The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘stephen king

For many years I kept a dream journal and consistently recorded my dreams. I did this mostly for personal interest, but also to build a creative repository. My diligence, over the years, in keeping up a dream journal has waned. My dreams are only sporadically recorded and rarely do I mine them for creative ideas. Even rarer still is the occasion that I use a specific image from a dream in a story.

Two years ago, however, I had a dream that was pretty disturbing. I was in a forest and in it stood a gigantic meat grinder. And, all sorts of fantastical characters were being thrown in. Many Disney characters. I don’t know who or what was operating it. Think body parts everywhere. Gruesome, I know. I woke up and immediately recorded this dream in my journal. For the past two years, I could not get this image out of my head. Why and how did my psyche throw together meat grinding and Disney?

There is a wonderful book by Naomi Epel called Writers Dreaming that features prominent writers discussing the intersections between their dream life and their creative life. Steven King, in his interview, likens most dreams to a kind of “mental or spiritual flatulence”, a pressure relieving mechanism that helps process the mundane aspects of life. But, he also likens some dreams to big underwater fish that we rarely see:

 

fish

“…if you go down real deep, you see all these bright fluorescent, weird, strange things with membranous umbrellas and weird skirts that flare out from their bodies. Those are the creatures that we don’t see very often because they explode if we bring them up too close to the surface. They are to surface fish what dreams are to our surface thoughts. Deep fish are like dreams of surface fish. They change shape, they change form. There are dreams and there are deep dreams.”

King also notes only a few instances where he was able to use a dream image unaltered in a story. My ‘meat grinder dream’ didn’t leave me alone. I wanted to find a way to write about it.

I’m happy to say with a little trial and error, I did find a way. The poem and flash fiction pieces that I wrote were like nothing else I had ever written before. It’s dark and creepy. Every time I wrote a draft, I felt like I was walking back into the eerie nature of the dream. My flash fiction/prose poem piece ‘Grinding Disney #2’ was just announced as placing in the 2014 Science Fiction Poetry Association Contest under the ‘Long form’. I bet you didn’t know there was an association devoted to studying and promoting science fiction poetry. Neither did I until recently and I love what they do. They are interested in “poetry with some element of speculation—usually science fiction, fantasy, or horror, though some include surrealism, some straight science.” It was founded by one of my favorite writers, Suzette Haden Elgin. SFPA “holds an annual open contest, and yearly awards for speculative poetry: the Rhysling Awards for individual poems, the Dwarf Stars Award for short-short poems, and the Elgin Awards (new in 2013) for genre poetry books and chapbooks, named for the SFPA founder.”

Poet and editor Kenji Liu was the judge and I am thrilled to be in the company of such amazing poets.

Here is a tidbit of my poem:

I have a meat grinder and I have brought it to this forest. Invitations were sent and as the light fades, I see them twirl in, oblivious to danger. Leading the way is the fairest of them all (why doesn’t she use sunscreen nowadays?), the one who keeps losing her shoe, the one who went from mermaid to human and the rest of the princesses and common girls assemble.

Read the rest of my poem and all the amazing winning poems here.

I hope a dream or two of yours will bring up some deep fish.

 

Photo: The ‘sarcastic fringehead’ from jwz.org.

 

 

Advertisements

Claiming Creative Space

How does one find and cultivate good ideas – from big thrilling ones to small stepping stone ones? This is a constant question for people who seek to be more creative.

Part of the answer rests in the power to claim physical space for our creative endeavors and to become aware of the types of metaphors we use to describe the psychological experience of generating those “aha” moments. To help creativity flow with the power of a waterfall, as opposed to an occasional trickle, requires us to dedicate physical space to support our efforts and cultivate new ways of imagining an inner repository for our good ideas.

Let’s start with physical space first.

A central question that I pose to clients is “Do you have a space where you create?” I receive a range of answers that include “That space is now where I fold my kids” clothes to “It’s cluttered” to “There’s no space that I can call my own.” I find this especially true for mothers with young children. Mothers often struggle with finding time and support for their creative lives. They routinely have to fight the feeling of being selfish versus “self-focused” when they claim time and space to create.

Find-Your-Creative-Space

Designating space for one’s passion is a key creativity enhancer and important for two reasons. First, many people do not feel entitled to a creative life. To allocate space makes one’s work (and desires) real, visible, and enables a person to create from a feeling of worthiness.

Space affects us emotionally and cognitively. Psychologists, architects and neuroscientists are in conversation with each other and are developing studies that assess how to design spaces that promote creativity in buildings and micro spaces.

Second, when you claim a space it means you don’t have to recreate the wheel every time you want to work on your short story, collage series, ideas for planning a beautiful garden, or collection of songs. If you have designated space (or spaces), then you can go to it and work. Plain and simple. A specific space eliminates 75 percent of the challenge to creating.

Chris Cassen Madden, designer and author of “A Room of Her Own: Women’s Personal Spaces” reminds us that we don’t even need an entire room to begin claiming creative space. We can “carve out a corner, if you have to, in your living room or bedroom, with a chair and a basket filled with things you love – books, pictures, CDs…etc., If you don’t create the space, you might not take the time.”

I’ve had clients claim creative space in a secret garden, a barn, a window seat, an office in a newly remodeled attic, and on the table top of your dresser. Designating a physical space cultivates an inner authority to continue capturing and acting on ideas.

Potato holes

How do we cultivate metaphors for the “inner space” where musings are captured and brought to our attention?

If in our imagination, we mark those mysterious places where ideas seem to reside, it’s easier to know the path back to them when we’re lost.

I heard Booker T, a noted musician use the metaphor of a “potato hole” as where he gets and keeps his ideas.

Potato hole?

He explained that during slavery, African Americans (and I’m assuming poor whites) didn’t have wood floors in their homes; they had dirt or earthen floors. There was no place to keep vegetables cool. So, enslaved folks dug what they called deep holes in the earth that allowed them to keep vegetables fresh. A potato hole is the central metaphor to describe where he gets fresh ideas from and also where other notions incubate. I fell in love with this unique description of an inner creative space literally rooted in conditions of struggle. His use of the potato hole honors the creativity of everyday folk long gone.

Booker_T._Jones_Potato_Hole_cover

Even though I’m always cajoling people to think outside the box, one of my inner creative spaces that I return to for stimulation is a golden box filled with light. When I get stuck, I think about reaching in this big box of light and pulling out what I need. The writer Stephen King writes about his muse coming up from the cellar and bringing him beer. The image of an “inner cellar” stimulates his fresh thinking. I’ve heard other people say that tapping into their inner space for creativity is like imagining oneself at a great boisterous dinner party. All you have to do is sit back and listen.

This piece originally appeared as a ‘My View’ column for The Chapel Hill News on 8/23/2013

Photo credits: creative space; album cover

Brooke Warner is on a mission to help authors become savvy at all stages of book development—from idea generation to publication. Brooke is a founder of Warner Coaching Inc., and the newly minted She Writes Press. She is a former Executive Editor of Seal Press (a groundbreaking press that publishes the diverse voices and interests of women).

I met Brooke through She Writes, an online community for aspiring and distinguished women writers. Brooke is a frequent contributor on She Writes and I quickly learned what most writers do about her. She’s thoughtful, honest, deliberative, positive and supportive (even when delivering challenging updates about the publishing world). And as an insider in the world of publishing, she brings a wealth of expertise to She Writes discussions.

When I discovered she was writing a book geared toward aspiring authors, I knew that I wanted to invite her to share her wisdom with this audience. I am grateful for all Brooke does to make the publishing world seem a little less mysterious and daunting to aspiring writers.

1) Tell us about your new book, What’s Your Book? A Step-by-Step Guide to Get You from Inspiration to Published Author. What sparked your interest in writing this type of nonfiction book?

I have been working in the book publishing industry for the past thirteen years. I just left my position as Executive Editor of Seal Press in late April. I realized that I not only needed, but wanted, to experience firsthand what my authors were going through. I also felt I had some progressive, supportive, and optimistic things to say about publishing in this new era of publishing. My coaching is a blend of heavy-duty support, discipline, and honest critique, and I decided it was time to try to put down in writing some of the ideas and strategies I’ve been teaching aspiring writers since I started coaching in 2007. Also, publishing is changing so much all the time, and it’s changed drastically since I started in 2000. I think a lot of people are confused by the options, or don’t really understand how publishing works, so my book offers insight and good advice about approaching publishing in what I call this new publishing frontier.

 2) You made a public commitment to write your book by a certain date and asked your reading public to hold you accountable. How did making that commitment support you in the completion of the book?

 It was huge! The reason I did this at first was because I was going to be launching a class with my colleague, Linda Joy Myers, President of the National Association of Memoir Writers, called “Write Your Memoir in Six Months.” We conceived of it late last year and I decided I wanted to give it a go, to see how hard it would be to write my own book in six months. As a coach, I know that at least half the value of what I offer is giving my writers accountability, so I knew I needed that too. Plus I wanted to give my clients and people I’m connected to through social media a chance to be engaged in my process. It was fantastic, and fantastically challenging! I’m really excited about our first memoir class, too, now that I’ve been through the six-month challenge and have a sense of what it takes to really do it.

 3) You’ve been an acquisitions editor and been in publishing for a long time. You’ve witnessed firsthand the dramatic changes sweeping across the industry. What’s one thing every aspiring author needs to know about the new publishing terrain?

The biggest and hardest thing to come to terms with is the importance of platform to industry professionals. This, in my opinion, has been the single biggest change (other than technology) that has happened during my time in book publishing. When I first started platform didn’t look like it does today, and in part technology is the reason. Writers are expected to have well-trafficked blogs and lots of followers on social media. In order to get a book deal, the marketing and publicity the author brings to the table, sometimes before the book is even complete, plays a big role. So I’m always reminding the writers I work with, as they’re toiling away on their projects, that they need to be tending to their platform. As an editor at Seal I rejected plenty of good projects from authors who didn’t have a platform, so it’s a really important component now of traditional publishing. On the other hand, I will say that self-publishing has never been more exciting or more accepted, so the upshot here is that while traditional publishing’s barriers are getting higher and more impenetrable all the time, self-publishing is looking more attractive and interesting with each passing month.

 4) Let’s imagine that you were hosting a magnificent dinner party and got to invite three well-known writers. Who would you choose and why?

First is Toni Morrison, hands down. I’ve read every book she’s written. She’s the single most influential writer in my life because she touched me at a really critical time in my intellectual development. I have to credit her for my love of good writing. I would choose Stephen King because I think he has a brilliant mind. I liked his books when I was younger, but I like that he’s a writer who thinks about writing and imparts his experience and wisdom to aspiring writers. Finally, I would invite Caroline Knapp (assuming we can suspend disbelief here and invite someone who’s no longer with us). I would invite her because I would want a memoirist in the group and for me she’s a memoirist who embodied the skills I’m trying to teach my memoirists. She was transparent, honest, vulnerable, and relatable. Her books are about her, but they are without fail about everywoman.

 5) Besides promoting your current book, what’s next for you?

The biggest thing on my plate right now is growing She Writes Press, my new self-publishing venture with SheWrites.com founder Kamy Wicoff. We launched the press at the end of June, on the third anniversary of She Writes. To date we’ve received 52 submissions and we have thirteen books in the production process for our pilot program. This has been a really exciting endeavor, and my own book is the first book to be published by She Writes Press. I will never stop supporting traditional publishing, but I have strong reasons for having wanted to self-publish, which I discuss in my book. So I’m thrilled to be partnering with Kamy in this way and to continue to support women writers, which was something that brought me a lot of fulfillment in my role at Seal Press as well.

 6) What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Tough question. There are a lot of tips depending on what a writer’s particular struggle is, but I think the number one tip is to be self-protective with your writing life. Sometimes this means guarding yourself against others and their feedback and opinions, whether you’re at the early stages or shopping your book. But sometimes this means guarding yourself against your own inner critics, the ones who tell you to give up, who makes excuses for why you should write later, who insist that it’s going to be embarrassing to have your work out in the world. Even doing a how-to book I found the inner critic to be a formidable foe! I had to find ways to work through that, and to allow the process to be fun and sacred and to not always feel like something scary or a burden. Writing opens you up in unimaginable ways, and when our hearts are open, they’re sometimes a little raw. So protect and persevere!

Brooke Warner is founder of Warner Coaching Inc. and publisher of She Writes Press. Brooke’s expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. What’s Your Book? is her first book, and she’s honored to be publishing on She Writes Press.

Find Brooke online:

www.warnercoaching.com

www.shewritespress.com

www.facebook.com/warnercoaching

twitter.com/brooke_warner

www.pinterest.com/warnercoaching

To purchase Brooke’s book: http://warnercoaching.com/order-wyb/

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/193831400X/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=

(Photo credit Jen Molander Photography)

 


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

View Full Profile →

Follow me on Twitter

Follow Us

Follow Us

Follow Us

Follow The Practice of Creativity on WordPress.com
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: