Creativity Burnout — April 26, 2011

Creativity Burnout

The other night I turned the television off and actually sat down to try to write.

And I was blocked.  Utterly and completely blocked.  I have no idea for where the story is supposed to go next.  There are a ton of scenes I need to add, mostly of the MMC.  I’m maybe just over halfway to my end word count and there’s a lot of ground to make up for.

I tweeted that my book was awful.  (In less eloquent phrasing, I’m ashamed to admit.)  Of course that garnered a pep talk from two of the most awesome people you’ll ever meet on the internet.  (And later this week I’ll tell you how you can meet them, too.  So stay tuned.)

Then I had some sort of breakthrough.  Not a writing breakthrough, but an epiphany of sorts on why I was so stuck.  One of my friends suggested working on something else for a while.  I replied that I didn’t know what to work on.

To which I replied that I’m so overwhelmed with projects I have no idea where to go.  (Or something like that.)

I think that real life is part of my writing slump.  (See last Friday’s post.)  But then I look at my writings folder on my computer and see so many projects, half-starts, and scrambled notes.  Not to mention all the poetry that I still want the world to read.

And I feel so inadequate and overwhelmed with it all that I just close down.  There’s plenty of time in the day to work on writing.  But because I don’t know where to start when I look at all that work, I clam up faster than you can say pearl divers ahoy.

Worse?  I have no inkling of an idea on how to deal with it.  I think I’m just going to need to take a writing break for a while and find a good headspace.  The trick is not beating myself up over not writing.

Are you a creative person? — January 7, 2010

Are you a creative person?

Because, apparently, I’m not.  Despite what I may believe.  Or what others may believe about me.

I’m taking a 2D design class this semester.  My instructor gave us this thing yesterday.  It’s an excerpt from Training and Development Journal from 1989.  This guy, David H. Lyman, ran these workshops in Maine for photographers and other “creative” types.  He came up with this list of traits for creative people.

Lyman’s List of Creative Traits

Creative people:

  1. give themselves permission to be different.  They accept their “differentness.”

  2. are playful.  They do not take anything too seriously–not even serious things.

  3. do not play by the rules.  They enjoy being outlaws, breaking rules, and thumbing their noses at conformity.

  4. are adventurous.  They love to travel, to see new things, and to explore the world around them and the inner world of their minds and hearts.

  5. have trouble being accurate, punctual, and proper.

  6. are funny. They have a sense of humor.  They make fun, have fun, and are fun to be around.

  7. are spontaneous.  They take direction from each day’s events and from the work they do.

  8. are independent.  They have an ability to work alone and stand alone in their convictions and desires.

  9. are sensitive to art and beauty.

  10. are enthusiastic, idealistic, and responsive.

  11. are bold.  They act with confidence and single-mindedness.

  12. see things where others do not.

  13. take action.

  14. push beyond, around, or through the wall.  Every problem is an opportunity.

  15. are driven; they are passionate.

  16. are not content with the obvious, the mundane, the mediocre, and the cliche.

  17. know when and how to let go.

  18. are patient.

  19. do not mind being lost or feeling ambiguous.

OK, so I’ve got 4, 8, 9, maybe 10, definitely 12 when it comes to some random things, but none of the rest.

But I’m okay with that.  Because I don’t necessarily think that you have to be every single thing on this list to consider yourself a creative person.  I’m punctual to a fault.  But that’s just who I am.  I’m not the most patient person in the world, but I don’t care.

I’ve definitely felt lost these last few months without any real direction in my life.  Things have begun to return to normal now.  I can see the appeal in becoming a “professional student.”

Q4U: Which traits do you have on this list?  What’s the one on there you most wish you did have?  What’s the one you most wish you didn’t have?

Ideas — September 22, 2009

Ideas

The philosopher Carl Jung discussed at length the concept of a universal consciousness.  This consciousness is a well-spring of ideas and memes that are as old as the universe itself.  Within it are various archetypes that we as humans encounter on a daily basis.

I’ll spare you the specifics of Jung’s philosophizing.  The point here is this: There really aren’t many original ideas.

Some quotes to kick us off:

“Don’t worry if you’ve seen the shot before–you can still make it your own.”  (My apologies to the author of this quote.  I didn’t get the chance to write it down.  The man who said it was doling out a nugget of advice for aspiring directors during a bit at the Emmys on Sunday night.  And I might not even have the quote completely right.  But you get the point.)

“Nothing can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old dea and thinks it is his own.”- Sidney J. Harris

OK, so that last one’s a little harsh sounding.  But work with me here.

The first quote goes along with Jung’s theories.  There are universal memes and ideas that we encounter regularly.  I’ve had this struggle in my own writing.  In fact, the genesis inspiration of my short story that I’m publishing here on the blog was a TV show.  I was curious as to how the concept they worked with on the show would work if the characters were Mormons.  Now, while the characters in my story aren’t overtly members of the LDS faith, I wrote them as being such.

This is an example of taking an idea or concept that may be more universal and putting your own spin on it.  So while the second quote is harsh, it’s really a warning against plagiarism.  And a nugget of sage advice to work to put your own spin on an idea.

Two weeks ago almost I had thoughts that my novel, Oracles Promise, and the trilogy to which it belongs would have to be scrapped entirely.  This was because there’s a certain plot element that bore eerie resemblance to something else I’d read in a book.  But as I thought about it, I realized that it was one of those universal consciousness ideas that float around, but that I’d put my own take on the bones of it all.

What’s my point?  “Don’t worry if you’ve seen the shot [idea] before–you can still make it your own.”

And don’t let the fact that you may have seen a small bit of your concept before deter you.  You never know, you might come up with some twist on it that will make it completely fresh and original!

Exorcising the Inner Critic — August 7, 2009

Exorcising the Inner Critic

My inner critic loves to come out and play. A lot. Especially when my overactive brain starts to kick in and read far too much in other peoples’ actions, reactions, and speech. The harshest blows to my psyche from this inner critic come in relation to things that happen involving the opposite sex. It’s stupid, I know, but I can’t help it. I know I’m not the only one who deals with her inner critic. Natalie over at Between Fact and Fiction posted about it today as she’s gone back into writing mode after revising for a good while.

I could label my inner critic a “he,” but I’ve never known a guy as catty, cynical, snide, or debasing as my inner critic. But I’ve known plenty of girls that were that way. So it may be a bit cliche, but my inner critic is a she.

We have to exorcise our inner critic, at least in the early stages of writing. We have to learn to recognize the critic’s destructive comments from the constructive ones.

How?

I took a class in graduate school called “Meditation and Writing.” Or something like that. (Sorry, Michael.) It was a one-week course (easiest 3 credits I’ve ever earned), five days for 8 hours or so. We spent the morning doing free-writing exercises, meditating, and discussing the textbook for the course. (I know, right? A textbook for a 1-week class? We didn’t read the whole thing.) This book is titled The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I’ve yet to go through the entire 12 week process she outlines in her book. But there’s one thing she discusses that I’ve done consistently for nearly the last 2 months.

Morning pages.

What are morning pages you ask? To quote Ms. Cameron: “Put simply, the morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness.”

I write them first thing (usually), before I even get out of my bed.

These pages are most often filled with random ramblings about various things, sometimes I’ll put in my latest number of blog followers if it’s something that runs through my head. The general idea is to just get the negativity out onto paper first thing in the morning so that it’s not with you so much in the day.

When I first started out with the morning pages I really couldn’t see a benefit. They were still so negative and directionless. I often would put in a to-do list or a to-read list just to fill the pages faster. It does take a long time to do this. Usually about 45-50 minutes or even longer depending on how much is running through my head.

Today I realized that the pages aren’t as negative any more. In fact, now I mostly ramble about what I wrote or accomplished writing-wise, where I need to go, questions that I need to answer for myself so that my book isn’t completely directionless, etc. There are still the occasionally snarky comments from my inner critic, but I’m slowly silencing her and exorcising her presence from my writing life.