Getting ready for making wishes on the full moon,
July 3rd. I used to have tea parties with my
friend Rachel once a month before she moved to Boston.
She taught me the different names of the full moons,
as they appear through the wheel of the year.
The last one was the strawberry moon or the Rose Moon.
The one coming up is the Thunder Moon. I love that.
We used to eat special moon cakes and things in honour
of a particular moon and drink chai or peppermint tea.
It was lovely. Here is a painting in honour of the Thunder Moon
and Rachel. I added some digital magic for fun.
If you click on the picture you should get a nice surprise.
If you know me or if you visit my blog,
You know that I have been working on a play.
I am in my moth stage now.
After months as a pupa,
I emerged from my cocoon but–
now I am flitting around
crashing into the walls.
Is this what all that hanging upside down was for?
Ok. So anyway–
Welcome to the moth stage.
This is the part of the creative process
where the artist asks herself
What the hell are you doing?
No really What are you doing?
Ever ask yourself what the hell a moth is doing?
Well they do have a purpose.
It’s a biologically determined drive,
to accomplish an essential task.
But it’s not always obvious,
especially when you have to chase one around
your room at two in the morning.
Poor misguided moth is just trying to fullfill
it’s destiny and achieve it’s purpose.
But Moths aren’t supposed to be in your house.
They are like butterflies–and are supposed
to be outside in the natural world,
pollinating various night blooming vegetation.
Yet they some how manage inadvertently to end up in our closets–
making meals out of our favourite cashmere sweaters.
And we hate them for it.
Poor misguided moth.
She’s just trying to fulfill her purpose.
Moths and the nocturnal plants they feed on–
like the Honeysuckle flower or the Red Valerian–
can’t live without each other.
Miraculous nature has provided the moth
with dextrous long thin tongues–
an attribute completely wasted on wool sweaters,
but very important in pollinating night blooming
flowers. The moth is always looking
for the flowers. The flowers are always waiting
for the Moth. See what I mean about destiny?
So what in the world am I talking about?
And what does this have to do with my play?
Well–the moth stage of the creative process
is when the writer-
-that would be me in this case–
is madly searching for the flower but can not find it.
I’m madly flying up at that light bulb and singeing my wings.
The flower is the essence or the meaning– or the soul of the work.
I’t’s the inexplicable thing that blooms in the mind of the audience
or the reader. It’s the truth of the work.
I need to find it.
It can’t bloom without me.
There is no art without this relationship.
See. I believe this.
So there you go–
That’s the Moth state.
I saw a play recently that had no soul essence or meaning
and yet I know the young writer probably believed it did.
It was timely. And it seemed to delve into a solid and important question.
But it was trite and obvious.
She didn’t go through the moth state.
Nothing unfolded or bloomed or revealed itself.
It needed a moth.
The Moth state can drive you mad and you can end up
in a drawer pollinating your socks.
But it leads you to the thing that the story is about.
It leads you to the thing that makes the audience
sigh or cry or ache or laugh in recognition–
or even just connect to your idea at a deep level–and engage.
Because this is the purpose of art.
That is what we are trying to do
Kandinsky puts it very well–
“The artist must have something to say,
mastery over form is not his goal,
but adaption of form to its inner meaning”
My play has a deep truth in there somewhere.
I know it.
I feel it.
I am drawn to it.
I am shaken by it.
I have come close to finding it–
But I haven’t yet.
Now it’s dusk and that’s when Moths get busy.
So hopefully tonight–
Hopefully I will find the flower that is waiting to bloom in my play.
Sometimes the stories are attached to people I pass on the street.
I take the stories home and make them my own.
Yesterday I saw a story in a red hat and fishnet hose running down the street waving for a taxi.
I wasn’t fast enough. That story got away.
Today I saw a story on the Broadway bus.
It was attached to a bedraggled little woman wearing a sparkly witch hat.
She had a sign hanging around her neck.
I read the sign as the woman came down
the aisle. It had a lot of biblical quotations on it.
I just knew she would sit beside me.
And she did. Her sign kept jabbing me in the ribs.
“I had a vision from God” she said.
“He told me that he is sending down a doozy of an earth quake”
I like it when God uses words like doozy I said.
. I got off the bus with the story in my net. It’s my story now.
I don’t think I will see the woman with the witch hat again, but I have the story.
I went to the coffee bar the other day.
A woman dressed all in pink came and asked me if she could share my table.
She had at least 30 silver bangles on each wrist.
I could see she was dripping with stories. She was festooned with stories.
One story got up on it’s hind legs and whispered something at me in a raspy voice. .
I could hear it distinctly when the woman asked me for a cigarette.
The story wanted to tell itself to me.
The story wanted to jump in my net. It didn’t need the slightest persuasion.
It was coming home with me. I know what to do with a story like that.
In this post I am going to address the notion of writer’s block.
In all honesty I don’t actually get full blown writers block.
I write every day. I am always journalling, blogging, scribbling,
pondering, musing, reflecting, or working out something on paper.
Writing is how I clear my mind, and make sense of the world.
It’s a habit I guess.
However–I do get Writer’s Delay.
I do reach a point where I hit the fabled brick wall.
I stop. I agonize. I worry. I get depressed.
I want to quit- throw in the towel.
I tell myself horrible things and predict dire circumstances for myself.
None of this is useful of course, but luckily I don’t spend a lot of time on this phase.
Eventually I ask myself where do I go from here?
Thing is–I am rarely able to answer this question.
Where do I go from here? It’s not a helpful question.
It is what I call a bewildering question.
A better question is What does my character want right now?
Or What is getting in the way of what my character wants right now?
What is she going to do to get past the obstacle right now?
Sometimes I go deeper– and I ask Why does my character want what she wants,
Or how desperate-how driven, is she to get what she wants right now?
Is she hiding what she wants from herself? Is it a secret?
What will it cost her if she doesn’t succeed? What will she stand to lose?
Has she admitted to herself or anyone else what she really truly wants?
How does, what she wants, affect her?
Does she think she deserves what she wants?
Does it drive her insane?
Is it killing her to not get it?
Or one of my favourites–What is she willing to do? To sacrifice?
Who is she willing to hurt, maim or kill?
What is she willing to risk, or lose or destroy?
Do you see what I mean?
Do you see how all these questions focus the story,and move it forward?
Do you see how these kind of questions enliven your imagination?
Do you see how can amplify and intensify the action of the story?
These are the good questions, that will help me write a more compelling story, and better dialogue.
So there you have it. My #1 Magic Cure for Writer’s block or writers Delay.
Ask Good Questions.
Sometimes my plot, theme, and everything else will emerge from these questions.
If I am at the wall, it’s because I have forgotten the questions or I need to ask them again.
Ok Now maybe you are not at the place where you think you even know what to write about.You are not ready to ask what your character wants, because you don’t really knowwho your character is. Or maybe you have an idea but you don’t know what to do with it? It’s a idea that is getting dirty with waiting.
Sometimes I haven’t got a clue what to write about, and I am sure I have
an inferior imagination, or that I lack the intelligence that a writer needs–
see yesterdays post here
and other times I have so many ideas clamouring for my attention–
that I can’t decide what to write about.
So next time I will share what I do when either of these things happen.
I am in bed recovering from surgery and bored out of my mind.
The wasteland of daytime television stretches out before me endlessly it seems.
“I could be working on my play.” I say to myself hopefully.
As I open the lap top I listen for an engaged response from deep within–
some murmurings of eagerness or zest–a shimmer of enthusiasm perhaps.
But all I get is a weak whimper and a shudder of shame.
I realize that somehow my inner prosecutor– modelled after Hamilton Burger–
you might know him from Perry Mason re-runs–has now taken over my mind.
He is addressing the judge and jury that lives in my head.
They are the folks behind the Salem Witch Trials and the Spanish Inquisition.
“Ladies and Gentleman this woman has no discernible talent–no imagination and no original ideas.
She is guilty of the crime of self delusion! How dare she call herself a writer?
Send her back to her jail cell and sentence her to watch endless reruns of Perry Mason.”
Well–ok– that didn’t happen. Actually instead of writing my play
I wrote the above silliness. Please forgive me. Tee hee.
But truth is, I have been struggling with, if not, a full blown writer’s block,
a fairly serious writer’s delay.
All the roads in my imagination seem to be closed,
and I can’t get to where I want to go.
It is time I dig out my list of magic cures for this pesky nuisance,
and get myself back on the road. I have faced this before. I can do it again.
This coming week I will be posting my favourite creative cures so stay tuned.
Feel free to use any of these cures for whatever creative ailments you are suffering with.
Perry Mason is not on right now so it’s back to the Storage Wars Marathon. I just loves Barry Weiss.
I am not a person that likes to make mistakes in public.
And I am squeamish about the subject of failure.
But here I am publicly declaring that I have failed more than a few times.
I have given up, quit, stopped, thrown in the towel.
I have been: rejected, dismissed, ignored, misunderstood.
I have faltered, and stumbled and fumbled and messed up in many ways.
And I have lived to tell you about it here.
The reason I do this is simple.
It’s to remind myself to keep going despite failing.
And it’s even more important to know and accept that most assuredly we
will trip over our own limitations
and tumble over our own foolish mistakes.
The thing is to keep going anyway.
This is the only way to defeat the malaise–
to go boldly past the fear–
to leap across the emptiness that will be there.
The thing is to stand courageous in the face of our fear.
And especially — the kind of fear that disguises itself as:
self pity, self doubt, or worse judgement and criticism of
I am learning–to leap past these creativity killers or
go directly to Creativity Jail–a dank depressing place where you
hear recordings of how badly you suck– played in heavy rotation.
Write your play, your novel, your screen play, your poem–
or write something else. Make a list. Write a letter. Just keep going.
Practice. Practice practice.
And remember some fearful part of your self
will try to stop you—
-not enough knowledge.
-not enough imagination.
-not enough time
-not enough credit
-not enough positive feedback
-not enough originality
-not enough energy
-not enough ability
-not enough clarity
-not enough talent
-not enough money
-not enough space
-not enough mental acuity
-not enough privacy
-not enough experience.
-not enough patience.
Don’t listen to that part of yourself.
If you don’t have enough of something
figure out how to get it but keep going.
Keep Going. My motto in life.
Here are a few of my favourite quotes on the subject
You fail only if you stop… Ray Bradbury
“I never know where I am going with a painting. I only know where I’ve been, and frankly, I believe that every painter is in a state of continual failure. The only constant in a painter’s life is failure” William Bailey
Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. Truman Capote
and my most favourite of all from Emily Carr
“I thought my mountain was coming this morning. It was near to speaking when suddenly it shifted, sulked, and returned to smallness. It has eluded me again and sits there, puny and dull. Why?”