Friday, October 31, 2008

A Dark and Stormy Day

It's the Devil Dog of the Serengeti!

And it's a dark and stormy day here--I'm hoping for Trick or Treaters so I don't eat all the candy!

And a question for my friend bloggers in other countries: do you celebrate Halloween? With kiddies dressed up and all the fixin's?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Refreshed, renewed and clearing the decks

Seats with flowers in the center at Pike Place Market.

Bruce on Whale Sighting Boat.

Me on the whale sighting tour. We saw Humpbacks!

Okay, I couldn't resist a few vacation photos.

In the previous post, I discussed taking a real break and what it might mean. So, what did it mean? Well, Swubird had a point in the comments when he said I might need to take my laptop, that's it's tough going cold turkey. Luckily, I had a pen and pad of paper for when inspiration struck. And it did strike, about twice.

But most of the time, the well refilled, the creative engine refueled, the spirit refreshed and--well you get the idea. And ideas started popping into my mind--a real light show. Which is excellent for my next endeavor: I'm participating in NaNoWriMo, not to write an entire novel in a month, but rather to finish my w.i.p. by the end of November. A way of setting an intention.

So, what did it mean? The vacation worked! And the ship analogy of clearing the decks? That's what I'm up to this week to prep for NaNo. Finishing an article that's going to be due November, submitting some short stories, cleaning the office...

How about you--do vacations just make you feel guilty--or do they renew your creative source? Like me, when faced with a deadline, do you leap into productivity--or become frozen? Do you feel the need to occasionally "clear the decks" or do you find comfort and inspiration in chaos?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fall Without Failing

Some pics of fall foliage

This is going to be a short post as I am about to head to Seattle for a real vacation, i.e. just having fun and doing what we want.

Feels strange. UnAmerican, somehow. Never mind that it's been over 2 years since we had a real vacation. Never mind that I often promote taking breaks from the work.

So never mind that if I don't take a writing tablet and the intention to "work on my writing" along with me, my anxiety skyrockets. Doesn't matter if I actually write, I have to know that I'm planning to write to relax.

Now that I've confessed my "fall" that really isn't a "failing" how about yours? What sort of goofy eccentricities do you find yourself doing as a creative person? Do they trip you up? Or not?

Come on, you know you have some!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Turning back

A photo of a path on a fall day.

As promised, when to quit. When giving up isn't because you can't ever finish what you started, isn't lack of commitment or discipline, but is the right thing to do.

And there's several reasons to quit the path, all legitimate.

One could be that the path has simply disappeared. This happens, not often, thank heavens. But sometimes a great idea is only that--an idea. It turns out to not have enough substance to sustain a long work. We've all read novels with a fabulous start and an incredible idea only to have it...peter out, go flat, disappear.

Another might be that in the course of writing, your characters have taken on lives of their own (a good thing) and have kidnapped the book--snatched it off the path and taken it you-don't-quite-know-where-yet. If they've gotten too distant, i.e. you'd have to force back into this book and they so don't fit anymore, then it's another novel you need to write. So cannibalize the one you have.

Or maybe this novel was a drawer novel and as you get further along you realize that you needed to attempt a new form, a different genre, or a completely different way of writing--and that was your passion for setting off on this particular path. Now you may have learned what you wanted to learn and--poof--passion and commitment are gone. Again, go ahead and cannibalize.

Finally, you might come upon an enormous boulder or brick wall in the middle of the path and realize it's unpassable. Your plot doesn't work. Your characters have failed to engage you, so they won't anyone else. The writing just isn't there, for whatever reason.

But take heart, dear friends, and remember what W.B. Yeats said, "No work is ever wasted."

When do you give up on a work? Why? Do you ever regret the decision? Why? Do you ever return to the work and start all over? Or do you always move on? Or pull the good from it?

Monday, October 6, 2008

After the honeymoon

Or: when the path becomes a quagmire or has boulders blocking it, or thorned bushes growing close on each side.

In other words--you've picked a path and determined to go down it and you're going along and it gets nasty.

Part of the problem? If you think of each new idea as being like a first date--only unlike first dates, you already know that you adore the new idea. But it feels like the rush of first love, ah, romance. This is the one! Perfection! Joy! But of course as you continue to date and get deeper into a relationship and it becomes more complex and layered, hmmm.

And after the honeymoon, when you're slogging along thinking "Do I have to rewrite this scene AGAIN?" (Why do I always have to do the dishes?) or "I'm so sick of working on this painting, I can't stand to look at it" (She's not going to tell that same story AGAIN is she?) or "What am I doing out here in this wretched weather waiting to take a photo? (I hate golfing in the rain, but my honey loves to golf, so...).

Like everything else we commit to, we have to commit because sooner or later it becomes work, sometimes hard work. Although the passion is still there, it may be hard to feel it when you're slogging through the muck of a muddy path or clambering over huge boulders or wincing from thorns.

Okay, yes, I'm mixing analogies and metaphors and images, but you get the idea.

What to do when the road gets rocky or the first flush of passion is only a dim memory?

First, remember. Remember not just that first flush of excitement, but remember when you decided to commit to this particular work. Remember why. Remember the strength of that commitment. And remember the passion you felt.

Second, take a conscious break. Sometimes the way through the mud is to step out of it. Not for so long that you forget where you were on the path, or go down another one, but long enough to get another perspective (see, if I do this the path dries out).

Jump over the boulders. That's the amazing thing about any creative project, unlike paths and relationships, you don't have to be linear. You're not trapped in straight time. And we're creative people, we can think outside the box, or path, or relationship we have with the work. Struggling with your novel? Write the last scene, or another later scene, or rewrite an early scene and then return and see if that hasn't pathfound a way through.

Next post, when to give up and turn back and abandon the path or divorce it. Dave of Pics and Poems was right when he commented in the previous post But paths change. What looks promising is often disappointing...

What do you do when you hit a rough patch in a w.i.p.? Do you have any tricks or treats (it's October) that help?