The creative process is something very individual and differs from person to person. One may have a very strict way of writing, others thrive in chaos. Take for example Diane Keaton’s character from Something’s Gotta Give, and Emma Thompson’s character from Stranger Than Fiction. Keaton’s character looked herself up to write, she got away to a house by the beach, and although it took major inspiration from leaving her comfort zone in her life, she still sat down, at a desk – clean, clear, and void of distractions. Now, Thompson’s character wrote anywhere she pleased, traveling around the city, creating scenarios out of the ordinary into something interesting. Although the room she wrote in was white and had a clear feel, her desk was scattered with notes, papers and trash. Both approaches, whether organized or messy, clear or chaotic, are perfectly acceptable -it all depends on what drives inspiration.
I personally, sit somewhere between the two extremes. I need quiet to focus, but I hardly ever do well when I set a specific and consistent time to write each day. On the same note, however, deadlines are wonderfully inspiring. And that’s really what writing is about, inspiration -finding it, harnessing it and transferring it to words. In order to achieve the finding, harnessing and transferring inspiration, my creative process includes and follows important steps: source of inspiration, time and space, and editing.
Source of Inspiration
Inspiration can come from absolutely anything; a word, picture, person, building, nature, machine, an abstraction. The key is looking, being open minded and consciously seeing the world through your own eyes, in your own way. Whenever I am lacking inspiration I do something like read or google image random things. If I am able to go somewhere I take a drive or a walk. Vacations are great time to write because of the change of scenery, it’s offering something new, but just doing something out of your normal routine is likely to bring up something worth writing about.
If doing something does not produce any kick starts I often look at prompts and writing exercises and try to get a start with that. There is a GREAT book titled, Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspiration for Writing, that has some nice prompts, and wonderful pictures. I read the book through one of my college poetry workshops and have kept it close by when writing since. I highly recommend it, if your looking for a pocket sized mini manual.
Time and Space
As I already mentioned I need quiet to write, but as for the actual area it can literally be anywhere. I have written poems in a math class, on the edge of the Grand Canyon, in bed after waking up in the middle of night, in a car, it just all depends on when something hits me. I try to keep a pen and some scraps of paper handy because I know that’s how I write.
The best tactic to is know yourself. Are you a clean person who gets the best ideas on fresh paper? Keep a clean and organized work space. Maybe calendar a block of time each day to write and stick to it. If you tend to be more chaotic, calendar outings/activities (a park, a social event your not accustomed to) and don’t forget a notepad. Whatever your personality -whoever you liken yourself to more, Keaton or Thompson- I would still suggest at least keeping a designated area to write. Having your own desk or even just a folder and couch, whether its filled with scraps and folded papers or color coded dividers, is important. It allows you the ability to turn off the world around you and focus -to harness that inspiration into one space. At the very least it reminds you to write.
Editing is probably the most important step -and the hardest. Determining what, out of all the hard work, should stay and what should be ditched is frustrating and sometimes we get attached to our writing and do not want to waste it. I generally edit as I write -line by line, if something does not work the way I want it is hard for me to move on, but after it’s done I have an especially hard time editing the poem as a whole. In order to move past that difficulty I let it rest. Maybe, for a week or a month I won’t read the poem so that when I go back to it it’s fresh and I can more openly see what works and does not. The book I previously mentioned, Pocket Muse, also has some encouraging comments for the editing nervous individuals. Because of that book I don’t harbor those terrible feelings after tossing pages of that hard, hard work.
Another thing I try to do to make editing more tolerable is keep the scraps that don’t work in one poem or piece, but that I have a difficult time parting with and try to use them to build something that will work -sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.
So that’s it, my creative writing process, but since this process is very individual and I’m sure you guys have found things that work or don’t work for you. I would love to read your individual processes, so, go ahead, in the comments leave something 🙂
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