Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Art of Letting Go: Nick Bantock and Creativity

Posted by April 3rd, 2014

The Trickster's Hat.jogToday our blog guest is Nick Bantock, the author of the new Perigee book THE TRICKSTER’S HAT: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity. A wonderful visual artist, Nick’s work breaks through genre conventions to create something truly different in the world of publishing–the most famous example of how he’s done this is with Griffin and Sabine, an epistolary novel fashioned from letters and postcards drawn and painted by Nick. His books feel like the perfect way to pull yourself out of the “same-old” in your routine, and discover something new about yourself as a writer.

LS: Describe for us what our community can get from your book. How does it help jump-start writing creativity?

NB: Sooner or later, as writers or artists we hit a rut. Our work becomes predictable, and we get bored with it. If we don’t find a way to change direction we hit the dreaded BLOCK. THE TRICKSTER’S HAT is made up of 49 exercises designed to help the reader slip-slide into a plethora of new universes. Some of the exercises use words, some images. Interestingly in my workshops I’ve found that it is often the collage that frees the writers and the writing that helps the artists. Continue reading

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March Madness: What Authors Can Learn from Athletes by Andrea Dunlop

Posted by April 2nd, 2014

March MadnessTo the uninitiated (read: me) the frenzy surrounding the NCAA basketball tournament can seem like, well, madness. But as my best hope of spending time with my boyfriend this time of year is to settle in for a game or thirty, I figured I’d better give the sport a shot. Somewhere between my diatribe about how Charles Barkley should really reconsider his three-piece suits and choking up during an NCAA commercial, I started to get into March Madness. The thrill of victory! The rivalries! The copious man tears during post-game press conferences!

I’m a sucker for sports. I’ve been both a writer and an athlete for most of my life and in some ways I feel like what I learned on the tennis court has been as helpful as anything I learned in the classroom. You may not think that writing a novel and sinking a sweet three-pointer at the buzzer have much in common, but you, my friend, would be wrong.

Greatness is mostly about discipline
Some people mistake the act of creating for divine inspiration that descends from the heavens, a muse that lands on your shoulder and whispers in your ear. Some think writing is a natural talent that you are born with. To which I say: pffffftttt. Of course individuals are born with varying degrees of innate talent for writing, basketball, singing, clog dancing, or whatever, but that’s only the raw material. The rest is craft, muscle memory, technique. HARD WORK. For writers, this means waking up in the morning and putting your butt in your chair, over and over again, until you have something good. It means reading everything you can get your hands on. It means attacking your writing with the dogged discipline that a point guard practices his free throws. Continue reading

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Elizabeth Loupas: Six and a Half Ways to be a Writer Even When You’re Not Writing

Posted by April 1st, 2014

Writers write. That’s true. We’ve all been admonished a million times to park our behinds in our chairs and just write. Sometimes—maybe even most of the time—that’s what we need to do.

But nobody can write all the time, unless you want to end up like Jack Torrance in The Shining, typing pages and pages of madness and hacking down doors with axes. In order to define our writing as writing and hang on to our sanity in the process, we have to have non-writing to surround it. The rich shadowy darkness of creativity is only visible when it’s contrasted with the light of everyday life.

The trick to this is to have an arsenal of non-writing things you can depend on to refresh your spirit. The list will be different for everyone. Here are six things from my list:

Walking. Not power walking for exercise, but just ambling through the neighborhood, picking a different route every time. Sure, the exercise gets my blood circulating, but the solitude, the fresh air, the sunshine (or the rain)—it’s a great way to get away from the computer, but at the same time a terrific incubator for new ideas. I like to recite dialog as I walk, to hear what it sounds like. Yes, the neighbors wonder about me.

Showers. Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces, but water does a lot more for me than get me clean. The solitude again, the sound, the primitive rushing feel of the water—when a particular plot point is blocking my progress, it’s amazing how often I figure it out in the shower. I keep a notepad in the bathroom so I can get things written down before I forget them. I tried one of those waterproof-notepad gadgets but I kept dropping the special underwater pen. If I get a really good idea I just scramble out of the shower and drip all over everything while I write.

9780451418876_large_The_Red_Lily_CrownStargazing. I learned the constellations as a child, but you don’t have to know Ursa Major from Cassiopeia to appreciate the enormity of the night sky. After a while it makes writing-related problems seem much less important. You can muse on what your characters would see and think at night—the stars will be pretty much the same (well, in the northern hemisphere…and a star map will show you constellations in the southern hemisphere) to anyone in any time and place. I thought of this when I wrote a scene for THE RED LILY CROWN in which my heroine awakens from being drugged and abducted and looks up at the sky to orient herself:

There, that was the North Star, just as Ruan had taught her. Her own stars, the curling tail and spread claws of the Scorpion, were on the opposite horizon, so that was south…

I felt that scene because I knew what the sky would have looked like, deep in the darkness. Continue reading

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