CREATIVITY

creativity1As most who practice the creative arts know, creativity comes from a place deep within the soul. To reach that place, we need to make space in our lives, and in our minds. As a writer, I can immediately relate to this concept, knowing that I have to make space, both physical and mental, before being able to access the imagination, or the ‘unconscious,’ the source of dreams and fantasies. A clear period of time and an uncluttered space are essentials for creativity. In today’s busy world this is no easy task.

Strategies for creating space include clearing one’s desk, emptying the day of other commitments, and turning off the phone. Other methods are the practice of meditation to clear the mind, and freeing oneself of the ‘baggage’ of the everyday world. (Leave the dishes in the sink!)

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There are so many obstacles to creativity. In my case a spell in hospital and subsequent recovery time all but sapped my creative energy, after the assault on my brain from anaesthetic and  Which is why you, my dear readers, haven’t heard from me for so long. Now, two months down the track, my energy is slowly returning. With it is a stirring of that mysterious force that can put me in another realm where the laws of everyday survival, metamorphise into a  freedom and release, where creative writing, painting, or musical composition can take place.

Creativity is defined by Wikipedia as ‘a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition, or a joke) or a physical object (such as an invention, a literary work, or a painting).’ (Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia).

Where does this elusive ‘phenomenon’ come from? Some say only certain individuals can access their creativity. Others believe it resides only in the right side of the brain – a theory of dubious scientific substance. More on this in the next post.

Watching my grandchildren effortlessly produce an intricate. original drawing, or playing a musical instrument, it seems to me that perhaps we are all born with this uncanny ability, but somewhere along the way, we lose the clear joy and freedom so evident in those early years. Where do you think creativity comes from? I’d love to hear your views.

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Writer’s Block

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No wonder I’m having trouble putting pen to paper, or bum on seat. Here in tropical Darwin a strange soporific haze hangs over me, and what seemed once imperative now gets relegated to the ‘maybe later’ pile. Somehow the joyful and terrifying task of writing recedes into dreamland. You might think this is a good thing, drifting around in Lotus Land, yet its very pleasantness scares me – just not enough to face that blank page or screen. Yes, I have a bad case of Writer’s Block. In spite of some unsympathetic writers telling us ‘there’s no such thing, it’s mere laziness, so get the finger out etc. etc.’ I and others swear it exists. Here’s what some writers have to say on the subject:

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F Scott Fitzgerald Photo: Wikipedia

‘Let’s start with one of the most famous examples of writer’s block ‘ writes Lee Kofman, in her post Alcohol, Insanity & Other Methods for Unblocking Writer’s Block’ – that of F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose frequent bouts of this condition are forever imprinted on the history of modern literature. In response, Fitzgerald consumed alcohol liberally, often going on a bender (gin was his favorite medicine). But then, it is also possible that it was his drinking that caused much of his blockage, which intensified in his final years. Still, this isn’t a cautionary tale. I suspect that more moderate amounts of booze may prove useful to some for seducing our inner muses.’

Lee  writes: ‘Another strategy to prevent the onset of writer’s block comes from another famous sufferer – Hemingway. A bullfight aficionado who fought in the First World War and reported on the Spanish civil war, when asked about the most frightening thing he had ever encountered, Hemingway said: ‘A blank sheet of paper.’ And here is his advice how to conquer this terror:’

Ernest Hemingway, photo from Google images
Ernest Hemingway, photo  Google images

Stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next… and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it… But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.

Re-blogged from Lee Kofman’s post ‘Alcohol, Insanity & Other Methods for Unblocking Writer’s Block’ from her Blog ‘Lee Kofman: Author, writing teacher, mentor’, at www.leekofman.com.au

 

 

Writing Down the Bones

Natalie Goldberg on the Basics of Writing Practice

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Many years ago, when I first had the courage to try writing, I came across the wonderful Natalie Goldberg’s book, ‘Writing Down the Bones’. Until then I’d always thought my writing had to be perfect, with impeccable grammar, sentence structure, and so on. But no – according to Natalie, the secret of writing is to just let yourself go, forget rules and regulations, and silence the censor in your head.

After having written one novel and started another, I still have trouble turning off the critic. It’s a lifelong habit of those of us whose school compositions were judged on form rather than content. But Natalie gave me these liberating strategies for creative writing, and they may help you too. Here are some edited extracts from ‘Writing Down the Bones’:

‘The aim is to burn through to first thoughts, to the place where energy is unobstructed by social politeness or internal censor, to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel. You must be a great warrior when you contact on first thoughts and write from them. Especially at the beginning you may feel great emotions and energy that will sweep you away, but you don’t stop writing. Your internal editor might be saying: “You are a jerk, whoever said you could write, I hate your work, you suck, I’m embarrassed, you have nothing valuable to say, and besides you can’t spell…” Sound familiar? The more clearly you know the editor, the better you can ignore it.  Don’t be abstract. Write the real stuff. Be honest and detailed.’

Here are some of Natalie’s strategies:

  1. Keep your hand moving. (Don’t pause to reread the line you have just written. That’s stalling and trying to get control of what you’re saying.)
  2. Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.)
  3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page.)
  4. Lose control.
  5. Don’t Think. Don’t get logical.
  6. Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy.)

List of ideas when you’re stuck:

  1. Begin with “I remember.” Write lots of small memories. If you fall into one large memory write that. Just keep going. Don’t be concerned if the memory happened five seconds ago or five years ago. Everything that isn’t in this moment is memory coming alive again as you write. If you get stuck, just repeat the phrase “I remember” again and keep going.
  2. Who are the people you have loved?
  3. Write about the streets in your city.
  4. Describe a grandparent.
  5. Write about:
    • swimming
    • the stars
    • the most frightened you’ve ever been
    • green places
    • how you learned about sex
    • your first sexual experience
    • the closest you ever felt to God or nature
    • reading and books that have changed your life
    • physical endurance
    • a teacher you hadFinally Natalie urges us:‘The ability to put something down – to tell how you feel about an old husband, an old shoe, or the memory of a cheese sandwich on a gray morning in Miami – that moment you can finally align how you feel inside with the words you write; at that moment you are free because you are not fighting those things inside. You have accepted them, become one with them. Push yourself beyond when you think you are done with what you have to say. Go a little further. Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.’

     

Hints on getting published

 

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How important is it to follow submission guidelines when approaching  traditional publisher?

If you decide to approach a traditional publisher, the NSW Writers’ Centre offers the following guidelines:

‘Submitting a manuscript in a genre outside the publisher’s list is a big mistake – automatic rejection. Not providing information requested, or incomplete information, or in the form requested, means the publisher can’t assess the submission properly. For example, don’t tease the publisher with a blurb when they’ve asked for a full synopsis. A submission that ‘bends the rules’ suggests the author is unable to follow instructions or doesn’t care what the publisher wants. No matter how compelling the writing, in the back of a publisher’s mind is the question, is this author someone we want to work with?’

(courtesy NSW writers Centre newsletter)

For more information, including courses on how to get published, see the NSW Writers Centre website at http://www.nswwc.org.au

However, should you wish to join the many writers of today who decide to self-publish, there is excellent advice on Anne Skyvington’s Blog  http://write4publish.com

 

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A Writer’s Life

“To have a successful writing career you must be willing to sacrifice a great deal. The book, the deadline come first before anything else. Writing is not a job; it is a lifestyle, and it is a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. You need self-confidence and an iron carapace.” ~ Virginia Henley

Re-blogged from Mary Jaksch ‘Write to Done’

This is so true, but after a lifetime of looking after others, putting every mundane task first, before the writing, it takes a huge leap of faith, to say nothing of enormous discipline, to put the Writing first and foremost.

Guidelines for Randwick Writers’ Group

Our Randwick Writers’ Group has the following simple guidelines:

  • Numbers are limited to five, so that critiqueing is detailed and resiprocal.
  • Most of us are working on a novel or memoir, rather than short stories or poems.
  • We hold fortnightly meetings of two and a half hours, allowing each writer time to give and receive feedbback. One of us is timekeeper, dividing time equally according to how many are present.
  • We rotate venues from house to house as convenient – giving us a private and friendly environment.
  • Word limits of excerpts max 3000 are submitted by the Monday before the meeting, which is held every second Wednesday morning. Submissions can be online, or on hard copy.
  • if desired (and if time) we read aloud one or two pages.
  • We keep feedback constructive, starting with a global review, then a more detailed look atwhat works and what doesn’t,  finishing with  positive suggestions on how to improve our writing.

(See Post on Randwick Writers’ Feedback Guidelines)