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Feeding the Creativity Furnace

This series of posts comes from prompts from the DIYMFA book club. Today’s is:  Do you have a tool that helps feed your creativity? Share it! 

Keep the ideas coming when you need a push of inspiration.

My creativity for writing comes from many places. When I’m in the middle of a project I find it easy to continue. All I need to do is to start reading where I left off and I usually am excited to get started again. Sometimes I start by editing and before I know it, I’m writing and have added more content.

Other times, when I’ve just ended a project, it’s harder to start up a new one. That’s when I need a little push. Here a few places I look when I need a little inspiration:

  • “Creative scraps” – When I’m out and about or just during the course of my day when I hear or see something that catches my eye out of the ordinary, I write it down. These could be an overheard phrase, something funny, beautiful, sad, or strange in my environment. I heard an author once say these are the gifts we are given as writers and we can’t let them
    go unnoticed. I carry a notebook in my purse and when I don’t have that I scribble on whatever piece of paper I do have, a notebook in a work meeting, a receipt, or voice recording on my phone.
  • Put the scraps where I’ll find them –I have a Word document on my computer that houses many of these little scraps. I add it to the list when I remember or have time. I save them on my desktop in a place I call “Writing Starts”. That way when I am ready to write and I can’t think of what I want to write, I have a list of my own prompts to start from.
  • I find other prompts – Some of my favorite prompts have come from Natalie Goldberg’s An Old Friend From Far Away. For a while, I did one page a night from that book. I also sign up for challenges like this one with DIYMFA to get a kickstart when I need it.
  • I write in spurts – I have not done them for a while, but sometimes I do Morning Pages from Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Other times I’ll write every day after work or some other time of day. After a while I will read through these pages and use the information that I find interesting, sometimes just a couple words or phrases, to start new work.
  • I save everything – I save all the pieces I write no matter how bad I think they are. I never know when I might come back to it for an idea.
  • I look for themes – I look at contests, anthologies, and literary magazines for the themes of their submissions. When I find one that interests me, I either start a new piece on it, or find one of the others written above (see I save everything) and expand on it.

I’m a Survivor (Story)

Today’s challenge from the DIYMFA is to find out What is my Storytelling Superpower? I love taking quizzes and this one was right on, telling me that I’m a Survivor. If you look at my Goodreads booklist in the sidebar, you will see that this is a match to my reading list too. I love reading about characters with the will to survive.

My list is filled with books about people facing illness, loss, and death. On the surface reading books about these topics may seem depressing, but to me they are hopeful. I enjoy watching people’s journey as they come to understand and/or overcome the serious obstacles of life.

I also like the way characters in survivor stories are problem solvers. I am very much the kind of person who is trying to solve the puzzles that life throws at me and seeing people on the page try and come up with solutions is exciting to me. When characters believe in something so deeply I want to see them succeed, even if they have to keep trying. I especially like stories about real people who are survivors, whether they are full-length memoirs or shorter essays.

Survivor stories aren’t just about the person who needs to overcome the obstacle. They help us grow and emulate the survivor.

It makes sense then, that my own memoir is a survivor story about my brain tumor and my father’s stroke. It tells how I only understood my brain tumor after watching my dad fight for his life after his stroke.

Seeing my dad struggle helped me understand in a way that I had not previously, just as all good survivor stories do. Survivor stories aren’t just about the person who needs to overcome the obstacle. They help us grow and emulate the survivor.

Crackling Reality

This is in response to a prompt from DIYMFA BookclubHas there ever been a moment when writing felt completely incompatible with your real life–when it felt like there was just no way you could make the two exist together?  Tell a story about a time when you had to honor your reality. 

Sometimes I get so tired and I am too weak to even write.

Sometimes when I am prompted to write something I find it hard to do so.

Sometimes when I’m done writing something, I can’t imagine writing anything else.

Sometimes all I want to do is turn on the television, watch someone else’s “reality” and blink.

When I’m counting down the minutes until I have enough words on the page.

When I’m waiting for the big idea to come.

When I’m trying to stay focused.

When I’m trying to remember what I’m supposed to be writing about.

When I want to do something with my mind shut off.

When I’m thinking about what kind of treats they have behind the counter.

When my coffee is cold, but not on purpose.

When I’m listening to the conversation behind me.

When I remember that I started this list with Sometimes.

When I hear someone eating potato chips and crumpling the bag between every bite.

When I flash them a look and then feel bad.

These are the times when it seems that I will never write another word. These are the times that I can’t believe I’ve ever written one.

I remember all the little scraps of paper that are tucked in my notebook, in my wallet, in my jewelry box, on my desk, and in my nightstand drawer.

Little flashes of inspiration. Times when the real world was black.

There will be more. But my reality is crackling now.

 

My Origin Story

This week I’m starting a new challenge. Yesterday an email appeared and asked me to join Gabriela Pereira’s DIYMFA Book Club. All I had to do was click, and before I knew it I was part of something. Then, before I knew it, I was being challenged to write about my writing “origin” story. I love a good challenge, so here goes.

I was never one of those reading/writing kids. In fact, I never really liked reading until I became an English Literature major in college. And that almost happened by chance.  I wasn’t very good at my first few choices for majors and if I’m being honest, chose English Literature because the handsome professor made it much more exciting.

I liked using words like motif and genre and found writing papers to be pretty easy. The only hard part was typing them up in an age before computers. When I graduated, I put my writing aside except for the few words I strung together on proposals, press releases, and advertisements.

Reading took a wayside to watching television and shopping as I relished my post-college free time. Life was great and my mind deserved a break after the hard work I had accomplished at school. But just before I turned 30 my dad had a stroke that left him severely disabled. He died eighteen months later and I finally started to see things in a different way.

I found that words were the only way to process life. I stopped watching and began to write about my dad, my large family, and the seizures I had hidden from everyone until they revealed a brain tumor that had to be removed just after graduation.  I thought I had learned everything I needed to know while I was in college, but I finally could see how much learning there was to do in life.

Writing helped me see myself and the world so much more clearly. Today, I do it every day that I can and narrate the world around me when I’m not.