Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Creativity: reading, thinking, and occasionally sunflowers are components of the process

 Since I am often inundated with numerous obligations I cannot put off because they are important aspects of my income-producing job, I need a few tricks to galvanize creativity.  I have already written about several of them, but my most trusted approach to getting off the pot and onto the page is very simple.  I read what I have already written and/or read other writers' work and think.

This post is a definite example of that.  I post every Wednesday pretty reliably (unless life interferes with unreasonable demands I must give in to).  But I don't often come to the page with an idea ready to zoom from my finger tips.

Today I started by diddle daddling around reading my old posts, posts that landed in my mailbox, posts I came across on Twitter, and posts I know my friends have written recently.

Somewhere along my diddling about, I dropped in on a blog or two by other writers (Jane Friedman for one, on ironically "What should authors blog about?"  Seemed rather apropos.)

Reading makes me ask questions.  It also makes me stop and think, and thinking leads me to wandering and wondering, which can on occasion produce a thought worth writing about. 

Of course, this approach does have its downfalls.  I may be planning to write a post and I get curious about sunflowers and then think about My Antonia by Willa Cather. In the book was a long description of the sunflowers which often stretched far into the distance on hills and along road sides in that part of Nebraska. Thinking about this image, will remind me of a neighbor I had in Oregon who grew sunflowers along one side of her house. From across the street and several houses down, I could see those enormous orange/yellow bobbing heads.  They stood in a long narrow line along the garage wall like tall garish soldiers.

They made me want to grow sunflowers one day. Years later when my daughter was about eight years old and wanted to grow a garden, we bought sunflower seeds and planted them along a fence line just the other side of our neighbor's garden. I imagined them leaning over our fence and gazing with smiling sunny faces at his squash and pumpkins and benefiting from his soil preparations.  We had one of the wettest seasons that year and my daughter's foot-tall sunflowers were leaf deep in runoff.  We made numerous attempts at building up berms to hold back the encroaching flow, and dug channels to move the sitting water. But it just kept raining and raining.

We finally moved them to higher ground while rain ran down our necks, and the pooling water spilled over our low boot tops.  Either they never quite recovered or the seeds were only distant cousins to the spritely blooms my neighbor had grown.  We had a rather sickly crop of lean seeds to harvest.

That's the thing about creativity, it's like an unexpected rainy season when you're trying to grow sunflowers: one thing leads to another and you just have to go with the flow.

What flows have you had to ride along that guided you to a writing moment?


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