Stephen King shows how he came to be a writer. King weaves life lessons with writing lessons. Three women met today in downtown Cobourg to discuss King’s book and his writing wisdom.
On Writing is one of my favourite writing books of all time. King inspires me to have faith, to keep focused, to lead a literary life.
I have read the book a number of times over the years. This month I downloaded the audio version and listened to it as I drove to and from work. Hearing King read On Writing was awesome!
Truly. Continue reading
We know it as the writing process. When I think about processes I think of a linear sequence, a set number of steps from beginning to end. In the computing world, a process is the execution of a program sometimes utilizing multiple threads of execution at the same time. It implies multitasking. In science a process is a method that results in transformation. For example, birth is a process.
Then I start thinking about writing as a cycle. We began this workshop mining for ideas, hoping to begin a writing project. We cycled through getting the idea down on paper, adding layers of meaning, revising and editing until the work is ready to publish. In Lesson #7 we looked at the experiential learning cycle. It moves through experience, reflection, theory, and action. As writers we can move through idea, reflection, research, and writing. When we feel the writing is done we return to the first phase: idea. The cycle continues rolling as long as we are writing.
I prefer the writing spiral. A spiral is not linear. A spiral does not need to be predictable. A spiral does not risk the monotony of going in circles. A writing spiral twirls and swirls, picking up ideas, revealing layers, going deeper into our craft with each step. Everything is connected. Change is inevitable. When we engage in a writing spiral the energy is vibrant. The writing spiral begins at a central point, at who we are as writers, and progressively winds around our emotions, experiences, and actual work. Continue reading
Does a writing project ever truly feel finished? Sometimes I wish writers could be more like movie stars. Johnny Depp rarely (if ever) watches a film in which he is starring. Depp does not see revisiting the work as serving a purpose. When the filming is over, his contribution to the process completed, Depp walks to the next project without looking back. Depp knows when his work with a film project is done. Depp’s line in the sand is absolute.
My writing projects tend be done-ish when I reach the deadline. There comes a point in the writing process where I step back and allow the work to move on, much like an independent teenager who is ready to enter adulthood. I will have given the work all I can with the time and the resources available. I will close my eyes, make a wish, and blow the work out into the world to meet its fate. Continue reading
Inevitably I get bored in every creative project. From singing for an audience to painting with watercolours to acting in a community production to writing a novel or play, I get bored. The work loses its energy and zoom. Distractions appeal to me. I start to lose faith in the work and the process. This is not writer’s block, but a general malaise toward the work.
I have a box of unfinished projects. I started my first novel in the fall of 1998. I was a student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. I spent hours researching and writing the story of Tess, a modern rendering of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I was fascinated by the idea of a “fallen” protagonist, a hero who is also a victim. I rewrote the first eighty pages for five years and then I put the project in a box. Continue reading
All writing is rewriting. Revision is an important piece in the writing process. It goes beyond simple editing for grammar and style. Revision is about looking at the work from different perspectives. I have always encouraged my students to work through the revision process in phases, focusing on a different element of the work in each phase. I spend more time in the revision phases than I do in the writing of the initial draft. Aim to get the first draft down on the page as quickly as you can, then engage in the revision process to clarify your vision.
Editing is a process. Bringing a writing piece from its idea through its first draft is about generating energy and gathering resources. The rewriting is about peeling back layers to show the truth. The rewriting also gives a writer/editor an opportunity to orchestrate the story arch, deepen characterization, and set-up patterns to transport the reader.
I love the revision process. I love shaping the words on the page to create just the right amount of tension, to create music through the placement of short and long sentences, and to create momentum through cutting wordiness and unnecessary diversions. Continue reading
This morning I woke up in the middle of a sneeze. Once I recovered from the shock I tried to go back to sleep. Within thirty seconds I was sitting up in bed, iPad in hand, editing a piece of writing I had started the night before. My eyes struggled to adjust. I had not taken the time to even turn on a light.
For the last couple weeks I have slept poorly. I dreamed of mishaps, accidents, travelling, and writing. Some days I awake to find paragraphs composed and ready to meet the page. Last week I woke up in the middle of the night to use the washroom. As I slowly walked half asleep down the darkened hallway an idea for a play nearly made me trip with surprise and crash into the wall. The story, characters, setting, and the finished production exploded in my mind like fireworks.
As I shoveled snow on the weekend I wrote poetry in my mind, moving the words around like magnets with the rhythm of the shovel. When I made a cup of tea five potential collage themes flushed me as the steam warmed my face. Creativity begets creativity. Once we open ourselves to listening to our creative spirits possibilities arrive at an unpredictable rate.
For five months I have listened to audio books during my thirty minute drive to and from work. Since starting The Creative Mind I have had to drive in silence. I look out at the rolling hills of Northumberland and somehow arrive on time and without harm. My mind wanders from planning my day to starting the next blog post to contemplating the way the sunlight reflects on the snow.
The dust seems thicker on my television. The laundry sits neglected in the washer and dryer, on the floor in my bedroom. The mail rests unopened on my front hall table. The piles of books appear in new places, on the kitchen table, on the bathroom shelf, on the floor by my desk, on one side of the couch.
The idea to begin The Creative Mind Online Workshop for Writers appeared fully formed like a Greek god one Saturday afternoon. Within hours of a flash of insight as to how the project could unfold I had begun mapping out the course. However, I do not believe the idea came out of nowhere.
For years I have dreamed of opening a creative writing school. For years I have taught creative writing to high school students and I have facilitated writing workshops for adult learners. For years I have thought about the phrase “sunshine in a jar” and how it relates to this site, to my work, to how I would like to contribute to my art and communities. For months leading up to the flash of insight that led me to start The Creative Mind, I reflected on my next steps. I rested between projects. I prayed for direction. I whispered gentle requests to the universe to provide me with the right idea at the right time. When the idea arrived I gave myself permission to run with it. Continue reading
A writer-friend of mine once posted on her Facebook status that she had to read the whole Internet before she started writing. I know my friend used hyperbole to explain her procrastination ritual that day, but let’s just look at Wikipedia. It has more than 8 billion words in 19 million articles in approximately 270 languages.
The Internet plays the part of writer’s hero and writer’s super villain. Social media, blogging, online news, and general searches provide writers with many possibilities. Even as I write this post my fingers find their way to a search engine. Magically, lists of links appear:
- Top 10 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block
- Writer’s Block Magazine
- Symptoms and Cures for Writer’s Block
Then there are songs, movies, books, blogs, sites, articles, images. There are 19,100,000 results in Google in a search for “writer’s block.” Clearly, heaps of writers are afflicted by “the block.” Can we not find better ways to spend our time than reading (or writing) about this pesky demon?
Curious to learn more about what Google knows about our world today I tried a few other keyword searches:
- Bankruptcy: 142 million results
- Love: over 8 billion results
- Creativity: 206 million results
- Fun: over 3 billion results
- Justin Bieber: 556 million results
- World Peace: over 18 million results
- Writing: over 1 million results
There are 18 million more results for “writer’s block” than for “writing”? More results for a phrase about not writing than getting the writing done. It is fair to claim that writing about writer’s block is a tired cliche. And yet here we are. We can be sure of three things in life: death, taxes, and writer’s block. (This is my attempt at hyperbole).
Writer’s block is an excuse. It does not exist. It is not real. Looking at the body of work produced by writers and artists in the past shows that Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Whitman would not have had time for writer’s block.
When asked about writer’s block, J.K. Rowling said in a BBC interview: “No! I just produced a quarter of a million words. It’s quite hard to do with writer’s block.”
Just as athletes learn how to work through or around muscle cramps, writers must learn how to respond when they think they are blocked. Continue reading
How do you differentiate imagination from creativity? Ken Robinson reminded me that imagination takes place in the mind. We can spend hours imagining a place that only has the colour green or imagining ourselves flying by the tiny flickers of our body hairs or imagining the perspective of a hot pink post-it-note pad. We can imagine and imagine and imagine. In the end we will have nothing to show for it.
Creativity involves a product. We create a story, a painting, a song, a delicious meal. We can imagine a double hot fudge brownie with a hint of cinnamon for days and it will not produce the brownie. Likewise, we can imagine a story for years and it will not produce our novel. The brownie and the novel will appear when we create them.
Creativity is about bringing something into being. To be creative is to do something. To create is to make something. To increase the creative energy in your life you need “to do” and “to make.” At its core creativity is about action. Continue reading