Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Creativity: inspiration thru anticipation

Overwhelmed by stuff, use anticipation to inspire.
Creativity is best when the appetite is wet.

I have already said that teaching encroaches on my writing time.  Remember the movie The Thing? That is the life of the English teacher: pursued by an engulfing pile of stuff.  The teaching thing just eats everything up.  So I need every trick in the book to take advantage of my writing opportunities.  My most often used technique is anticipation.
  •  Work taking over  your life and it's been more than a month and you haven't written creatively in weeks? What do I do?  I start with little self talks.  "Thanksgiving is just a few more weeks away.  Keep your grading up to date. Don't overload the kids 'cause that just comes back and bites off another chunk of your time.  Keep it steady and high quality, but keep it under control so Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, SUMMER! will all be yours."
  • Weekly overload? I grade everything I can Friday night, having promised that Saturday will supply a slice of time for writing.  Then I am back on the grading, planning, prepping mode come Sunday, ready for Monday. Plug in any huge "thing" you want into the spot labeled "grade."
  • It's getting worse instead of better? When it is an especially hard year, which the last two have been due to changes in education objectives and focus, I can go nearly an entire school year without more than ten hours of personal writing time in ten months.  So those days of summer become a mantra of anticipatory excitement. 
  • Use all non-work time that can't be given to writing time to brainstorm time. I use the moments when I can feasibly say I can't grade, teach, plan, prep or do anything house related or family related to brainstorm and review scenes.  That means showers, the fifteen minutes before I fall asleep, putting on makeup and doing my hair, running on the treadmill, vacuuming, etc., are for thinking about what I am going to write when I get the chance. The idea is you have everything ready to go when the time to write finally comes.  You're excited about writing because you know exactly what you are going to do. It will practically type itself.
  • Carry the image/scene/dialogue everywhere you go. Sure this may mean you never talk in the car when your partner is driving. They get over it. My husband has. I am quiet in the car whether its twenty minutes or two hours, but my mind is not. I am revolving the scene over and over looking for telling details, foreshadowing that can be slid in, characterization, and what else can be carried by the scene other than the original idea that set it off.
Next week: how to make multitasking your creativity work for you.

So how do you deal with the overwhelming activities you do to pay your bills and such to make room for writing?  Writers who write for a living are not allowed to respond.  You may smirk off in a  corner somewhere, quietly.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Creativity: get it in capture mode

Be ready to pounce on the writing moment.
So last week I blogged about how creativity can be dependent upon routine.  I do use this to a degree during the summer months, but I am just as likely to use the capture mode.

This is when you sit down to do one thing and inspiration hits.  It stops everything: "I have to write now" time. This happens to me fairly regularly. It is not that I have the kind of life that I can put things off any time I want to sit down and write. I don't, far from it. But I have learned that when I feel the need to write, I better look around and see if I can arrange it without delay.

I teach English, probably one of the most planned, graded and time-consuming subjects to teach. I happen to enjoy teaching it, but it is a life eater. So if there is a moment free, the first thing I do is sit a quite moment and see if anything has been waiting to bubble up. There will be a rise of excitement in my chest, much like when I know there are only three more days before I am heading out on a long-awaited trip. I listen for a stream of dialogue running through my mind, look for an image rising out of the silence and words playing bumper cars between my ears.  Time to sit down and write.

This is capture mode. Grab it while the grabbing has a chance at nipping at the heels of a plot, post, character sketch, etc. I once stopped my husband mid-drive to a bicycle race to buy me a notebook and pencil. I needed to write that moment and had potentially hours of quiet writing time ahead of me between driving to the race and back over the mountains to and from Eugene's Tandem Classic (the Burley Classic, I believe now defunct, and before you ask, this is before the invention of the laptop).  When the urge is there, take advantage of a ready mind.

This is writing on the run and has the likelihood of being intensely productive because the time could disappear at any moment, so there is no room for sharpening a row of pencils, finding the perfectly flat piece of paper or the cozy niche no one is likely to stumble into. You may have to sit in the stiff- backed wooden chair with the tippy corner; ignore the seat belt, blasting radio and kid kicking the back of your seat; lean against the wall, hair whipping in your face, paper leaping up where your fingers can't stretch to hold it down while you write. Yup, you don't even have time to hunt; just pounce and land on the scittering, scattering words, grab with straining claws, pull them to your chest, and start laying out one word at a time (though if any one knows of a way to simultaneous set out words in lumps I want to hear about it).

So that's capture mode. What examples of capture mode have you experienced?  I'm sure you've had a few wild writing stories you could tell, so share them here.

Next creative post: building desire to write.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Creativity: the routine of it can be inspiring

Be ready to write
Creativity is such a personal experience.  No matter who we are, we search for it. A kid wants to say something funny to his buddies, a man needs a good line to catch the woman's attention, a painter dreams of that perfect aesthetic impression on canvas, the computer programmer must revise for simplicity, clarity, reduced expense. Let's not forget the writer who seeks a killer plot, equally killer characters and amazing killer dialogue, not to mention variety of diction. We are all in search of the creative moment and its reliable, reproducible inspiration.

Routine has long been tauted as the writer's key to inspiration.  You know the drill:
  • write at the same time every day
  • create a space dedicated to writing
  • set yourself  up for the muse by having little routine steps: sharpen your pencil, restack your paper square, sort through your list of ideas, sit down and make your mind quiet, whatever
  • don't tell anyone your idea until after it is down on paper
  • always leave your writing with a sense of urgency to write the next scene, or leave notes to pick up with next time you sit down
  • don't stop until you have 1000 words down (or however many)
  • stop after 1000 words no matter what (That will certainly leave a sense of urgency to get back to the scene, unless of course you have been telling yourself, like a bonking runner, just 167 more words and I get to stop.)
Routine certainly has is good points. You know when, where, for how long, and how you are going to write, so there are no excuses. Bang you're off and typing, scribbling, recording, etc.

It frees you up for inspiration to fly in or roll on.

When you are in your "place," everyone knows to leave you alone.  That does not mean they will, just that they know.

And routine has other perks as well.
  • It's already scheduled into your day, so work, kids, spouse, laundry, Twitter have already been factored in and can be controlled and worked around.  
  • Laundry can be done at the same time, brushing your teeth and showering can be brainstorming time, and you have an excuse not to watch that mind-numbing TV show everybody is talking about.
  • And when you are done, you can tell yourself, "I wrote today," just as others might say, "I exercised before breakfast." Be the first to pat yourself on the back.
  • It is scheduled into your "most creative work" time because you have worked out that you write best from 5 AM to 9 AM, or 10 PM to midnight, or etc.
  • And all those inspiring million-words-a-day gurus often provide very specific routines, and it works for them, why not you?
All very well, but this post was imagined just as I was starting up my school laptop to begin lesson planning for the new year. I had to shut the lid, send it into sleep mode and restart my personal laptop and begin this post I had scheduled into my day tomorrow.  Routine, I like it best when I can break it into a million pieces and around 500 words.

What is your routine or non-routine? Do you mix and match?

See me next week when I approach creativity in capture mode.  Don't know what that is: see me next week, maybe I'll know then, too.