Getting the Creative Juices Flowing

I have been stewing and stewing over the short (no more than 250 words) blurb for the back cover of my novel.  I wrote the novel and it is over 60,000 words, so writing 250 words about it should be walk in the park. Right? Wrong!  I have been working on it for much of the past week, on and off, and I have discovered something about the creative process, or at least my creative process.  It can’t be rushed.  Ideas need time to percolate through my brain.  I need time to do nothing, or at least appear to do nothing.  I have spent much of the past week reading and puttering around the house, all the while giving occasional thoughts to the problem of the blurb.  I have written tentative drafts, worked on the drafts, disliked them all, and gone back to cleaning a pond or scooping litter boxes or whatever.

And then finally, last night as I was heading off to bed, the words just popped into my head!  I quickly raced back to the computer and wrote a whole new draft, from a very different starting point.  Oh, it was rough, but it was so much better (in my opinion at least) than anything I’d written so far that I went to bed a happy camper.  This morning I have just puttered around, coming back to re-read my draft every half hour or so, tweaking a word or phrase here and there, before doing laundry or having breakfast or tending the dogs.  And I think I have something now that I can live with.  As soon as I find that I have had several re-reads without any changes I will send it off to my publisher and feel very satisfied with myself.

I have done the same thing with quilting where I have just cogitated on various patterns and ideas, fabric and themes, without appearing to “go” anywhere, but suddenly it all falls into place.  I am not sure if this is what Brenda Ueland means by moodling when she says, “So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering,”  but it is what I think she is getting at.  The subconscious keeps working on ideas even when or maybe even especially when, we relax and let our minds wander.

In our society which is very goal oriented, having down time where I am not getting anything particular done and where the day goes by with only apparently aimless puttering to show for it makes me feel as if the time has been wasted.  I need to be doing, or so I tell myself, but the older I get, the more I realize that my body as well as my mind needs down time and while I can work under pressure, I can’t create under pressure.  The creative process depends on having the time and the ability to moodle, and that time spent in moodling is actually very productive, as counter-intuitive as that seems.  If you are interested in this concept, there is an e-course in August run by Fiona and Kaspa at Writing Our Way Home which is designed to help us find our creative process and develop the skill of moodling.

Now that my blurb is nearly done, I have quilt patterns to moodle on and then November is not that far away; I had better start moodling about my next novel so I am ready to hit the deck running when National Novel Writing Month returns.  What is your creative process?  How do you recharge your creative juices?  Are you a moodler?

4 responses

  1. Good topic!I tend to do a lot of thinking before I start writing. Sometimes it feels like I mull over a particular character/scene/blog post _forever_ before I'm finally ready to write it. Once I actually sit down I can get a draft of whatever it is I'm working on typed out fairly quickly though.Every once in a while I get a serious urge to write and/or a flood of ideas. When this happens I try to spend as much time getting them down on paper as possible. If only it could happen more often!I recharge my creativity through quiet time alone and being in nature. There's something so soothing and yet also somehow invigorating about these things.

  2. Hi Lydia,Can't believe I hadn't replied to this before. I think we work in similar ways and it is interesting to me that unlike other areas (such as science), writing happens in fits and spurts, but I think that is the creative nature of writing because I do the same thing with quilting also–thinking forever about the project and then working in a whirl laying out ideas when I get them. The creative process is so interesting and weird!

  3. Hi Daphne,I thought of you last week when we found ourselves on a random visit to Vashon Island. When I remembered you lived there I kept an eye out for a purple house but none popped into view! What a beautiful place. We walked in Fisher Pond Preserve and Maury Island Marine Park, then had lunch at Pure. We wandered around town, and tried to visit Granny's Attic but it was closed. You're lucky to live in such a lovely place.

  4. Hi Andrea, So glad you had such a nice visit to Vashon. You wouldn't have spotted my house if you were on the main highway, and depending on the route you take to Maury, you might or might not, and it is hard to spot, but another time if you want, let me know and I'll give you directions. And yes, I am very lucky to live here and I know it very well. Have a super day!

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