It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.
– C. J. Cherryh
It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.
Where ever your creative talents lie, you must not tip yourself too far in one direction or the other. So many people call themselves writers, but rarely, actually write anything down at all. I have heard the old adage over and over “Butt in Chair equals writing.” You must stop telling yourself “I will write when I am finished—decorating, paying bills, reading this book, cleaning the bathroom…” Your writing needs equal billing. Don’t let your creative brew ferment on your finger tips, make sure you spill it on the page or, take it from the Walrus in Alice in Wonderland—
“The time has come,” the walrus said, “to (write) of many things: Of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings”
(okay so I used a little bit of poetic license, but I am a fiction writer after all and right now, my butt is in a chair writing!)
After a long blogging hiatus, we are firing up our engines and rolling up our sleeves and our quote to ponder is Creative self-approval. Or as Alice would say: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” This week we want to to stop yourself from stopping yourself. Give your inner critic a week off and post one impossibly wonderful thing you had dreamed up lately. Mine? I played mermaid in the pool. Have been working on a mermaid story and wanted to see what it would feel like it swish my tail and my hair and breath underwater…It was fabulous and I might just write this story so I can continue to embody my “Mermaidness!” Okay, now your turn—
Mad hatter’s interpretation—Don’t let this quote intimidate you so much you can’t finish. I beleive in the “shitty first draft,” does that mean I’m full of Sh_ _—Wait, you don’t actually have to answer that:)
Whoever said that writing and illustrating for children was an easy and mellow occupation must have been madder than the Mad Hatter – sorry Dawne for using you as an example of nutty, whacko and a few cows short in the top paddock. This world of children’s literature is not about cute, fluffy bunny slippers and happy-go-lucky gnomes skipping in a meadow. For a more realistic image of what it is like, try imagining those bunnies with large, pointy teeth and ferocious appetites. Or gnomes with cleavers, pillaging and creating chaos. Facing that blank page can be terrifying.
The worst culprit for us creative folk in this genre is out inner critic. That horrid little part of our psyche that basically tells us, without hesitation, YOU STINK! This little demon has the ability to immobilise our creative flow and leave us blubbering in front of our computers. Inducing a “I can’t” psychosis – I can’t write, or I can’t draw, or I can’t do this.
Well the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter say enough playing nice, it’s time to get nasty and bite those critics back….HARD. For those of you who joined us on the BiPolar Express and enjoyed murdering our inner critics (in a most creative way I must add), you will be familiar with this concept of payback.
This little exercise is aimed at bumping off that inner critic and freeing your creativity. There are no limitations on how you would like to do the deed, in fact, the more imaginative, the better! And I promise, we won’t tell anyone.
EAT ME DRINK ME:
Relax for a moment. Close your eyes and allow yourself to hear your inner critic. Get a good sense of where it dwells, how it feels, how it makes you feel, how it looks. For the next 15 minutes we want you to use one of the murder weapons below and write or illustrate about silencing this inner critic, in the most creative way possible. There is no right or wrong way, so have some fun.
Murder weapon #1 An anchor
Murder weapon #2 A shoe
Murder weapon #3 A slice of pie
Murder weapon #4 A monkey and a piece of string
If you can’t think of anything to say, write down that you can’t think of anything to say. Don’t stop. Don’t worry about transitions or connecting the ideas or paragraphing or subject-verb agreement or even commas. And don’t judge what you’ve written no matter how strange it is. If you end up completely off topic, that’s okay, it could lead to some great idea. Oh yeah, and no revising while you write, not a single scratch out.
When you’re done, read your work out loud. Often the ear will pick up a pattern or idea that you hadn’t noticed as you wrote.
Don’t give up on freewriting after one exercise. Try it everyday for a week. Freewriting is like any other kind of mental activity: you will get better at it. The first couple of times nothing may emerge. After a few exercises, things will start to develop. Remember, when you first learned to ride a bike? You started out wobbly, but each time you became steadier, and so will your free writing.
Free Writing Topics—Do One a Day for a Week(Feel free to share any thoughts and experiences on our blog, so don’t forget to let us know how it goes)
Elves in the Attic
There are many places where a story comes from. It can evolve from mystery, authority, poetry, serendipity, or tenacity. The story comes from your own experiences and as a writer, you need to use these experiences to infuse your characters. Try and recall the first time you went to the beach – how did it smell and feel? Was it a windy day, or a hot day? What did you do?
Even as illustrators, these experiences and memories help recapture the picture and allow us to draw from the heart. Can you recall what expressions and actions were involved in this first trip to the beach? Was it a bright day or a dull, cloudy day? All these will effect how the illustration will look. Remember, an illustration is the story that runs parallel to the words.
Start paying attention to what is going on around you, a story could be lurking within. Look into history, watch/read the news, even listen and observe what is happening while you are sitting in a cafe sipping your latte. Listening to conversations is a great way to get a feel for dialogue – just make sure you do this with subtlety. Research is 10% of the story and the other 90% is your imagination.
There are so many different opinions about the writing process and often they conflict with one another. So in the madness of the Mad Hatter and White Rabbit, we say, DO what you need to do, and don’t allow all the rules to bog you down. Just write yourself into your words and into your characters, and write the entire story without going back over it and without worrying about length. With this method you will be able to get that story idea out on the page and you will know where you are going.
Once you have your story down you can start adding layers and revising. Think of yourself as a sculptor, adding layers and layers of clay, building up the art through backstory, feelings, opinions and details.
So lock up that editor within and JUST GET YOUR STORY OUT!
“We shouldn’t worry about the dos and don’ts. Thou shat not will be forgotten, but once upon a time is always remembered.” -Philip Pullman
Eat Me Drink Me:
Grab a newspaper and/or magazine. Clip words and random phrases and see which one jumps out at you and then just write for 20 minutes.
Do the same as above. Now illustrate the scene you have randomly created.