Thursday, April 26, 2012

Unblocking a Gem

In my freshmen year of college I took a creative writing course. The professor, a woman I would describe as Woodstock Affected, opened the class with this phrase: “Creativity cannot be taught.”

My first thought:  "There’s a credit down the crapper."
My second thought:  "Should I really listen to a woman wearing Birkies and tube socks?"
Fashion calamity aside, Professor X knew her stuff. Her method was a tad unorthodox, and I shudder at the memory of the pop-writing prompts:  “You are Joan of Arc, fire engulfs your flesh, describe the smell?" (My “bacon with a hint of released bowels” received a C.)
From Professor X I took away two valuable lessons. First, creative is a highly subjective term - one person’s storytelling skill is another’s cry for psychiatric help. Second, no matter where your writing path meanders, a sure way to spark creative juices is through a side trip outside your comfort zone.
Huh? Here’s what I mean.
I’m blocked, (not in a needs more fiber way), every writer’s worst nightmare, right? I’ve researched, re-written, revised, revamped and reconsidered careers – and still, nuthin’ -  but last week something sparked a memory of Professor X and her suggestion to channel creative juices AWAY from writing during a block to rejuvenate the muse.
After a few days of puttering around the house, re-arranging furniture, planting a few flowers, attempting (and failing) recipes – still – the juices - NOT flowing. I was maple syrup in the Arctic. Desperate, I decided to go for a hike (I’m not a hiker – I’m directionally inept and hate bugs.) So, I dig under my bed for the hiking boots I bought years back in a “really, I’ll do this” moment and stumbled upon a long forgotten box of costume jewelry from my Great Aunt Ruth.
Ruth was…hmmm, what’s the term….lovingly eccentric. I adore all the eclectic scarves, jewelry and utterly outrageous knickknacks I inherited after her passing. A few seconds into the box of treasures…
BAM! (Was that too Emeril?) Creativity hit!
Rummaging through the countless odd beads and bangles – I began stringing together strand after strand of re-purposed jewels; both physical and mental. With each new bauble - a plot twist surfaced. With each new design - character motive went from murky to perky. (OK – that’s silly – but it’s all I got!)
Moral of the story – find your hidden gem and the muse will find you.


Anonymous said...

So very true. I use visits to the museum for inspiration, too. "What was happening when the artist painted this? Why were there pearls on a table with lobster and grapes?" I learned all the symbolism in art appreciation class, but trying to make up a logical story to fit is more challenging than the symbolism!

Kathryn Elliott said...

Hi Jane - I love the museum for inspiration. (And quiet.) A great way to spend the afternoon and give the muse a little kick start!