Search

J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

Tag

creativity

So, about those creative blocks…..

……you have one.

Or two. Or more.

The project you’re working on that previously seemed to flow with ease and inspiration is now suddenly, inexplicably, choking and sputtering to a halt. You curse the blank page, the blank canvas, the uncluttered sheet music, and attempt to plow through.

But nothing comes out. Or, if it does, it’s only in spurts, like a car lurching forward, eating every last drop of gas and oil.

This happens to me more than I’d care to admit. I still work the story, still write down questions and notes that spring to mind, but the actual writing of it feels like plowing through quick-dry cement – slow, painful, suffocating.

This is where I turn to another creative form, to replenish the artistic side and allow my subconscious to work out the knots in another way.

This is helpful for every creative art form that you pursue – whether you’re a musician, singer/song-writer, painter, potterer, you name it – if the flow is not there, it’s time to rest that muscle and seek some other artistic outlet and let your imagination play.

My favorite thing to do, when the muse refuses to speak, is to do water colors or sketch or just doodle on scraps of paper.

Like this guy:

Pen sketch; note the rather arrogant look in his eye.

That took me about ten minutes or so to sketch out.  Because I’m a writer, I always have a notebook handy, either to write down plot ideas or bits of dialogue.  Most of the time, however, I doodle.

A lot.

The horse to the left is an example of my doodling.  It’s relaxing, takes me out of my logic center and the best part is that I’ve given myself a chance to unhook from the current project I’m working on.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a recognizable figure – a lot of the time, my doodles resemble swirls of…….stuff.

Other times, I simply push aside all projects involving the written word and just do ART.

Lately, I’ve been inspired to create on canvas the worlds I write about.  Not necessarily the people, although I’m sketching out a couple of ideas, but most definitely the locations.  This helps me define the geographical features of the area, as well as give my stories life in a new form.  I always start out with a sketch, just to get the general idea of what I want it to look like out onto paper.  This is something I’ve learned to do – it saves time and energy when painting the images onto the canvas.

Like this:

Rough sketch of Wolf’s Head Bay by J.J. Brown, Wordslinger

What you’re seeing to the right is a rough sketch of my fictional town of Wolf’s Head Bay, as featured in my novel, Secrets & Howls.  I’ve always known that it would be a coastal town, that there would be a lighthouse and a harbor, where the fishing boats were docked.  I also knew that the mountains that loomed over the town had a distinct look to them – wolves howling at the moon above.

The featured image of this post is the final result – only, there is no lighthouse and no harbor.  The sketch is of a more recent view of the Bay, whilst the painting visualizes what the area looked like prior to settling.

Except…..is it unsettled?  Look closely, there might be a fire.

So, the upshot of this post is this – whatever your main medium of creative output, don’t close yourself off from other creative outlets, even if it’s completely the opposite of what you do.  It will give you another way of tapping into your subconscious and allow you to find your connection to your main creative expression.

For me, it’s painting and sketching, with writing as my main creative outlet.  For you, it might be pottery or singing or photography.  Every creative skill you can find will always benefit the one you have passion and drive for.

Go find it.

Advertisements

So, You Need a Little Inspiration…..

…….and you’re stuck in place, unsure of which direction to go in.  It’s a frustrating and often suffocating feeling, not knowing what to do next.  Your creative project sits on your desk, silent and accusing, waiting for you to come back to it.

This is a familiar situation for me, and one that every creative experiences.  You’re not alone in this – always remember that.

When I’m stuck on a project, I like to travel.  Well, okay, thinking about traveling.  There are places I want to visit and just sit and be, soaking in the scenery, the sounds, the colors and feelings it brings up.  While I can’t travel to some places (yet), there are locations that are closer and more feasible to get to and enjoy.

However, sometimes I don’t even need that to jump-start my inspiration and creativity.

Here’s a creative challenge for you:

Pick a city anywhere in the world. It can be in Romania and have as its neighbor the castle of one of the most ruthless leaders of all time (Vlad Tsepes, aka the Impaler).  Or it can be an ancient temple in Greece, overlooking a beautiful beach and deep blue oceans. Or…..

Well, you get the idea.

Pick a city that pulls you into it, that inspires you to use all five of your senses, quickens those creative juices that pulse through you, makes you smile.  Even if you’ve never been there, you can utilize your own experiences to fill in the blanks.

For example – Secrets & Howls is set in a coastal village three hours north of San Francisco.  For various reasons, the closest I’ve ever been able to get is Morro Bay.  No two coastal villages are the same, as each town has its own unique personality.  However, the important elements are the same – the sounds of seagulls, seals, the ocean and harbor.  From this, I was able to build my own fictional coastal village, complete with lighthouse and jutting cliffs.

Utilizing all five of your senses and the creative medium you’re most comfortable with, pick a city and interpret it as best you can.  What comes up may serve your current project or inspire a new one altogether or both.  You never can tell.

Have fun. Happy creating.

So, lately, I’ve been feeling really angry…..

…..and it’s about nothing that I can put a finger on and say “Ha! I see this, it is making me angry and I will correct it and turn that feeling around to a more positive (if not happy) feeling!”

It’s more of a free-floating anger about life in general.  It’s a thought that hovers just outside my conscious thinking, present, but not the focus.  I’m not sure, really, why I’m feeling this anger, this hot brick of energy that sits squarely on my chest and in my mind.  I just know that it’s there, it’s wanting my attention and that I am going to have to address it in order for it to go away.

Or, at least, to put myself in control of my feelings, rather than let it (or any other feeling) have control of me.

This is where I know my art and my writing will help.  By putting my emotions on canvas, I’m acknowledging what’s going on inside my mind.  By writing it out, by creating a story with fully realized characters, I’m giving those emotions a voice.

This feeling of anger is not there without reason.  It’s not making itself present in my thoughts or my life just because it can.  Something in my subconscious really needs to be addressed and I need to pay attention to it.  Therapy can help, but I’m not in the mood for talking.  By talking about it, I end up feeling like I’m poisoning the air around me.

I don’t want to do that.  That’s exhausting for me.  I’d rather focus on things that make me feel good and happy.

So, art and writing it is.  Years ago, I wrote a thriller screenplay that was incredibly dark and creepy.  I’ve been toying with turning it into a novel and printed it out.  I’m making a bullet list of what I hope to accomplish within the story, how I want to format it.

That simple act is helpful for me.

This is something that I am doing for me.  If, however, you feel in need of outside help, please, by all means, seek it out.  There’s no shame in getting help, whether it’s to manage your feelings or your health or even improving your mindset.

Be creative and be active and be pro-active.

What are you creating today?

So, I get the question (a lot) of why do I write……

……and my answer is a variation on the same theme – because I can’t not write, because I have to, because I feel compelled to write down what these fictitious people are saying and doing and thinking.  But I always leave out the most important thing, because I find it really difficult to explain when put on the spot.

In addition to the reasons listed above, I write because I want to feel things.  I write because it seems that the only place I can legitimately express the desire for love and passion is in the words my characters express*.  I can say the things I want to say, without fear of rejection, by way of a character to an idealized fictional version of the type of man I find attractive.  I can be witty and pithy and strong and powerful in these scenarios, without losing my essential sense of who I am.  In these stories, I am writing to find the best version of myself.

I think, in all aspects of art and creative work, we are searching for ourselves, for that voice that seeks expression.  Having feelings, both negative and positive, are normal – how we deal with them is what makes us human.  The more I pour my feelings, both light and dark, into my art and my writing, the better I feel.

By removing it from my inner self and splattering it on a blank canvas or Word document, I am dragging it out into the light, taking away its power and giving it a voice.  It can sometimes feel like lancing a wound and letting the poison seep out, so that the wound can heal.  And it did, for me, when a traumatic experience worked its way into a story.  I had lanced that wound, that was slowly poisoning me for three years.  It was never meant to be in the story I had been working on at the time.  But whether I had meant it or not, my subconscious found similar elements in the story that had mirrored the circumstances surrounding my trauma.

I think, no, I believe, that is when I really began to heal.

Art is like that.  Being creative is like that.  Creativity gives us a way to express things in another form, if words fail us.  Don’t be afraid of feeling.  Express it in art and find your voice and your strength.  Find yourself, get support, have faith in who you are.

What 336 pages of manuscript (minus ending) looks like.

*It’s also a safe and productive place to express darker themes, but that’s another post for another time.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about chances…..

…….and its cousins, opportunities and risks.

We go through life making choices that present us with one or all three.  It’s up to us to decide whether or not the outcome is worth it.

There’s a lot of fear that goes into making that choice and that’s okay.  Fear of the unknown is what helps us be alert to red flags or, in extreme situations, keep us from harm.  And fear is a good survival instinct.  It lets us know that maybe there’s a situation out there that’s too much or too dangerous for us to handle.

But you can’t let fear be the ruling factor in your life.  Stopping before you even start or because of thoughts of failing is fear.  You can’t let the possible negative outcomes determine your choices.

If you have a dream to write a novel, go write it.  Don’t let your real-life responsibilities slide, but do make the time to write every day, even if it’s 20 minutes.  Set a time and just do it.  Same thing goes for any other creative form.  Or if you want to add to your skill set in your field, if it’s medicine or law or cooking.  Add to those skills.  Make the time.

You have a dream.  Accept that there’s fear in making that first step and push through it.  There will be failures and false starts and rejection and obstacles.  Stick with it.  The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

So, I’m developing a Patreon page…..

……which will feature my creative work. Meaning, excerpts from my stories will be found on my Patreon page.

In fact, I’m working on a serial novel, where the readers will be given a determined number of choices (four) and whichever choice has the most votes, will be the next chapter.

Whether that will end up as an actual, hand-held paperback, I’m not entirely sure yet. I’m inclined to think that it will depend on the number of chapters this experiment will inspire and if it will even see a satisfactory conclusion.

There will be some other posts, as well, but I’m excited to see how this will work out. I love writing, I love seeing how people respond to what I write.

And now it’s time to make my words pay for themselves. When I’ve got it set up and running, with some posts behind it and the beginnings of the serial novel, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, keep writing, keep singing, keep dancing, keep drawing, keep being creative.

IMG_20160227_115204-2-2-2

So, I neglected to write a blog post yesterday……

…….breaking my resolution (of sorts) to post one a day. I won’t bore you with the details on why it didn’t happen yesterday, but to make it up to you, for today, I’ll post two.

This exercise of writing a post per day has been a challenge (which is partly why I chose to do it), but it’s also been fun. And because I’ve gotten back into the habit of writing something – anything – every day, I’ve been able to go back to my novel and continue editing, revising and re-writing it.

The observation that writing (like any other creative outlet or sport or subject) can only be improved by practicing every day is not lost on me. I’m exercising that muscle, which has been dormant for several months now. Because the topics I chose to write about were random and, for the most part, not planned, I was able to shape my thoughts, provide links where needed and get out what I wanted to say (and, hopefully, with an ironic twist of humor).

A few years ago, a book called The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron came out. One of the exercises she recommended doing was to write three pages, every morning. It didn’t matter what you put down – the exercise itself was about using your stream of consciousness and writing down whatever pops into your mind.

I suppose my blog resolution is sort of like that. And I’m one day away from really making this a habit. I may scramble, wrack my brain for ideas and get it in under the wire, but this has been an experience that has lifted my creative block and I’m going to continue doing it.

Some posts will be long, some will require research, some will be about questions of an ethical and philosophical turn.

It’s gonna get interesting.

IMG_20160227_115204-2-2-2

So, I began writing at a very young age……

……..a practice that I’m continuing to do even now, many years later. In a previous blog, I mentioned that, upon seeing Star Wars: A New Hope at age 7, I had become so enamored of that universe that I wanted to become a part of it. So I wrote myself into it.

This is commonly known as ‘fan-fiction’, a term I didn’t learn until many years later, but even then, I didn’t equate my scribbles with what others were doing. The stories I wrote myself into were for my eyes only, ranging from favorite books to TV shows as well as movies. It was how I learned to develop characters and plot and world building.

Upon discovering creative writing classes, I enrolled as fast as I could, wanting to better my voice and skills. Sometimes, these classes provided exactly what I sought; sometimes, they didn’t. It’s also how I feel about writing groups – the few that I’d attended seemed to provide a great deal of support for many of the people I met there, but I often felt dissatisfied and not given a safe platform to discuss my work.

This is not to say that classes and groups aren’t beneficial – they are, you just have to keep searching until you find one that not only suits your writing needs, but offers a supportive and secure environment. And you may even come to the conclusion that writing groups are not for you, which is fine, especially if writing is for your eyes only. If you want to take your writing a step further and need objective criticism and feedback, a group of fellow writers is a good place to start, thus the importance of finding the right group.

While I’m blessed to live in a highly creative community, the writing groups I’ve attended did not suit my needs. I found myself wanting to be at home and writing rather than participate in any of the exercises provided (1). My creative impulse demanded my attention, pushing me to dive back into my story and immerse myself in its world and characters.

I’m feeling that itch now, as I write this post, to pick up my pen and follow the tale as it winds itself towards its conclusion. To disappear completely within that world, like I did when I was young and exploring the galaxy aboard the Enterprise or learning the ways of the Force with Yoda and Ben Kenobi.

For me, writing is a bit like deep sea diving and archaeology mixed together. Just as you would submerge yourself into the water, I do the same by submerging myself into the psyche of various characters and their world. As one would unearth clues to an ancient civilization’s past as an archaeologist, so do I when finding more details and questions as I write.

As a kid, upon wanting to be a part of the Star Wars universe, I spent hours writing in a white heat. As an adult, it is my job and responsibility to tap into that white heat and bring that focus back to my writing. Each project is like learning how to write all over again, because each one has its own challenges and demands.

More and more, I’m remembering that young me, the one who was so enchanted with the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Leia Organa. That energy and passion is what I need to bring to every story I sit down to write.

That itch to write is reminding me to do that every day.

*****

(1) This is my experience with groups and is not going to be reflective of yours.

IMG_20160227_115204-2-2-2

So, Octavia Butler, an influential science fiction writer, once said……

……..about writing, “Here I was, into astronomy, and here into anthropology and there I go into geography. It was much more fun to be able to research and write about whatever I wanted to.”

This falls in line with my own thinking about writing and theater. It’s role-play of the best kind, where you get to try on as many different professions as possible without spending years in a classroom or in the field. There is a kind of freedom in trying on different hats, seeing how they fit and how to utilize them.

This doesn’t mean you don’t need to do the research – what some might see as a downside and an inhibitor of creativity is the hard work that goes into making your characters (both on the page and on the stage) layered, believable and, more importantly, real. This will keep your audience engaged until the end, trying to outguess where the character’s ultimate destination will wind up.

What’s also fun is that you discover new things about all kinds of subjects, especially ones you think you know. Whether it’s history, physics, law or how to make an Irish stew, the research you invest in your writing (or any other creative endeavor) will not only enrich the project you’re working on, but will add to your knowledge. Maybe you’ll even add a new skill or discover an interest in something you’d never thought about before. Where it leads is up to you, but the possibilities are endless.

Editor’s Note – This blog post is also published concurrently on Citizens Journal VC.

Recommended Links/Reading:

Link to Octavia Butler

Kindred by Octavia Butler

IMG_20160227_115204-2-2-2

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑