Archive for 'creativity'

Gittin’ ‘er done
by Jessa Slade on September 20th, 2010

Currently working on: Stand-off with Book 4 characters — Who will blink first? Me or them?
Mood: Clenched jawed

Autumn is a bit delayed here in the Pacific Northwest. Last week here at Silk And Shadows, I showed some pictures of my summer vacation (at left: the garden harvest we took with us for one-pot dinners) and normally, on our drive home from the high desert, when we pass into the rain cloud over Mt. Hood, we see the first signs of fall in the turning leaves.  This year, it’s still all green. Kind of like the tomatoes in our garden which are a month behind. Hurry up, tomatoes, we don’t have much time!

 This is the time of year when I like to finish up projects. It feels appropriate to batten down the hatches before winter. Here’s what’s on my list for fall projects:

1. Finish Book 4, come hell or high water
The high water will definitely be here. This is, after all, the Pacific Northwest. We do rain. As for the hell… I am not a peaceful writer. There is much kicking and screaming at my computer. I’m not proud of it, it does not serve me well, and I don’t recommend it as a technique to other writers, but it’s mine. I am currently in the kicking portion of this evening’s entertainment; the screaming will commence shortly.

2. Put the garden to bed
In a lovely dovetailing of deadlines, I will be done with Book 4 about the time the garden is done. I usually wait too long to strip the beds — hoping to wait for just one more red tomato — and end up having to do it in the rain, with my gloves drenched and full of mud. But whatever. Mulching for winter lacks the anticipation of spring planting, when you know you’ll get to watch the little plants grow all season, but there’s a certain satisfaction in covering the earth and wishing it good night.

3. Unearth my closet
The wild amokness of the garden can be productive, for pole beans at least. The same can be said sometimes for a wild imagination. The bedlam in my closet is not helpful in any way. Living in an old farmhouse has its pleasures, but the forehead-smashing, under-eaves closets are not among them. I wear whatever’s hanging closest to the door just to avoid going into the closet, for fear I won’t ever come out. Crawling into the way back… There be monsters. This fall, I want to at least be able to SEE the back wall.

4. Play with paint
I have an art project I’ve been itching to try, a multilayered abstract jewelry thing. I have the materials and just haven’t had the time. (I think I can sneak that in for Christmas presents, but don’t tell anybody ‘cuz it’s a surprise.)

5. Write something new
My ideas file is now 13 pages long. Truly, not every one of those ideas deserves a book, but some of them deserve at least a look beyond the cursory scribbling I gave them when they first popped up. The quiet of winter will be a perfect time to winnow through them — like next season’s seed packets to see what might sprout.

What’s on your list of autumn projects? Do you find that some tasks are better suited for some seasons than others?

Creativity by the numbers
by Jessa Slade on August 10th, 2009

Currently working on: Avoidance techniques
Mood: Sneaky

You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.
~ Nietzsche

Ever get the sense that Nietzsche said a lot of stuff just so he’d live forever in online quote generators?  First of all, the chaotic people I know aren’t usually creating anything except more chaos, and second of all, a dancing star coming from where

But I admit, a form of controlled chaos, ultimately purposeful chaos not unlike a sun’s fusion core with its resultant light and heat, can get me past a cold, dark spell when I’m not sure where I’m going.


It would be awesome to be a Jackson Pollock of creativity, renting Lear jets to blow geysers of cadmium red at canvases the size of barn doors just to see what happens.  But then there’s reality:

  • Renting a Learjet: $1950-$2400/hour
  • 14×11 canvas: $240
  • 150 ml cadmium red: $58

So I use a poor man’s version of Pollock’s wild spatter: the mind map.

(From Wikipedia mind map entry)

A central conceptual problem surrounded by words and images that lead to yet more words and images that, in theory, open the mind to new solutions.

There’s lots of software available to play with, but a piece of paper and markers (I love the skinny Sharpies in rainbow colors!) work just as well.

In addition to expanding options, the same technique helps me focus.  I use the mind mapping idea to make a collage to remind me of the story I’m trying to tell.  Here’s the collage for SEDUCED BY SHADOWS. (Click for a larger version.)

My greatest creative enemy is perfectionism. 
The gleam of the white, untouched page is nirvana to me.  That perfection is lost with the scrawl of the first word.  Fine then, if my perfectionism demon wants to make me squirm, I can return the favor.

The trick to mind mapping, I think, is to be as wild with ideas as Pollock is with paint.  Toward that end, you might want to try cultivating:

As in quantity and loudness.  I find I have to toss a lot since most of the good ideas hide at the bottom so the more I start with, the more I’ll end up with. 

When I brainstorm, my rule is No Straight Lines!  Whacking is good.  Extra points for glue stick in hair.  Painting outside the lines gets you a gold star on the belly — and the gold star will be crooked and off center. 

Blissful insouciance
Lots of critics hate Jackson Pollock.  Because, well, he throws paint at canvas.  But whatever. 

This is anti-perfectionism.  And it is good.

Okay, time for an unofficial poll.  In comments, tell us, were you a mudpie child or did wearing the tips off crayons make you want to weep?  What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done to unleash your creative genius?

One commenter this week will win a signed copy of Jessica Andersen’s DAWN KEEPERS
so check out the rest of the week’s posts on creativity too!

Where do babies come from?
by Jessa Slade on December 15th, 2008

Currently working on: Cover copy for SEDUCED
BY SHADOWS — Look, ma! It’s a book!
Mood: Obsessively perfectionist

Where do ideas come from?  If authors sometimes refer to their books as their children, for me, the answer to where ideas come from is as simple and boring as the 20-page picture book I read that was supposed to answer the perennial childhood question, Where do babies come from?  All I remember was the sentence: “The egg is no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.”  And it wasn’t really a large font size.

Scientifically unverified reasons it’s likely my “ideas” are actually just eggs:

  • It seems they come from somewhere inside me
  • They start out small and unformed and more than a little alien-like
  • I break a lot of them in the course of half-baking them
  • My job is to hatch them, raise them up and let them fly

Now that I review my list, my ideas are really less like children and more like chickens.  Have you ever watched chickens?  They’ll wander, clucking to themselves, rather aimless.  Then all of a sudden, they’ll freak and scramble with sudden (if often obscure) purpose.  My ideas work like that too.  And come to think of it, my handwriting bears a striking resemblance to their footprints…

The chicken as Muse.  Sigh.  But you take inspiration where you can find it.

[If you're still looking for the perfect Christmas gift, you could do worse than a Mike the Headless Chicken t-shirt.  I'm just saying.]

Could I wish for a more noble, more coherent symbolic source of ideas than a headless chicken?  No doubt.  But if babies come from cabbage patches and storks — not to mention the periods at the ends of sentences — why not ideas from chickens?

Who — or what — does your muse look like?

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