Creative Links to Help with Kinks

Tomorrow’s post will feature a Bereshit Bara Creativity Series meditation from Diana Huey. Listen to the Podcast on iTunes by clicking here.

Creativity To Watch:

Re:Generation Music Project
Summary: The documentary, directed by Amir Bar-Lev, celebrates musics past, present and future by candidly revealing the artists creative process as they use technology to mix the musical styles of generations and bring to light the originality of electronic music. (thx Alina for the tip)

Creativity To Participate:

Summer contest. Mail Art. Send letters, or other mail on the theme of invention. Details at Spark My Muse.

Creative Meditations To Read:

Alina

As a pediatric ICU nurse, I am surrounded by a great deal of darkness. There exists, in my patient’s room alone, enough heaviness to tip the scales for a lifetime. I walk down the hallway and as I pass one room after another, I remember that there are at least 23 more stories, lives, families, that have been severely disrupted with undescribable sadness in our unit. This is for just one point in time in just one shift. A patient may transfer or pass away; another patient, another story, eventually comes to take their spot. These are the stories that their families will tell with the unavoidable break of heartache in their voice. These are the stories that many of us try to avoid. These are the stories I am surrounded by, and often deeply involved in, every day when I go to work. My eyes have grown accustomed to the dimmed light, and I am afraid at times that my heart has as well.

Carol

The push and release of my hands on pruning shears stays with me as I reconsider my life. I tend to go every which way. When I choose one creative pursuit, I feel regrets, even guilt, at not completing another. My daughter bakes muffins, and I think I should be doing that. I hear of someone taking Pilates, and denigrate myself for not fitting that class in. The biggest guilt: I’ve only met a tenth of my writing goals for this spring. Now it’s summer and I’ve submitted no stories to journals. I’m limited, stuck in hard clay constraints. Too much green growth and I wither. Too many stems reaching out, and the fruit doesn’t redden.

Sherryl

I used to be a dance teacher and I choreographed hundreds of dances for my students over the years. Each and every dance was different and unique. I took a lot of pride in each and every one. What was the motivating force? The music I was using had to SPEAK to me. I would search until I heard “the” song. When I heard it, something would just click inside of me and I knew that I wanted to use that song.

Kezalu

Is it really enough for writers to find their inspiration from beaches, mountains, meadows, sunsets, memories of broken romances, and fabric softeners ads? Is it sufficient to draw on past experiences and emotions to explore in our current work of fiction? Is being a writer creative enough in its own right?

Ruth

I think that the point I am trying to convey here is that however old or young a person may be, there has to be something to strive for that is generated by an innate desire, passion, or love. My passion has to do with creating.

Creativity Series: “Thoughts on Creation” by Chris Hunter

The Bereshit Bara Creativity Series asks 13 Creatives to wrestle with how they make the first move, write the first word, fling the first brush stroke, peel back the first layer of clay? What inspires them, what moves them, what drives them? I’d also like to hear from YOU. Send me your thoughts or a link to your post wrestling with these questions at rossgale4@gmail.com.

Download episodes or subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes.

Listen to today’s podcast:

When bull kelp, coiled en masse, is healthy in a rich and deeply burned amber tone.
Kelp forests attach to pillow basalt; curve and lap on black hardened bubbles.
This is peacefulness away from things.
When it is sunny it is easy to be outside.

This is a belief: satisfaction is achieved from continually forming bonds and memories with the natural world, humans included.

Optimism, the relative feeling that some level of fulfillment is present and/or expected is inspired by satisfaction, but also by creation which can be a product of confidence gleaned from satisfaction, or unrest.

A pigeon guillemot bobs past the bull kelp, flying away from brambling youth and their loudness.
High whistles on the pacific slope, dry, fly, and cider.
These waters are expansive, clear, and full of reminders.
Our minds recognize wholeness from bits of patterns; the mottles on an american bittern.

When we are fortunate to create something, we get to experience patterns forming and connecting before our senses, and we get the feeling that this was done by our own movements, our own design. We are inspired to keep the pattern evolving, and the control of our actions to ensure that this happens seems effortless. The actual physical patterns could be mathematically repetitive, like checkers or Escher, or the patterns could be perceived metaphysically as in the wonderful case of abstraction.

And any moment when bonds and patterns are realized, satisfaction grows, and optimism expands.

At one point, the English and Americans were disputing the ownership of San Juan Island. They had their separate camps, cannons, and stories. The Americans had the better position, on the far southern point of the island, watching guard over the strait, and life was apparently peaceful, albeit cold and rainy. That was a century and a half ago, but the flagpoles still stand. For some reason I don’t care too much about this. I am in a state of pattern searching that recognizes a begging fox at the old American camp, and wonders about its state of optimism.


Christopher Hunter lives in Olympia Washington. He teaches science to people in the 8th grade. He eats one chocolate croissant per week and prefers cats over dogs. Although he didn’t write about it, he believes challenge and discomfort are catalysts for creativity, and that often these are delivered by fateful forces. So to this, he often succumbs.

Creatives are always Rediscovering. Remembering More than Observing

Part 2 of my guest blog is up at Antler. Here’s the beginning:

When my older brother at three years of age suffered a traumatic brain injury, he awoke three months later from a coma, unable to talk or walk. After two years of intense physical therapy he took his first step without a walker. He cried from the pain. That first step, re-doing and re-learning the simple action his body once knew, in a time before.

When I write I’m always faced with that first painful step. The act I’ve done so many times before, which feels like I’m standing at the edge of a cliff, frozen in fear at the depth and width of words and stories.

Go here to read the rest and comment. And be sure to check out the site. There’s some great interviews and articles. Here’s the Twitter for the mastermind behind the site.

How Informal Creative Communities Thrive

We have a loose and informal community of creatives. I try to be a part of the conversation and facilitate the discussion and the goal is the discussion guides us to a place of inspiration, hope, encouragement, and belonging. Gauging the effectiveness and reach of the community happens through feeling and anecdotal evidence. I just want to know it’s going somewhere positive.

Here are the challenges:

1. It’s mostly virtual and hardly face to face.
2. Many people with many different needs, wants, hopes.
3. It’s too easy to avoid being known in a digital community (a phrase I heard from the guy behind this).

This is how we can address these challenges:

1. Meet with people face to face who we connect with online.
2. Keep my interests and goals clear and focused so others with the same interests can connect.
3. Create space where people can tell their stories.

I want to begin addressing #3. The purpose is layered. While creating community by forcing people to make themselves known, we’re also struggling with a creative challenge. I want this to be a labor of love. In telling your story you’re creating something much larger than what you can see. You’re adding to “the stock of available reality.”

I will formally begin this venture after August, but I hope you’re subconscious begins thinking about your story.

On Wednesday Chris Hunter will be featured in the Bereshit Bara Creativity Series. Chris lives in Olympia Washington. He teaches science to people in the 8th grade. He eats one chocolate croissant per week and prefers cats over dogs. Although he didn’t write about it, he believes challenge and discomfort are catalysts for creativity, and that often these are delivered by fateful forces. So to this, he often succumbs.

I don’t know Chris, but one friend described him as the most creative person he knows. I hope to see you on Wednesday. If you check out the Podcast on iTunes you can hear the episode before Wednesday.

I usually add a few things in the Podcast that aren’t in the post. I’ll be featuring some posts from our creative community in the future podcasts as well.

Let me know in the comments what creative project you’re working on.

We’re all kooks when we actually say, “I need something more.”

I have a post over at Antler. Here’s the beginning:

Each morning before work my father read his Bible in the living room while he pulled up his socks and laced his shoes. I waited in the hallway for him to close the book and I’d go to him and sit on his knee. When my father bought a Bible for me, and with it a purple devotional, I joined him in the living room, reading and bowing my head in silent prayer.

When my friends, burdened, come to me and say they no longer believe in God, I tell them I love them nonetheless and understand their plight; that the faith of their parents no longer resonates with their hearts. The words used to describe my faith, the ones I read in old translations and from bright colored devotionals, are clichés and I no longer know what they mean. I must find new words and new language. The truth is I’m just as lost on my own, wandering and doubting, questioning and desiring clarity. But I refuse to return to the old images and metaphors, which fit loose like a dusty, moth-eaten suit in my father’s closet.

I’m crazy, you know, searching for this something. We’re all kooks when we actually say, “I need something more.”

Jump on over to Antler to read the rest.

Creativity Series: Alissa Wilkinson “Gifts”

The Bereshit Bara Creativity Series asks 13 Creatives to wrestle with how they make the first move, write the first word, fling the first brush stroke, peel back the first layer of clay? What inspires them, what moves them, what drives them? I’d also like to hear from YOU. Send me your thoughts or a link to your post wrestling with these questions at rossgale4@gmail.com.

Download episodes or subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes.

Listen to today’s podcast:

People who write about writing often say that their inspiration comes as a gift—as if it is from a wholly other being. In a TED Talk, Liz Gilbert talks about genius as if it is an airy thing that alights on one’s head: our job is simply to show up and wait willingly. Others have spoken of the muse, the spirit of creativity, like a fairy, maybe even a ghost. Here is Mary Oliver in A Poetry Handbook:

Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings from seven to nine. It waits, It watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself—soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly or it will not appear at all.

Why should it? It can wait. It can stay silent a lifetime.

So, that’s challenging, but kind of dismal, right?

Some even speak of creativity as a gift from the Holy Spirit—a sort of latter-day dove that descends and gives us the strength to summon up the courage to start. But to me, all of these descriptions always ring hollow because I am not very good at believing in things I cannot see. I need the verifiable and tangible. That I’d encounter this disembodied sprite who descends invisibly and suddenly I’d start typing like mad, alive with ideas—it seemed to work well enough for many others, but not for me.

Only recently have I begun to see that my courage to create comes from the world of the tangible. That is: the gift comes to me in the (real, earthly) form of other people. And specifically, a bunch of kids who are eighteen or twenty-one or thereabouts.

In February, I was sitting in my office, staring at my computer screen in helpless panic—I had an MFA deadline, I needed to write, pronto—and feeling as if maybe I’d better just quit and go grow tomatoes or something, when there was a knock on my door, and a student peeked in. “Can I come in?” he asked.

Just the excuse I needed.

He sat down and, after a question about classwork, began to ask about things other than class: books, writing projects, a movie he’d seen and pondered. We talked for twenty minutes, and he went on his way. But another knock came soon, and all afternoon they kept coming, to talk about movies and books and class.

To the naked eye, I was procrastinating, or at least suspiciously eager in welcoming the interruptions. But when they all left campus for the evening and I finally settled back in front of my laptop in the quiet to work for a few hours, I found the words now came easily.

It was as if the students left my desk cluttered with tiny packages full of sparks and courage, wrapped and be-ribboned, for me to pull open. Here, in this pastel box, was a thought about imagination worth expanding, prompted by talking to a senior about her thesis project. There in the deep blue paper is a story about a student who now has the confidence to speak up in class. Oh, and over here is the anecdote (wrapped in the funnies) that made me remember a hilarious moment with my father that’s worth re-telling and re-exploring.

So I suppose you could say the inspiration still alights on me from above; I think of these students as gifts (most of the time) and they certainly come unbidden, outside of office hours. But unlike Gilbert’s “genius,” or Mary Oliver’s vaguely frightening “it,” unlike a muse or a sprite—these inspirers have skin and messy hair and backpacks and laughter, and they always leave me with the courage to start, and then, to keep going.


Alissa Wilkinson [http://alissawilkinson.com] teaches writing and humanities at The King’s College in New York City and co-edits Comment [http://cardus.ca/comment]. She is also working studying creative nonfiction in Seattle Pacific University’s low-residency MFA. She lives in Brooklyn.

Dialogue is almost too easy

The novelist James Jones on his fear of evading problems in his stories:

Dialogue is almost too easy. For me. So much so that it makes me suspicious of it, so I have to be careful with it. I could find myself evading problems of true expression because dialogue’s so easy for me to do. There are many important issues and points of subtlety about people, about human behavior, that I want to make in writing, and it’s easy to evade these—or do them superficially, do them halfway—by simply writing good dialogue. And it becomes increasingly easy as I get to know the people better. But good dialogue just isn’t enough to explain the subtler ramifications of the characters and incidents that I’m trying to work out now. Not realistic dialogue, anyway. Perhaps if you used some kind of surrealistic dialogue, but then it would read like a dream episode. It wouldn’t be real talk. For instance, it’s obvious enough that in almost any conversation things are happening to the people in the conversation that they do not and cannot express. In a play it is possible for a good actor to imply that he is thinking something other than what he is saying. But it’s pretty slipshod and half-assed, because he cannot convey what he’s thinking explicitly. In prose, and especially in the novel form, this can be done. If the man is using a subterfuge, it can be explained explicitly, and why. Actually, in life, conversation is more often likely to be an attempt at deliberate evasion, deliberate confusion, rather than communication. We’re all cheats and liars, really. And the novelist can show just how and why we are.

(via The Paris Review.)

Postcarding

20120619-212532.jpg

Writing some postcard blogs instead. If you want in on these goodies send me your address at: rossgale4 at gmail dot com

Creativity Series: Meditations From Our Writing Community

The Bereshit Bara Creativity Series asks Creatives to wrestle with how they make the first move, write the first word, fling the first brush stroke, peel back the first layer of clay? What inspires them, what moves them, what drives them?

Today features meditations from our generous and talented blogging community. Jump on over to their sites and leave a comment.

If this is something you have written about send me your thoughts or a link to your post wrestling with these questions at rossgale4@gmail.com.

Download podcasts from the series or subscribe to the Podcast Series on iTunes.

Kathryn Johnson on the magic of writing,

I write because I want to believe in something. I love the feel of a story, how it unravels in my imagination, how it raises questions and concerns and hope. Without story, without the opportunity to believe in something, we are left with only one chance. A sort of Russian roulette, where no one contemplates consequences, choices, or difference-making.  When I write, that’s my opportunity to speak up, answer impossible questions, change truth, evoke hope.

Valerie Noble on the process of writing her first novel,

After I got that original sentence out of my head, I began to write. I use a macbook pro, but I also write by hand. I always have a notebook with me, especially when I was in school. I pulled several of them out to remind myself of how many I filled while writing The Energy Crusades. Interspersed amongst my chemistry notes, are passages from my story. There are cutouts from magazines- pictures of living roofs, what the University should look like, how the grids are set up- and pages and pages of chapters, some that never made it into the book at all. They are still part of the story, however, a part of the journey that gave me a beginning, middle, and end.

From Quotidiandose,

Again, we knock.  And knock.  As a matter of etiquette we wait outside the door waiting for someone to open it.  After a while, through impatience we test the knob and it turns. In the business world, it’s common to keep the doors closed, yet not locked so customers can come in to the front counter. Are you going to the front counter? Or are you waiting for someone to open the door? At someone’s home it’s poor manners to open the door and just walk on in, unless you’re family or good friends. But, in a business – ie – publishing, are you crossing the threshold and stepping to the counter where someone can actually assist you? Or are you pounding a business door, and they are inside wondering why you don’t just come on in? Are you even checking to see if the knob turns?  sometimes we give up too easily.

Creativity Series: David Jacobsen “Every Damned Tangle and Knot”

The Bereshit Bara Creativity Series asks 13 Creatives to wrestle with how they make the first move, write the first word, fling the first brush stroke, peel back the first layer of clay? What inspires them, what moves them, what drives them? I’d also like to hear from YOU. Send me your thoughts or a link to your post wrestling with these questions at rossgale4@gmail.com.

If you comment on today’s post you will be entered into a drawing to win David’s book Rookie Dad: Thoughts on First-Time FatherhoodI’ll announce the winner over the weekend.

Download podcasts or subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes.

Listen to the podcast:

A friend sits at Starbucks and scripts his novel across the lines of a notebook. Another, before she finds her stories, spreads wet pulp across a screened frame to make paper from scratch. I open my laptop at night and key green letters across the black sky.

Writing has always unfolded this way. Each story starts with a single word. Perhaps it is not the best word, or the only word, but it is the right word because it begins the story.

A second word follows, then a seventh and a seven thousandth. No matter the number, no matter the speed, the writer moves step by step. The first word is the first step, and the rest is finding a way into the forest in order to find a way out.

Words begin our stories, so words are gifts. We don’t worship words, but neither do we use them like matchsticks. We don’t fuck with them. We don’t tuck them in and turn on the television.

No. We dig words up. We brush dirt from their chips and cracks with precise flicks of wrist. We guess at their luster and polish until they shine. We set words on the sill and give them water, watch them turn hour after hour toward the sun.

Then there comes a time we smash a bottle of champagne on the bow of our words and push them into the channels of time. Good luck, we say. Godspeed. And we watch out words steam into the distance.

Yet flowers die and ships run aground. Hikers lose their way. A story sinks in an ocean of zeros and ones, unread by anyone but the writer. Sometimes the forest seems forever.

Perhaps that is why we long for words which last. I wonder if this is the secret of our hunting, of our groping along the walls of journals and notebooks for a light switch: that we’ll live as long as our words do—which is world without end—because both we and our words will be gathered into a greater story.

I’ve heard them whisper back, my words. Now you see a poor reflection, but one day we’ll be waiting, and you’ll see face to face. I don’t always believe them, but if these words are right, then one day I will discover in the pages of that greater story the denouement of every damned tangle and knot that has ever compelled me to put pen to paper.

To start a story, to pray for an end, I move my fingers in the shape of a single word.


David Jacobsen lives in central Oregon with his wife and two sons. He holds a BA in English from Westmont College, an MCS in theology from Regent College, and an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University. He is a writer, editor, agent, and the author of Rookie Dad: Thoughts on First-Time Fatherhood (Zondervan 2007). David can be reached at jacobsenwriting@gmail.com.