Archive for January, 2012

Discovering our creative force

January 27, 2012

This is about being a creative discoverer. I believe most all of us, whatever our interests or profession, would acknowledge that, at times, we can be just that. (“Pumpkin Garlic Cake?” A bookshelf that clamps books at the top of the shelf rather than resting them on the bottom?)

Every single one of us has, in individual ways, access to pieces of the creativity we need for art, and for living. Of course we must be open to gaining that access. It takes quiet moments. It takes listening and paying attention and, in today’s noisy, connected world, this kind of listening doesn’t come easily. (Probably was easier for Thoreau than it is for us today.)

Seems to me living itself is an act of discovery, so we might as well call it creative discovery.  Therefore, our “ah-ha” moments are actually discovering bits of creation, however you define that word, that were always there, but we just got around to opening up some of those that fit us and our need at the moment.

As a writer, I can certainly identify with what Garrison Keilor says, “Writing is an act of discovery.”  David Hare amplified that by saying: “The act of writing is the act of discovering what you believe.”

That’s really interesting–or it is to me, anyway.  By writing, I uncover dormant ideas, even discover what I really think.  And, since I’ve written both fiction and non-fiction, I will attest that this is true for all creative writing.  Fact or fiction, essays, poetry, mystery writing–all contain words of discovery.

You can’t develop an idea if you haven’t thought it (or discovered it) first, and that usually takes a degree of quiet inside. Some say their best ideas come in the shower, or while wakeful during the night. Certainly those are quiet times, or at least times when our attention isn’t captivated by something external.  Rather than being a mindless activity like rubbing on soap, or a frustrating time like failing at counting sheep, why not engage thought in something more productive?

You can call it what you want. Meditation? Prayer?  For me, it’s prayer, and my prayer is putting myself in the hands of what I acknowledge to be the true creative force.

Whatever your core beliefs, isn’t it great to be able to tune into a creative force?  What do you think?


Free the Angel – being creative in a difficult world.

January 21, 2012

Difficult times?  Hoooboy, if you’re watching global news, mulling over political debates, worrying about the environment, the economy and/or personal income,  concerned about what the earth is doing,  then adding your own problems to the list,  I’d bet you’ll affirm sadly, “Yes, these are difficult times.”

And, here’s another “problem.”  Are you yearning  to see some personal, you-created project through the birthing process and into the public eye?  Well yes, that, too, whether you’re starting a new business, finishing a painting, building a shelf, helping a child build with LEGOs, extending comfort to a fellow human, or putting “The End” on a manuscript and hoping it will become a book.

Well, what if your project isn’t working out?  It’s just too hard, and you’re discouraged.  (Or, I am?)

So, now what? Give up, sit in a corner and cry or rage?  Turn your back on the whole thing and just plod through each day?  What?

I say it’s time to “free the angel.”

These words come from what Michelangelo is supposed to have said when someone asked him about his creative process:  “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Sounds like he trusted that the angel (or whatever) was there. So, what about your angel?

I say every human populating the globe has the creative ability–the angel–inside. Imagine Michelangelo, chipping and chipping away on that block of marble.  What a huge job!  I bet research could tell me how long it took him to find the Pietá, or David, inside those enormous chunks of white marble. (You can do the research if you like, but we acknowledge a lot of time, right?) THEREFORE! Don’t you dare whimper (remember, all this is directed at Radine, too) over the time and hard work it takes to create a viable business, or a painting to suit you and others. To practice sport or dance, help another person meet his or her need, OR, for many readers here, do the writing, editing, selling, and promoting it takes to see shared thoughts go out into the world.  Don’t you dare deny the value of whatever it is your personal creative spark says must come out, be seen, and shared.

Have enough faith in yourself to know it’s there, and it’s yours alone to set free. If you don’t let it loose, the world and all people will be robbed of the value you could have shared.  If even one person gains by what you, (you alone) have found inside and worked to share, well, isn’t that a happy result of your  creative ability?

Yes, it is.  So, let’s get busy chipping.  Free the angel!

The writer’s toy box

January 13, 2012

I have a huge wicker toy box, left over from when our nieces, and then our great nieces and nephew were small. They headed for it whenever they came for a visit. But, today, most of its contents have been distributed elsewhere, since all current family members are beyond toys–or those toys at least–though I can’t bear to get rid of my metal jacks or the “writing board” game I played with years ago.

BUT, those toys are not what I have in my today toy box. Can you guess what I find in that?

Let’s lift the lid.

On top are those sometimes pesky story books full of imagination. Pesky? If they weren’t, why would I sometimes spend valuable thinking time, day or night, worrying about a person (or animal)  who has gotten themself into an awful pickle, and I don’t know how he or she will get out.  World problems–like  Greek debt or Iran sabre-rattling? The economy? Environmental worries?  No! What’s keeping my thoughts involved is concern for a character in a book I’m reading. And yes, I know the problem I muddle  is imaginary.  But, oh what fun to see a story line squeeze out.  (Think of a toothpaste tube . . .)

There are also problems created in my own fiction writing. They’re less troubling. In fact, they’re the fun part of this particular story book. I enjoy getting people into pickles, then organizing ideas to get them out. THAT kind of entertainment can and does give me pleasure for hours on end.  And it’s one reason fiction writers like me write.  They (we) enjoy creating and solving problems and puzzles. It is nice to be working out a puzzle we know we can solve when, in the “real” world, problems often seem beyond our control.

Digging further, how about this puzzle map of Arkansas? (Or whatever area map you keep in your own toy box.) And, look! Next to the puzzle is my old post card collection. I don’t have map puzzles or post cards depicting what are, to me, exotic, far-away places. These days my dreams stay closer to home, but what fun to find exotic places all around me here!  A cave with ancient petroglyphs? OOh, careful. How could knowledge that those exist cause problems for a character in my story?

How about a police raid on gambling and prostitution dens in “The Spa City” of Arkansas?  What resulting events could have an impact today?

Murder in a ghost-filled hotel built in 1886?  Imagine it.

Archeological treasures lying untouched in the dry caves along Buffalo National River (Arkansas) are now being looted almost as fast as thieves can carry them away.  Story characters intrude by accident.  Another real story lifted from a puzzle board map.

Oh! There’s the rubbed and worn old history game in its shabby box. You know what? When seen on the screen of human experience advancing from then to now (whether “then” is ten thousand or ten years ago), history is loads of fun. We know how the historic stories come out. Happy ending?  Maybe not, but it’s always a learning experience.  It’s said those who ignore what history teaches are bound to repeat it, but it doesn’t follow that it must be bad. I love grabbing past events and shoving them into motivation and insight for life today.

Dictionary? In my toy box? Yes. I love playing with words, moving them around to see how they sound and look in my mind pictures. Do you enjoy this game too?  I have heard many of these words spoken for years, but, if I’ve never written them down,  I’m not sure how to spell them.  When I guess correctly, the dictionary’s affirmation is fun to see.

These are just a small part of the things I enjoy pulling out of my writer’s/reader’s toy box. What do you have in yours?  Or haven’t you realized yet that you have a toy box like this?  (We both know that writing can be a lot of fun. Otherwise, why would we choose it as a career?)

Back to searching  inside my toy box, and . . .  Oh, LOOK!

Ready for “just” fun? YES, you deserve it!

January 6, 2012

We’ve all been working hard, and it’s time to have a bit of  fun for its own sake. Of course, knowing me, you realize the fun will have a literary touch.

I’ve just discovered a new book by Hy Brett, an author well-known for his quirky sense of humor.  His latest is “WISHFUL WEDDINGS:  From Casablanca to Titanic, Star-crossed Lovers United at Last.”  (e-book available for most readers. I read it on my Nook.)

Whether Hamlet and Ophelia, Lois Lane and Superman, Perry Mason and Della Street, Nancy Drew and Ned Nickerson, Sam Spade and Brigid O’Shaughnessy,  Mimi and Rudolpho,  or (I told you this was quirky), Barbie and Ken, Brett gives us the happy endings our hearts wished for, no matter what the original plots told us.  Since I know of few people who are as widely read as Hy Brett,  his re-structured happy endings for fifty-six well-known couples give satisfaction for every taste, from “trash?” to literary.  And, there are smiles and giggles throughout.

The endings are written as reports from the happy couples’ local newspapers, whether the New York Times, the Wuthering Heights Evening Breeze, the Metropolis Daily Planet,  the Elsinore Castle Herald-Chronicle, or one of many more.  (Brett knows the format.  Though he wasn’t I suppose, on the wedding beat,  he worked as a newspaper reporter for many years.)  All reports contain  imagined family histories with touches of truth, plus an account of current events.

Here are a few snippets to enjoy:

“Juliet Capulet, the sheltered daughter of Lord and Lady Capulet of fair Verona, was married yesterday to Romeo Montague, the ardent and impetuous son of Lord and Lady Montague, also of Verona  …The ceremony was performed at the Church of the Annunciation by Friar Lawrence.  …  Originally the bride and groom had expressed a strong desire for a moonlight ceremony on their special spot, the balcony outside her bedchamber, but when they, Friar Lawrence, and their immediate families all stepped out upon it for a rehearsal, it immediately crashed to the ground. Rushed to Verona for his estimate of the damage, Papal architect Michelangelo Buonarotti said a new balcony of equal beauty could not possibly be built in time for the nuptual day.

“The bride, 14, studied singing, flirting, and gossiping with her nurse . . .   etc. (Did you know that one of the distinguished ancestors of Lord Capulet was Lord Luciano Capulet who introduced the famous watercraft that still bears the name of his wife, the Lady Gondola . . . ?)

I guess we knew that Barbara Ellen Doll was employed as a model, but did you know that Kenneth Spencer Doll began his modeling career after an injury while playing football for Toyland University put him in the hospital?  A fellow patient at the Massachusetts General Doll Hospital in Boston saw him in a striped orange bathrobe over a pair of blue silk pajamas with yellow hearts, and the resulting photo appeared on the cover of the J.C. Penney catalogue!  (See how much you can learn just having fun?)  By the way, the happy couple required six trunks and twenty-two color-coordinated suitcases to hold garments for their “fun-in-the-sun” honeymoon at the Hawaii Hilton.

Did you know?  Francesca Johnson married Robert Kincaid when she was 55, and a widow?  (Her cooking skills are noted, as well as his photography.) Or that she appeared, briefly, in an “On the Road” segment hosted by Charles Kuralt?

Or that Catherine E. Linton and Heathcliff Walpole had to postpone their honeymoon until a session in the Court of Libel and Slander fairly settled the lawsuit brought by the groom against the West Murdoch Enquirer? The proprietor of that rag had hinted at dark doings in Walpole’s past.  (See the book for delicious details.)

Did you know that Ophelia was a champion swimmer and could not possibly have drowned in a little bitty creek?  Or that, when Clark Kent disappeared with the wedding ring intended for Lois Nancy Lane in her wedding to Superman, Mr. Batman, of Gotham City, retrieved the missing ring?  How about the fact that, after meeting over the grave of Jacob Marley, friendship blossomed into love for Marley’s widow, Fanny, and the honored philanthropist, Sir Ebenezer Scrooge?  Want to read about the nuptials of Sonia Verefskaya and Rodion Raskolnikov?  (Laugh-bringing details of earlier events included.)

There is more, so much more, but I’ve run out of time.  Oh, but, must mention one of my favorites–the wedding of Elizabeth Doolittle and Henry Higgins. There’s a gem. And you learn so much more than the original story told you.

You owe a “time out” to yourself.  Read WISHFUL WEDDINGS by Hy Brett. (It’s a quick read, but even taking time to read one wedding report a day will lift your spirits.)