Tag Archives: creativity

Travelling: The Writer’s Master Class

I wrote this late last Friday night and have only gotten around to editing it now. As of today, the numbers below are right — 90 days until I’m homeless and a world traveller. If you’re not following my travel blog, you should.

It’s hard to find great movies on writers. Funny, that.

But I guess it’s such an internal experience that it’s very hard to relay that visually or in any other way. It’s why a movie like Eat Pray Love can suck so hard while the book is a delight to read.

So it’s with great enjoyment that I’m watching Jane Campion’s biopic on New Zealand author Janet Frame, who I’d never even heard about, despite read. Don’t let my ignorance dissuade you of her import; her list of writing awards spans nearly six decades and would be intimidating to nearly any writer. An Angel At My Table is the name of both the film and the corresponding books.

Frame was unique, to put it lightly, and suffered mental illness in varying (but it turns out manageable) degrees. She was due for a lobotomy when word came that her first book of poems was an award-winning publication, and some wise doctor realized her malaise was also the source of her brilliance.

I’m at the point where she’s coming into her own as a writer but is still troubled by the demons of anxiety and other illnesses, and like any proper writer, she is only her complete self when writing.

 

London, England, by Unsplash on Pixabay. Creative Commons. My first stop in my travels.

London, England, by Unsplash on Pixabay. Creative Commons.

Doing what a writer’s born to do

It makes me think that a writer who isn’t writing is a person who can never be happy. Without writing, we’re haunted. If we can’t do what we are, then what are we to be, if not cursed?

I write. Boy, do I write. I can’t say I don’t write. Know how many words I’ve written since April 1st, about 90 days? Over 70,000. Maybe over 80K. Until this quarter, I never knew how much a writer I am. I set a goal, then I blew way past it, so much so that I’ll be the writer anomaly when I travel, as I’ll be completely debt-free.

Strangely though, with all that production going into paid blogging and other professional endeavours, plus some unpaid personal blogging, I have to tell you… I really wish I had some time to write.

There’s writing for the dollars, then there’s writing for the soul, and there’s very little of the latter I’ve been able to execute, only because I’m so riddled by the chase of the almighty buck that I’m too full of emotional holes to really write what I wanna.

Zagreb_1_Ilica

Creative Commons image from Sobrecroacia.com. Ilica Street, Zagreb, my second stop on my travels, and near where I’ll live for three weeks, except for a short stint in the next town — which is… see the next picture!

 

Stealing back my time

In the movie, Janet Frame has just launched herself on her first international voyage. She’s told, to be a better writer, she needs to travel and expand her horizons.

It calls to mind what I wrote about how my travels are, even if others don’t say it, essentially most writers’ dream life. Go abroad. Travel slow. Soak in the world. Record it. Process it. Love it.

That’s writing for you, it’s a writer’s master class — travel.

I’m 90 days away from that life. Travel. No appointments, no obligations, no friends, no family, nothing but a schedule to meet for work, the ability to be in some exotic place for a month or so, and enough time in the day to write for an hour or two EVERY SINGLE DAY. Maybe more! Tee-hee-hee!

Ask me if I’m more excited about the distraction-free time to chase a writing-first life or the opportunity to see the world for five years, and I would honestly struggle to choose. I love the idea of both so completely that it blows my mind I’m getting both at the same time.

Ljubljana, Slovenia, from PopSugar.com's list of 23 places to visit. And stop number three for me!

Ljubljana, Slovenia, from PopSugar.com’s list of 23 places to visit. And stop number three for me!

Writing is not a “hobby”

I’ve been through a lot in my life. It’s all gone whizzing past in a blur of survival and perseverance. Seldom have I had a chance to percolate and absorb it. I haven’t processed half the emotions I’ve felt over the years.

To some, they might say I need therapy. But the writers, they know. They know I need silence, a phone that doesn’t ring and a door that doesn’t knock. They know I need a window with a view, a desk at a good height, and fingers that won’t weary from a day or a year or a life of pounding out the truth.

It’s better than therapy, writing. It’s more honest, and it’s less selfish, in a way.* Put it down, push it into the world, and watch it resonate with others. When one taps into how fucked up they are, shares it with the world, resulting in a cacophony of voices rising to say how much it resonated with them — that’s the original therapy group session.

Something tells me, though, that landing on the far shores of the Atlantic isn’t going to be when and where I realize what a mess I am — it’ll be where I realize how together I’ve got it.

Motovun, Istria, in Croatia, where I'll be spending 4 weeks this fall -- stop number 4. And this photo's from Sobrecroacia.com.

Motovun, Istria, in Croatia, where I’ll be spending 4 weeks this fall — stop number 4. And this photo’s from Sobrecroacia.com.

Choosing passion

It doesn’t matter how I think I’ll do. My expectations don’t matter either. In about 105 days, after I’ve whirlwinded through Vancouver and London, UK, it’ll be my chance to see exactly how it unfolds. But there are no doubts in my mind about travelling improving me as a writer.

There haven’t been many opportunities in my life to spend 10 or 20 hours a week just writing for myself, let lone more, but the few times I’ve had that, my writing has been top-notch and I’ve been enormously proud of it. It’s a whole ‘nother writing level when you’ve got the time, focus, and dedication to achieve consistency.

This is what I hope to experience again. A chance to become more plugged into words and flow. I want the noise and distraction of life to evaporate, and the cadence of something exciting and new to fuel what I write.

What’s that they say about asking and receiving? 100 days.

*But therapy is awesome if you can afford it. For real.

Dark & Beautiful: The Brain & Creativity

brainsbrainsbrainsThe human brain is a marvelous and terrifying thing.

I once heard that science knows as little about the deep sea as it does the human brain. The last frontiers. Is that true? Really, the only thing that matters is that I can buy its truthiness. Science can’t even really explain why some PMS makes me want to club a baby seal, but other times I’m fine. Hello?

Yesterday, for instance, I managed to be productive and focused, but inside I was terribly, terribly depressed and angry.

Fortunately, logically, I knew it was just hormones and weather. I realized there wasn’t an actual reason I should be either depressed OR angry, and I knew where I was in my cycle. The way I was feeling wasn’t rooted in reality, and I understood that, come morning, odds were highly likely the mood would vanish.

And poof, just like that, it’s gone. Today I’m hopeful, creative, charged, and just bought the domain name for the creative and existential project to consume the next half decade of my life. If that’s not optimistic, even at the low, low price of $8.99 per year, I don’t know what is.

Perspective

I mean, how many people have the opportunity to point at Planet Earth and go “I want that,” then set into motion the mechanics of taking on the whole wide world for five years with no roots, anywhere, no limits? One in 100,000? One in a million? Lucky, indeed.

It’s knuckle-cracking elbow-greasing time when it comes to this little going-Full-Nomad project of mine. A friend has offered to help me set up my blog. I’ve decided not to host that content here on The Cunt. This place has been great for me, and I’ll likely still use it to unleash my wrath and rail at the gods from time to time, but I’m in a different place now. I’m a different person now. I need a new creative home.

Despite my older, mellower ways, it’s pretty safe to say I’ll never be Mary Poppins. Nor would I want to be. I like my wrath and fury, my joy and faith. I like the mix of pathos that swirls in my brain. My yin to my yang is right there. I may tilt and pivot, vacillating from seeming extremes, but I’m usually able to hold onto a small measure of awareness that, whatever the tempest, life is generally a smooth-sailing place for me. Or at least a place I manage to navigate without peril.

Storms are Genesis

Chimp_Brain_in_a_jarEarlier, I saw a quote from Kurt Vonnegut about how it’s impossible to be a serious writer if you don’t suffer depression. I’m sure if he were to expound, he might have said something like it’s the variations of emotional themes which make great writers what they are.

They’ve loved, they’ve lost, they’ve lived to tell another tale.

Throughout history, writers have been the teller of the tales. They’ve kept the legends alive, passed the records of humanity from one generation to another. It wasn’t until humans began to write that we really had a record of not only the social structure but the emotional worlds in ages long past.

Writers record the human condition. We try to grasp what happens around us, record how it affects us, and inspire the next step. Today, different mediums allow for writing/recording/inspiring to happen visually, in audio, and of course on the page/stage/screen.

But all of it starts in the brain, when someone sees something and has a thing or two to say about it. Poof! A synapse fires, a thought is born, a project springs forth.

That inspiration and the ability to create something of where there was nothing, it blows my fucking mind.

The human brain is a marvellous and terrifying place, indeed.

The Psyche and the Fulcrum

Surviving nearly a year of dark, fearful deep depression baffles me. Survival didn’t seem an option then. I’m grateful my forays to bleakness are seldom now, rare even, and I’ve the faculties to buckle up and hang on until it’s over, which is never more than a day or two.

I have no illusions. Once I’m gone “Full Nomad,” there’ll be days where I find myself fatigued and homesick, wishing I had a bed all mine. But it’s days like today after I’ve told myself “It’ll be better tomorrow,” and I wake up, and it really is better, that convince me I’ve got this. I’ll have brief downs and see myself through them.

Done and Done

That’s another funny thing about the brain. The more we realize and act upon our strength, the more our brains can sell us on our toughness when needing a pep-talk down the road.

It’s fantastic we’re as resilient as we are. One of the greatest gifts ever given is adversity. It never feels that way at the time, but no matter what the loss or the price is, a healthy person will become better, stronger, more resilient as a result. I know I’m grateful to have proven already I’m “tough enough.”

Like the saying says, we don’t know how strong we are until we have to be strong.

That part is inspiring and comforting. What’s terrifying is the brain’s ability to shut out all hope and languish in darkness. Science needs to unlock mental illness. I’m glad it’s getting more attention.

And Now, More Mysterious Than Ever Before!

Strength and resilience aside, the flipside to the possibility of that terrifying darkness is the jaw-dropping experience of creation. Some brains conceive rocketships to the stars, incredible food combinations, cures for disease, life-changing books, or soul-charging songs. Poof! Magic. Inspiration, creation. And so the creative cycle continues.

With every new experience, a new creative door might open. I can’t begin to imagine what seeing the world and blowing my perception wide-open will do for my brain. What will I create? What will I learn? What will I experience? How will it influence my thoughts for the rest of my life? My creativity? How much will it increase my resilience?

I’ve already lived through incredible extremes of the human brain. Or like to think I have. In less than eight months, I start the project that I hope will shake me to my foundations and awaken me from my white middle-class life, and change my world-view for the rest of my days.

Waiting will be a bitch. Luckily, Trusty Brain shows me positives in proceeding slow and studiously, while laying proper groundwork for a long, successful journey.

Way to go, brain.

Brains

Of Force & Faith: Writing & Creativity Blocks

ceremony script - sha sha chu

photo by Sha Sha Chu via flickr Creative Commons

Writing is a fickle mistress, and hard to keep happy.

I have much work to do but I’m like an athlete in training, and forcing myself to write something on a daily basis. Right now, it’s all of a personal nature. Opinion writing, observations, that sort of thing. So in a way, I’m “forcing myself” to write, but in another way, the pressure to do so is because I’ve had many “I want to write” moments of late. I’m inspired, and often, but I’m also beholden to work, leisure, and other living-in-the-real-world distractions.

The old “find the time” conundrum. Ahh, adulthood.

Which brings me to the idea of Writer’s Block. The nefarious “block” is a topic that makes me laugh because it’s something I know all too well. I find myself annoyed at smarmy, smug types who tell you “There’s no such thing as writer’s block,” because I’m not sure what they deserve more — a face-punch or a logic-restoring slap upside the head.

Of course there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Don’t be an idiot. There’s nothing that stands up inside you to shout YOU! DON’T WRITE ANOTHER WORD! NOT A LETTER! STOP!

Of course not. But that doesn’t mean you should be writing when it ain’t nothing but grunt. You know you’re writing shit when you’re writing shit. Why push the matter?

Wait Till You Can’t Wait No More

I’ve been forever misattributing a quote I read once, and I guess I’m so far from the original quote now that it’s unGoogleable (and all instances trace back to ME), but it went “A writer ought not write until the thought of not writing becomes unbearable.” Maybe I’m the one who said it after a fevered night’s dream.

Still, I’m not sure if I agree with that quote either, or its limitations of “wait till not doing it’s unbearable,” which sounds like the literary equivalent of blue balls. Somewhere in the middle of the extremes of workaholic craft-maintaining and waiting for the sheer passion to write is the sweet spot of creation.

I’m old enough now to understand that the life of a writer comes in waves. I’ll probably never be a write-all-the-time-forever writer, but I suspect I’ll have five-year windows where I’m on, and a little while when I’m off. Or maybe it’ll become more constant the older I get, as I learn about balance and understand what this craft does for me on so many levels. Maybe I’ve been out of the game enough to last me a lifetime.

I haven’t wanted to write for so long. I can’t explain how it is to understand that your creative self just isn’t what, or where, you want it to be. I can’t tell you how I knew I had to walk away and just rekindle my place in the world.

I can’t explain the loss of confidence I had in what I do, in how I write. I don’t give a fuck if you understand how pervasive such a thing is for a writer. It’s not about you.

Fake it Till You Make It? No.

Lighthouse on a ferry sail.

Lighthouse on a ferry sail.

My walk-away wasn’t all about confidence or the loss thereof, but that certainly played a role in the beginning. I totally lost my mojo in 2010 / 2011. I had grown angry at life and didn’t know how to feel other things or express more than that.

Real writing is about going to those netherworlds inside you. Dark places, places where we don’t sell admission tickets. So if what’s inside you is just blanket-angry and one-tracked, and you don’t approve of that anger, or worse, you disrespect yourself for it, it’ll be a really hard road to scrounge up personal writing that’s worth reading. I never found that road.

After I moved to Victoria, that bitterness began to vanish. The anger started to evaporate and I found myself lost in this new world around me. The will to write popped up at inconvenient times, but very fleetingly. It didn’t stick around. I didn’t get that “where’s a pen?” twitch, or that niggling sense of “Huh, I like that idea…” that made it worth the effort of recording.

Creativity was nebulous, at best.

When the desire to write started to return, my confidence issues returned too. I felt an imposter in a wordy world. Every time I wrote something, it’d be like I was walking through a garden, noticing things, enjoying the moment, then suddenly there’d be a 4-foot wall. Instead of looking for a way around or over, I’d go “Well, huh — there’s a four-foot wall. I guess that’s that.”

I wasn’t following it through, and worse, I felt I couldn’t.

And Then One Day

Writing is like anything else in the world. If you’re a writer and it’s really, really good, you just know it down inside you. It’s a feeling on a cellular level, an almost-religious experience. It pops.

I didn’t have that feeling again until I wrote Unmerciful World on Medium. Seymour Hoffman’s death hit me like a brick, and within 15 minutes I’d sat down to write in a daze. A trance, maybe.

It was the shot of confidence I needed. Arrogantly so. I was impressed with myself. I remembered what it used to feel like to crank out promising copy on a daily basis, on topics that mattered to me, rather than just work that would satisfy clients. (Which I pride myself on delivering often.)

So began the journey of trying to reconnect with writing. I started doing more, but they languish now as incomplete topics in my drives. And then I was writing a lot. But still not for your enjoyment. I started a very personal project I think will become an ebook by Christmas, for instance.

Still, writing for yourself, in silence, gets a bit masturbatory and creepy. It doesn’t take long before objectivity vanishes and a me-me-me mentality storms in.

Now I’ll need to find a balance between the two. I’ve alluded to projects I want to write and share with you. I have two books I want out this fall. (And since, unlike cooking books, there are no product testing, re-testing, photographing, or complex layouts involved… I expect it to be a much simpler and far more fulfilling experience! And quicker to bring to fruition.)

And there are others. I have creative ideas for weird experimental writing I’d like to try. As my confidence bubbles up, I’ll put those in the mix too.

Boat at Fisherman's Wharf here in Victoria recently.

Boat at Fisherman’s Wharf here in Victoria recently.

But like a long-cooked stew, these sorts of odd projects are sometimes best when simmered on low in the background for a good long time. And so they are.

Writing is exciting again. The challenge is nearly titillating. I’m beginning to anticipate the onslaught of winter, where I won’t feel like two selves are pulling in me — the one who wants to scream FUCK IT ALL and go running for the beach versus the other who wants to pull the sunny windows closed, mutter darkly “Fuck it all” and stay at the computer, pounding out words.

And in between it all is that damnable presence of the bank and a life that needs to be earned before it’s spent.

Writing, like all things, needs to be bad and uninspiring for spells, so we creatives can truly love and appreciate these rare periods where inspiration comes knocking and our keyboards answer confidently.

I’m not upset that I’ve had such long durations out of the creative world. I won’t apologize for it or beg you to take me seriously after it. I think I’ll be a better writer for the experience. I’ll simply have to prove it.

It’ll be a fun ride as I find out.

Mojo Rising: In Which I Want To Be A Blogger

307153_272353769461853_100000616957975_876750_1805170655_n (1)Hey, reader.

So I’ve not been blogging on purpose. Didn’t have it in me. For two years. Yeah, I know. You can fake it if you wanna, but I don’t phone it in.

What you don’t know is, the more annoyed or passionate I’ve been of late, say the last six months, the more I’ve been writing, and never doing anything with, new posts.

So it occurs to me that I’m, you know, one read/edit and a click away from having a shiny new blog post. Yeah! Something to ACTUALLY read, for you, the reader-person.

Doesn’t that just blow your fucking mind? A click away, man. A click!

•click•

But that’s the thing that’s been missing — the desire to write for public consumption. Or even write at all.

Lately, though, I’ve actually stopped what I was doing just to write something. Write a thing that doesn’t even pay me money! Lemme tell you, friendly reader: That blows my fucking mind.

You got your writers who’ll tell ya that writer’s block doesn’t exist. I’d agree with that. I can write six ways to Sunday all day long, but it doesn’t mean it’s got anything worth saying. And sometimes the saying of it is just a thing that keeps you hemmed into an already-troubled mindset. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

You wanna yammer on because there’s “no such thing” as writer’s block, or wallow in your you-ness, you knock yourself out. I know when I’m writing crap I wouldn’t even line a birdcage with. Let’s call 2012 and 2013 my “Bird Sanctuary Years,” okay? The Epic Saga of When the Crap-Writing Canary-Cage-Liner Sings.

But I got out and dialed up my creativity for photography and cooking, things a brain can pause for. Pause, a nice thing to use. Lovely. Pause. We should all pause a little but more, but petting zoos should have unicorn rides and shoulds don’t mean shit. Creativity is creativity and a writer doesn’t always need to write, I discovered. But now’s a different thing entirely.

So here’s the deal. I’m back. Not in a blogging-daily type incarnation, but then who knows? Maybe. I used to do the EB White write-500-words-a-day and it mostly wound up on here when it went well. Far be it for me to eliminate anything.

But wait! There’s more!

There’s something in this for me too. I’m writing ebooks. Not just one. I have a very crafty scheme in mind for taking this whole entire blog and giving you a radical reinvention of it in ebook form. This one will remain as it is, but I’ll have my fun. I need to get you all riled up about it. All in due time, reader. The grand tease thing. I’m shameless, friend. I’ll admit it. But I’ll make it worth your while too. Found my mojo, after all.

Thus it’s time for me to resume blogging for public consumption. I had my break. It was groovy. I have several things kicking around I can fire up and finish off. Longform stuff too.

I have mounting anger about the stupid-ass bullshit in the world and a raging hard-on to tell you why. I want to write. I’m twitchy. I’m ranty. I’m occasionally funny. I’m freeing up time in my life to take back writing and to own my voice.

Giving myself permission to just not write was what made me eventually write for the hell of it. It’s like rediscovering your golf-swing. You can’t just order it on Amazon. It’ll find ya when it finds ya.

So… I said Hey, reader.

In case you missed them, I have blogged lately… three times this year in larger posts I wrote and stuck on Medium. There was this about Philip Seymour Hoffman that got widely read and was an Editor’s Choice, and then there All The Fucks I Give, my thoughts on people who self-censor and the act thereof, which also was an Editor’s Choice, and finally this on how Twitter Doesn’t Suck, you make it suck.)

The Will to Write: My Story

On Twitter, I just described the sound float-planes make as “They sound like a riding lawnmower mated with a drunk bee.”

It’s not the greatest thing ever, but for the first time in a while, I wanted to describe something, and it came out the way I was thinking it. You think that SOUNDS like a logical turn of events, but when you’re a persnickety writer like me, it happens far more seldom than we’d hope.

I’ve had a pretty intense bout with writer’s block this year, and only lately am I starting to want to write again.

I’ve been creatively recharging this summer via doing this kind of photography.

I’m not sure if it was really writer’s block and not just mental fatigue. Last fall I had the most complicated time-management ever, too much commuting, etc, then I was planning the move here, executing it, et cetera. Writing was work in a life that already had too much work. I was drained, uninspired, and had fuck all to tell you.

And, frankly, gets to a point where sitting down and NOT thinking is about the only thing you want to do. Just… not think. Nothing. Boom. Chill. Disconnect. Enjoy. Rinse and repeat.

For writing is a burdensome thing.

And I don’t mean your food reviews, your educational or business writing. That shit almost writes itself because you know the bones of it, so you sort of just have to flesh it out. It requires craft, but it’s not so intimidating creatively.

When you’re writing on personal or creative themes, writing is a place you go to all alone. You can’t get handheld in writing. It’s you and the screen, man. Mano-a-screeno.

It’s genesis of something from nothing. What do you feel like writing today? It’s taking ideas out of dark mental corners and poking a stick at ‘em.

Me, I’ll admit it, I’m a fucking scaredy-cat sometimes.

It’s easier to do non-fiction personal-based stuff for me, I think, because the places I go to in creative work have been pretty heavy. I write death well, I find. I do really much darker stuff when it’s creatively rooted. I’m a little too aware of it, and I’m not a big fan of the delving I do for those writing things. Or, I haven’t been.

I can’t imagine it’s all sunshine and roses being in Stephen King’s head, and that’s almost the genre I like to write in, but more Denis Johnson-ish.

I’ve had moments of writing fiction and such over the last years, but it was really about 16 years ago that I was last focused on doing creative writing. I dismiss myself from it because I don’t take myself seriously.

But I should. And now I am. Or, well, soon I am.

I moved here to pursue writing. I moved here to put the brakes on and turn my life 180 degrees away from where it was.

Have you ever seen the movie The Wonder Boys? I think the ending’s a bit of a sell-out, but let’s face it, sometimes life actually works out, so maybe it’s buyable if you’re a less skeptical soul like myself.

Anyhow, there’s this whole bit where Michael Douglas’ a loser has-been author-cum-professor whose book-in-progress is read by his student Katie Holmes, and she tells him how he’s always teaching them in class that writing is about making choices. She points to his manuscript and says she feels like he made no choices.

Life’s like writing. It’s about making choices.

When life was sapping my will to write ergo be myself, my choice was to get the hell out of the city that was distracting me so constantly and move to a quiet seaside small city on an island so I could find myself and be the writer I ought to have been by now.

I read not too long ago some famous creative talking about some writer they love, saying the guy took time off writing to “have an interesting life.”

I promised myself I’d do that in my new city. Take a break, enjoy it, and in the winter get my focus on.

After all, life isn’t interesting when you’re a writer. You turn off the TV and turn on the mind’s eye. You sit, you tap your fingers, cross your legs, uncross them, lean on your elbow, scratch your head, and occasionally come up with a few words before you decide your back’s stiff and you need a cup of tea.

That’s writing, I’m afraid, in all its unsexy glory. It’s a triumphant assault on everything that’s fun in life.

I mean, I live HERE. Would YOU rather be writing, or exploring for your first six months?

And it’s probably why I love it and wish I could latch onto it without so much “shoulda coulda woulda” bullshit that happens when one’s failing to adopt the new “habit” of writing.

But I’m a Canadian. In three months, I’ve gone from having 18 hours of daylight a day down to 12 hours. I’m desperately trying to enjoy the rest of this amazing “Indian summer” as the air freshens, breezes intensify, and leaves go Technicolor.

Soon, we’ll be down to 10, then 8 hours of daylight. Winds will howl across the Pacific and beat the hell out of my little coastal community. Night will consume a full two-thirds of every day.

Writing is something that lends itself to the winter season. Every author has wanted to start a story with “It was a dark and stormy night” with good reason. Because they’ve got a glass of wine, warm slippers, and a November storm is crashing upon their windows. It was indeed a dark and stormy night, and the writin’ was good.

No, it is not often indeed that a writer says exactly what they mean to say when they meant to say it. It’s why, for every 10–15 things we write, maybe one is memorable.

Once in a rare blue moon it happens, and what do you do then? You write more and more and more, day in and day out. You devour words of every kind, you explore where they take you, and you hang on for your life.

Real writing is an unseeable journey. It’s like most things in life, you think you know where you’re going, but very often you’ll arrive having taken a path you could never have predicted.

But that’s the fun in it.

On Writing, & Not

I’ve fallen prey to the thing I caution others against constantly in writing: I keep thinking, “Huh. That’s a great idea. I’ll write about that later.”

Then the proverbial “later” never comes.

Instead, untethered, unrecorded, the idea dissipates, never to occur to me again.

Experts estimate we think some 60,000 thoughts per day. We’re constantly thinking. We think about thinking, we even think about thinking less. Hell, we medicate ourselves so we can think less.

We think about groceries and bills and sex and hairstyles and smells and sounds and feelings and flashes.

As the old Latin saying goes, “I think therefore I am.”

60,000 thoughts a day!

You know the difference between writers and other people?

Every now and then, one of those thoughts goes off like a bomb, and a writer — a real writer — absolutely has to write their thoughts on that idea. Just get ‘er down, out, and string those words together like a lifeline to the cerebral side.

Real writers know that inspiration is fleeting and it’s not always possible to ride the lightning. But they also know that ideas, topics, themes are everywhere all around us. Whether we choose to record our gut-instinct reaction to them is generally the dividing line between who succeeds and who fails when they write.

This is why a real writer is forever making notes. Notes, notes, notes.

Not making those notes, it’s like that lifeline snaps and a writer floats adrift, no destination shore in sight.

And Then I Stopped

I used to be the note-making type. This digital shit, no. I just can’t do it. I fucking love my iPhone but writing ideas I plug into it might as well get flushed down the toilet. I never look at ‘em, never make ‘em come to life. Something about the very, very linear data-based method of note-making is a big stinking fail for me. I gotta do it on paper with a pen.

Last fall through to now, I’ve been deep in the “moving, changing, adapting” to life phase. I was finding out where I didn’t want to be, where I needed to go, and who I wasn’t. Sure, I’ve had thoughts in between, but they seldom made it to the page. And I have had way bigger priorities, and I’d given myself permission to just walk away from my craft for a while. I just didn’t think four months would pass and I’d still feel the same.

I recently heard about some creative type of great acclaim, but whose name escapes me, who was said to have walked away from his craft to “lead a more interesting life.” A more interesting life.

Because creating isn’t interesting. It’s isolated. It’s solitary.

Whether writing, painting, architectural designing — it’s almost all done alone. I can’t write with you in my room. I can’t write when I’m cooking dinner. I can’t go out for drinks and still get the writing done. I need my desk clear, no time constraints. I need money to be not stressing me out. I need to feel comfortable sitting for a few hours.

And then, the writing itself, for me, requires I have time alone with my thoughts too. I need the solitary times in my life. I’m an introvert. I’m outgoing, but an introvert.

But if I don’t have external experiences — be it cycling along the water, enjoying great food with great company, watching a movie, scouring the city, spending a day doing photography — I also can’t create.

I don’t remember when or where I made the promise to myself that I’d move here and just let myself figure out when/where/why to start writing, but it was certainly a conscious choice. I’d been swimming against the current in life for so long that the opportunity to just go with the flow after moving here for a no-commute lifestyle was something that I couldn’t resist.

I’m still doing it, too. But a part of me has become annoyed, lately, that many great ideas I’ve thought of have just vanished for me, because those ideas could fuel hundreds of hours of writing when the dark, dreary, rainy months descend come November — and when I want to be spending my months strolling the stormy seashores on mornings before writing till noon in slippers and pajamas. After all, that was part of my Move to Victoria Lifeplan.

So, today I’ve spend part of my Canada Day just cleaning. I’ve sorted my desk out, changed a couple things in the layout. Dusted.

And I found my Idea Box.

Writing Tools: My Idea Box

Idea Box, I love you. Welcome back to my life, you trusty thing, you.

I’m sure other writers have tools like these they employ, but let me tell you about my Idea Box and how I make it work for me.

It’s a recipe card box. You can get ‘em at any dollar store for under $5. Grab a stack of index/recipe cards that fit that box. I go for 3x5, because you don’t want to get too into anything at this stage, so limit the space. I like cards with lines on only one side, but do what you like. You can also pick out colours for the cards, if you write on frequent themes, say like a productivity writer could use pink cards for Organization, and blue cards for Time Management, so if he/she knows it’s one general subject they’d like to tackle, they can limit ideas to choose from via the card colour.

So, here’s the deal. I’ll write my idea in 5–12 words on the unlined side of the card, then on the back I’ll write a few points about why it’s interesting to me, or how I’d tackle it.

Then, I put it into the back of my Idea Box, with the short synopsis showing at the front.

When I need an idea, I go into the box, remove all the written cards, and quickly flip through looking at the front. When something makes me go “OH!” I’ll either start writing right then, or I’ll check the back of the card for more on the idea, and see if it’s something I feel like tackling.

Sometimes the back of the card’s what I save until I’m into writing about the idea and I hit a stumping point where I’m a bit blocked, then I might read it for a new perspective.

So.

I found my Idea Box. The ideas in it are so stupid my head hurts. I’d cleaned it out before my move and left a few weird ones in. I have now recycled all those cards. I’m starting fresh. It’s staying on the corner of my desk, never out of sight.

Like Catching Lightning

And that’s really, I find, the secret to writing. Listening to your ideas, and never letting them slip away unless it’s you throwing it away. Of all the ideas we have for our writing, most of them are shit. Half the time it’s about execution. And sometimes it’s just plain dumb luck.

Inspiration really is as fickle a bitch as she’s claimed to be. She comes, she goes. She’s not into marriage and she’s barely even a one-night stand. She’s only after quickies in a by-the-hour room.

When we amateur or on-the-side writers are lucky, we have that rare synchronicity of not only having a great idea, but having the time to tackle it, having the lack of distractions so we complete it, coupled with our creativity firing on all cylinders.

The rest of the time, we do what we do and sometimes it just works.

But the more we do it, the more those sometimes happen.

Me, I find it hard to go from a non-writing period like I’ve been living through for the last few months, into a writing heyday, but I’ll get there. In the meantime, I’m doing what life presents to me. Writing will come, because it’s as much a part of me as breathing. For me to have had such a long period of not wanting to be a writer is unusual, but I’m a believer in taking breaks when you need them, and being honest about when it’s time to get cracking again.

As a short-summered Canadian, that time is not yet nigh. Summer is a priority when you stay fishbelly-white 9–10 months a year, like yours truly.

I can only believe my writing will improve for giving myself the time to be who I need to be this year.

Here’s hoping I somehow find a balance as summer wears on.

FYI: There are some other reasons I’ve been holding back on writing, such as my increased site traffic, but those are for writing about on another day — the adversity of external pressures on creativity would be a poncey way of describing that one. I’ll revisit writing, breaking my block, and recharging my creative self frequently in the weeks and months to come, I suspect.