A brilliant idea
Your mental desert
. . .
. . .
A brilliant idea
It was found
Fifty years ago
Which story am I in?
Is a puzzle often posed
As one half of my brain
To the other.
Am I the fickle Kathy
Who treats a Heathcliff badly;
Or am I the loyal Heathcliff
Am I the comic hero
Like the likable Tamino;
Or am I just the sidekick,
Perhaps I’m Don Quixote
Jousting windmills even though they
Are not the fearsome giants
Could I be the mighty Oberon
Manipulating lovers with a faun;
Or am I just the honest Puck
Who gets it wrong?
Well, no, I’m none of them
Unless I’m all of them at once
As life’s more multifaceted
Than any fiction
I have sharpened twelve different pencils
Tested thirty different pens
Acquired perfect table and a chair
I have chosen carefully a keyboard
Checked its fit and click and feel
Run my hands along the buttons like a map
I have read the many works of others
And the works on works of others
And the works on works on works of them
I have read twelve step instructions
And the thirty step instructions
Outlining numbered hybrids in my head
I have filled the room with candles
Fluffed the pillows on the chair
Stocked the many mugs with coffee, cups with tea
And it’s all a preparation
Superstition or distraction
From the truth that no one ever wants to hear:
The only way to improve the writing
Never under estimate the importance of the re-charge.
I find it’s all too tempting to fill up my days with “very important” tasks and work work work at every possible moment. Must produce more. Must achieve things. And while I’ll never argue against a healthy ambition, I will note the importance of rest. Of down time. Of the re-charge.
Every now and again, we all need to take a time out. Get away from our projects for a bit to do something totally unrelated. Like go for a walk, see a movie, bake something. Doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it works for you. As counter-intuitive as it sometimes feels, we come back all the fresher…and actually do better. Creativity is a fickle thing.
So if you’ll excuse me, I believe I need to take some tarts out of the oven.
I have a game I like to play when I’m stuck in traffic or bored at…home. I call it ‘Non-Sequiturs’ and it’s a lovely game for writers.
Basically, you take two completely unrelated subjects and see if you can fit them into a single story. It can be as simple or elaborate as you want… and the results may surprise you.
For example, the other day I chose “Casablanca” and “tacos”, and ended up with this:
A drug cartel has taken control of a small Mexican town. Maria is desperate to get out – to seek help for the town and fight the cartel. She looks to her former lover, Pablo, for assistance – but things get tricky when a love triangle emerges and we find out Maria is married to the leader of an opposing cartel. The whole story centers around Pablo’s restaurant, “La Casa”.
Is it the best story ever? Probably not. But it’s a great exercise if you’re looking for new ideas.
So on that note, let’s start the next round. I propose “Frank Sinatra” and “The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.”
If you come up with a solution, or you’d like to propose another pair, feel free to post it in the comments.
What is it about writing at certain times of day? Very first thing in the morning, or after the sun starts to sink – that works best for me. Any time other than that – a lazy weekend at home, bathed in cheery sunlight – and I’m lost.
Today – all day – I’ve been beating my brains out trying to get something down. I need to, too. I’ve several large projects I’m working on, and increasingly less time to work on them. Around three o’clock I was on the verge of an existential crisis, wondering whether or not I had any business calling myself a writer, as I could not come up with a thing. Gloom, doom, and three cups of bitter tea.
Then – or rather, now – the sun started dipping toward goodnight and the words are running as fast as I can type them. The oddest thing. Reminds me of a quote from Agnès Varda.
She was being interviewed for the documentary “Great Directors”, and talking about the nature of creativity. Varda expressed similar concerns – the feeling that one day the creativity might dry up, and that’s it, no more. But then she smiled and said, “An apple tree is supposed to make apples.”
Or in other words: don’t worry, it’ll come.
And so I try to remember.
Thank you, Agnès Varda.
“Great Directors” (2009). Directed and written by Angela Ismailos.