Saturday, April 27, 2013

April Showers: Creative Exposure

Hi, folks, this is the last in my series, April Showers. This week I'm going to dip into creative exposure. This is way I jump start my imagination.  It's all about feeding your artistic soul.

Here is an example: I just road-tripped to Austin last night to see an early screening of Iron Man 3 hosted by Ain't It Cool News.  I met a group of engineers who work on luxury airplanes and an artist from England who comminserated with me about the deep truth that the process of creating art is what interest artists and not selling their art. For me, I feel excited about what I am working on right now -- I remember with fondness the incredible journey of my completed works. We nodded at each other, sharing the weirdnness of this situation.

Then I watched a nicely crafted movie written by Shane Black with Robert Downey Jr., Ben Kingsley and others, having gleeful fun. Why some of these Marvel movies don't win a few more shiny statues is a mystery to me. Fun isn't worthy I guess. At a movie like this, it is all about the spectacle. Spectacle isn't lauded as art in exalted communites. I hope I never reach such heights of snobbery. After the movie I was struck with the most creative piece of the journey -- a misty moon in the sky.  I imagined witches, dragons, and monsters in that full moon wreathed in clouds.  I call the moon my lagniappe of the journey. What's a lagniappe?  Like the thirteenth donut in a dozen, it's that that little something extra. 

I think following your curiosity is the best bet when it comes to creative exposure. I search for what challenges me. I try to read impossibly difficult books or stuff that everyone is reading, just to see what that is all about. I search out the weird and the wonderful and make sure I get a chance to revel in it. I also hunger for the divine and search for sacred spaces and holy connections. I'm a self-proclaimed geek and also try to wedge in some geekdom fun whenever I can. I'm a lover of art and good music, and tasty food and chunk out time for that too. Of course, I love writing conferences, open reads, and critique groups, but, oh, I like the opera, a good dance troupe and will stop to watch skaters at the local skate park when I have time. 

Here's the deal, not everything speaks to me, but I am very aware of what does. I energize my creative self and make sure that I receive exposure. Not getting enough exposure is like not getting enough sun; your bones start to wither.

I hope that you spend some time seeking creative exposure this week. I will be back next week with a series called Blooming, all about pre-writing activities that help me produce the fruit of writing--manuscripts. 

Here is my doodle: "Iron Man Chicken."

Quote for the week:

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April Showers: Marvel

Water your soul by pouring the best of art into your soul.  Part of the reason for why we create is a response to the world around us. You need to take time to marvel at the natural world around you. Your books will be infused with the wonder of the world as you take the time to admire the astonishing details that surround you.

It's cool to travel to exotic places with breath-taking vistas but I've found that these places aren't always the ones that speak to me the most. In fact, I've found it's difficult to predict which places will speak to me the most. I've come to the conclusion that you must trust your instincts when it comes to connection. The natural landscape that you gravitate toward will sometimes surprise you. Search for the spots that squeeze emotion out of your pores.

I have a little ritual that I perform in new places. I go very still and let the place speak to me. Thousands of detail begin to bombard me. I could never verbalize what I am taking in. But I have noticed that allowing space to take in the details will energize my storytelling. It's almost like taking a memory photograph or movie. I can easily return to these memories and recall every sense. I can also pull in every nuance of emotion I felt. I'm convinced these tiny details are what make your work rise above the rest. You must have the information within you to put it on the page.

Finally, you don't have to go on a far flung trip across the globe to find what you are looking for. Your bluebird of happiness might be in your backyard. You might string a hammock between two trees and just marvel at the sound of the wind and birds. You might stare at the whorls formed by the leaves of a succulent. You might break off sprigs in your herb garden and let the aromas swirl in your mind. Search for what speaks to you. Watch a spider build a web. Listen to bird song and bubbling brooks. Pile sun warmed rocks on your belly. Marvel in the world around you.

All these glorious details will set your mind on fire. Take time to marvel. I will be back next week the the conclusion of April Showers. Meanwhile seize the day.

No doodle this week. Here is a photo of my hammock, but my son Jack is marveling at the moment. 

Here is a quote for your pocket:

The landscape belongs to the person who looks at it...  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, April 13, 2013

April Showers: Small Steps

Hi folks, brilliant sunshine, perfect warmth, and blue skies -- not exactly writing weather, but perhaps I can grab a notebook and find a sweet spot under a tree.  I'm continuing my series about what waters our creative soul. I think one important piece to thrive as as a writer is to take small steady steps.  So many want to leap, and leap right now. I think there is some deep truth in that story of the tortoise and the hare.

One way to make serious forward  leaps  is to make a list of small steps you can complete over time. As you complete each small step you feel deep satisfaction that you are drawing closer to your goal. You build confidence layer upon layer. Small steps help you avoid becoming stuck. You have a plan and the next thing to do isn't that big.

For example, a problem I'm facing right now is a main character who needs to shift her goal. I'm going over two or three pages a day and underlining anywhere in the manuscript she thinks about this goal  Then I journal little paragraphs about various ways her new goal might work in the underlined sections. I've made a chart of chapters vs. goal change. I'm writing an overall plan about how I will achieve the change. Next, I plan to  underline sections and then make my planned revisions. I will highlight each revision and let the manuscript rest for a few days.. I think you get the idea. Small steps. I find puddle jumping is the way to go.

I hope that you water your work with some small steps this week. I hope that you make progress and celebrate that progress. Be kind to yourself. Think happy thoughts. Seek the best of everything, the best in everyone, and the best in you.

I will be back with more showers next week!  Meanwhile seize the day!

Here is the doodle:PINK BLOBBY. 

It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward. Chinese Proverb. 

Saturday, April 06, 2013

April Showers: Start Taking Advice

Hi, folks, welcome to the blog. This month I will touch on what waters creatives. What causes us to break through walls, to open up new avenues, and spring up? Hopefully my musing will help you create your master works.

Here are my first watering words: take advice. I think that many writers shy away from the good advice. I also understand why. We are the creative force behind our works, and no one wants someone messing with that.  Here's the dealy, you are not going to move forward until you learn to listen and learn to act. The following three cases may help you make the leap you have been longing to make.

I think we can be prideful about the advice given. Why should I listen to someone who hasn't got a best seller in  her credits? You are going to pay a ton of money for advice, you could have gotten from a critique group for nothing.  To this person, you must join a critique group and for a period of about six months and make a promise to yourself.  "I will let go of my ways and do what my critique group recommends."  I mean it -- even if it means putting aside the novel you have been slaving over for 20 years, even if it means changing you POV character in you novel, even if it means switching a whole novel from third person to first person present. Take every bit of advice. Truth: it won't all work. Truth: You will now know what does work.  Truth: You are going to make the biggest leaps of your entire career.

Another group is afraid to take advice. They are plagued with self-doubt, unwilling to believe they can indeed pull off the magical advice that has come their way. They have a difficult time believing they can be more.  Oh, self-doubters, I want to hug you now. First stop sabotaging good advice by telling yourself you are not as good as the advice giver, best selling authors, whoever. Don't worry about what other people think. Oh, my gosh, start listening to your fans! They love you. Stop minimizing your works. Think about what you want and whisper that to yourself every time you work on challenging advice.  Here is my little mantra: "You will finish this book. You will find an agent. You will find a publisher. You will find an audience. You are trying -- the most important ingredient of success."

One more group doesn't listen to advice because they just don't understand it. Repetitive advice may indicate the author lacks a skill set. If you are getting a lot of feedback that relates to grammar, story structure, POV, etc. that it is not going away no matter what you do to your work. You are suffering from ignorance and need to shore up what is lacking . You need to learn a thing or two. No biggie. If you are getting specific feedback -- read a book, work through exercises, or take a class. This is the only way to act on the advice given and finding the road to success.

I hope that you have a happy time taking advice successfully. I hope that you move forward with all that you wish to do.  See you next week with more April showers.

Here's some advice from one of my favorite writers.

Some people like my advice so much that they frame it upon the wall instead of using it.
- Gordon Dickson