Friday, June 18, 2010

The Creative Tao

One of my favorite creativity references is Pamela K. Metz's The Creative Tao, published in 1997. It's both about the artistic process and about living life in a creative way. Her interpretation of Lao Tze's ancient text is always inspiring to me. Here's are a couple of excerpts:

37. Practice

The creative Tao does nothing,
yet all things are done through it.

If women and men would practice creative living,
then our world would be more natural.

People would find the artistry in their daily lives and be surprised by their inventiveness.

When creativity is practiced,
there is contentment in the world.

52. Telling the Story

Each person has a story to tell.
When you know your own story,
you begin to understand your life.

If you refuse to know yourself,
you may limit your possibilities.
If you embrace your journey,
you may find peace in your heart.

Seeking the unknown helps to create mysteries.
Giving up the known may lead to enlightenment.
Telling the story is a creative person's quest.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The role of cogitation in fiction

I'm spending a couple of days at the beach. One of the projects I brought with me is to transfer all the notes on my current fiction project into my new creative journal (I keep two journals going all the time--a daily journal and an ongoing creative journal that keeps all my notes and quotes and ruminations).

The soon-to-be-completed creative journal, I'm happy to discover, is full of notes and questions and thoughts about the novel I'm working on. I take regular writing retreats and at the end of them, I spend the last few hours writing a lot about what's next to resolve. Copying these into the new journal is a great way to refresh my thinking and so it has set me contemplating and cogitating in preparation for my upcoming retreat and how I'm going to tackle some of the issues that await my characters.

As a long-term recovering alcoholic, I have a very conscious relationship with thinking. In the throes of my addiction, when I drank all day every day, I never really thought, I just reacted. And when I got sober, I became conscious of thinking again, of generating ideas, of being pro-active instead of just reactive.

Nothing pleases me more than the ideas that come to me about the characters and the plot tangles and the ways to resolve the predicaments I've written them into. And it takes quiet and space to do that, quiet and space that I don't usually allow myself at home. But I'm delighted to have this pre-retreat to get reved up.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lowering your expectations

While he's probably not the first to say so, poet William Stafford is famous for encouraging writers and poets to get out of writer's block or a writing slump by lowering their expectations. It's good advice for all of us creatives.

It's advice that I'm not always smart enough to follow, one of those do as I say, not as I do, things. Most of us have well-honed inner critics that are full of familial, cultural, and personal comments about the quality of the work we do or the odds of us succeeding with our art. I am no exception.

But those voices aren't helpful, for if we listen to them, we don't risk. We don't try new things. We see the tasks ahead as insurmountable rather than one step at a time.

I'm not suggesting that we hold ourselves to no standards, although that can be handy from time to time. I don't think most of us will banish the inner voices permanently. But if we just keep writing (painting, potting, sculpting, collaging), something good will come of it. And much more will come of it if we lower our standards than if we are flummoxed by the thought of not good enough.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Top 10 excuses not to write

1. Got to clean first, do laundry, shop, too busy, too many chores.
2. Not enough time (Can't write tonight because I only have a half hour. Why even start?)
3. My ____ (spouse, kids, mother, dog) needs me.
4. Too tired
5. Not inspired.
6. Need to _______ (exercise, rest, sleep, eat, work, surf the web)
7. I'm stuck and don't want to start anything else.
8. Nothing to say.
9. Not a good enough writer.
10. Moon is full. It's raining. I'm out of coffee.

Thanks to Judy Reeves for getting me started. What's your favorite excuse?