Monday, October 12, 2009

Sharpen Your Red Crayon

I was five. The line between reality and make-believe hadn't yet been stacked with stones and set with mortar. My mind played with the stories I heard or saw on television. One particular story earned me a spanking.

In the cartoon, a child drew buildings on a wall. When he finished, he stepped back to admire his handiwork. Observing wasn't enough. He opened one of the doors to enter another world.


My sister was playing at a friend's house. My mother peeled potatoes. And I owned a red crayon like the child in the cartoon.

The only wall big enough for my "town" was next to the front door. The clapboard siding made straight lines a challenge, but I've seen my kindergarten artwork, and I had difficulty with straight lines on paper too.

Like the cartoon boy, I stepped back and admired my row of buildings. I'd been careful to draw the doors big enough to walk through and multi-paned windows to look back to my world. My heart plummeted to the basement when a turn of the doorknob didn't open up another world.

I ran to my mother for sympathy.

Mom stood with hands on hips and shaking her head. "Patti Ann! You shouldn't draw on the walls. Those are made-up stories. You can't walk through walls. Now, follow me."


When I sit down to write, there are still voices clamoring to tell me what I can and can't do. If I listen to them, all I'm left with is my rational self who must make sense of everything and squeezes all that is golden out of the imagination. I start second-guessing myself, saying things like, "Is this where I want to start the story?" or "That character would never do that."

There will be plenty of time to ask these questions with a WIP. But first, writers must trust themselves and be daring enough to shush the voices. I start this process by praying. This is time to banish fear with some Holy Ghost involvement. And then I give myself a pep talk that sounds something like this:

You're in your play clothes. It's okay to get dirty. Today, you can be a pirate, a snow queen, or a girl struggling to keep her family together. You're bold. Rash. Daring. Afraid of nothing. Sharpen your red crayon. You have worlds to discover!

As a reader, what books have left you breathless by the author's ability to take you to amazing places that were real, imagined, or a little of both? And I'm not talking about geography only. Emotions and events can be destinations too. And for writers: How do you quiet the voices and unleash your creativity? You do hear voices, don't you? I can't be the only one!


Footprints From the Bible by Cynthia Davis said...

Your post came at a perfect time... Thanks for the reminder to listen to the voices (yes, I hear them too!) that are so important to the creative side of us all.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hi, Patti!

I loved your story! It also made me think of when I had to discipline a child for doing the same thing, and now I'm wondering if he just believed that he could walk through walls! Haha! Thank you!

I hear voices too. So glad I'm not alone! I'm still learning that balance, where I can run with my imagination without going to a place of being absolutely ridiculous and un-relatable.

Thanks for the permission to get dirty. Today I'm going to be a pirate! :0)

Nicole said...

Voices, movie reels, dialogue, the works.

Lance Michelli in Kristen Heitzmann's Secrets and Unforgotten captured my soul, felt like a male mirror of my heart. (And I'm not Catholic.) Unforgotten caused me to do something I've never done before or since: I finished the last word, closed the book, opened it and started it all over again. Read it three times in a row along with Secrets. I don't read books twice.
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is a legend in its own time. Powerful. Profound.

Patti Hill said...

Phew! Cynthia, I'm relieved not to be the only one who hears voices. Thank you. And oddly enough, Kristen, I disciplined my son for drawing on the walls. Happily, he is an amazingly creative person despite my parenting. And Nicole, thanks for the tip on a good read.

Let's pray about our creative work today: Jesus, it's just crazy that our creative selves scare us so, for our creativity is a reflection of you. We embrace who you are and who we are in you. Empower us with your Holy Spirit to play in the dirt today. In Jesus' name, amen.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Amen and amen! Now I'm off to write! :0)

Kirsten Wilson said...

Voices? Oh yes. I hear them. Loud and clear. In terms of quieting the voices and unleashing the creativity, sometimes I do actually go sharpen the red crayon and color for a while. Or dance. Or collage. I find that being creative in any area tends to trickle into all other areas--including my writing. The other day, I took a stack of magazines, scissors and glue to my creative writing class and we collaged from the perspective of our main characters. Ended up being quite helpful. (I posted the exercise on my blog here: if you're itching to break out your glue sticks.)

Patti Hill said...

Kirsten, I'm definitely getting the scissors and glue out. I may make my own so I can eat it. I like the ransom note exercise. What in the world does Lucy want?

Snip. Snip.

Unknown said...

Haha! That's a great story...

I hear voices too, you're not alone... ^_^

Nikole Hahn said...

"You're in your play clothes. It's okay to get dirty. Today, you can be a pirate, a snow queen, or a girl struggling to keep her family together. You're bold. Rash. Daring. Afraid of nothing. Sharpen your red crayon. You have worlds to discover!" I love this quote. And yes, I do hear voices. lol.

Carla Gade said...

Harold and his Purple crayon have been an inspiration to me since I was a kid. I truly could relate to that kid. If he could draw it he could do it! The adventure never stopped. I bought the video a few years ago just for fun. I truly often think of Harold when I put my own "crayon" in my hand. Ask myself where my character is going, what do they imagine, what can't they see yet, how are they going to solve this problem, how do I get them out of that corner I wrote them into (I write them out of it!), etc.
Author Crockett Johnson was a genius!