Tag Archives: Inspiration

To Write Or To Live? That is the Question

There is a fine line a writer has to walk between living and writing. Too much living means not enough writing, and too much writing means not enough living. As evidenced by my lack of recent blog posts and by my lack of mention of a completed first draft of my second novel, it is obvious which activity is consuming my focus lately.

Recently, while in the throes of excessive living, I was in a beautiful location, enjoying a sumptuous meal beginning with fried olives, stuffed with gorgonzola accompanied by a spicy honey sauce. My teeth cut through the crisp golden batter. My mouth watered in response to the hot, salty olive. I sucked in a breath and realized I should have given the appetizer a moment to cool; my tongue was stinging slightly. I carried on chewing, a little more gingerly, breathing in cooling air. The cheese creamed across my tongue. The sauce kicked in. I didn’t notice the sweetness of honey on the first bite but the spiciness grew with each passing second. I attempted to dispel the effects with a sip of cold, crisp, and tart Sauvignon Blanc. The wine opened my taste buds further. My mouth grew warmer for a moment. A couple more small sips of wine and the spiciness eased. I lifted my fork and began the whole process over again. Mm…

If I had not visited this restaurant and had this experience I could not have told you about it quite so thoroughly. I wouldn’t have known to include certain details about the experience. The napkin I placed across my lap was the thickest of linens. Snowflakes the size of quarters drifted down in front of a mountain backdrop. A candle flickered in the reflection. My spine stayed straight, my elbows were kept off the table but it was a romantic and exquisite evening. Maybe I could have come close to describing it this well without visiting, but maybe not.

View from Rimrock Hotel

View from Rimrock Hotel

When I pay attention to my senses, emotions and experiences while I am living, I always find rich details to incorporate into my writing to give it depth and to help recreate an experience my reader can identify with which will hopefully evoke a response. It is this response that binds my reader to my words.

When I am experiencing powerful emotions I often try and capture them in a journal. Sometimes these captured emotions can be used in my writing. The problem is that to have these powerful emotions you have to be living. When you are living you are not writing. To further compound the issue… I have a horrible memory. Things fade so quickly especially if you are living life at tremendous speeds, and I have been living at the speed of sound.

To combat this I try my best to always carry a pen and journal with me. I often see and feel these moments and I know them for what they are, snapshots that could make my writing better. It is painful. The writer in me gets the inspired thought or the creative burst and longs to capture it. I also know I can’t live behind the pen. If I spend all my time writing about my vacation I am not actually having one.

Finding the balance between living and writing is difficult. And as you can see by my lack of blog posts I’m doing a hell of a lot of living. Hopefully that will translate into some great writing at some point.

As someone I love recently said to me, “Quality problems Shannon, that’s what those are, quality problems.” That was a helpful perspective.

Life does not come with a remote control that allows us to pause and record.

What do you do to capture these living moments for your writing before they slip by?

I Wish My Creativity Was a Fully Loaded Apple Tree I Could Shake

Last night I finished reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing”. I had stacks to read ahead of it but it jumped the queue. It was perfect timing to read about his writing process when I was about to discuss my writing process. My friend suggested Stephen and I had many things in common which sparked my interest. (I figure I can’t be on the wrong track if I have commonalities with one of the most successful and well-known writers of our time.)

Stephen and I are much alike. Aside from writing, and profound need to read, we both feel an element of magic in our writing experience. Stephen King suggests stories seem “pre-existing” like “fossils in the ground”, and as writers, our job is to unearth them as fully as possible. He also suggests in relation to writing “that you’d do well to remember that we are also talking about magic.”

Magic and writing. Hmm…

As someone who has sat at a desk and done the hard work of cranking out good pages and bad pages, I am loath to admit it takes more than just hard work. Stephen calls it “magic”. For me it is a creative, spiritual experience.

(Oh boy! Did I lose any readers with this statement?)

I’ll try not to dive too deeply off the “New Age” diving board, but like Stephen King I have to acknowledge in the act of creation, I’ve experienced magical moments. And I emerge from these writing bouts feeling like a vessel which has been used to pour something out. I am not always firmly in control. I’m there. I am melded and mixed with the creative energy, but later on the words surprise me. I can remember the creative emotion I was trying to evoke; I recall physically striking the keys. However, what I read lacks familiarity. Logically, physically, I can’t deny the words came from me. I try my best to recognize them, but I have to acknowledge they do not always feel, wholly, of me.

Some people refer to this as being under the influence of “a muse”. I call it “My Creativity”. My Creativity is most easily described as those occasions when I feel driven to write. Characters speak to me; scenes develop and flash through my head like a movie, playing out for my mind’s eye. I experience strong, visceral emotions I am compelled to recreate with words. If I can get in front of a computer or pick up a scribbler and a pen, the words come easy.

My Creativity is more than occasion when I feel driven to write, she feels like an energy separate from myself. She is an unreliable partner who rarely times her appearance with my opportunities to write. She is flighty and fickle and very likely to bounce in and overwhelm my imagination when I am buried by responsibility. I have to say as a writer there is nothing more frustrating and painful than a day creativity calls and you cannot adhere to it.

Equally as difficult are days when I have time and freedom to write but no inspiration. My Creativity does not appear automatically but on her own whimsical timetable. This cold, Canadian, Sunday morning I could have slept in until noon but My Creativity decided we should get up at seven so I could write this post all about her. I value a Sunday sleep-in, but I honour her more, because when she gets my time and attention I will spend less time forcing words onto the page. I try to be prepared for her. I carry a pen and a notepad everywhere and to jot down quick notes. Later, these notes can bring her back and inspire more writing. Driving, showering, sitting outside, and listening to music can also open the conduit to connecting to My Creativity.

When My Creativity and opportunity connect I write in bursts, typing with my eyes firmly on the keyboard. Yes, eyes firmly on the keyboard because I never took typing in school. I feel my mistakes but I don’t stop and correct as I go. My Creativity is not to be wasted. I let the current flow, holding the conduit open.

If she does not come I do not sit around and wait. I can always edit. Editing isn’t as fun. It is hard work but I admit to a twisted satisfaction at slashing and hacking improvements into my manuscript. Sometimes editing will coax My Creativity out and we’ll write another thick, flurry of pages. If not I have the time to fix the emotion-filled but error-riddled mess we left behind the last time we joined up to write.

Without My Creativity the writing can be bad. But bad writing is still writing. Sometimes I have to “fake it until I make it”. A writer who does not write is like someone who dreams of winning the lottery but never buys a ticket. I buy the ticket and I write. Funny enough, the less I depend on My Creativity the easier she has become to find. I am adept at recognizing sources of inspiration in life events, interactions and personal connections without her. (Warning: my favorite writing attire is a sweatshirt which says “Careful or you’ll end up in my novel”.)

Today My Creativity showed up. She helped me write not just this post, but next week’s post. She also peppered me with additions to my second novel while I was trying to shower. Finally she refused to end her day-long appearance until I agreed that next week I should introduce my blog readers to the “others” who make my writing possible. My Creativity reminded me I do not write alone. She is right. I seriously doubt I could write effectively at all without the voices in my head.