Friday, September 03, 2010

Writing Life: Tips For Beginning Writers (Part 4 of 5) - Fuel

This next part is about feeding your creative soul. While I probably take this to an extreme simply because I have the time and resources to do so incorporating some variation of these ideas into your life can't hurt.

In my mind feeding your creativity is one of the most important things you can do if you're creating any kind of art. I believe most creative people practice some variation of these ideas and don't really need this post but I'll write it down anyway. For me, "Fuel" is divided into three parts: Balance, Variation, and Openness.


This is a major struggle for me because when I have some free time all I want to do is write and to hell with everything else. First and foremost, the usual edicts of good health apply with eating right, exercise, and getting enough sleep being at the top of the list. Exercise in particular is really important because I spend so much time in my head that I need to spend time in my body to balance things out. Also, helpful for me is relaxing at the spa. Some level of meditation would probably help too but I'm still trying to get my workouts in so I'll think about that later. Lack of sleep is fact of life for me because I'm a night person and want to stay up late when I get going on my writing. If I have to get up early, I usually rely on caffeine to get me going. This is not a good habit and expensive to boot. Clearly I need to work on this aspect of fuel.

Balance is also a struggle for me as I try to stop seeing everything in terms of stories. Sometimes I need to take a break from all the characters and stories rolling around in my head. The best way for me to do that is to take get outside and try to stay in the moment. Walking around my neighborhood and just looking at everything is good. Also, doing mundane tasks while staying in the moment is helpful too. Damn, this is starting to sound a little like "Chop Water, Carry Wood."


Variation is easier for me. I use movies, books, ideas I find (usually on the web), art, and my wonderful city as fuel for my creativity. Variation is also about finding and spending time with other interests, ideas, and viewpoints as a way to fuel your creativity. This could be anything. Whether you love music, plants, sewing, surfing, woodworking, working on your motorcycle, whatever, it helps to have one or two other interests that take you away from writing for a while. Variation helps you see things a bit differently and gives you fresh ideas.


Openness is about trying completely different routines, ideas, and seeking out other viewpoints. This could be reading a conservative magazine if you're a liberal or vice versa, learning about a completely different area of interest or culture other than you're own, as well as incorporating changes in your daily life. This could be something as simple as varying your commute sometimes or seeking out people whose lives are different from yours. Travel is a great way to foster openness because it teaches you there are other legitimate ways of living that are different from your own.

I had an interesting conversation with someone recently about the nature of addiction. She was describing how overcoming an addiction is like having your soul mate die, and how part of the process requires breaking your heart because that's what your addiction becomes to you. I'd never thought about, much experienced, such an idea, and found our conversation fascinating and not a little wrenching. This is a viewpoint that never occurred to me and she did a beautiful job explaining it to me. It made me realize that I really am locked inside my physical body and mind, and there are experiences and ways of looking at the world that are completely different from mine. Seeking out this information, looking for it while interacting with others definitely qualifies as fuel.


I have to write about this idea here because it's something that has been ingrained my head. Years ago before I started working in the law I worked at a children's museum and we were getting it ready for opening. It was an exciting time. The exhibit developers were coming up with all manner of interesting interactive exhibits, ideas were thrown around, arguments made, and the stress of the approaching opening hung over our heads. We spent an enormous amount of time discussing what the term "interactive" means and how best to execute that idea in the museum and with the exhibits. One of the benchmarks of whether we had succeeded in getting people to interact was when the parents stopped filming and taking pictures of their kids playing with the exhibits and starting interacting with the children and the exhibit. We all agreed that being behind the camera and watching your kid was a way to distance yourself. You aren't really even an observer at that point, you just become a recorder of experiences instead of having an experience yourself.

In a way, I see my viewpoint about stories and characters as a similar kind of separation. Often, such as when I had this wonderful conversation with my friend about addiction, the first thing that occurs to me is "I can use that idea for a story!" People, situations, conversations, everything becomes fodder for the story. This idea probably would have never occurred to me had I not spent so many hours with my good friends discussing what it meant to "interact" and have and "experience" and how to enable our visitors to see those experiences as "meaningful."

I sometimes worry that I'm spending way too much time in "story-mode" and wonder if being there is creating distance between myself and the world at large. I don't know if others experience these concerns but it's been on my mind lately. This is also a balancing challenge for me. "Story-mode" is a wonderful place to be. It took me so long to develop the habit of being in "story-mode" and now that I'm there I'm loathe to try to change it. I do notice, though, that it can be a bit much and sometimes it's difficult to turn it off. The next step for me is to learn how to find good balance so I don't feel so uncomfortable during those times.

Next Post: Putting Yourself Out there.

No comments: