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Tag Archives: Creativity

Constantine Say Relax

I’m gonna make a “Constantine Say Relax” shirt, and it will fit EVERYONE approximately 8 sizes too small

I’m not gonna lie; shit’s getting real. The funds in my bank account are dwindling, the thought of writing YET ANOTHER cover letter makes me dry heave, and I’m not inspired enough my any of my ideas to bring myself to write them down. Between worrying about having enough money to buy food and pay my rent, the possibilities that my health will fail at some point and I’ll end up in the ER with a big fat bill, and the confusion about which way to turn next to get some desperately needed funds, I’m having a hard time remembering why I wanted to be a writer in the first place, let alone mustering up the courage to put words on paper.

The funny thing is, when I’m distracted by other pressing matters, the writing I want to do doesn’t just go away; it finds a way to squeeze its way out  into the world when I let my guard down a little. You know how when you’re a kid and getting one of many immunizations and you’re all scared because they’re going to poke with that big fat needle? And so you tense up your teeny little bicep and it hurts like hell. And then afterwards you emerge from the examination room, your face red and splotchy and your breathing just a string of ragged sobs, and your big brother tells you, “You know, if you relax your arm, it hurts less.”

It’s so counter-intuitive to relax in the face of stress and uncertainty and a lack of inspiration. But I find that my words often tend to eek out of my pen and onto a spare receipt or envelope late at night, when I’m winding down and getting ready for bed, or in other words when I am able relax a little and let my guard down.

The other thing that helps me relax are encouraging, snark-free words from other, more established wordsmiths. I really appreciated Brendan Constantine’s post on Poet’s & Writer’s today, which speaks to the importance of getting it out:

“…it will always be true that our poorest work lies ahead of us. We’re going to write something truly awful in the future. We have to. Why do we have to? It’s often the only way to uncover the good writing. Like going through a kitchen drawer, sometimes we have to take out things we don’t need in order to get at the things we do.”

Constantine goes on to pinpoint what holds me, and a lot of other people, back,: the fear of writing crap, or even worse, crap that someone else has already written less crappily.

“Where I see many of us get stuck, again and again, is in forgetting the role of “chance.” No sooner are we enjoying a sense of success (even if it’s just saying “Well, that didn’t TOTALLY suck.”) than we are forgetting the experience of discovering our art as we went. Chances are (sorry), we’ll attempt to create something else, but this time out of sheer will. Under these conditions, we’re totally screwed…The best we can hope for is something almost as good as we used to be.”

Thank you, Mr. Constantine, for reminding me to stop gritting my teeth and letting me know its ok to sift through the kitchen drawer a bit until I find what I’m looking for.

You be rockin’ my world, Mr. Constantine. Click here for the artist’s website.

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The Music Makers: On Everlasting Gobstoppers, Regina Spektor, and Making Art

“We are the music makers. And we are the dreamers of the dreams.” ~ Willy Wonka

So in the past couple of weeks a few people have asked me “Where do you get your ideas for your writing?” To which my response was precisely: “Uh….I dunno. Life?”

Most of my inspiration to write probably comes from a desire to fiddle around with the rules of the universe, because some day, if I’m very good, I’ll be a God and writing stories is just good practice in the meantime. But in all seriousness, I don’t really know how to answer that question, especially since I write mostly science fiction/fantasy type stuff. Most of my ideas come from something I see or think about in my actual waking life, and then I say to myself, “Huh. well, that kind of sucks. But what if I wrote about it sucking, and then I threw in some zombies/unicorns?” I have yet to write anything involving zombies OR unicorns, but that’s beside the point.

Click to watch video of the gobstopping action!

The point is, for me at least, the inspiration to write a story usually comes from a series of events and occurrences, T.V. shows, coincidences, chance meetings, observations, things people say to me, and my own wish that there was a larger range of possibilities when it comes to realistic expectations. The whole process kind of reminds me of the Everlasting Gobstopper Machine in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the one with literally all the bells and whistles that makes machine farts and a whole lot of other hullabaloo before it poops out these little magnificent pieces of candy.

Regina Spektor, who was recently interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, spoke about this process when asked to describe how a specific song she wrote came into being, so I thought I would end this post with her words on the matter. You can listen to the entire podcast here:


Speaking of unicorns, don’t you think that Regina Spektor could be the real life version of Princess Amalthea from the Last Unicorn? If you were born in the 80s and haven’t seen that movie, you are highly unlikely to write any high fantasy.

Terry Gross: Do you want to talk about the inspiration for this song?

Regina Spektor: Um…you know, I’d love to talk about it. It’s always so hard though because I feel like I don’t fully ever understand exactly a specific lineage of a song. It sort of feels like lots and lots of things happen, and then I just write a song. It’s a combination of books and thoughts and stories and things I saw in the streets of New York and just a million things, and then, oh, I wrote a song.
And then Regina Spektor grew a horn on her forehead and Terry gross turned out to be a zombie and they fought to the death over the radiowaves. The end.

NaCreWriMo: National Creative Writing Month

My Alternative Challenge to NanoWriMo, OR, NanoWriMofor Wimps

A couple of my adoring fans (i.e., friends on facebook who have been very supportive of my attempts at becoming a writer. I’m looking at you Kit and Adam!) have asked me if I am participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. The answer is, unfortunately, no. I will explain the reason why I am not “officially” participating later in this post. However, I wholeheartedly encourage people to give it a go!

I love NanoWriMo. I think it’s a great idea, a great challenge, and gives people a great opportunity who’ve always wanted to take a crack at that novel that’s been brewing inside of them. Personally, I respond well to tangible goals, especially ones with deadlines that are sooner rather than later. Which explains why I tend towards “project management” in my professional career. I do best when I can conclude something within 1-3 months.

I liken this to being a natural sprinter. In high school, I was much like Gimli the dwarf, “wasted on cross country.” I never lettered on the cross-country team, but I was on the varsity track team for six years, because I started out as a sprinter in seventh grade. I like to be able to see the finish line and know once I get there, I’m done. If you’re a distance runner, once you get to the finish line, you have to go around the track at least three more times. Oof.

I’m a bit of a Mindy Kaling in that I always seem to be musing about whether “everyone else is hanging out without me.” (I guess the two previous metaphors make me a female Indian Dwarf with no stamina and social anxiety disorder. I’m ok with that). I have such a strong pack-mentality. If I were a lemming, my genes would definitely not be passed down to future generations, because I would be too excited by my meetup-group’s excursion in cliff-diving outing next weekend. I know that makes me a bit of a “sheeple,” but I tend to become excited by whatever is exciting a critical mass of people. Hence, when I woke up yesterday morning and saw everyone groaning in their facebook status about how eeking out 1600+ words was about as fun as giving birth to a cheese grater, I was immediately jealous.

The jealousy wasn’t really founded in anything realistic. If I had another 50,000 words to go in this novel, signing up for NanoWriMo would make sense. But I don’t really. I decided to try NanoWriMo last year, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. In October I was chugging through the thickest part of my novel, and Nano gave me the opportunity to just pump out 50,000 words and give it my book some meaty substance. I now only have another couple of chapters to write from scratch, and otherwise I just need to revise the parts I’ve already written. (excuse me while I take a moment to pump my fist into the air victoriously! Okay, I’m done).  I now need to take the words I wrote in a hasty mad-dash finish to the Nano finish line and make them readable and coherent.

Even though I am not doing Nano this year, I can say with full confidence to anyone who is considering it that it’s definitely worth a try. Last year, Nano made me just stop all the procrastinating/excusing that happens when you’re afraid to take a stab at doing something you really want and just sit down and did it. There’s something about focusing on quantity over quality that actually helps you get stuff done, especially if any of the following are true for you:

–       You have a lengthy novel or script you just need to pound out

–       You have an idea for a novel, but you just can’t seem to bring yourself to start it

–        You’re pretty sure you could write a book that’s better than Twilight, even if you simultaneously started initiated an addiction to speedballs at the same time.

–        You never seem to have enough free time to sit down and write that novel

(hint: you probably never will have enough time. You would have to give up going out, working out, drinking, dating, and cricket practice to clear your schedule enough to write a novel in anything under a year. And if you work 40 hours a week, taking all the fun out of your life to write a novel will most likely make you cranky and no fun to be around. And then, when you have your novel launch party, all the friends you alienated while writing won’t show up. Poo.)

–        You’ve never written a short story, poem or book. Virgins do it better.

However, I still want to be a part of the Nano fun. I hate November, except for the part where I get to binge on turkey and pie, so having a project to work on until I can the Christmas glee is upon us would be ideal. I also loved how last year Nano started a creativity vortex spinning in my brain last year. I felt really confident about my ability to produce meaningful art and to hunker down and work. This led to an overall boost in my self-esteem and outlook on the world that is similar to the inexplicably grandiose sense of self that comes from working out regularly. Granted, I had a hard time forming words with my mouth and conversing with friends and family over the thanksgiving dinner table by that time, but eh, those guys have to love me no matter how awkward or artistically spastic I get.

So I’ve decided to come up with my own Nano challenge. Although I am not in the “producing” stage of writing my novel, I do want to be more productive writing in general. This means I need to spread my energy across a few different projects, such as:

Journaling

speaking my truth in a medium that is safely tucked away from the general public

Blogging

I approach blogging more like essay writing. I want to try to keep it going as a public venue for my writing voice. It’s like an dating profile for my writing. Hopefully a few people will fall in love with it, take it out for a nice dinner and one day and marry it.

Writing my Novel

Novel with a capital N. Still got to chug away at this big lug and get ‘er done. Have you ever asked someone how their dissertation is going when they’re only halfway done with it? I did this to my friend Meredith who replied, and I quote, “UGGGGGGHHHHHHH my disertayyyyyyyy-tionnnnnnnn.” That’s kind of how I feel about my novel.

Writing Project B

I’ve been in the throws of conception (ooh that sounds sexy) for another novel/short story that I’ve been thinking about writing since I moved home and inevitably clashed with the culture I grew up in. I think I’m just going to start writing it and see what it turns into. I didn’t want to do this at first because I didn’t want to start another novel until I finished my first one, but MY MUSE IS A BEAST THAT CAN’T BE TAMED! It’s like a wolverine. Or a very ornery cat.

So I am now imposing on myself the goal of writing 50,000 creative words by the end of November, or 1,667 words a day, in any of the above formats. If you’re too chicken to go for the 50k words of a novel but want to boost your creativity, I hereby challenge you to design your own November of Creativity. Write anything! Poems, blog posts, political commentary, song lyrics, hate letters to all of your exes, it’s all good. Just write!

I’m going to try to tally my words in each category listed above and post it daily on my blog. Anyone wanna join me? Who’s in?!

Here's to under-achieving!

“I’m tired of pretending I’m not a total bitching rock star from Mars:” The Introversion of Rock Stars

Posted on

There have been a few interesting articles in The Huffington Post about the nature of the creative personality that have caught my attention. Today, an article by Scott Barry Kaufman called “After the Show: The Many Faces of the Performer,” really captured my interest.

I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a performer, per se. I have a little to no desire to appear on stage, except in the occasional rock-star front-woman fantasy that is always undermined by the fact that I can’t sing. But I was surprised to find that I had a lot more in common with other “creative” types of, what I previously considered, a more extroverted nature. I’ve recently been exploring and struggling with the nature of a seemingly dual personality, in which people who meet me in a social context find me extroverted, forward, and occasionally abrasive or judgmental, but internally I feel shy, thoughtful, and need a lot of downtime so that I can recharge my energy, which gets easily drained when I interact with the outside world.

Apparently rock-stars aren’t so different from me. Kaufman cites Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s 1996 study of creative types which resulted in these findings.

“Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. We’re usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. In fact, in psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliability measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.

Kaufman goes on to analyze a personality study conducted by psychologist Jennifer O. Grimes of 21 hard-rock musicians she found at Ozzfest, of all places. The study reveals the complex personalities of these creative types, and the intricacies of their nature, with elements that go way beyond that hard-partying/jamming on stage stereotype. Another study by Gil Greengross and Geoffrey Miller analyzed the personality of comedians and humor writers and revealed the stark contrast between the comics public personas and their true selves:

“The public perceives comedians as ostentatious and flashy. Their persona on stage is often mistakenly seen interchangeably with their real personality, and the jokes they tell about their lives are considered by many to have a grain of truth in them. However, the results of this study suggest that the opposite is true. Perhaps comedians use their performance to disguise who they are in their daily life. Comedians may portray someone they want to be, or perhaps their act is a way to defy the constraints imposed on their everyday events and interactions with others.”

This is an intriguing article that should be read by anyone who is a creative professional, or perhaps someone who knows a creative-type and is continuously mystified by them. For the complete article, click here.