Mid-winter Writing Blahs

My houseplants are looking a little leggy and droopy these days. It might be they’re experiencing the mid-winter blahs that many of us feel at this time of year… discouraged from putting out any effort because light levels are low and chilly air hovers just beyond the window.

Maybe they need repotting in new soil and a bigger container where they can stretch out their roots and find fresh nourishment.

Maybe that’s what I need – something to stimulate growth, to encourage me to stretch.

In this winter of my creativity,

Lord,

bring

warmth to my soul,

wisdom to my words;

deepen the well of inspiration

in mind and heart

from which I would draw

in this winter of my creativity.

 

~

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 
 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
he leads me beside quiet waters, 
 3 he refreshes my soul…   5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…. [Psalm 23:1-3,5-6]

 

Refilling the Well

We all need it sometimes. Renewal. Refreshment. A replenishing of the creative juices. Artist and author Julia Cameron calls it refilling the well or restocking the pond. I call it sidestepping burnout.

Whatever occupies us day after day, we can’t keep at it indefinitely without taking occasional breaks to refuel the passion, the source of our energy and enthusiasm.

I know what it takes to rekindle my flame.  Just give me a day of solitude, preferably sitting on the rocks or logs at ocean’s edge, where the sound of waves acts like white noise for my brain. Serenity replaces stress, and the joy of being one with God fills the empty places to overflowing.

I had such a day last week. In fact, I had two-and-a-half of them. My DH and I had what Julia Cameron refers to as an artist’s date… “something that enchants and entices [the] artist within.”

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The well is refilled.

What do you do when you need to replenish your passion and creative energy?

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. [Mark 1:35]

Taking Care of Creative You

I’m only lost if I don’t know where I’m going, but knowing where I’m going isn’t the same as having a specific destination. Am I confusing you? Sorry about that, but it’s not as convoluted a statement as it may seem.

Unlike Jan Markley who was trying to find her way to a YABS (Young Alberta Book Society) event and ended up being “transported into an alternate parallel universe” (no, aliens didn’t scoop her up but a late-May whiteout almost kept her from spending the day in a coveted green leather hand chair – don’t ask; that one is convoluted), I’ve been known to muse and meander without a destination but with a purpose.

It’s something Julia Cameron advocates. I’ve read a few of her books now but regularly go back to WALKING IN THIS WORLD. In it she advises her readers to take “extended soul-refreshing walks” as one of the tools to nourish creativity. It’s amazing what ideas, solutions, and discoveries emerge from a brain being drenched by additional oxygen during a brisk walk or a contemplative meander.

Any caregiver will tell you that you can’t continue to give of yourself indefinitely without occasionally replenishing your energy. Likewise, a writer’s source of inspiration needs topping up, the well needs refilling.

At the beginning of Julia’s course of discovery she provides a “Creativity Contract” that I think we would all do well to sign.

(Today I’m particularly conscious of taking good care of myself as it marks exactly five years since my cancer surgery… a happy milestone. 🙂 )

What steps do you take to care for yourself and nurture your creativity?

Fear, Faith, and the Foggy Swamp in Between

During March I swept aside doubt and decided to revise an old manuscript one last time.  It has something to do with my belief that the MC’s story should be told. Whilst being plopped into a fictional setting, the nucleus of his story is factual.

There are times, however, when focusing on a message can cause the demise of a novel. I know this but I’m persevering anyway. It’s one of those things that will niggle at me indefinitely if I don’t obey the impulse.

I don’t think it’s perfectionism or fear that has kept me from sending this story out into the world although my daughter, Shari Green’s recent post on creativity and perfectionism gives me reason to question my rationale. Shari says,

I think fear is at the heart of perfectionism. Fear of failure, of not being good enough. Fear of disapproval. Fear of disappointing others or self. But when it comes to creative endeavours, here’s the thing: perfectionism kills creativity.”

Maybe it IS fear. Nevertheless, I honestly believe this story isn’t well enough written so I’ve been revising yet again despite wondering if I’m sucking the life out of it.

At Tricia Sutton’s blog today I discovered she’s pushing herself out of her comfort zone with a manuscript, too, and her words hit another nerve:

“I didn’t really begin the query process. I got scared. Then I misinterpreted fear for “not ready”. I told myself fear is my inner voice telling me to revise … again. And again.”

There comes a time when we have to have faith that what we’re doing is worthwhile, that if we’ve enlisted God’s help he will guide us in writing, refining and recognizing when the time is right to proceed. At that point we’ll know if it’s time to either move our writing out into the world or move on with something else.

At the moment I’m slogging through the swampy place between fear and faith. I wish the fog would dissipate so I could see with clarity.

How about you? What holds you back? Is it fear, procrastination, uncertainty? Or is your manuscript simply not ready?

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Myths About Creativity and Thinking Outside the Box

Knowing there is no subject about which reams haven’t already been written, writers are always looking for new approaches to transform old ideas. Creativity infers a process of “thinking outside the box”… looking at things from a new or different perspective. But Brian Clark, founding editor of the Copyblogger website, says ,“You need to realize there is no box to step outside of…. The barriers to a good idea are truly all in [your] head…. We’re all limitlessly creative, but only to the extent that we realize that we create our own limits with the way we think.”

 

It’s an excellent article on creative thinking. If you haven’t already read it I recommend you check it out.

More on the Ws (or Double Ewes): What?

My February 20th posting, “Writing For…?” kept me thinking. What I write varies with my mood but the two topics that most often turn up in this blog are my novel writing and my locale. If you were a fly on the wall here you’d understand why that’s so.

 

In this semi-rural retreat I call home I am surrounded by trees, a bit of wildlife, and the stillness that makes for a perfect sanctuary. Nighttime moonlight flits between the darkened trees to find its way through the french doors beside my bed. Morning sunlight filters through trees to bring its warmth into the livingroom. With hands wrapped around a coffee mug I stand at the bank of windows in our kitchen/family room and check out the slash of deer tracks punctuating the fresh snow in the back yard. There is no place I’d rather be. When my thoughts settle into this groove my subjects are home and hearth.

 

Other times my mental closet of plots and process reaches spillover stage and the ideas that tumble out are random aspects of novel writing — the quirks of the Muse, character development, storylines, revision frustrations, even agents and rejection dejection.

 

There isn’t a lot of logic to why and when creativity clicks into gear or what writing will result when it does. I’ve learned the important thing is not so much what I write but that I write. My responsibility is to keep trying and eventually I become a channel for ideas that need to materialize. Then I simply have to find an appropriate title to attach and launch the creation into cyberspace.

 

So, with that revelation, here’s today’s contribution.