Creativity


I reread Anne Lammott’s essay called “Shitty First Drafts”. Wow, did i ever need the reminder this a.m. for a new (scary) project that i’m working on.  I love this bit about the voices, which applies to me whether i’m writing or not:

Left to its own devices, my mind spends much of its time having conversations with people who aren’t there. I walk along defending myself to people, or exchanging repartee with them, or rationalizing my behavior, or seducing them with gossip, or pretending I’m on their TV talk show or whatever. I speed or run an aging yellow light or don’t come to a full stop, and one nanosecond later am explaining to imaginary cops exactly why I had to do what I did, or insisting that I did not in fact do it.   I happened to mention this to a hypnotist I saw many years ago, and he looked at me very nicely. At first I thought he was feeling around on the floor for the silent alarm button, but then he gave me the following exercise, which I still use to this day.

Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar. Then isolate another voice, pick it up by the tail, drop it in the jar. And so on. Drop in any high-maintenance parental units, drop in any contractors, lawyers, colleagues, children, anyone who is whining in your head. Then put the lid on, and watch all these mouse people clawing at the glass, jabbering away, trying to make you feel like shit because you won’t do what they want–won’t give them more money, won’t be more successful, won’t see them more often. Then imagine that there is a volume-control button on the bottle. Turn it all the way up for a minute, and listen to the stream of angry, neglected, guilt-mongering voices. Then turn it all the way down and watch the frantic mice lunge at the glass, trying to get to you. Leave it down, and get back to your shitty first draft.

 

When I was linking to The Gargoyle for the last post, I found a bit on the Amazon page where the writer, Andrew Davidson, talks about his process of becoming a writer. 

Any writing teacher will tell you you’re supposed to read everything you can get your hands on.  But he says doing that just made him write like the writer he was reading at the time,  “word raping” he calls it.  He worked hard to find his own unique voice.   Here’s an excerpt but read the whole thing if you have time:

While in Japan, I entertained myself by writing and, having already mangled poetry, short stories, stage plays and screenplays, I thought it was time to give a novel a shot. A strange thing happened: I found that I don’t write like other people when it comes to novels—or at least, none of which I know. It’s true that I’ve read comparisons of my novel to a number of other books—The Name of the Rose, The English Patient, The Shadow of the Wind—but I haven’t read any of them.

I read something else about Davidson – he’s from Winnipeg, a small Canadian city not known for being a literary hotbed.  And he was sending the manuscript around to publishers and got detailed feedback from one editor who assumed that he’d ignore the feedback and just go on to the next publisher, because that’s what most writers do. 

And instead Davidson did a full edit of the 500+ page manuscript, incorporating the editor’s suggestions, had it bound and sent it in again.  Can you imagine having the faith to do all that work when you have no idea if it’s going to pan out?

But it did for him, he got the million+ dollar multiple language/country book deal.  Which is really impressive for a first novel.  Or any novel, really.

Yesterday I found Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED video where she talks about the pressure of writing something to follow her last incredible success, Eat Pray Love.  She said everyone loves to tell her it probably won’t measure up and how terrifying that must be.  But it sounds like she shows up to do the work anyways.   The video is 20 minutes, but totally worth it.

She suggests that maybe our genius is outside of us so it’s not all about us toiling alone in frustration trying to produce something interesting and then hitting the bottle when it fails miserably.  She says that maybe we can only work with the genius we’re handed.   Maybe our genius has good days and bad too.  Maybe our muse needs to step up and take some responsibility as well.   I like that.  My muse can start by taking responsibility for the grammatical errors in this blog, I’m busy finding my unique voice ;-)

The bottom line seems to be   – find your voice even if it means not following the rules.  Find a medium, even if it means mangling them all.  Do the work.  And be kind to your genius and share responsibility for the results.

I found this blog, Woolgathering, recently.  Her name is Elizabeth Perry and she posts simple paintings and drawings every day and recently celebrated her 1500th post.  I can’t imagine doing anything useful every single day for 1500 days, she inspires me. 

She, like me, grooves on that quote “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” Here’s what she says:

Will power doesn’t count much. Delight does. Find something that delights you enough, and you will keep doing it anyway. Even on days when the biggest obstacles are your own expectations.

So my wish is to keep finding the delight. To have the chance to be present, slow down, and pay attention for a moment. Every day.

A small treat.

Another breath.

Another drawing.

I found a Jim Jarmusch article on his five rules of directing.  I love #2 as a reminder on how to get stuff done whether you’re getting support or not.  And #5 is great too, regardless of what you’re making:

Nothing is original.  Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.  Devour old films, new films, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows.  Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul.  If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.  Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.  And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it.  In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “it’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.

Jim Jarmusch

I get lost in busyness all the time.  And I’d rather be moving toward what inspires me instead of doing what I feel I *should* be doing.  But how can I feel inspired when my kitchen’s a disaster area?  And what if I find out i’m not inspired even when it’s clean? 

How do I dig deeper to find an urge, a desire, some kind of ”go” feeling that points me somewhere, anywhere like a dog that picks up the slightest scent of a trail.  Or what if I know exactly what I want but can’t do a damn thing about it?  Then I just get to wait it out.  I might as well be asleep.  Except I’m sure as hell not.

So I try to be spin it for myself so I can live with it.  Like, maybe there’s a purpose to the waiting.  Maybe I’m saving up my energy.  Maybe it’ll all make sense down the road. 

But if I don’t buy it then they’re just useless platitudes and there’s nothing more depressing than that.  So sometimes the best I can do is - it is what it is.  And try to relax. 

That’s what I thought about when I read this by the guy who was in Jane’s Addiction.   

Letters to Xiola

How great it would be
If the sun lost all responsibility
And left us here
For me, the days become an excuse
But I too have found a way of not waking up
I’ve been asleep now for days, and days, and days
I feel as if I’m sitting in an open box car
And it’s heading out of town
It looks like the inside of a prison cell
I’m scared
And excited
My days and my dreams have never known each other so well
In the course of my day, I have no idea where I’m going
But in my dreams, no matter where I end up, as soon as sleep rolls over me,
I sneak out and head downtown
My dreams allow me to cheat
My dreams punish me
They’re so vivid, I see pictures so clear,
It would be forgery to paint them
I hear songs as clear as a summer radio
Songs that pass the time
As the boxcar heads south
I woke up in the late afternoon
On a day like this, I wonder if you age less, because you didn’t use all of it
You see, if that’s so, you should be able to live twice as long
As anyone else, just by waking up at four o’clock in the afternoon
Turn on the late-afternoon TV
There’s all the career school commercials,
Drug addict and alcohol rehabilitation commercials
And I think to myself,
Gee, I’d like to have a drink and get high
Then the phone rings
But I don’t answer it, cause I don’t care who it is
I don’t got anything I want to talk about
I remember when you used to call
Remember?
You’d always say,
Oh, we’re going to famous
That’s how you always end the conversation
An inspirational message
It was okay between the two of us, it was funny you know, but
Inspirational messages always seem the most possible
When you’re totally wasted
What do I need?
What is going to bring me around?
It’s not listening to ex-drug addicts
I know for a fact all drug addicts are liars
I get off on athletes when they start getting all inspirational
Then they gotta go and mention Jesus and ruin it
Weight loss commercials are pretty good, you know
Some forty-year old lady who’s lost eighty-five pounds
And I look at her, and I think,
She could not possibly have more guts than I do
Books
The Bible’s never really done it for me
Being an extremist, I’ve always thought it was just too popular
There’s a paper in Los Angeles called the Recycler
The Recycler has given me a lot of inspiration
I remember when I first moved here, and the determination that I had
To get a job, and find a band
Get an apartment
You know, if only I had a cool apartment
I’ll save every penny and I’ll buy myself some equipment
Always just two or three steps behind happiness
It’s too bad they don’t do centerfolds or cover stories
I’d kinda like to be on the cover of the Recycler
I had no friends at the time
All my friends now are drug addicts
I don’t believe I would ever wish that I had no friends
You never met Bernice or Alfred
They’re a couple that have been through thick and are now very thin
Bernice is usually in a better mood than I am when I see her
She lives on the street
She’s an adorable Mexican girl
It seems like, if you were to take her home and scrub her up,
She’d probably start singing and become America’s sweetheart
Alfred sits on the curb and reads
He reads more than I do
I like to believe it’s because he’s got more time
Last dream I had, I drove downtown, and I just stayed there
Hung out with Alfred
We both sat on the curb, talking all sour over current events
While Bernice and Casey hustled up the business
Yeah, adding up credit with Kiko
It amazes me how little difference there is between me and Alfred
And Bernice and Casey
As far as I can see, the only difference is that,
Right now, we’re making our rent
I remember something about a boxcar
Inside of it, there was something on the wall
Bernice loves Alfred
Hey, I got another one for you
All men are created with equal time
Father Time has got to be the richest make-believe individual
That never lived
A man that knows what to do with his time
Is a man, I guess, that’s up in the front of the line
In the course of the day, a man can make three phone calls,
And make three thousand dollars
Another man can curl up his bicep for three hours,
And he can puff up his arm three inches
And another man can stand on the corner, chasing down cars for three hours,
And end up with three spoons’ credit with Kiko
Me, I spend days on end trying to come up with a three-minute poem
That’s gonna mean something to somebody
And I’ve never been satisfied
Maybe I should try scrubbing up Bernice

– Perry Farrell

Uh-oh, I feel an interweb confessional coming on.  Ready? I’m totally addicted to reading Twilight.  A friend lent it to me and I thought, “yeeaaahhh, teenage vampire book, righteo”. 

And yes I do talk that way to books that lay unread on my shelf, that’s part of the confession.  And then I picked it up because I figured if I got it back to her soon she’d lend me Gargoyle which I can’t wait to read.  So I started reading and, bang, I’m addicted. 

I’ve been pretty good lately about reading decent stuff.  Not the kind of stuff I mumble about when someone with more than a grade 4 education asks politely what I’ve been reading.  But I guess I’ve slipped. 

I mean sure, the main character blushes too much and I get tired of hearing about his white teeth, like OK I get it.  But it’s fun.  Also, I grew up in Vancouver so hearing about the lack of sun, non-stop rain and moss-covered everything makes me sorta homesick, you know?

And who can’t relate to the story?  Who hasn’t fallen head over heels for someone and realized there are *issues*.  Maybe it’s bad timing or someone’s got a mild addiction to something expensive.  But is that really so far away from – gee I wonder if he’ll suck my blood on the first date or wait until the third when he knows me better?  We’re all human.  Or most of us.

Honeybunny bugs me fiercely.  Like, “maybe you’d like to read *this* book, oh no wait, there are no teenage vampires in it”.  But don’t think he gets off scott-free.  I throw back, “how’s the Gormenghast Trilogy going, it must break your arm it’s so thick, they just can’t fit that much boring into a skinny book.”

Yesterday I got an update from my friend.  She tells me she’s reading all 500 pages of Gargoyle aloud to her Hot New Man & Soul Mate.  She says it’s not going well, they keep getting distracted.  I guess by the 11:00 news, or the cat or something.  Whatever it is, I’m not seeing it anytime soon.  I could always continue the Twilight series.

Anyhoo, I’m stepping away from the PC to read, in the meantime I’ll elevate this blog posting with a poem from a blog post I found today.

Archaic Torso of Apollo, a Translation for Bored Children.
After Rilke, by Catherine J. Coan

eyeball ripening
in the head

candle in the chest

in and of
and in itself
and of it

did you know
you didn’t know

loins
smile

don’t think of buttcrack
here you mustn’t think of it

think of the shoulders
or a waterfall

you see
a cat and a star
and an unframed frame
and here is the thing

don’t think buttcrack
otherwise you’ll never
beget what he meant

no snickering
this is a museum

the statues have no arms
because they fell off
from strangling stupid kids like you

do you want to be a serious poet or what

I just spent a really long time looking at the photos on Robin Schwartz’s site.  I love the series of her daughter with the animals.  That little girl is one old soul….

I have to get all fan-girl about Abigail Thomas.  A friend turned me on to her writing. A Three Dog Life was good and I bought Safekeeping and dip into it only every once in a while because I just don’t want to finish it.  It’s made up of short memoir-ish vignettes.  She’s a grab-the-big-complex-picture-in-minimal-words kind of writer.  I just love it.  I’m going to drop one of my faves from it here:

I Ate There Once

She never thought he’d get old this way.  Never thought his defenses would come down one by one, dismantled, she realizes, by children.  She imagines a split-rail fence coming apart over the years.  He wasn’t wise, she understands now, he was depressed.  They had both mistaken depression for wisdom.  She has married again, the third time, and she sits up front with her new husband, the nicest man in the world.  Her old husband sits in back, bundled in blankets, blowing his nose in his old red kerchief, wearing his brown hat.  He has gotten so gentle.  Especially since she has remarried.  He treats her like a flower.

They have their own language.  It isn’t secret, but it is their own.  Certain sights carry weight for them.  They remember everything.  She once told him she remembered the exact moment when she knew it wouldn’t last.  That they weren’t going to stay together, that their little vessel had not been made very well, that it had sprung too many leaks and then in anger both of them had gouged holes in the bottom.  Sink, damn you, they thought.

“I know when i knew it, but I didn’t say anything.  We were standing under that tree,” she said. “I forget the name.”

“It was a mimosa,” he said. “The mimosa tree on the corner.”

Today they are driving upstate to see their daughter graduate.  Her new husband is driving.  She loves his kind profile, the way he keeps asking her former husband if he is warm enough. It was he who remembered the extra lap rug.  They are like three old friends, companionable, everybody on their best behavior.  They pass a sign for a Mexican restaurant, coming up on the right.  It is the only place to eat on the parkway.

“I’ve always wondered what kind of place that is,” says her new husband, slowing down for a look as they approach. “Unlikely spot for a restaurant.  The food must be terrible.” The restaurant, only barely visible through trees, vanishes behind them.  As it happens, it was here that she and her second husband had eaten their wedding supper, twenty-five years ago.  They were by themselves and had been married about an hour.

“I ate there once,” she says.  Her expression doesn’t change.  She doesn’t turn around.

“So did I,” says a voice from the back.

I was browsing an art magazine and found these photos by Callie Shell.  She started taking pics of Obama when he was an almost-nobody during the Kerry run.   Just keep clicking “more images” at the bottom of the page.

The one of the little boys with their upturned faces just kills me.  And I love the one of him and Michelle on the bus.  And the one of him in the stairwell waiting to do his third speech of he day. 

 

A friend sent me this link to a video about painter Harry Ally.  I love the image of his hands methodically rubbing the paint onto the canvas.  He says – “Every painting is a failure but gives you just a little ray of hope to try the next one.”

Here’s to failing more often.

 

 

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