Monthly Archives: January 2011

Inspiration + Routine + Discipline = Creativity

Every morning I take a cup of coffee outside to my ‘thinking spot’ where I say good morning to the world, reconcile myself to being awake and make tentative plans for my day.

And every morning or the last three days I’ve walked smack into a spider web strung at face level between two trees. Which of us is going to learn? One of us is going to have to. I know it should be me but I rather fear it’s going to have to be the poor old spider.

But that’s by the way.

What’s more interesting to me is that every time now that I come to my ‘thinking spot’, I automatically start thinking. Well, that’s obvious, you’re saying – that’s why you call it your thinking spot, don’t you know? Of course, sure, but it seems to have become even more than that. If I pop out there in the afternoon, say, for a few minutes peace and quiet, or if I go there in the morning as usual, though without any real plan for the day or even knowing where I want to start, then just the act of sitting down in the spot seems to clarify my thoughts and direct them towards my writing and blogging work.

It’s as though I’ve programmed myself to think about certain subjects, just from sitting in the same place a few times and thinking about the same things. Some deep part of my mind now connects these surroundings with those thought processes. Thus, now when I sit there, it’s time to think about work. It’s quite mind-boggling really.

I first discovered this sort of thing years ago when I switched from writing non-fiction to fiction. In an effort to ‘get into the mood’ for writing, and as a transition from thinking about matters of daily life, I would put a certain piece of music on. After a while, when I put that music on, my brain automatically switched to writing mode and I was able to put everything else aside and get stuck in.

It seems strange, I suppose, to say that routine and discipline make up the greatest part of a creative life. Inspiration is needed, for sure, but inspiration happens all the time – walking down the road to the shop, perhaps, seeing someone doing something or saying something that triggers off in the mind a thought of ‘what if?’ These inspirational moments percolate away in the background until they grow into a usable idea (or wither and die, if they turn out to be duds). Then, of course, is when the routine and discipline come into play.

I love routine. I’m willing to put it aside at a moment’s notice and do something different if something special’s on offer, but on the whole routine is a force for the good. Without it, I’d hardly ever get anything done. Especially when you’re working in a creative area like writing (or painting, photography, craft, etc.) if you’re not going to get down to business and put the work in, no amount of inspiration is going to help.

Then there’s the problem that inspiration doesn’t happen every day, but that book still needs the next chapter written. If you have a routine, then you’re sitting down at much the same time every day, blank page in front of you, and before you know it, you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. The ideas are flowing, the words are appearing, the muse is whispering in your ear. If you hadn’t sat down with the intention of writing (or whatever), that muse wouldn’t have known where the hell to find you and your important creative work wouldn’t be getting done.

Of course, you have to develop discipline to form that routine, that self-programming that says it’s writing time now, get in the mood baby, listen up for the muse, she’s looking for you. Attempting work of a creative nature is an intimidating thing. It’s damn scary to face that blank page, that empty canvas. Nothing happens there unless you create it. Makes for a lot of pressure, doesn’t it? So how sensible then, to make a routine for yourself that eases that pressure a little, that takes you to the place in your mind where the creative juices can flow.

And tomorrow, I swear I’m going to remember that spider is there.

What a Difference a Book Can Make

When I look back over the years (something I’m not often tempted to do now I’m 40 – there’re too many of them!) I find that milestones, at least the emotional/mental ones are often marked by books, movies, music.

I rediscovered one of these markers again the other day. It’s a movie, Maurice, based on the book by E.M. Forster by the same name. I was fifteen or sixteen when I found this movie, staying for some reason at my brother’s flat and bored one night while he was out. There was a fantastic video store within walking distance to where he lived and this is where I carried the movie home from.

I remember sitting on the couch watching it, lit from the inside by a fantastic feeling of recognition. Maurice (according to the blurb on the back of the dvd case – I have my own copy now) is set in ‘pre-World War 1 England and studies a theme few period pieces dare mention – a young man’s struggle with his homosexuality. It is a coming of age for two young men who meet at Cambridge and fall in love. Maurice (James Wilby) and Clive (a very young and pretty Hugh Grant) struggle with the desires of their hearts and the rigid dogma of British class society’.

It’s also one of the few books/movies of its type and time that has a happy ending. Watching this movie was for me, probably the first real time I had seen anything that resembled my own struggles. I grew up not knowing anything about being lesbian, bisexual, homosexual. I knew no one of these ‘persuasions’ and it was even a while before I found the right words for it. So to see on the television screen people dealing with the sort of forbidden love (if I’d discovered anything about it I knew that it was forbidden – you should have seen the look of relief on my mother’s face the first time I let my friend arrange a double date for me with a boy in her class), to see this in colour, played out in front of me, was a revelation. It didn’t matter to me that these were a couple of men, I recognised myself anyway. It didn’t matter that the movie was set far before I was born. From what I knew, things hadn’t changed all that much anyway. Outside in my real world the Homosexual Law Reform Bill was beginning to get debate, and what debate it was – full page spreads in the newspapers by Christian groups damning the bill as against God’s will for family and country.

But there in that room, I finally felt recognised and validated.

I’ve read E.M. Forster’s book since then, and indeed everything else he wrote. He’s one of my favourite authors now. I recently read a biography that suggested that perhaps Forster eventually quit writing novels because he grew frustrated at not being able to portray in them life and love as he really knew them. His book Maurice wasn’t published until after his death, at his request.

I’m luckier that he was. I can write my own books, portraying in them women who love as I do, and I can get them out into the world with a few clicks of a computer button and add them to the growing and thriving store of our own stories.

What books/movies made a difference to you when you were growing up?

New Short Story

SCARCITY

At long last, finally and hooray, I’ve uploaded my first short story Scarcity to Smashwords. You can download it from there in a variety of formats, so something for everyone. And it’s free!

I’ve been on a steep learning curve the last couple weeks, learning the formatting styles needed to convert Word files to ebooks, and downloading and learning to use programmes to make ebook covers. I don’t know if the cover for Scarcity looks terribly professional, but I had a hell of a lot of fun making it. Sometimes the fun factor is a big reason to go ahead with something.

I’m going to get busy over the next couple of days uploading a couple more short stories. They’ll also be free – because free is nice, you have to admit, and to give you a chance to decide if you like my writing style. Then I’m going to make available my first short novel Silent Light, which is a bit of a mystery story, and is bound to give you a few chills and thrills. I’m in the editing stage of a sequel to Silent Light, titled Shadows Fall. I’ve been having a great time with the characters of those two books, they seem like old friends now and I hope you’ll enjoy meeting them too.

But first things first – here’s the blurb for Scarcity. Go grab yourself a copy, read and enjoy.

Teresa doesn’t mind loneliness. It comes with the territory and she’s learned to be particular about her privacy. She’s learned that keeping to yourself is always the best option. Until Scarcity turns up. Teresa’s never met anyone like her and it worries her how much she likes the girl’s presence. What happens when two desperate, needy worlds collide?

 

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