Relaxing the way to Creativity

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin, inventor, American hero, and ladies man. (Public domain image, available through Wikimedia Commons.

Writers: booze is your friend.

Well that got your attention, didn’t it?

In truth, though, it may not be your friend, but definitely mine. Calm down, calm down. Please don’t call the parenting groups on me, and please don’t chalk this up to, “Oh dear, Galfie’s gone and gotten himself shnockered.” I am not about to launch into a sermon to the world on the virtues of guzzling yourself into a gutter. I’m just about to wax philosophic on a certain trait of writing–I’m not a saucy drunk. As Benjamin Franklin said, after all, all things in moderation. Even moderation.

And there was a fellow that liked to share a drink.

Still with me? Good. Now let’s start making some sense.

Booze, and its like-minded if less fondly looked upon cousins (kids, don’t do drugs–I’ll wag a finger at you, most heartily), have long been a staple of the art. Oh hell, who am I kidding: of ART. Drop that “the” right out of there. Perhaps it is certain mental propensities amongst the artists in question, and in many cases you would be right, but the fact is these substances possess a quality very helpful to the creative side of people: the lowering of the inhibitions.

Man’s inclination is toward over-thinking. Our days are filled with stimuli assaulting us from all sides: chattering roommates, blaring car horns, social media bleepings, open browser windows, cell phone calls…it gets to be a little overwhelming, and as one goes down the list, it becomes easy to see why society these days has such a problem with focus. What we need–and hey, this part isn’t just for the creative among us here–is the ability to tune it all out. Some people have the ability to do that on their own. Truly focused, driven individuals, impervious to distraction.

To your face I say, “You lucky devils you.” Behind your back, I say the same thing…in less kindly terms.

The creative flow needs all the help it can get. A few drinks, a short meditation, even a few moments sitting and petting your dog (like this puppy here. See, this is why Ms. Emmie is destined to be a writing dynamo) can be enough to ease the over-flaring of the conscious, and let us sink into the subconscious flow of the creative. After all, that is where the inspiration lies. We need enough of that conscience, that overt logic, to formulate the details, the intricacies–outlines, chapters, and what have you, but the relaxed mind brings forth the flow. It lets us go and go, without constant second-guessing.

For those of us with annoying little fellows on our shoulders, that time of peace is invaluable.

That is not to say, however, that this methodology doesn’t have its flaws. Much as one may write while in this zone, it may be countered with heavy editing, heavy revisions later. Such is the tradeoff: suppressing the editor so the writer may thrive. Yet the important part has been achieved: the pressing of thoughts to paper. Ideas can always be revised, honed, perfected–but we must get them out and breathing our sweet air first. It is an all too difficult process when we attempt to birth them with hands already stained with doubt.

Deep breaths. That’s right–just relax. Those contractions are normal for the writing process.

Any breaking of water in this case however probably means you either, A. Drank too much, or B. should consult a physician. My condolences.

Of course, the simple fact is that this method isn’t for everyone. Some people need that over-abundance of logic. Some people work better when they’re constantly self-editing as they go along. The haze, the fuzzy nature of the relaxation–it actually shrouds their creativity in turn, instead of clearing the ground for it. Find what works for you.

But if you find you can’t get the world outside your head for an hour a day, just relax or go for a run, put on a little music and have yourself a drink or some steaming hot tea…and you just might ease your way into creative clarity.

Inspiration

“Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time…the wait is simply too long.” ~Leonard S. Bernstein

I write in mountains. Don't you?

Inspiration is the great provider to us lowly writers. Prometheus, if you will. The problem is that inspiration is never a constant. While months and years may go in its passionate embrace, there will be those days–inevitable and infuriating–where inspiration withdraws into the shadows, to leave us cold and alone.

The question this leaves us to face is thus: do we press on without it, or wait for its return?

Some people wait. Personally, I’ve always found it silly. Growth happens regardless of whether or not you’re “in the zone,” and I daresay that if you find yourself, in that lonely forward push, stumbling through the writing, that as frustrating as it may be, it’s good for you. Failure reminds us we’re human. It also pushes us more forcefully toward self-improvement, in a way that success–or the appearance of success–never could.

Writing, as any skill, must be honed through constant practice. If we start taking large swathes of time off simply because we don’t “quite feel it,” we have the temptation to get lazy, and the writing itself could suffer. Do you want sloppy prose to be what you greet inspiration’s return with? Seems like a terrible welcome to me. Besides, there is the fact that inspiration could actually be summoned by your writing, rather than needing your writing to be summoned by inspiration. Immersing yourself in the world, in the characters, in the poem, what have you, could draw back inspiration as quickly as anything.

The other side of this, of course, is that if you don’t get a part just right, if you press through the numb of non-inspiration and end with a few thousand words that don’t quite capture the personality you know it needs, you’re not doing yourself justice. That is the beauty of writing: editing is a key part of the process. If you’re not going back and re-reading yourself anyway, you’re doing it wrong. When inspiration comes knocking again, return to any points you were concerned about, look over it with that newly stirred creative eye, and adjust accordingly. It’s not hard.

And don’t tell me “the moment is lost” if you must go back and do that. How many edits do you make at the end of a product your creative spirit told you was gold in the first place? Your editor?

Just write. Outline. Create something. Writing is not a one shot game. It’s many layers of writing and rewriting, editing and editing again. Breathe. Everything will be okay.

Writing: For Self, not Sales

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”
~Cyril Connolly

Writers, take those words to heart.

Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins

"Painting the Writing Master." Image care of Wikimedia Commons.

I know many of you come to the pen with big dreams—sometimes those big dreams include fat wallets, legions of fawning women (or sparkling vampires, as you will), and possibly an honorary lifetime supply of Captain Morgan’s finest. Well I’m probably not the first to tell you, but kiddies, one writer to another, let me just say, that’s not the way of the world—and if that is your sole interest in this art, I think you may wish to consider a new career path. Quickly.

While I’m not saying the former examples couldn’t happen (sans sparkling vampires, at least as far as I know. Call the cops if a pale lad covered in glitter shows up on your doorstep though—garlic optional), in the real world, it’s unlikely. In fact, these days, it’s a miracle for most writers to even make it into a steady career. I don’t say it to be harsh. It’s simple fact. Writing is a big dollar business for publishers—not for writers. Writers, more often than not, turn to their writing as a second job. Their passionate job. The work that gives their lives meaning.

But still, a second job.

Writing is not about money. It’s not even about fame. Writing, in its purest form, is art—no different from the portraits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the sculptures of the Frederick Meijer Gardens, and so on. It is art with a pen, rather than the hammer or the brush. While these things can produce the other two, they should be undertaken for a love of the craft, and the howling of the soul.

Yes, howl. Like a werewolf. If writing doesn’t stir the primal in you, if it doesn’t roar through you with all the power of a freight train, if the thought of never writing again—regardless of whether anyone ever would or could lay eyes upon it—doesn’t crunch your soul into a knot, than perhaps you should re-evaluate what you are doing.

Why do you write?

Do you write for your family? What about fame? The almighty dollar? Or do you write because the sun rises in the morning, sets in the evening, and leaves starlight to bathe the night in silver?

It is that intrinsic to my own nature—and to my sanity. What does writing mean to you?

Exploring the Imagination

The Power of Imagination. Image by DP Studios and Wallpapers on Web.

What is a writer without imagination? It is the font of creativity, the well-spring of art that keeps us moving in a dry, dry world. Reality may lend forms to what we drink, but the imagination – the imagination breathes detail into those shapes. As Emily Dickinson once wrote, “The Possible’s slow fuse is lit by the imagination.” Such a beautiful thing to comprehend.

Which is why I am always curious when a head cocks at the sound of what I do. I write, I say, and I see the eyebrow arch. I enjoy the fantastic. Fiction. Fantasy. Their heads shake and I hear the words, “Why not write something real? Something substantial? Non-fiction is the bread and butter…” And I smile, just a bit, at the concept. They scorn it because of the lack of “real value” to the world. Real value? My goodness, how do we even begin to define…is not the power of the human imagination, the power to showcase how far that human thought can reach, not worth documentation? Every bit of writing employs imagination, to an extent. Fiction or non-fiction – those are merely scales of extent.

Even non-fiction has details we fill in. Auto-biographies, narrated years after the fact, might embellish a detail for the storytelling, reflect on events long gone and add a line, here or there, that prod at the curiosities of our own imagination. They pursue thought, not merely deeds.

As I get closer to releasing my first fantasy novel, though, it is a curious thing to reflect on – this concept of imagination, and where it stands in our society. So much fiction,  fantasy, sci-fi, and what you will flood the market, yet all too often you hear those calls for structure, for the sensible, for the restriction of the imaginative from sources populating that same reality. The disconnect astounds me.

Henry David Thoreau. Image care of Wikimedia Commons.

But that leads me to a few new quotes for this week, revolving around that sense of the imagination, and the creativity it walks with hand-in-hand:

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.  Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.  Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”
~Theodore Geisel

“They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.” 
~Francis Bacon

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” 
~Henry David Thoreau

Writing: The Author’s Art

It’s a special day – a sound start to what I hope will be a fine week. Certain conclusions are wrapping around this writer’s brain and nearing reality. Excitement is in the fingers and on the mind – but such things must be teased out…As such, creativity’s heavy on the mind this day, and below, I’ve got another pair of writers’ quotes to engage you.

And later, a big announcement/update that’s been a long time coming…stay tuned! (Along with a few smaller announcements are also contributing to this curious sense of happy.)

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.  Art is knowing which ones to keep. “
~Scott Adams

“Life can’t ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer’s lover until death.”
~Edna Ferber

Death of a Muse

Tender touches

twilight now

when you would walk through moon beams

silver youth, in my mind,

your long-tossed hair that fleeting glimpse

unworthy hands would never know.

A dream-wrought kiss

for all sensation’s cheer—

a note to set the pen to dance

beneath your light.

What is your name?

Reality, but a longing and a life

no bearing on the yearning—

the dreamer’s supple realm.

A thousand ships would sail for you,

in mind, while your eyes turned—

it wasn’t till the flesh took my hand,

crowned in cruel identity

cast me out to sea

that all those ships were set to burning.

* My latest contribution to One Shot Poetry Wednesday. This piece was essentially the second part to the post I made yesterday, on muses and their very real, physical departure, in the form of people. Yesterday I gave other people’s thoughts on muses, but today I put forth my own thoughts on the muse’s withdrawal. For those with a physical embodiment to their own creative drive…

Colorless

They would not toy with it, nor move it by and by,

for some irredeemable quality smothered within the sheet,

the colored tape amidst a sea of flashing life cries,

this rainbow city borne on secret chambers of the heart

no monitors nor viewfinders might seek,

and such writhe the passion, blinding hot,

its heaven lain beneath the glittering sheets,

fed upon the blood, all same scarlet–

they are mighty walls they raise between the dying and the dead,

but beneath the sheet, the flash enfolds

the bone, always bone–

the city all men walk, though the hearts might beat them down

and grind them into dust.

* My contribution to the last One Shot Poetry Wednesday before the New Year! One I wrote several months ago, during a philosophical bent following a rather long and heated discussion between several friends on man, and the world, and all that fun stuff.

And as an aside, let me just take a moment to thank you all for all the support you’ve shown this year, both to me, and to One Stop Poetry. It’s been great delving into the online poetry community, and to find so many of you so willing and supportive of reading, and sharing the art we all love. I hope the year has been as good for you as it has for me.

I know I look forward to seeing more of what you have to offer in the days to come – and I hope you all continue to enjoy what you find here in my humble little den.

Cheers, everyone.

Graduation

Photo Credits: MSU Commencement. Year Unknown.

Graduation is here at last. If you needed an explanation to why the Den’s been a little quiet this week – look no further than that. In a wash of green robes and final papers, my week has been a flurry of continuous movement, continuous demands, and this single Saturday stands as the peak at the end of the long crescendo. After this, I still have a few finals (really, whose idea is it to have final papers AFTER your graduation?) but they are merely the final stepping stones bridging the gap between this life and the next – the entrance to reality.

All next semester will be spent hunting down a job, sending out swarms of short stories, poems, and (hopefully) my novel to contests, publishers, agents, and what have you on the march to creative advancement, and preparing my law school applications. Just have to remember to keep telling myself to breathe in the meantime.

I’d like to take the time to thank you all for all the support and kind words all of you have shown here on my blog over the past year. I never would have thought I’d find such a warm reception to this little creative outlet of mine…and it’s been a kindness, truly. I’ll be back soon enough with more. In the meantime, though…excuse me as I step off into reality. Be back in a bit.

Of Frustration

Writhing serpent of my dissolution

No solution

To your pollution

Of my ever-yearning soul

No more grim atoll

Might ever seize upon my whole—

My life, my life!

They call upon the fife

Thrusting its notes upon the edge of a knife

No travail

Might ever prevail

Above the madness that assail

My spirit wails, unfit

To persevere and to submit

To all the hopes that you have writ.

* My latest contribution to the wonderful One Shot Poetry Wednesdays! Once you’ve had a look, check out some of the other One Shot Poets as well– they’re a skilled bunch of poets, looking to form a community and support one another.  Enjoy!

Existential Freedom

Existential elation

The night’s revelation

Soul’s sweetest evocation

Mind longs to improvise

To sleep, yet rise

Above the lies

Until we admit

The body is unfit—

Do not think to hear it

To bear the broken madness

Never fail to aggress

This fairest stress

To break the blind

That stalks the mind

May yet free mankind.

* For the first Monday Poetry Potluck!