Posts Tagged ‘spring’
Scratching can look like borrowing and appropriating, but it’s an essential part of creativity. It’s primal and very private. It’s a way of saying to the gods, “Oh, don’t mind me, I’ll just wander around in these back hallways…”and then grabbing that piece of fire and running like hell.
-Twyla Tharp, choreographer
Where do you get your ideas? How do you generate small ideas that lead to big writing projects? It’s springtime and as we put away our winter coats, boots and hats, we naturally desire to generate fresh ideas for our writing life. Twyla Tharp, world famous choreographer, in her understated, but powerful book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use it For Life, uses the concept of ‘scratching’ as a method for finding and incubating new ideas.
‘Scratching’, she observes is what we do so we aren’t always waiting for the “thunderbolt” of inspiration to hit. Tharp says, “That’s what I’m doing when I begin a piece. I’m digging through everything to find something. It’s like clawing at the side of a mountain to get a toehold, a grip, some sort of traction to keep moving upward and onward.”
Twarp notes the importance of reading, as a place to scratch for ideas. Many writers reread the classics or work by mentors they love as a way to sharpen their senses and generate new perspectives. Tharp likes to read ‘archeologically’, backwards in time, working her way from a contemporary idea back to an ancient text. When working on an idea for a dance she began with Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy which led her to Dionysus and then studies of Dionysus (worship of and symbols connected to), which led her to Euripides and his The Bacchae. These readings led to her choreograph ‘Bacchae’, a dance that explores hubris and is loosely based on the Euripides text.
Inspired by her strategy, years ago, I made a list of the subjects that I typically read about both as an academic and as a creative writer.
List: self-help /’how to’ in yoga, health and wellness, women’s health, women’s empowerment, public speaking; craft of writing books; cookbooks; leadership; 18-20th century African American history, spirituality; creativity; women’s spirituality; African American women; black feminism; dreams; sociology of race; women’s and gender studies; elections and campaigns; feminist theory, history of the American university; genres: speculative fiction, thrillers, literary fiction
When finished with this list, I felt pretty impressed.
But then I asked myself, what are the subjects I rarely read in, have no working knowledge of, couldn’t put two sentences together about, or even avoid?
Here’s that list: general biographies, colonial American history, world history, geography, travel memoirs, animals, romance, celebrities, sailing, cars, history of language, math and science, sports, nature, children’s books, plays, poetry, Christian fiction, true crime, technical books
Doing this exercise motivated me to dig into many unexplored subjects.
What would your reading lists look like?
Here are three scratching strategies:
-Flirt with a different genre (or even subgenre)-It’s always fun to explore a different writing genre than the one that’s become your norm. In a recent writing workshop, the instructor encouraged us to take a short piece that we were working on, keep the characters but rewrite it using a different genre. This exercise felt so liberating. I found myself exploring space opera with what had started out as a realistic story. I have little working knowledge of space operas, but it was fun to use my imagination to fill in the gaps.
-Visit a writer’s residence or historic site-Traveling to see a writer’s home is a kind of pilgrimage that can bring us fresh insights. A few years ago, I traveled to Edenton, NC to learn a bit more about Harriet Jacobs, a fugitive slave, writer and abolitionist who penned Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl under the pseudonym Linda Brent. My literary pilgrimage was so rejuvenating.
-Mine Magazines-Acquire ten magazines that you never read (you can buy some and collect others from friends, the doctor’s office, libraries, etc.) and read them from cover to cover. Keep a list about the trends, ideas and musings that spark your interest.
Where are you going to scratch for ideas this spring?
Dedicate v. 1. To set apart for a special use. 2 To commit (oneself) to a course of action. 3. To address or inscribe (e.g., a literary work) to someone. (Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary, 2nd ed.)
Spring possibilities are about to cede to summer pleasures. I’ve been ruminating on the importance of spring cleaning for your creating life and have covered the first two steps—reassessment and reorganization. The third step is the most powerful one—rededication. To rededicate ourselves to something we deem as special in our lives strengthens and amplifies our commitment.
Rededicating ourselves to our creative life sends a joyful message to our ‘Creative Self’. Our Creative Self loves to be wooed. Its language includes ritual, ceremony and demonstrative acts of appreciation.
What aspects of the creative life would you like to rededicate yourself to as you move into summer’s rhythms?
Here are some to consider:
I rededicate myself to knowing that my creative work will matter to someone, so I must finish it.
I rededicate myself to owning my creative impulses, even in the face of naysayers and saboteurs.
I rededicate myself to claiming my creativity despite bouts of envy, doubt and fatigue.
I rededicate myself to curtailing the diet of my inner critics, who feed on fear, and instead nourish my Creative Self with periods of rest and play.
I rededicate myself to appreciating my Creative Self’s firework moments and subtle whispers.
I rededicate myself to taking incremental steps to finish my creative projects.
I rededicate myself to looking for support, for my creative work, in new ways. [i.e. critique groups, mastermind groups, creative buddies, mentors, etc.]
Here are some aspects of the writing life that I’m rededicating myself to between now and fall:
I rededicate myself to sending more of my work to professionally paying venues. [I am aiming for paying semi-pro and professional speculative fiction magazines.]
I rededicate myself to naps, a restful schedule, and daydreaming, all of which nourishes my Creative Self.
I rededicate myself to cultivating time for reading.
I rededicate myself to remembering that I am here to seduce and delight the reader.
I rededicate myself to finding ways to make writing fun and feel like a game.
[I discovered word sprints during last year’s NaNoWriMo. I find them to be so fun. How many words can you type in 10 or 20 minutes? Last November, I wrote 7,000 words in about 5 hours using timed sprints (100 words=10 minutes, 200 words=10 minutes (2x), 300 words=20 minutes, 100 words=10 minutes…at the end of an hour, you may have written anywhere from 700-1,000 words). This works very well for messy first drafts.]
I rededicate myself to looking at revision as a way to honor my writing by keeping the right words and setting the rest free for another day.
I rededicate myself to spending time honing my social media presence.
Desire for an idea is like bait. You’re fishing, you have to have patience. You bait your hook, and then you wait. The desire is the bait that pulls those fish in—-those ideas. David Lynch
We just have a few more weeks to go before summer will officially arrive. In March, I began a series on spring cleaning for your creative life. There are three steps in the process:
1) You reassess your space, your schedule, and patterns of mind to see what is supporting or not supporting your creative life.
2) You reorganize your space, schedule, and patterns of minds to allow you to create with more ease.
3) After reassessing and reorganizing, you rededicate yourself to having a productive and joyful creative life!
If you’ve spent some time reassessing your space, schedule and patterns of mind, in connection to your creative life, then you should be in great shape for the next step which is reorganizing.
Reorganizing is an essential component of this process. And, this is where we can get stuck very quickly. In dealing with physical reorganization, if we don’t plan carefully, we’ll leave lots of stuff just laying around.
Besides thinking of what’s working or not working in your physical space, you might also want to evaluate how and when you schedule your creative work. Really, it’s about having a creative rhythm. The word schedule conjures up the endless to-do-list.
Spring and then summer usually bring new rhythms into our life that can support our creativity. We are often making time for fun travel, to being outside more, and to taking much needed breaks and naps. All of this can be used in service of establishing a different creative rhythm.
How can we reorganize our schedule to take advantage of this energy? How do we cultivate the patience and spaciousness of mind so that we catch those wonderful ideas that David Lynch refers to?
Here are some easy tips:
-Move your practice outside for some of this season. If your tendency is always to be tucked away in a home office, take opportunities to write at the beach, at the lake, or at a state park.
-Take more advantage of the longer periods of light this season. Can you rise an hour earlier to shoot your photographs or try writing later in the day during the season’s glorious sunsets?
-Keep an idea journal. This is a place for all your ideas as they bubble up. Give yourself lots of permission to allow this idea journal to be filled with musings that delight you. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to turn these ideas into ones that have to ‘become something’. The idea journal should be a place to have fun and play.
Posted March 30, 2014on:
How are you? Are you stuck on a creative project? Have you lost momentum on something important to you? Are you struggling with fear, doubt, procrastination and perfectionism? Are you ready for new approaches in dealing with inner critics that block you from taking the next step on creative work?
As a scholar, coach and creative writer, I know how challenging it is to continually nurture one’s creative impulses.
That’s why I’ve created the CREATIVITY BONFIRE event for YOU. I have asked 11 of the most amazing artists, writers, coaches and visionaries to come together and provide insights about how to ACCESS and SUSTAIN your most amazing renewable resource-CREATIVITY.
Get Ready for a powerful SPRING RENEWAL and an Inspiration blast off!
You are going to LOVE these 11 powerful conversations in Sustaining Your Flame-Secrets from Wildly Inspired Creators!
The list of participating speakers is INCREDIBLE! They include Amanda Owen, bestselling author of The Power of Receiving, SARK (aka Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy), creativity expert and author of sixteen bestselling books, Diane Ealy, author of The Women’s Book of Creativity, Kimberly Wilson, author of Hip Tranquil Chick, Dr. Eric Maisel, creativity coach, Hay House author and transformative coach Michael Neill and MANY others.
I believe that creativity is our most vital renewable resource and I felt guided to deepen the conversation about our rich treasure.
We will gather around the virtual CREATIVITY BONFIRE during April 3-April 6th. Whatever you are trying to do–empowering others, thinking up solutions to climate change, finishing the next revision on a novel, being a better parent-accessing your creativity will help.
This is YOUR SPRING RENEWAL and it’s all FREE + speakers are providing GIFTS! That’s right, GIFTS for you!
Ignite your spring by grabbing your seat around the Creativity Bonfire! Register here