Welcome to this Saturday Edition in which I share a little of what I’m up to with my writing (when I’m not here) and what I’m reading (between the covers and around the web). I’ll also pull back the curtain a little on my version of the writing life (but not so much as to be indecent).
I hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own thoughts, posts, and picks in the comments. I LOVE hearing from you and seeing the world from your perspective.
Happy writing! Happy reading!
Creativity: For Best Results, Get Out of Your Bowl
I have this fish. His name is Benedict, Benny for short. He is so named because of the circumstances of his arrival to our home. My daughter presented him to me as a birthday gift despite the fact that I had, for six months, refused to acquiesce to her campaign for such a fish. The reason she was able to pull off this coup is that her father (my ex-husband) proved an all too willing accomplice. So, now we have a fish.
Benny lives in a small tank that sits on a table across from my desk. I often look up and see him moving about in this tiny space where nothing ever changes. I wonder how he perceives his life from inside that bowl. What does the rest of the world look like (the little of it that he can see)?
Earlier this week, I posted about a wonderful lecture by John Cleese on creativity - what it is and how to get yourself into the “open mode” that is the precursor to and requirement for all creative endeavors. Thinking about Cleese’s advice and looking at my fish in his small, contained world, I began to wonder what role experience and exposure play in creativity. How important is it for artists (and writers in particular) to get out and into the world?
While I believe that the imagination is capable of beautiful and convincing feats of authenticity, I have to think that any art that is also informed by some level of first-hand experience must be capable of an even deeper truth. Which makes me feel like I should be finding more ways to step outside of my routine and my comfort zone and into new places and experiences. The challenge is daunting (it’s hard enough to find time to read and write), but I think it is important.
What about you? Do you think that real life experiences inform your writing? In what way?
What I’m Writing:
This week I republished another of my bi-weekly columns, this one about escaping the clutches of both February and Mercury retrograde. If you’ve been feeling out of sorts and a bit unhinged lately, the February Blahs and tricky Mercury retrograde may have been to blame. Happily, both are now over, so you will (hopefully) be feeling like you’ve won a new lease on life.
Each time I write a column, I am trying to find a topic and an angle that will have broad appeal. I look for ideas that will strike a chord with as many people as possible. Even when I’m telling a personal story, I try to do it in such a way that it’s as much a reflection of a universal experience as it is of my own, unique experience. In the case of this piece, I found my topic simply by mulling over recent conversations I’d had with friends, family, and acquaintances from the barista at our local coffee shop to the children’s librarian. I picked out the recurring themes around what people had said and it was clear that everyone was at the end of their ropes and feeling very out of sorts. Playing off that emotion, I overlaid the February Blahs and Mercury retrograde, and – presto! – the piece started to come together.
I could have gone a number of ways with the piece and another writer would likely have taken a completely different approach, but that’s what’s so wonderful about writing – one topic or idea can inspire dozens or even hundreds of unique pieces.
What I’m Reading:
I’m still enjoying the mystery novel Broken Harbor, so no new books to share this week. I would, however, like to share a link to a streaming indie film event that is happening today (and only today).
The film, seven years in the making, is called Lost In Living and is streaming for free today in honor or it being International Women’s Day. You can access the streaming links at the Ma and Pa Films website. This is how they describe the film:
Behind the domestic curtain of motherhood, where the creative impulse can flourish or languish, are four women determined to make a go of it. Filmed over seven years, Lost In Living, confronts the contradictions inherent in personal ambition and self-sacrifice, female friendship and mental isolation, big projects and dirty dishes. The complex realities of family life unfold in this documentary film about the messy intersection of motherhood and artistic expression.
And here is the trailer:
I’m hoping to watch it later today.
Oh! And I did read (and greatly enjoy) an essay on Full Grown People - All Sorts of Things and Weather, Taken in Together by @ORandyO. Though on the surface it’s a story about a squirrel, I loved the way that the piece meandered around and touched on so many parts of life.
And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- 15 Question to Ask Yourself Before Writing - A series of questions to help validate your book or story idea
- What Is Your Definition Of Success? How Do You Measure It? by @TheCreativePenn – An exploration of the different ways to define success and a reminder that it doesn’t always have to look the same
- 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently - A fabulous recipe for experiencing and contributing to life
- How I Get Ideas by @SPressfield - More on creativity – it’s source and behavior
- Advice from Artists on Overcoming Creative Block, Handling Criticism & Nurturing Self-Worth via @brainpicker – Because we could always a little extra help in this department
- Thinking of your book as a gift – via @NaNoWriMo - An interesting take on how to craft your book around a particular reader
- How to write a great author bio that will connect with readers – by @chrisrobley – Because writing bios is hard … and important
- A Strategy for Pumping Your Writing Full of Creativity - by @angelagayehorn via @thewritelife – A refresher on Julia Cameron’s “Artist’s Date” practice
Finally, a quote for the week:
As always, thanks for being here and sharing a piece of your weekend with me. I hope you find a way to carve out some time and space for your art as John Cleese recommends, perhaps an Artist’s Date a la Julia Cameron – a way to “get outside your bowl.” Enjoy and may your creativity blossom in new and exciting directions.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.