Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Unbearable Darkness of Being…Creative

People talk about creativity like it's a good thing. And it is…most of the time. But there is a very dark side to being creative and having an imagination that doesn't stop churning and turning ideas out like a giant ice cream maker with no off switch. That dark side is a constant pull towards a black hole where, once beyond the event horizon, you become something entirely different than when you were initially standing on the edge. That dark side is total obsession with ideas and stories, lack of sleep, living a large chunk of your life disconnected from outer reality while you create inner worlds, having people wonder if you are "slow" because your mind is always dancing in black shadows or soaring through clouds…and the overwhelming sense of being utterly and completely alone when doing so.

I have a ton of writer friends and creative types in my life, so I am sure they know what this dark pull is and have felt it themselves many times. I am sure they have stood at the edge and given themselves to the gravitational gulp of forces beyond their control. I don't have to preach to the choir… It's the people in my life that don't do something that is primarily focused on the creation and execution of ideas that may not get it. No matter how much good I have in my life, I live with a voracious emptiness that threatens to swallow me whole if I don't constantly feed it…with ideas and stories and research and theories and facts and stuff I've learned and now want to share with the world. The bitch is insatiable and I live with it daily.

Creativity is a wonderful thing, but we have to admit this darker side exists, and then find a way to fully embrace it, accept it and just plain absorb it as a part of who we are and what we do. I will never be a calm, peaceful person so long as characters and concepts rampage about in my mind. I will never want to take life slowly when the end of the world could come about at any time in my imagination. I will never hesitate or be shy about asking for and going for what I want when my dreams demand I step up and grab the brass ring or consume me alive. It's not a way of life most people have the fortitude and inner courage for, not to mention the balls...and many times neither do I.

But creativity chooses us and chooses to express through us, whether we want it to or not, and for those of us who do this for a living (and the whole feast or famine thing is another study in the duality of dark and light, good and evil!), well, as the song once said, "The girl can't help it."

I am a friendly, generous, loving, caring, optimistic and humorous person. But fail to see the dark side and you fail to see the part of me that drives my reality, inside and out. I walk on the edge of black holes every day, and sometimes it's all I can to to not fall in forever, never to be heard from again. The thing that keeps me sane is that same duality I just referenced. Just as I love the coming together, I love the being torn apart.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Overwhelm vs. Underwhelm

I have been challenged by some feisty, troublemaking writer friends to resurrect my blog, and I couldn't think of a better topic to start the new year off with than the challenge of taking on too much. So, a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…wait a second, that sounds familiar…I realized that what worked for me as a writer was far different than what I was being told SHOULD work for me as a writer. Let me explain. All the classes and books and conferences I had taken over the years, since I began seriously pursuing writing as a teenager, suggested very strongly that I become disciplined and write a certain amount of words each and every day…and that I work on one project at a time through to completion, to avoid brain and creativity burn-out. This was hammered into my head over and over again. WORD COUNT. PAGE GOALS. DISCIPLINE. ONE AT A TIME.


It quickly became evident that this was not for me. Since childhood, when I began writing stories, I knew that the whole "one thing at a time" just wasn't going to cut it. At least not with me. My brain was filled with ideas and stories and characters and subjects I wanted to learn and write about. Nor was the idea that I should write a set amount of words each day. I just couldn't do it and make it feel natural. I felt embarrassed and awkward talking to other writers, especially writing teachers, who pushed the whole "5 pages a day" on me…because for me, it felt unnatural for my own tendencies. It took me a couple of decades to feel comfortable in my own writing skin, despite their admonitions.

What works for me is writing at least two things at once, preferably not the same genre or age group, or even format. Maybe a novel and a script. Or a non-fiction book and a novel. A middle grade story and an adult sci fi tale. You get the picture. Sometimes I have three things going at once. I love it!!! It gets my blood boiling and my passions raging and it stokes the creative fires.

What works for me is having tons of deadlines hanging over my head because I perform so much better under pressure. What works for me is writing in fits and starts, doing a ton of writing in my head before I ever put a word down on paper, and going days without writing anything, only to bang out half a book the following week. IT WORKS FOR ME. I SHALL NO LONGER QUESTION IT!

I am widely published, with tons of writing credits under my belt in non-fiction, screenwriting, short stories, essays, reviews, gift books, magazine articles and now fiction. I THINK IT WORKS FOR ME JUST FINE. So the next time someone chastises me for being overwhelmed, I will simply tell them it works for me. I like overwhelm.

It's the underwhelm that gets me into trouble.

Find your patterns, your rhythms, your methods and your modes and stick to them. The most important thing is getting the stuff on paper, no matter how you do it.

Hey, I blogged!!!!!