Inspired by my book "The Writing Spiral: Learning as a Writer" this is a series of posts about creative self-discovery through metaphor.
This is the last post in this series.
Do you want to go deeper into understanding the relationship between yourself and the world around you?
What is autoethnography?
“Autoethnography is a form of self-reflection and writing that explores the researcher’s personal experience and connects this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings. It differs from ethnography —a qualitative research method in which a researcher uses participant observation and interviews in order to gain a deeper understanding of a group’s culture— in that autoethnography focuses on the writer’s subjective experience rather than, or in interaction with, the beliefs and practices of others. As a form of self-reflective writing, autoethnography is widely used in performance studies and English.” http://research.omicsgroup.org/index.php/Autoethnography
Also check out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoethnography
This section is a little more philosophical. It’s looking at research-inspired methods of writing as a way to spark insight. I love this type of work. My Master’s thesis used these ideas.
What does metaphor do for you? Metaphor gives me energy. It lights up everything it touches through big ways (like the name of my blog: Sunshine in a Jar) or smaller ways. When I am out walking and notice how the sunlight shines on the water and compare it to how I feel in that moment it is metaphor. Our brains are wired to respond to these comparisons. As we’ve explored each of the spirals, we’ve engaged in a study of metaphor. We’ve compared our learning to a spiral and our creativity too.
We are getting close to the end of this series. To review I thought it would be interesting to look at metaphor in a new way, to invite you to write your own metaphor that will serve as a touchstone for the work you’ve done through the eight spirals.
This is an example of a definition poem. It can be a fun way to take a word that captivates you and write your own definition for it.
Metaphor: n.,s A process, nurtured from vision and intention. Reminds me of poetry. Moves like clouds, slides through knowing and builds and alters and shifts, redefining possibility. Represented by icebergs and oranges and trees and triangles and spider webs and circles and hourglasses and…it’s how I see everything.
Or, let’s try a metaphor test!
There is a new trend in testing at schools called a “show what you know test.” What do you know about metaphor?
- What is metaphor?
- How can metaphor help enrich your writing?
- How are you using metaphor?
- Have you tried creating a metaphor for each of your characters?
- Does your work utilize an overarching metaphor?
- How does metaphor work with other forms of figurative language?
- What is the relationship between metaphor and symbolism? Metaphor and theme?
- How will you discover a personal metaphor to unite your creative projects and your life?
What do you still need to learn about metaphor? (Build some time into your life over the next month to go out and learn it).
In my world, research is an adventure. It ignites new connections and gives me a wealth of new possibilities. Sometimes on a Sunday afternoon I go on Google adventures, travelling the world, and breaking down the confines of time and space. We are lucky to live in a time when have access to people, places, perspectives, and arts around the world. It begins with curiosity.
Curiosity is a gift. Over the years I’ve learned that when I’m faced with a problem big or small, at home or at work, and in any creative project, curiosity is the key that opens doors to adventure and to answers. Curiosity also helps to shift my perspective, to see something familiar in a new way. This can be helpful during the start of a new project or during the revision process.
This is a simple activity that can have a profound impact. I’ve used this in schools, in writing workshops, with family and friends, and on my own. Pass around the jar, pick a question, and then answer it! It’s a great way to get to know people or yourself (and fun for around the campfire or on long car trips).
Create your own questions or use some of the ones listed here.
Creativity can be a daring adventure. Have you experienced falling into a creative project, getting lost in its details, being transported beyond time and place? This lesson focuses on inquiry and the creative process.
Sometimes creativity can be surprising, leading us places (both in the world and in ourselves) we could have never imagined.
A simple way to open your creative process to adventure is via curiosity. We can live our questions and it can feel like a grand adventure. It’s a way of staying present in work that is meaningful for you.
There is a lot of buzz in education about inquiry. It’s a research based way to learn. To become a better creator, we need to become better learners. A regular practice of inquiry, curiosity, and living your questions can help.
Use these some of these questions as entry points. You may even wish to create an Inquiry Jar to allow you to focus on one of these questions each day instead of all the questions at once.
What is your first step when you have creative blocks? Do you resist? Do you get mad? Do you dive in and play? Maybe you’ve never had a creative block. This is possible too.
Creativity is always present, like the moon, even when we can’t see it. Sometimes we need a little help to remember it’s there. During these times, go gently. Engaging in creativity is a relationship. There will be ebbs and flows. When we change our perspective we can change the relationship. How can you see your project from the perspective of a mouse? Or the perspective of an eagle? How does this change you and the work?
How can you add more play to your relationship with creativity? What would this look like for you? In the second half of the video I explore some possibilities!
How is your time aligned with your goals? How do you balance writing and life to optimize creativity?
A creative life is dynamic, purposeful, energized, connected, expressive, and open. It is about a deep sense of self and an understanding of purpose.
I am learning how to make space in my life for creativity to bloom at its pace—not mine. Looking for a balance between setting goals and going with the flow allows for space for a surprise. Lately, my approach has been to make a commitment to show up to create every day. Some days I create a lot. Some days I create very little. It isn’t about output anymore. Now, it feels more like an ongoing imperfect relationship.
What if diligence and perseverance felt like freedom?
It can be helpful to reflect on what you want. This is a template I find helpful:
Going deeper into character…
What do people/characters need to feel a sense of balance and well-being? How can we use this as writers to throw character’s lives off balance and/or restore balance?
Google Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and then relate the ideas to your protagonist, finding new ways for your character to change. Maslow created a theory in psychology for what humans need, often represented in a pyramid. Physiological needs are on the bottom with basic things like food, water, sleep, breathing, sex. Moving up from the base of triangle are safety, love and belonging, and esteem to self-actualization at the triangle’s tip.
For example: What if my character loses her house, how does it affect her relationships? What if she doesn’t have problem-solving skills? How will she cope? How would the story be affected if a friend tries to support her, but she doesn’t understand friendship? What events would I need to include in the story to help her to achieve her goals?