creative process

All posts tagged creative process

Dear Writers: Please Read (A Book)

Published October 11, 2017 by admin

We’re back to some practical advice for this month, so pull up a chair and let’s dish.

About a year ago, I was guesting at a convention and was hanging out with some other authors. The topic of books came up (duh), and what we were reading, and I heard something which was utterly offensive to my poor ears which you think would be cynical to stuff like this by now.

“Oh, I don’t read, I don’t have time. I just write books.”

Or something. I’m paraphrasing. I think my ears are still crying.

Look at that sentence. Look at it!

If you write or want to write, I want you to stare long and hard at that sentence, and never, ever, do that. 

Look, I get some of you probably think this is bottom of the barrel basic knowledge and a waste of a blog post, but I also didn’t think I’d hear an author who was there giving out advice admit they didn’t read books.

And they weren’t the only one. 

I think I stared and was probably lifted up and carried off before I could open my big mouth.

Here’s the thing: to write well, you have to read. You just do. You don’t learn about different voices in action, or structure, or different takes on genre, or well…anything unless you’re actively seeing what all is out there.

And when I say read, I mean read everything. Everything ever written. Right now.

Okay, okay, that may be a slightly tall order. Definitely read, and please diversify. Don’t read only what you write to try to get a leg up, because you aren’t all those other people, and by time you think of the perfect idea to write to market, the market’s gonna change. You don’t read just to imitate people or try to sell. You read to become a more well-rounded artist and person. You may agree with how some people write and not others, and that’s fair. That’s cool…but you also won’t even know what you agree with and why if you don’t start flipping some pages.

Some of the most frustrating conversations I’ve ever had are with fantasy authors who only read like three other fantasy authors. Or people whose sense of the horror genre starts and ends with Stephen King. The problem is that 1) that gives you an extremely limited range and 2) If you are put in the position of sitting on panels or giving workshops, you are then going to be giving people limited and bad information.

Seriously, don’t be that person. Don’t be the “expert” who doesn’t know at least what some of the subgenres of the basics are. Don’t get so stuck in the romantic aspect of young adult stories that you forget other types of plots are a thing, despite having a huge chunk of titles proving you wrong. No one is going to know everything (no, you’re not), but at least get a feel for things that aren’t just your preference. Know some different mediums. Know what you don’t know. Then go read that.

I look at it like this: if I didn’t read nonfiction, I wouldn’t stumble onto some really fascinating things I could use in some of my titles. If I didn’t read folk stories, Olde School never would’ve gotten written. If I hadn’t started reading manga, I wouldn’t be nearly as brave to try new structures and tangent my plots and do different things. Reading graphc novels has taught me the beauty of trying to streamline and be concise. Anthologies have shown me just what you can do with a theme (and a set word count). Ray Bradbury is a master class of short stories, but his essays are equally important. I spent my entire time in college reading a huge range of plays (some required reading, others things that were loaned to me). All of them shaped the type of artist I’m becoming and my sense of story and action in different ways.

Articles, memoirs, poems, speeches, plays – you can gain something from all of these, whether you’re directly applying it into your work or not.

And, yes, you also learn what not to do. Or, you learn what works for you and what isn’t in your comfort zone or isn’t one of your strengths.

And, honestly, if you aren’t taking the time as an author to read, than I’m going to assume you’re writing for very different reasons than I am. If you can’t make time to support the art that you yourself are pursuing, than how do I know you’re developing your craft? How do I know you have any real respect for how hard everyone else is working? No one starts out fully formed and in a vacuum and there is always something to learn. Actors still take acting classes, artists still learn new techniques. Probably one of the most important things you can do if you’re a writer or want to get published is to get thee to your local library (because libraries are awesome) and see what’s up.

Seriously. Read a book. Then another. And another. Rinse, repeat.

So how about you? If you write, how important is reading to you? Do you stay in your comfort zone or read different things? Talk to me about the pros and cons!

 

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Persephone & Me by Corinne Desjardins

Published January 21, 2016 by admin

Persephone and Me Banner

It’s time to take a look at another new release! Come on, those who know my Jung kick, love of mythological archetypes, and such should know that I’d be all over this book. I also have a special love for Persephone, poetry, and creative nonfiction in general, so as soon as I saw the title, I was all in.

We’re talking to author Corinne Desjardins today, but first, let’s take a look at her book Persephone & Me.

Persephone and Me

Title:  Persephone & Me

Author:   Corinne Desjardins

Published:  December 10th, 2013

Genre:  Women’s Poetry

Recommended Age:  16+

Synopsis:

A poetry collection following my youthful fascination with Persephone and how she came to haunt me. I saw her constellation of characters within my own family and my own life. Ultimately, describing what I learned from the goddess.

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Grace

SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?

CD: I write poetry as a means of reflecting and processing, so I happened to have a bunch of poems that just seemed to fall naturally into the structure.  I have outlined two other projects, started them both, and then deviated from said outlines.

SJ: Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?

CD: I wish I had a cape!  That would be so cool.  Mine would be a warm red, like Little Red Riding Hood!

I did stop watching an entertaining TV series a few years ago, and I haven’t looked back.

SJ: Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?

CD: I am not a planner at heart, I’ve only learnt to do some amount of planning for basic time management.  I often get random ideas from some quirk of television or some other thing. I suppose I do have some shady deal with my personal Hades, since I tasted the pomegranate seeds of marriage.  But I have come to understand Hades as not evil, just misunderstood (and socially challenged due to his lack of interaction with people of life.)

SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?

CD: ChickLit, because ultimately I don’t want to be depressed.  And ChickLit is always funny.  It’s important to celebrate the humor in life.

SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?

CD: Time. There just doesn’t ever seem to be enough time, or the writing/editing process just takes so much longer than anticipated.  Writing a novel in 30 days, a compellingly good novel, just isn’t feasible.  Don’t get me wrong, I applaud NaNoWriMo, but I have never actually completed a novel during November, because, Life Happens.  I have had much more success with Camp NaNoWriMo in other months, choosing my own genre and word count goal.

SJ: If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?

CD: I am already kind of stuck in this book, being that it’s the creative non-fiction version of my life!  I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the Black section, however, that would be depressing. I might put an enemy in there, though.  It does kind of feel like a dungeon.  Maybe they can learn from their time there.

SJ: Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?

CD: I think the best stories are ones with a character arc of personal development and growth. There are different ways of highlighting this arc: hero’s journey, literary alchemy, the Pyramid, it’s all good.

SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?

CD: It’s not easy.  Mostly I write because I have to.  I’m not doing it for the money.  And I do hope that my story resonates with other women, and maybe they may become inspired to write their own stories, too.

SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.

CD: Creative Non-Fiction allows for therapeutic reflection and invites a new perspective or framework of understanding.  It’s healing. Poetry evokes the soul, of both the writer and the reader. It’s a mystical connection which we all crave.

SJ: What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?

CD: “That’s the book that made me consider my own life story, and made me realize that I could write my own book!”

SJ: Please tell us about your latest/favorite work or a little bit about what you’re working on right now. It’s plug time, so go for it!

CD:  I’m working on a novel called The Persephone Connection- it will be indirectly related to Persephone & Me in that the archetypes interact.  It is the second in this non-linear trilogy. This is taking a long time, it may be out sometime next year.

Perceiving Red

About the Author:

I am a writer. I love stories. I love to read. I love to write. Also love coffee, chocolate, and Merlot.

Amazon Author Page | Twitter | GoodReads | Blog

Getting Into a Project (literally)

Published July 18, 2015 by admin

As I’ve been getting back in the swing of things, I’ve noticed something. As much as I don’t mind using a laptop, there’s something about a notebook of the paper variety. I don’t know if it feels like there’s less pressure with a composition book, that I’m not being judged if I’m scribbling in public versus yanking out a computer (which always feels very HEY LOOK AT ME I’M WRITIN’ or HEY LOOK AT ME I SHOULD BE WRITIN’ AND i’M ON FACEBOOK). There’s something about the physical act of scrawling out ideas, though, of being able to doodle in the margins, of being able to alternate a story with my to do or grocery lists.

Admittedly, I write some epic and artistic to do lists. I’ll have to start taking pictures of them, because there are days I venture into abstract art territory.

I’ve learned through the years that I really like to get physical with a project. When I used to have a costume shop with a cutting table, it wasn’t unusual to see me sitting up on it, cutting out things, pinning things, or generally fussing with things around me. I liked sitting atop that little wooden island, in a creative world to myself. Likewise, I’m just as likely to roll around on the floor if I’m cutting out giant pieces of things, or want to see what something looks like pieced out. I’m not one of those who sit primly at a machine. You’ll likely see me throwing fabric everywhere, and I’ve walked away from a project covered with thread, fuzz, and fake fur more likely than not.

When I do renderings, I tend to channel my inner five year old and want ALL the pencils and watercolors out around me. There are days when I’ve come away from projects involving latex, contact cement, and paint looking like I’ve sustained mortal injury – there has been at least one incident at a former workplace where security detained me because they were sure I was somehow bleeding out in front of them as I attempted to leave work that evening. I may have been politely questioned one evening when I went to get my hair cut after working on stuff for various haunted houses and really didn’t think about going out in public after a ‘blood day’ (where we added blood and distress/wear marks/other signs of grossness to costumes all at one go to get it over with/make it easier on ourselves).

I’ve gotten tangled in yarn as much as I’ve made things with it, gotten bits of fiber fill everywhere, and on and on.

When I made the Paddlelump troll suit, I may have gotten in a fight with a neighbor’s dog who tried to run off with the head, I’ve knocked over just as many cans of glue and other materials as I’ve used. There are days I come away from a job or a project feeling utterly worn out, sweatier than a day at the gym, covered with paint, glue, and fabric.

I always feel completely beautiful on those days, too. I don’t know if it’s the satisfaction of a job well done, of seeing an idea become reality, or the joy of physical exertion, but I love it. There are days I just need to color, to put things together, to actively use my hands and brain in a way that a laptop doesn’t let me. There’s something zen about getting so involved with making something that you realize your hands are taking over, and you’re just letting the idea do what it wants. It’s one of the closest things to magic I’ve ever discovered, and I love that I can take part in those moments.

Blank pages on a notebook taunt me less than a blinking cursor, in some ways. Plus, I love all the lovely and silly covers I can accumulate. I may have a horribly diverse collection of half-notebooks – there are days I don’t even go down a school/office aisle, because I know I won’t be able to resist that temptation. Lately, though, they’ve been the thing to get me moving again, to get me creating, jotting notes, doodling, writing. Plus, the more pages I fill, the more notebooks I can buy.

How about you? Do you prefer creative pastimes that keep things clean and proper, or do you like getting into the thick of things? What’s your favorite way to get really involved in a project, no matter the type?