Creativity is a Finite (and Renewable) Resource

My recent posts on the challenges of being a writer who cannot find the time to write got me thinking.  Particularly, as I contemplated my writer’s journal, a certain reality hit me.

Which is this: I have the notebook as a tool to allow me to write about my ideas during those free moments – those little five or ten or fifteen minute moments – that pop  up even during a busy day.  And I do have those moments – maybe not every day, but several times a week.  And yet, I don’t spend those moments the way I’d like… I don’t write in my notebook.

Is it because I have no ideas I want to write about?  Certainly not!  I have several story ideas that I want to flesh out and prepare for when I have more substantial writing time.  I have novel projects to work on, and short story ideas to contemplate.  And yet, more often than not, I write nothing about these?  Why is that?

I believe I know the answer.

The simple fact is, creativity is a limited, finite resource. Continue reading

Being Prepared for When Lightning Strikes: The Notebook and the Writer’s Journal

Continuing on the theme of being a busy writer with little or no time to write, I wanted to take a moment to talk about my notebook, again.

I first made mention of my notebook back when I first started blogging, over a year ago, and followed that little introduction up with a simple how-to guide on using the tool.

The gist of the idea is this: a simple, easy-to-obtain paper notebook is a great and portable way to keep writing in your busy life even when you’re too busy to actually write.  A notebook is small and easy-to-carry, so you can have it with you no matter where you go.  That means its with you when you catch a break in your day.  It’s with you when you have five minutes or ten minutes or more here or there.  It’s with you when inspiration strikes like a bolt of lightning from the clear blue heavens.

As I commented in my year-old posts, lots of people with more money than I might find a smartphone or other ultra-portable computing device fits this bill better for them.  But hey, we’re struggling writers!  We don’t have money for fancy tech (if drool were money, we’d be all up in that technology, but drool sadly lacks monetary value).  For us, a spiral-bound notebook, Moleskine, or a basic composition book will do the trick. 

That trick being, of course, to take advantage of the rare opportunities to jot down a few notes and tidbits of inspiration when they arise.  But I have a confession to make, in that regard. Continue reading

Staying Motivated When You Can’t Write

Let’s say you’re a writer.  (I’m a writer.)  Let’s say you love to write; nay, you live to write.  Telling stories, it’s part of who you are.  You’ve been doing it since you can remember (I have), or maybe you’ve picked it up recently and it’s infected every fiber of your being.  Maybe you get the occasional recognition for your efforts – no major awards or publications, just the odd nod of the hat – or maybe you’ve yet to make a splash of any size.  Put short, you’re unpublished, but you want to make it in the biz¹.

But you’re in one of those spots in life where you can’t write.  Not because you don’t want to write, and not because you have nothing to write about.  You’ve got ideas you’re just itching to put down on paper.  But you’ve got other obligations, right now, other priorities in life.  You’ve got things you have to do.  And, at the end of the day, there isn’t much time left over for writing.

Last week, I gave you permission, as a writer, to put the pen down and focus on those other things.  Well, that’s a relief.  With all that advice out there thrumming in the background urging you to write, write now, keep writing dangit! – it’s good to know that, well, you don’t have to be writing right this minute, and every day, in order both to consider yourself a writer and to stay the course in your path toward developing a writing career.

Except for one little, niggling detail.  For you (at least it is for me) writing is an existential activity.  It defines you, it’s part of who you are, and you need to do it to feel fully yourself.

There is a lot out there providing motivation to writers.  There’s fellow aspiring author, writer and blogger Ollin Morales’ “Courage to Create“, for instance.  On his site he provides regular encouragement to writers who are in need of motivation to write.  It’s his schtick, the theme of his blog.  There’s also the aforementioned plethora of writing advice telling you to just write a little bit every day – even just a little bit, an hour, a half-hour, 250 words, anything, that’s all it takes!  Most published writers keep their own blogs, and often drop nuggets of wisdom and advice thereon to other aspiring authors.  The internet is virtually awash in advice for writers.

And yet, in all of this, there’s very little advice for those of us in that busy stage of life where we can’t write because other obligations demand our attention.  There’s very little to help a writer stay motivated when what they want to do is write, but what they must do is not write, but something else.

And I’ve been thinking about that a lot the past few days.  I have a half-dozen blog posts I want to write up: ideas for things that are meaningful to me.  I’ve been meaning to write about my choice of genre and the nuance I see in that choice.  There are tidbits and snapshots of my history as a writer that I’ve yet to share.  And, of course, there are these stories burning in my mind that I want to write: another short story that I hope to submit to that contest that I didn’t quite win, and a novel idea where I’ve figured out this awesome opening but hadn’t yet figured out the climax and ending, and of course that other novel project that I’ve been working on since forever.  If you’ve been a writer since forever, like me, you’ve no doubt got a similar supply of projects you want to work on.  Heck, even if you’re new to the game you probably still have a fair handful of ideas you want to write about.  (If you’re out of ideas to write about, well, that’s not the theme of today’s blog.  I’m long on ideas and short on time, so there you go.)  Continue reading

Quick linking post

Dear Wife pointed out last night that I hadn’t linked to the picture of my Writer’s of the Future Honorable Mention award from here… So for those who may have missed it, here it is.

Tidbits of Inspiration: The Language of the Prairie Dogs

I heard this delightfully entertaining story on NPR this morning about the discovery of a “language” spoken by Prairie Dogs.  It was a funny but also a thought-provoking story.  Effectively, the researchers discovered that the prairie dogs have different warning calls for different predators entering into their prairie dog towns.  But then it went a step further.  They found that the prairie dogs changed their calls for different humans – and in fact there was a layer of their call that meant “human” and a bunch of other layers that were describing the human as short or tall, and what color shirt he was wearing. 

What I also found interesting was that the changes in the call were in the layers of tones in the call.  While I could tell the difference between the high, the medium, and the low pitch of the calls heard during the story, the Prairie Dogs hear more than that – they hear the collection of tones that make up the sound.  And different undertones could mean, for the prairie dogs, different colors and shapes and different animals. 

Which, to me, means this story has very interesting implications for artificial language development.  If you’re writing a sci-fi story with unusual aliens – maybe those aliens have a language like that of the Prairie dogs – one that’s tonal.

Now, tonal languages exist in the greater family of human languages.  But this is something different.  Human tonal language can differentiate meaning between words that are high-pitched or low-pitched, where the pitch is rising or falling, and so on.  But the prairie dog variant hears more than this top-level tone.  It hears the layers of sound that make it up, and can differentiate between an extremely high variety of tones. 

Listening to such a language might be like listening to music, from human ears.  And that’s something to be inspired by.

Rocks in a Jar

I haven’t talked much about writing, lately.  Nor have I said much of anything that touches on the primary theme of this blog: balancing a busy life of work, school, family, and church to find and make time for writing.

I’ve been thinking about that theme lately.  It’s one of the reasons I started this blog.  I was about a year and a half into 3-year MBA program, and I hadn’t done any writing except for reports and term papers.  And even before I started on my MBA, I hadn’t done any creative writing since the disaster a little over a year earlier.  But the itch had returned with a vengeance.  I felt the need to be writing creatively again.

And so, the idea for this blog was born Continue reading

Snow Days

It’s been quite the time here in Casa Chez Watkins these past few days.  Sunday night we got hit with as wintery a storm as our part of the world has ever been hit with for at least as long as I’ve lived here.  We accumulated between 5 and 6 inches of snow during the storm, along with a fine layer of ice over the top of it all.  When we awoke Monday morning, the world was blanketed in white – and there was no way I was going to make the drive the work safely.  So, I didn’t.

Neither did the rest of the city, for the most part.  Nor, for that matter, did they on Tuesday.  The entire city has been locked in ice, the roads impassable – a rarity in this part of the world.

Being at home these past few days with the family has been terrific.  I love spending time with my family.  B.T. has been an absolute joy – scooting about on the floor, pulling himself up on one thing or another whenever your back is turned, babbling and laughing all the time.  He wasn’t absolutely thrilled about the snow… curious, perhaps, is more the right word.  But I think he’s loved having both his parents home all the time.  He’s certainly pulled out all the stops to put on a wonderful show for us.

Though I’ve spent some time working from home as much as I can, Dear Wife and I took part of the day off during the snow days to go sledding.  The local dog park had some wonderful hills for just such a task, and filled the bill nicely.  I haven’t been sledding since childhood, so it was a lot of fun to get out there on the snow-covered hill – even if what we used was a folded-up cardboard box covered in a trash bag (hey, it never snows this much around here, so there’s sure no room in our little house for a gets-used-once-in-a-decade honest sled).  It was also little B.T.’s first time sledding – but again, he mostly displayed a peculiar curiosity more than joy.

But he’s had joy enough the rest of our time together.  He’s positively ecstatic to have his mommy and daddy home with him all day each day.  He’s had a ball scooting around on his toosh, grabbing on to chairs and other things to pull himself up to standing.  I knew he liked to stand and pretend he knows how to walk (he can’t, but that doesn’t stop him).  And I knew he liked to scoot around.  But I had no idea he could get himself into so much trouble, as soon as you turn your back.

By Wednesday, I believed I needed to brave the still-icy roads to try and reach the office of my employer… but after a half-hour on the road, having slipped and slid all over the road, having gotten caught on the ice and I was far less than halfway to my destination, I grew concerned for my safety.  Once, while stuck on the ice, I even needed to get pushed up the hill to find solid asphalt by the good Samaritan in the car behind me.  As I got out to push, I lost the hand-knit cap Dear Wife had knit for me a couple years past, which put me in a foul mood.  I soon gave up on my quest to get to work, and returned home again, having determined the roads still to be impassable.

Which is all a very long way of saying I’ve been home, I’ve been connected, but spending time with my family, and trying to work remotely, has sort of taken precedent over blogging these past few days.

So… how has your week been?

Update:  The sad part of the story – the missing hat – has happily been resolved!  Dear Wife found it in the driveway, in the snow, right next to where my car is normally parked.  I had apparently dropped it there while scraping ice off.  And, since the hat is a light-gray in color, it blended in well with the snow and gray concrete.  It’s still in perfect condition, none the worse for wear.  Huzzah!