Friday, March 1, 2013

Unreliable Pipes & Sippy Cups

On Wednesday, Bonnie wrote, "Creative energy runs in unreliable pipes."  Well, said, Bonnie. I might pin that above my computer.
While searching for equally brainy quotes about creativity, I came upon one that I love by Ray Bradbury, "We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled.  The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out."

Maybe it's just the way my brain works, but the combination of these two quotes brought to mind the sippy cup I used with my kids, the kind with a tight-fitting plastic lid and straw.  Even when it was full, nothing came out of the cup unless the straw functioned properly.  My son could toss it on the floor or projectile it across the room, but unless he hit the lid just right or learned to utilize the straw or the dog got it, nothing came out.

Sometimes it feels like I'm wrestling a stubborn sippy cup when trying to direct the creative energy to my pages. Wouldn't it be great if it came instead in a Big Gulp cup with a flexy lid like the kind that skids off when you bump it against the steering wheel?

The cup is a good thing. It captures the creativity and holds it until we need it. The pipe is definitely a good thing, because it channels the flow to the page.  What can we do to keep the channel open and functioning? Here are some of my favorite quotes about creativity. It's nice that famous authors have blazed the trail ahead, whacking at thorny shrubs and palm fronds with their inky machetes.  They know what they're talking about.
  • Show up.   Same time, same place. Or change the place, but know when and where you're the most creative. "I only write when I'm inspired, and I make sure I'm inspired every morning at 9:00 a.m. " Peter DeVries
  • Don't empty your reservoir.  Leave your last sentence or your last paragraph dangling, but don't bring closure to the scene.  "I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it. " Ernest Hemingway 
  • Bring your best to the table. Make it a priority, not the last of your to-do list. “...a writer should not so much write as embroider on paper; the work should be painstaking, laborious."  Anton Chekhov
  • Fill up on good writing, not junk food. Read widely and be discerning. “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Stephen King
  • Dig deep.  Don't chicken out. Write what only you can say. “Go where the pain is, go where the pleasure is.”  Anne Rice
  • Know when to walk away. Got frustration? Go polish the silver or wash the car. Do something that doesn't require thinking but keep your notepad nearby.   “The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. ”Agatha Christie 
  • Write intuitively. Hold a loose rein on your outline and be open to surprises. “The only good writing is intuitive writing. It would be a big bore if you knew where it was going."  Ray Bradbury 
  • We repeat, don't talk about your WIP. "I think it’s bad to talk about one’s present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension." Norman Mailer
I will end with this quote from Anne Lamott that gives me comfort.
For those of us who remember the Polaroid camera...
 " Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop.  You can't - in fact, you're not supposed to - know exactly what the picture is going to look like until is has finished developing."

What does and doesn't work for you when staring into the creative vacuum?  Is there a routine you follow or a special tool you use, a favorite quote above your laptop?  Please, we'd love to hear!


V. Gingerich said...

Oo, fun post. I love quotes!

My writing routine would be a combination of Stephen King's quote, Agatha Christie's, and the following quote by John Acuff:

"Never compare your beginning to someone else's middle."

If I make too many comparisons too often, that cup might as well be sealed shut with concrete.

Cherry Odelberg said...

Thank you! Just a right balance of creativity and practicality. Going to keep this in mind today.

Susie Finkbeiner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susie Finkbeiner said...

The only time I *really* do heavy housework (aside from when my mother in law is coming) is when I'm stuck. It's when I'm matching socks or scrubbing around the light switches that I find some pretty meaningful inspiration.

Jennifer Major said...

Music. Music for all kinds of moods sits in my ipod waiting to inspire me. And if I'm truly stuck, I get up and do something. All the shades of blue look the same up close, but you back up? And poof! It's a stained glass window.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Wanderer: Yes, I would add "never compare yourself to others". It's hard, though. Really hard.
Cherry: Thanks!
Susie: I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't spring-clean every weekend. When you have a full-time job, you have to make choices, and I choose to write or watch great movies (which I call 'research').
Jennifer: I always have music on. When I hear one particular CD, it triggers memories of the first book I ever wrote and all the characters come to mind. It is bittersweet because they never saw the light of publication. I still love them.

Latayne C Scott said...

But I really, really want to talk about my WIP. . .

Megan Sayer said...

I love the same time. same place thing. That was the kick-starter for me getting serious about writing, and it worked.
The weirdest experience was finishing my first book, when suddenly "the end" was written and the basic read-through editing was done and the book was laid to rest for a while, and my body was still waking up at 5am to get up and write...something. Write anything. Just write!

Jennifer Major said...

Latayne, you come over to my house and talk up your WIP, we just won't tell anyone. We'll be REBELS!!

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Megan, I imagine those creative ideas hovering over our writing spaces just waiting for our return.
You know, the best advice is to start another book after you send off the one you finished. No need to waste those 5 a.m. wakeup calls!
Latayne, I know what you mean. As long as you don't 'talk it out' I imagine it's healthy to talk to a fellow writer and kindred spirit who won't try to give you ideas or insinuate that your baby is ugly. Yes! We all want it!

Marian said...

My first attempt at a novel I followed The Marshall Plan for Novel writing. I read and reread Evan Marshall's book and absorbed his advice. I got 1/3 of the way through the first draft after writing the outline and hated my manuscript so much I quit. My second attempt at a novel I decided in the last days of October to do the NaNoWriMo in November. That story came flowing out. If I hadn't spend the time on the first WIP I'm sure I won't have been able to complete the second. Nothing was wasted after all.

Latayne C Scott said...

Jennifer and Debbie, that would be fun! I guess what Debbie is saying is kind of like, only show the (1000) pictures of your vacation to dinner guests who ask to see them. And serve them strong coffee.

Latayne C Scott said...

Marian, my experience with The Marshall Plan was very different. It helped me organize and pace my novel. Just the insight on choosing a "confidante" was very helpful.

But some things work for some people, and don't for others! Thanks for sharing what worked for you.

Marcia said...

Debbie, great post! I like quotes, too. And I liked your sippie cup/slurpie cup word pictures. :-)

Lately I've been trying to utilize Latayne's advice in an earlier blog--can't remember her exact wording, but it was something about duct-taping one's butt to the chair.

I think that's probably the big difference between those who complete a novel and those who struggle to complete a novel: discipline.

As I've endeavored to be more disciplined, a quote by Madeleine L'Engle keeps coming to mind because I keep finding it true:

"Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it."

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I remember the Inklings read unpublished passages to each other. My favourite author John Buchan read his stories to his family before publication.
It is in the TELLING that a story forms for me. The rhythm of words on the page pleases far more when those words have first flowed from the mouth.
So Latayne, Jennifer and I will be in the corner over here....