Living a Creative Life without Fear is “Big Magic”

Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity and being creative

interested me in her newest book Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear. What draws me to Gilbert’s theories on creativity and creative living is her willingness to embrace mystery and the unknown in regards to the creative process. Her words are a challenge the status quo regarding creatives in general and writers in particular. I’m not going to list them all, but just a few ideas that caught my attention and made me think deeper about the creative process.

CreativeGilbert writes in a clear and encouraging manner, defining living a creative life as “living a life that is driven more strongly about curiosity than by fear” (9) and then writes about how to allow your curiosity to trump your fear. She writes “creative living is a path for the brave. We all know this…fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun” (13). Fear is a constant companion to those practicing any type of creativity; “This is common knowledge; sometimes we just don’t know what to do about it (13). Gilbert tells you what to do about it, and it isn’t the same tired advice about working through, shoving aside etc. She makes space for her fear; “plenty of space” (24).

It isn’t like a lot of books on creativity I’ve read and that is a good thing. I’ve never bought into the “books are like my children” line of thought; no, my children are far more precious and special than any book I will ever write.

Gilbert, Elizabeth. Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear. Riverhead Books: New York. 2015. Print.

How I “Found Poetry” This NaPoMo

Yeah, yeah, yeah. April is National Poetry Month. Who cares?

Ooh! Ooh! We do! There are so many National Poetry Month challenges, it’s not even funny. But this year, I participated in The Found Poetry Review‘s challenge titled PoMoSco, and it was, as a colleague of mine so eloquently puts it, amaze-balls.

What worked? The people. “202 participating poets published 3,861 poems.” Yes, indeed. And…the prompts. All “found poetry” prompts. Think found poetry is just taking a source and picking out some words? Think again. Think “White Out” where you, you guessed it, take white out to a source to create something new. Think “Picture It” where you take a source and make art all over that shit to create…wait for it…even more art…but poetry. Think “Order’s Up” where you take a menu and poem the crap out of it. Yes indeed.

This was such a blast. I won’t even mention the super-fantastic #AWP15 off-site reading at House of Balls (bowling balls, carved). Oops!

Look. You want to write something good? Something new? Something amaze-balls? Yeah? Then you’ve got to write. Sit down and write. That’s it.

Check out some of the thousands of poems that the scouts created this April here. Try some found poetry…if you dare. And share that experience. Share your inspiration, share your writing, share the love. And, while you’re at it, check out my personal favorite from this past month, Gary Glauber’s “Yes It Is.” Here’s an excerpt:

“All the love despite
silent rages and vague stares
came pouring through
with starts and stops,
desperate efforts.

I want to go to bed, be in my head, just wear red.
Red is the color that my baby wore
and once more, it’s true. Yes it is,
it’s true.

A lullaby: woods and river
calling child to go to sleep.
She sang it every night.” 

Source Text: Bloom, Amy. “Silver Water.” Come to Me. New York: HarperCollins Books, 1993. Print.

I love the way the poem flows around the italicized stanza. This poem is one result of the “Pick and Mix” prompt where participants chose stand-out words and phrases from a text and then put them together in any order. 146 people wrote poems based on this found poetry prompt. Fantastic!

 

And now for some shameless self-promotion. My favorite of the poems I completed (not as many as I would have liked, but what’re ya gonna do?) is a “Picture It” sourced from Marlin Barton’s short story “Short Days, Dog Days” from his new collection Pasture Art. It’s titled “Sleep is a Lock-blade Knife.” Enjoy!

What did I find this past NaPoMo? I found Found Poetry. I hope you’ll try some, too. It works.

Karin Gillespie on Bestselling authors

Karin Gillespie is a fellow Converse grad and a knockout writer, which is why when she speaks writing, one should listen….translate–read. From her blog post “Are You the Next Emily Griffin? The One Quality Every Bestselling Author Must Have”

An eye-opening encounter

Speaking of success, a few years ago I was one of the guest authors at a book festival.  At this particular festival authors were expected to sit for eight hours, peddling our wares to the public. It made for a long day and few books by unknowns were sold. I got to know the other author sitting next to me, and we spent a long time chatting and dreaming of the day when our book lines would be long, and we would be so well-known no one would dream of asking us to man a table for eight hours.

My new friend bought my book and I bought hers, and we promised to stay in touch but lives get busy and we never followed through.  I didn’t think of her for a long time until one day I came across her book at the Barnes and Noble. Her name? Cheryl Strayed.  She wrote a book called Wild.

Had I not been in the library, my jaw would’ve hit the floor. Instead, I sent a message to Karin. 🙂

 Read more on bestselling authors at Karin’s site.

Alexis Paige’s Seven Ways of Looking at a Resolution

By Yolande Clark-Jackson

I recently read this blog entry by Alexis Paige on Brevity and it got me thinking about my own writing resolutions. I have a memoir I need to finish, some habits I need to form, and some tools I need to sharpen in the toolbox, so I could relate to this writer’s musings about her writing life.  The only thing I must preface this repost with is a side note on her first resolution. She includes an excerpt from another writer who shares her thoughts on blogging that struck a teeny tiny nerve. When you read it, you’ll probably think that I took it too personal, and you’ll be right. Yet, I still want to state my opinion about blogging here, especially if you have ever been met with this conflict yourself.  In my opinion, blogging shouldn’t be about expanding a platform or be seen as creating distractions from more important things. It should be about thinking, writing, and sharing. And, if one writes for the sake of writing, whether anyone reads it or not, then the writer can never arrive at a conflict.   Yet, despite her blog entry leading in with a question on whether or not blogging is a worthwhile endeavor, Paige includes some thoughts that I felt would appeal to writers across genre lines. She is honest and funny, and makes herself vulnerable to the reader like many non-fiction writers do. This makes her reader take what she writes personal. You become invested. Ms. Paige also includes titles of some other great posts from the past year that were published on the site. So, all in all, it’s a good read, and I felt it was worth reposting.

Seven Ways of Looking at a Resolution”  by Alexis Paige

1) I will blog. Or, not.

On Being an Inept Blogger, by Marcia Aldrich, January 13th, 2014:

“I should be finding ways to focus my reading, not further my distractions. So too with my own writing. I have a file cabinet with drafts of essays I haven’t managed to complete, drafts of books I’ve abandoned in boxes that block movement in my study…

“So why take time away from my primary pursuits to write a blog? Wasn’t I going to contribute to the problem, writing more stuff no one has time to read? And yet blogging was one of the crucial elements I was advised to undertake in the service of promoting my book.”

In this post, excerpted on Brevity, and available in full on her Backhand Blog, Marcia Aldrich makes a wonderful case for ambivalence regarding the age-old question: to blog, or not to blog. Aldrich outlines varied bloggerly concerns—from time, topic, and focus; to her own resistance to writing about the act of writing about something (suicide) that was, in the first place, very difficult to write. She says, ultimately, “I’d rather have the book languish on the dustiest shelf in the world emporium of remaindered books if to sell it I had to perform his death over and over. I had done that in writing the book, and it was all I could do.”

This post made clear two things: blog or don’t freaking blog. I didn’t know I was looking for permission on this account until I read about Aldrich’s struggle. She freed me to embrace my digital media ineptitude, or contrariness, or fear, or whatever it is. And so, my friends, I resolve in 2015 to do one or the other, resolutely. Or, maybe I will go back and forth, continuing to agonize (the way I do over the last 10 pounds, as if they matter, if they are the last lbs. on Earth) about the dreaded “platform.” (See how I put it in quotes? That’s because I refuse to acknowledge the writer’s “platform” as “a thing.”) You know what now seems a more doable resolution, one far from the maddening meta-toils of the blogging question? Losing those last 10 pounds.

2) I will do my homework.

Seven Essays I Meet in My Literary Heaven, by Jennifer Niesslein, January 21st, 2014

Look, I love lists, stacks, bullet points, maps, and assignments. Tell me what to do, please. Writing prompts, however, I do not love. It’s okay if you do (I’m not here to hate), but prompts make me think of husky-voiced workshop house-mother types off-gassing incantatory affirmations and possibly Nag Champa incense. Don’t get me wrong, I like Nag Champa: many languid afternoons were spent lolling under its spell. The point is, by way of my own associative rabbit hole, I find writing prompts, well, kinda culty.

But Niesslein’s inspired list of seven essay types with accompanying contemporary examples, from The Essay that Manages to Be Funny, Poignant, and Thought-Provoking All at the Same Time; to The Essay that Illuminates Naked Yearning, provides perfect assignments for the essayist. Not too amorphous, not too prescriptive. So in 2015, I’m going to write one of these from Niesslein’s list. If you’re a resolutions overachiever, you should probably do all seven. Any fewer and no Auld Lang Syne for you next New Year’s.

3) Embrace Rejection!

The Form Rejection Letter Decoder Thingy, by Brevity’s Sarah Einstein, Feb 10th, 2014,

Sarah Einstein takes the sting out of rejection with her downloadable Cootie Catcher, which offers kind and generous reassurances to the delicate writer: “The piece was beautifully written and the editors feel sure some lucky journal will take it.” Or, “The editors admired the piece but it reminded them of another they published last issue.” See? It’s not you! Really. It’s them! Now go print one off, and put it on your desk next to the Magic Eight Ball. During writing breaks, you can consult the oracles.

4) Don’t reinvent the wheel/ Keep submitting!

Finding A Market For Your Flash Nonfiction, by Chelsea Biondolillo, March 11th, 2014.

I actually started this one in 2014. First, I ripped off her succinct cover letter and saved it in my submissions folder. (It’s an homage, okay?) Then, I took Biondolillo’s exhaustively-researched list and put it up on a bulletin board. I’ve submitted to a good number of these journals already and will round out the list in 2015. Why reinvent the wheel when the Internet (I mean, Chelsea) has already done the work for you? Bonus? You can cross-reference rejection letters with your decoder thingy from resolution #3. And then make ironic DIY wallpaper out of all of the above.

5) Let out the words trapped inside.

On Writing, Survival, and Empowerment, an interview with Brevity’s Kelly Sundberg, by Sarah Einstein, April 16th, 2014.

“I had compulsively searched the internet for stories about domestic violence, but much of it wasn’t recognizable to me. The authors weren’t grappling in the way that I was grappling.”

Perhaps all writers have stories they need to let out, in order to free not only themselves, but to free others from similar experiences, or to free others to make art out of travail. My own, which I have guarded tightly for 13 years, has only recently begun to rise to a place from which I might access and write it. It’s the story of, and here’s the problem, my rape? sexual assault? which occurred on a trip to Italy in the summer of 2001. See how language still eludes me? Grappling is the word Sundberg uses to describe the process of writing her domestic abuse story in such a way as to remain faithful to a certain ambiguity. I suspect that when the writer becomes a statistic, the language has to be dealt with as much as the event. Is rape what you want to call it? someone said to me in those early days. I didn’t want to call it anything, actually, and so for years I ate it and drank it and drugged it and stuffed it. But stories have their own buoyancy and schedule, and as I said, mine is surfacing. Now is the time for me to let out the words. Sundberg did it, and though she might disagree, she did it bravely. And I can do it, and so can you.

6) Lean on a To-do List

Lightning and the Lightning Bug: A Revision Checklist, by Susan Tiberghien, July 3rd, 2014.

Writing is often unsatisfying. You go away to your cave, for years at a time, and you emerge squinting and grizzled with (if you’re fortunate) some finished work, perhaps even (if you’re really lucky) a bound rectangular object made of paper and ink, filled with pages of said work. See, I made this! you can say. You can finally show the object to people; the work is real. But from most days at the writing factory you return empty-handed. No sales, no widgets. After many days like these, I need to sink into a concrete writing activity. I need some tactility, proof of my own writerly existence. A revision checklist, like Tiberghien’s here, can provide just the structure I need when writing begins to feel like a formless slog. So the next time I find myself on a dry-cereal-eating pajama-wearing-for-days bender, I vow to pull out this revision checklist and my red pen. And you should join me. (Pajamas optional.)

7) Give Yourself Permission

Give Yourself Permission, by Brevity’s Allison K. Williams, November 24th 2014

“You are what you present yourself as. You have a right to define yourself, and project that definition to others. Every time you say what you want to be is what you are, you help move yourself ahead and you let others help you move ahead. Like dressing for the job you want to be hired for.”

Fake it until you make it they say. They say a lot of things, some of them glib, some helpful. But, hey, I’m not above platitudinal assistance. Every year around this time, I get caught up in the clean-slate fervor of the season, searching for a new slogan to take with me into the next. I found 2015’s mantra in Williams’s heartening post, and thus, all year long I will be giving myself permission. To write. To fail. To succeed. To move myself ahead. This phrase, like bits of poetry or jingles or slogans before it, will be the layer of mental nacre I wear into the shiny new year. I’m giving myself permission, for example, to declare the following: I am finishing my first memoir and actively seeking an agent and publication. Just writing that down makes me feel a little taller. What will you do this year to move your writing ahead? What will you give yourself permission to claim in 2015?

__

Alexis Paige’s work has appeared in Passages North, Fourth Genre, The Rumpus, Pithead Chapel, and on Brevity’s blog, where she serves as Assistant Editor. Winner of the 2013 New Millennium Writings Nonfiction Prize, she also received a recent Pushcart Prize nomination and a feature on Freshly Pressed by WordPress. Twice named a top-ten finalist of Glamour Magazine’s essay contest, Paige holds an MA in poetry from San Francisco State University and an MFA in nonfiction from the Stonecoast creative writing program. You can find her at alexispaigewrites.com.

 

The online conundrum and great advice from Writer Unboxed

The online conundrum–build a web presence. Write–don’t worry about a web presence. You need a website. Not all well-known authors have websites.

Argh.

Over at Writer Unboxed, Jane Friedman writes about the social media conundrum: “The Online Presence That’s a Natural Extension of Who You Are And What You Do, (Is It Just A Fantasy?).”

She writes: “I’ve been reading with interest (and sympathy) the comments on Porter Anderson’s Unboxed post last week, where we see the familiar Sturm und Drang of writers grappling with the demands of online marketing—or how to be publicly communicative and chummy when it’s against our nature, perhaps even against our work.

This has remained a problem for a long time now, hasn’t it?”

Read the rest oft her post.

Also read the comment by Donald Maas.

 

 

 

The Top Ten Reasons Why Writers Make the Best Friends

From the South85 blog:

At the conclusion of an alumni weekend during the Converse College MFA residency, I sat with three friends/colleagues/fellow alum who gathered for one final moment before parting (again) to return to our respective homes after a fun-filled, raucous, inspiring time.

As we reflected on various moments, all of us anticipating and dreading the impending depression that results from returning to the “real world,” the thought for this blog post struck me.

Read the rest of Kathleen Nalley’s South85 blog post here.

*****************

Interested in an MFA program? The deadline to apply to Converse College’s MFA program is October 1st.
Information on limited scholarships and teaching assistanships are available here.

 

 

What writers have on their bedside tables

A fun project from author Shannon Huffman Polson, author of North of Hope. It’s called The Bedside Table Project. Below is the description from Shannon’s site:

Part voyeur, part inspiration, every Monday you get a glimpse into the lives of authors and other thinkers who share a picture of their bedside table, a view into what matters to them right now, the things that inspire them, that occupy their minds.


Connect with Shannon on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.

 

Falling and Flying-South 85 blog

Good writing advice from Jeffrey Schrecongost at the South 85 blog:

Greed. Guilt. God.

The big ones, yes? The ways in which the three interrelate are what I seek to explore in my fiction. People who need more than they need. The pain of remorse. The nature of a faith that comforts some and confuses and disappoints others.

Read the rest of Jeffrey’s post at South 85.

Follow Jeffrey on twitter

Austin Kleon’s “Show Your Work”

Kleon’s Show Your Work

Photo provided by Austin Kleon. showyrwork.com
Photo provided by Austin Kleon. showyrwork.com

Show Your Work 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered is the follow-up (in my mind) to Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist. You’ve created and now want to share with the world your work–what’s the best way to do that?

Not by becoming “human spam. They’re everywhere, and they exist in every profession. They don’t want to pay their dues, they want their piece right here, right now. They don’t want to listen to your ideas; they want to tell you theirs…At some point, they didn’t get the memo that the world owes none of us anything.” (124). You draw attention to your work by “sharing like an artist:”

https://www.flickr.com/photos/deathtogutenberg/12548712844/in/set-72157641021360663/
Back cover provided by Austin Kleon.
showyrwork.com

As with Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work is packed with wise advice and clever artwork.

Artwork provided by Austin Kleon.  showyrwork.com
Artwork provided by Austin Kleon.
showyrwork.com

The writing is witty and concise, but also though-provoking. Kleon writes “The trouble with imaginative people is that we’re good at picturing the worst that could happen to us. Fear is often just imagination taking a wrong turn. Bad criticism is not the end of the world” (150-151). That resonated with me when I first read it, and still resonates reading it again. This is one of the reasons why the writing works in this book–Kleon writes it as it is. This book sits on my desk by Steal Like An Artist, easy to get to whenever I need it.

 

Kleon, Austin. Show Your Work. New York:Workman Publishing. 2014. Print.

Literary Citizenship Wants You

from the South85 blog:

“Yes, you. The concept behind literary citizenship is a simple one—become involved in the reading/writing community to support the work of others. It’s not that difficult to do, really. It requires time, but what worthy endeavor doesn’t? Does lit citizenship require money? If you have it to spend in a literary way, great, but even if you don’t, you can still be a solid lit citizen and grow the community.”

Read the rest of the post at South85