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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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doodling

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.

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So, I stumbled upon the following quote…….

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”

This quote came from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and is spoken by Frodo Baggins as he, Sam, Merry and Pippen embark on their quest to take the One Ring back to Mordor. The imagery, as I read it, struck me as being similar to the creative process, whether you’re in the beginning stages or are somewhere in the middle and struggling to get un-stuck. Or, other times, you can get lost in the rhythm of the process as you watch the ink flow from the pen onto the paper, forming shapes that become words. Similar things can happen while working on music or sanding down a piece of wood that will become a toy or piece of furniture or even sketching.
It’s a Zen-like state, where instead of you leading the creative process, you’re letting the creative process lead you. In that sense, you’ve allowed yourself to ignore the inner critic, your ego, and to begin trusting yourself enough to follow your instincts. It may not make any sense, at first – indeed, it may not make any sense at all. Don’t let that stop you – if nothing else, this process is clearing the way for you to resolve a conflict in your story, find a different note for a song, or finding a fresh color in a painting. Oftentimes, when I’m sitting in a coffee shop, trying to write and words are refusing to show up, I doodle on the page. What shows up are horses, either smirking at the viewer or prancing up a hill. Most of the time, however, it’s just random lines and circles connected in one long stroke of the pen that make no sense at all.
I love these moments and come out of them feeling refreshed and happy, though they come at the expense of my current project. They give me time to step away from my project and relax my mind a little so that I can proceed with a more defined objective. For me it’s similar to the theater game of improvisation, where the first rule is to say “Yes, and….”.
The road that leads ever on comes from the spark of an idea. Outlined or flying by the seat of one’s pants or a little of both is how the journey progresses to its destination.
Recommended Reading:
The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
Improv Encyclopedia

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Editor’s Note – this blog post is published concurrently on Citizens Journal VC

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