re in the weekly office meeting, and in your boss’s prepared comments, some offhand remark flips the IDEA switch. Suddenly, you’re designing in your mind: colors, shapes, sounds, and textures. You’re adding layers: shaping, melding, removing, and shifting until a rough model glows in your mind with context and materials, notes and lyrics, shadows and light. Your body may still be in the meeting, your eyes open, but your awareness and your sight are so completely internal that only when that rough draft is done, the IDEA sated, are you again aware of the reality around you.

            Shit, he’s still talking. How much did I miss? How long did that take?

            It’s no wonder much of society thinks that artists are ditzy and flighty. So often, we can’t even have a conversation without getting lost in our own minds. Even those with artistic bents who’ve had occasional IDEAS consider the frequency of artists’ side trips self-indulgent and weak-willed. But when you have dedicated yourself to an art, when that is your career and your focus, IDEAS are the moments you live for. They are the treasure you struggle to find buried in yourself as you work and sweat in your home. They’re the dropped coins on the street that hunger has trained you to look for or the forgotten child that you shelter from the world.

            IDEAS are an artist’s career. Focusing on one in conversation is like excusing yourself for a business call. Ignoring one is like a retail clerk ignoring a customer to talk to a friend. You can’t guarantee when another customer will come or that another one will come at all. It may be rude, but it’s both the business we’ve chosen and a result of how we’ve trained our minds to see.

             Unfortunately, stepping out for a moment (mentally) is still easier for most people to understand and accept than the second, stronger kind of IDEA. This isn’t the brief delay where you seem to space out for a minute and then come back. No, this kind of IDEA is even more consuming and cannot be appeased by a rough draft or few moments of thought. It must be explored now, created now.

            My first experience with this strength of inspiration came in my Junior year of high school. My English teacher drifted off-topic and told us a personal story that touched a chord in me and fired a need to create that I had never experienced before. It was a poem. It hadn’t been written yet – it didn’t exist in any way, shape, or form – but I knew it was a poem. I had to write it. It wasn’t something I could ignore or put off, I had to write it then. Like a compulsion or spell, it pulled at me and commanded I obey, or I knew the poem would be gone forever.

            I wrote through that class and the next and the next. I forced myself to write class notes on one side, as quickly as possible, while the poem took form on the other. Even then, I don’t think I really heard or understood what anyone said to me, it passed through a part of my brain and on to the paper even as the rest of my mind shaped and sculpted words and lines to appease the fever that held me.

            When the last line finally sat on the page, that terrible pressure disappeared like a rough storm at sea finally releasing a battered ship. Disoriented, dazed, the crew recovers and slowly starts putting the ship to rights, returning to normal life. My classmates may have thought I was drugged or ditzy, I don’t know. I only remember feeling drained as I emerged from my mind and took in the world again. Maybe an exorcism is a better example, and the spirit possessing me finally fled. The stories of séances where the ghost takes over the host’s hand and writes until his/her story has been communicated to the world certainly rings with the feeling of that compulsion.

            Not that I blame IDEAS on ghosts.

            But that compulsion to create shows the strength of this kind of inspiration. Ignoring one can be painful both in resisting the compulsion (think of an addict resisting their drug of choice) and in trying to recreate it later, at a more convenient time. For those who cherish the art inside us, trying to breathe fire into embers of what was (you swear!) a really good idea and being unable to rekindle it to equal flame is another pain and grief.

            So the next time you see someone staring off into space or scribbling on a napkin and muttering, know that you are watching an IDEA attack and pay your respects to the artist in its thrall.


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