On creativity

Lately I've been thinking a lot about creativity. I spent the last 2 years or so in a creative desert, with no will to write or draw or build anything, and then suddenly, a few weeks ago:  bam! Inspiration hit. I wanted to blog again, I wanted to write a story, I'm even posting quasi-professional things on LinkedIn.

(That means I leave out the swear words.)

There's always lots of blah blah blah about how creativity is "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration", implying that if you just do the work you'll eventually be a Artist with a capital A. But without that 1%, that muse, you're barely a lower case 'a' if you're lucky. At least in my experience.

And yet I have no idea what planets need to align for the muse to start talking. I have no idea what happened a few weeks ago - nothing had changed, not even my brand of deodorant. So where does it come from? Where does it go?

(Where does it come from, Cotton Eyed Joe?)

(YOU'RE WELCOME.)

It's easy to think of creativity like a finite vessel, with only a certain amount of emotional energy that can be expended. If you waste it on your job or your kid, you have nothing left over. But that doesn't always track; creative energy begets creative energy, after all. Surrounding yourself with artist types might make your vessel bigger, your flashes of inspiration happen more often.

I'm somewhat reluctant to overanalyze, in case I scare it off. I don't want it to go skittering away for another two years. But when I'm not paying attention I find myself wondering about the particular blend of physical, emotional, and social situations that must have to happen for me to feel "inspired". My brain tries to dissect that, to slice it up and put it back together in a jar on the shelf, so next time I can just add a generous helping to my lunch.

Yeah, I'm totally going to scare it off.

Gulp

I said I would, and I did. I somehow cobbled together a half-assed plot out of "space" "rockband" and "orphan", and I even did it when I would said I would, and then I started writing.

So, um. The first chapter is up there, on the right, under "Next Big Thing". 

(I'm just calling it that because of my habit of moving on to the Next Big Thing, not because I actually think it's going to be the Next Big Thing. What I think it's going to be is mediocre but hopefully somewhat entertaining. Aim high!)

You can read it if you want. Please criticize, that's why I'm doing this. (But I've already written the outline and drafts of the next two chapters, so if your criticism is "Why the fuck is he in a rock band?" I'm probably going to ignore you.)

Clean Slate

I'm always looking for the Next Big Thing. I'm sure that Alfred is really tired of trying to keep up with my hobbies, because just when he's got one figured out and bought me a related Christmas present, I've already decided that I'm done with that and oooooh, that other thing looks exciting!

In just the last year I've toyed with archery, yoga, knitting, and coding.

(Anybody want a recurve bow and some arrows?)

One thing I always come back to is writing. At least, in my head.

One day I'll write a book. I just have to have some mental head space. I just need my kid to be a little bit more independent. I just need inspiration. I just need a physical space that's just for me. I wish we lived closer to a coffee shop. I just have to lose 10 lbs because then I can use the time I exercise for writing instead.

That last one is super logical, huh?

These are the things we tell ourselves, while other people are telling us, hey, just write. Start writing. Writers write. 

For some reason today was the day I decided I was just going to do that. In July, I will write a short book. Ish. Type of thing.

I'm not going to question it, I'm just going to run with it.

I still didn't have any inspiration so I just wrote down all the things I like to read stories about on scraps of paper, and chucked them into a hat. Shamefully, what I most like to read is YA fiction so there were a lot of... interesting... things in there. I asked my 7 year old to pull out three of the scraps.

 

 

Holy shit, he fucking sucks at this.  I mean, there were werewolves and pirates and Ancient Egypt in there. 

Well, whatever. That's what I'll write about. I guess. And in the interest of being accountable, I'll post it in all it's awful glory here. Aren't you excited?

Yeah, I have a stomach full of dread too.

 

Although I'm dying to know what the REAL story is

My oldest and dearest friend FoN has a game going on over at her blog Kids and Daiquiris.

Well, she's not my oldest friend. She's the friend I've had the longest.

Although she IS older than me. Just to clear that up.

Anyway. The game is to make up a story about what, exactly, is going on in this picture:

I bet you all have ideas, but shut up and go play the game yourself if you do. This is my story.

Eddie smirked at me and gestured with the hand not holding the sewing machine.

"Go on," he encouraged, "Take the picture."

"Dude," I pleaded, "We don't have time, the cops are standing RIGHT THERE."

"They won't even notice us," he scoffed. "They're looking for two escapees in orange prison gear, not people in black tie evening wear. Take it."

"Fine," I sighed, raising the camera. "But then can we go?"

"Of course," he said magnanimously. "Don't you feel silly for laughing at me when I packed this handy-dandy miniature Sew and Go for the prison transfer?"

"Whatever," I grumbled, snapping the photo. "What did you make that tux out of, anyway?"

"Tire rubber and prison bed sheets I had shoved up my ass."

"...I'm very sorry I asked. Let's go for pancakes."

We're gonna need a bigger boat

I haven't written a post in a while that wasn't a meme, a theme, or an award acceptance. Because, well, I've been seriously lacking in inspiration. I have been a non-participant in Maternal Spark's Monday Muse for a while, not because I've been busy writing lists, but because I've been feeling totally without a muse.

And here is my shameful little secret - often, most of the time in fact, I need someone to give me an idea. Not just 'inspiration' - a friggin' IDEA. Even if said idea just becomes a launching point, I need somewhere to start. A project. A theme. A fully-formed, totally realized, clever-ass idea. I mean, it didn't even occur to me to start a blog until someone else said, "Hey, why don't you have a blog?". And look how THAT turned out.

Um...okay, wait, that's a bad example. Never mind.

Anyway, sometimes, when it comes to writing, I just go to a website like this one and GET an idea (oddly, there are far fewer websites that give you ideas for painting or developed concepts on which you can base your grad show in ceramics). Today, for instance, I pressed the button and got this:

"What's so great about being stiff? Write a story or memory whose title would contain the word 'starch.'"

What the...? Are you kidding me? You want me to write about...STARCH?

Okay, that sucks. I think I'm going to need more help than that.

Actually...fuck it. I'm going to go play video games.

I'll get the jet fuel, gonna need a bigger bonfire

So I have this novel.

I know, right? Everyone has a novel. And now you're thinking, oh, great, another wannabe writer. Well, duh. I wouldn't be here if I didn't wannabe a writer. But I also wannabe an artist, and a dog trainer, and an anthropologist, and a biologist, and a homeopathic healer. And a translator for the UN and a seamstress, and Charlize Theron. I'm pretty sure at some point I've harboured a secret desire to be an astronaut cowboy millionaire.

The difference between most of those things and the writing is that my novel is actually finished. It's just sitting there. It's a little short. Okay, well, quite a bit short. More like a novella. But the point is it's got a beginning, and some semblance of a plot, and some semi-likeable characters, and a conclusion. There are a few things that I know are wrong with it that I could fix, but it would require some major hackage and a lot of rewriting. After that I think it would be marketable. I'm just busy
letting it simmer
too fucking lazy.

The local writers guild offers a service wherein you can submit your script and a professional writer will review & critique it. The fee for my size of manuscript would be $80. It doesn't seem like a lot, but we're kind of broke since I've been on mat leave and that money might be better spent on, oh, say...diapers. Or gas. Or FOOD.

My dilemma is that I'm pretty sure the professional (and they don't exactly go into what the 'professional writers' have for credentials, either. Are they novelists? TV script writers? People who work in the classifieds department at the newspaper?) is just going to tell me what I already know. But then there's the possibility that they might not. That person might see some way to fix it that is WAY EASIER. Or, even if they tell me exactly what I was expecting to hear, it might be the incentive I need to get off my lazy butt and do what I've known I should do for months.

Hm, know thyself. Light that fire under thyself's ass.