Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Processes are messy and difficult

Beginning of the process of taking down the Christmas tree.

The process mid-way.


What does
three photos of the process of taking down the Christmas tree illustrate? As the title of this entry indicates, all process are messy and difficult. Tis their nature. Things must be in what looks like and can seem like disarray during any process. Think about different processes and how messy they are, cooking, working, taking down a Christmas tree. The level of difficulty varies of course, with the task, but there is an inherent toughness to any process. (Remember back to the first time you did anything, even taking down a tree. It gets easy, but never easy.)

How does this apply to creative endeavors? Whether you're writing a novel or painting a picture or making jewelry, no matter what the creative project, it is a process. But, and here's the rub, for some obscure reason, many of us creative folks believe that creating should be easy and somehow well-organized. It should have "flow" and not be like the rest of human experience. Chaotic. Hard to do. Challenging and sometimes confusing.

With that belief, a writer can get caught endlessly "planning" a novel, a photographer forever trying to figure out how to control conditions or have the right settings or camera or..., and the musician always practicing and never performing. We can beat up on ourselves for not going through the process in a clean, straightforward, no mistakes manner to the point where all creativity dies.

So forgive yourself! Realize and accept that mistakes, wrong turns, dead ends are only part of the process. Doing so is freeing for the mind, spirit and that all important creative juice.

How do you deal with the mess and difficulties of a creative process? Do you fight against it? Or even embrace it as a delightful part of creativity?


Dave King said...

Spoton, so far as I am concerned: whether painting a picture or writing a poem there comes a moment (usually, the exceptions are rare) when I appear to have lost it completely. I think it was better earlier on, but I can never get back to that. The moment of truth usually comes with sudden clarity. There is one difference between the two examples: in the case of poetry there are the earlier drafts I can go back to if all else fails. They are a mixed blessing. It's almost better to have b urnt your boats, as in painting.

The Muse said...

The decorations inside are all down. I'm still working on the outside. Hubby hasn't been available to help me with those. I was actually considering leaving them up. With my luck none of the lights would work next year.

Everything is a process, you're right on there. This post could apply to recent events around my home front.

Step by step we're getting things on track.

I hope your holidays were good.

Take care!

Swubird said...


You are so right. The process, and the mess. How to design one to minimize the other?

In writing my own book, I started out with a good process in mind. I'd organize my folders, make plenty of backups, and have a file for extraneous material. Everything would be kept neat and tidy, so that I would never get lost in the mess. Wrong!

Two years later, I now have way too many copies. Sometimes I can't even remember which one is which. And my desk is a mess.

So now, I keep a running file of the entire manuscript, along with separate chapters. I periodically backup the manuscript onto a DVD. I name it, date it, and keep it in a drawer away from the computer. I also keep a backup on the computer and on a separate hard drive. I know that's a lot, but I've crashed before. It's not pretty. At least if I loose the computer, I'll have the manuscript up to that last backup disk. Whew! But it's messy.

The bottom line it that avoiding a mess is hard work.

Happy trails.

Conda Douglas said...

Good idea, Dave, about burnt boats. I try to avoid earlier drafts if at all possible. I tend to get too distracted by any leftover good tidbits in an earlier draft--and usually those bits show up in something or somewhere else.

Conda Douglas said...

Yes, Muse, everything can be viewed as a process, sometimes a repeated process, but a process all the same. I'm always amazed at how I relax when I realize I'm in the middle of a process and all processes are messy and difficult.

Conda Douglas said...

Swu, I also "started out organized" and now I too keep my entire w.i.p. in a single file. Whenever I make major changes, I "save as" the next number, as in w.i.p. 1, w.i.p.2 and so on.

Great minds, eh?

Jim Murdoch said...

My way of writing is more like putting up a Christmas tree. You have to begin with the frame (I'm assuming artificial tree here) and that has to be assembled in a sequence, bottom to top. And that's how all my prose writing works, beginning with a skeleton just to get me from A to E (or F – I'm not sure how many layers are in our tree). Then the lights go on and finally the ornaments. The lights symbolise the flow of the story. And so I begin at page one and read until I find a 'dead blub', replace it and move on. The basic story has to make sense. Then the ornaments, the details, and they can take the longest of times making sure all the gaps are filled and there's a balance.

My current book is really two trees. I've got the first one built and am at the decorating stage. The second one has the base done and that's about it. I'm still footering around in the box trying to see if I have all the pieces.

Conda Douglas said...

Love the metaphor and how you "build" your novels, Jim. And intriguing with "two trees" for your current w.i.p.?

Jim Murdoch said...

Not difficult really. The first half of the book takes the protagonist up to a critical juncture, the second half explores the consequences following that revelation. The first half is a physical journey more than anything but the second half will be a mental one.

Anonymous said...

An excellent point. I think we romanticize it a lot. Plus there are the books and movies out there that make all creative endeavors seem inspired. And, of course, inspiration is supposed to be easy, practically done for us...right?

Conda Douglas said...

Jim, intriguing explanation as well, for me. I'm on the first book of a trilogy and working on "where the breaks come" and how much of the story is for which book--it sounds like yours, although a single book, is similar.

Conda Douglas said...

Caryn, too right, it is romanticizing to the nth degree. I still have people say to me, "Oh, you're a writer so you don't actually work, right?"

Yeah, right!