Padded Room

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I’d love to have a padded room. I could lock myself inside and stretch and smile and maybe even giggle a little crazily.

“I’m free!” I would whisper, then say aloud, then SHOUT. All that might answer could not, for the padding.

Inside would be a beautiful wood floor, supporting a comfortable chair and desk. Perhaps I’d have plants, too -a sort of alien variety that maintained itself despite neglect. Naturally, they and the furniture would sit before two glorious, turreted windows.

Didn’t I mention the windows? The view they afforded would lay your concerns about a full wall padding to rest; since, from it, one could see the rather lofty and inaccessible position of the room. It would need to be; to afford me the grandest sightings of brickwork buildings, iron-wrought balconies, French cafés, lushly summered parks, and tiny walking people far below.

Of course, it would always be sunset. The weather could change, and the seasons, but reddened rays of fire must continually warm my panic room in calming inspirations of color. ‘Twould be just the right shade to set the wood floor glowing.

As I’d sit smilingly before the computer, the finest quality audio equipment would begin to play. For light, thoughtful prose, realistic strains of instrumental genius would do. Dubstep film remixes would work well when deadlines were near and thoughts were far. Angry yell-songs could be perfect, justified irritants when life outside the padded walls might threaten entry.

My distractions, however, could not get in. I’d be blissfully unaware. I would read and write for hours as the world revolved in its real-time mundane monotony. How lovely, I’d note, that the padding is on the outside.

 

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“The first four months of writing the book, my mental image is scratching with my hands through granite. My other image is pushing a train up the mountain, and it’s icy, and I’m in bare feet.”

-Mary Higgins Clark

My Muse?

The screen flickered, blown by magic breath or electric-grid blip. The cursor blinked. Blinked again. And again. I held my breath, expectant.

The same thing happened that had happened a few minutes before, yesterday, and every day since I’d committed to writing daily: NOTHING.

I leaned a disappointed elbow onto the desk, straight into the crinkling pile of candy bar wrappings and chocolate crumbs. Face rested in hand; cheap, upbeat computer music mocked my efforts.

I sighed.

A loud belch nearly unseated me. Thanking the good, solid seat The Lord blessed me with, I turned to see a large, rumpled, hazy apparition tottering to the right of the computer desk. It was dressed like a messy pirate, complete with overcoat and large boots.

He? held a bottle, equally transparent. Distractedly, I wondered if it contained only fumes.

The personage looked in my direction. I think. I returned the glance, attempting eye contact. Neither of us spoke. Both of us blinked.

“What are you?” I managed. Mentally, I reprimanded my manners.

“Whaddya mean?” a deep voice responded, slurred. I decided he was probably a man -er, man’s ghost. Wavering slightly, he jabbed a translucent finger my way. “YOU dragged me over here!”

Surprised, I considered. Apprehension dawned.

“I didn’t summon you, that I know of,” I defended. “Unless,” I hesitated, feeling sick, “You’re my muse?”

Grating laughter broke his scowling face. My expression of confusion and concern deepened. Who was this? Finally, his mirth subsided. Taking a long swig of emptiness from the bottle, he returned to the task of hazy staring. “Nah,” he supplied.

I blinked. My puzzled expressions were getting a lot of practice.

“So….” I began, allowing him the chance to take up the thread. He didn’t. I swallowed, and tried a more complete sentence. “So, if you’re not my muse,” I paused, “then who are you,” another pause, “and how did I summon you?”

I sat back, creaking the cushioned chair. I was determined to wait for his response without further prompting.

He lifted the bottle, studying its water-soaked label. “I’m Muse’s, er, relation,” he answered, casually, but more quietly. “Name’s Motivation.” Hiccuping, he tried another bottled inhalation.

I turned this over mentally, silently. “Muse’s relation?” I wondered aloud.

He seemed upset by my question. Well, he looked huffy. “‘S right.” He stuck out his incorporeal double chin. “Through marriage.”

I could sense this topic would only lead to more offense, on his part. Frankly, however, I didn’t know what to do with this unexpected guest. He didn’t seem willing to offer more than moody stares.

“Look,” I began, “I don’t want to be rude here, but I was …expecting someone -you know, different.” I watched the face, and wall behind it, to be sure of comprehension without affront.

Instead, he shrugged. “You get what you get,” he stated; laughed, “and you don’t throw a fit.”

Now was my turn to be upset. “What do you mean?” I had difficulty keeping my voice civil. “I followed all the steps I read about!”

He chortled, sipped air, and gave me a knowing look.

“I… I read books!” I defended.

“How many?” he demanded, keeping his eyebrows at their sarcastic bent.

“Er,” I floundered, “Well, I started a few, then didn’t really have time to finish, so…”

“What else?” he interrupted, amused.

I thought over the recommendations. “I sat down, committed to write.” My voice sounded a bit whiny, even to me. “I mean, I’m writing, here!”

His face softened a bit, and he leaned through the wall before realizing that did nothing to help support him. “True,” he conceded. “However,” he snickered, “I don’t think that game you have running in the background helps.”

I looked at my screen, out of Motivation’s view. “That’s my music,” I said, hastily clicking to Close Window on Fallout Shelter. His expression was back to its mocking amusement.

“Which is another thing,” I continued. “Music! You can’t say I haven’t been trying that.”

“Also true,” he said. “Although, your stuff’s garbage. I like me some Nirvana, myself.”

I sat, processing that information. Somehow, I couldn’t picture this sodden spirit rocking out. For one thing, wouldn’t that be extremely painful once the morning-after headache hit him? Of course, one had to have a solid head to get aches.

“Point is,” he continued, “You’re going about this all wrong.” He tucked the empty bottle into his overcoat somehow. Placing his hands on his hips, he explained, “You can’t get a decent muse with halfway measures.”

His large, airy hand waved at the littered computer desk as he expounded. “Finish books, only write during writing time, try good music, and lay off the chocolate.” Satisfied, he leaned back away from me.

“But,” I began, sorry to lose the only being I’d successfully summoned, “I got you. That’s something.” I realized how rude I’d sounded, and glanced up to apologize.

He, however, was laughing again. “You did. Sort-of.” The outline of his arms and hair seemed to be fading. Yawning and scratching at air-torso, he added, “Thing is, you can’t wait around for Motivation. And, you can’t actually have me.”

The wall behind him was becoming clearer as he was becoming less so. “Good luck, Chelsea,” he echoed.

Though hardly visible at all, I heard his distant chortle. “Though, Luck doesn’t come without work, either!”

 

 

Free: dom, thinker, bird, will, hand, write; AKA How To Get Creativity Flowing

It’s been awhile since I’ve thought to pass on my (very few) gems of writing wisdom.

I’ve been a bit stumped.

So, what better subject that the one I’m sitting under? Let’s explore Some Suggestions for Getting Creativity Flowing.

1. Do all that crap you already know you should.
Do I really have to name them? Okay, okay: go for a walk, read good books, just start writing, be naturally motivated and creative and hard-working, listen to music, and take a short break and come back to it later.

At least go take a bathroom break. You’ll feel better, and avoid nasty infections.

2. Write something.
You may think I listed this as part of Step 1, and you’re right. Good job. I’ve been approaching it a tad differently lately, however, and want to specifically describe that different process.

I often think of it as “word vomiting.”

I’m a very correct, prim, prudish sort who dots my i‘s and punctuates my prose and tries to get the dang span style to look right on WordPress AS I GO ALONG. I’ve realized this anality can impede creative thought.

Nowadays, particularly when I intend to write a poem, I literally “just write.” Or, type. Or, voice-to-text.

No punctuation. No capitals or line breaks or bushy mustaches. I do, admittedly, fix words that were captured incorrectly. I just write the way the words are coming to my mind and I try to think of descriptive passages and words and light glinting from bottomless pools of hazel-green as spanning text scrolls in mirrored right-to-left in infinite white-rimmed ellipses…

I’ve realized that, since I get an odd rise out of correcting grammar, I can please both halves of my conflicting self by freely puking words out, then organizing the mess into something more sensical later.

3. Ask for an assignment.
Back in the days when my “friends” actually responded to my Facebook posts, I asked for writing prompt ideas and received four or five.

Writing prompts are not difficult to come by. Reddit (my favorite garbage heap of the internet) has an entire subreddit for writing prompts.

I give the example of my Facebook query because I was accountable to people I knew for actually coming up with ideas, writing something about a few, and posting a finished product. Someone wanted a story, and was waiting for it.

I’m not personally motivated enough for NaNoWriMo or even GetOutOfBed some days, so the exterior expectation was a good way to go. I may have taken three weeks when I said I’d get them done by the end of one, but I did it.

4. Block out the world.
Now, I never, never, never, sometimes, never encourage extreme measures of numbing, mostly because I’m a teetotaler who considers an entire bag of chocolate candies and an all-nighter to be cutting loose. That, and I have a few mental issues that are exacerbated by really pushing it.

We’re talking about removing all the distractions in healthy ways.

Kids? Pay a babysitter, or fire up the electronic one.
Annoying roommates or houseguests? Go to a café, library, or neighbor with free wifi.
You’re annoying? Read over things you wrote that you thought were great.
Can’t stop distracting? Put the phone, remote, D&D manual, controller, or talkative friend down. Tell yourself you’ll look after five minutes, ten minutes, etc.
Sick? Rest, eat right, sleep, go to the doctor, or take your approved medications.

The BEST way for me to block out and GET WRITING is to put headphones on. We have access to so much music these days. I cycle through my favorites, or suggestions from other bloggers, till something plays that is blocking, beautiful, and yet not distracting in its own way.

Having five steps would really make this entry seem authoritative and mathematically even, but I can sense my creativity is about shot. Even after following my own advice, there are times I am so drained of artistic output that I call the game before someone gets hurt.

That could actually be your Step 5: Give up amicably when it’s just not working out. I DO NOT mean to crumple up your laptop and throw it in the garbage, cry all over your pillow, tell yourself mean things, and NEVER, never return.

Sometimes, there’s a sort of resigned calm one feels at the inevitability of an upcoming event, and an acceptance of its arrival. You may not have felt your Muse, but it’s okay. It’s all right. Go do your other things, especially sleep, and we’ll come back later.

Aoede’s Influence

My mind feels nothing lately. I sit here, at a computer desk, fingers poised over keys, typing emptiness.

“Ah, you have writer’s block,” you may observe. I love to disagree, but I feel the word block indicates that there was some flow previously.

In considering my lack of creative energy or inspiration, I reflect on Muses. I’ve been reflecting since reading over Mike Allegra’s and D. Wallace Peach’s characterizations of Muses. The former described his as an ice cream-stealing rat (an intelligent, domesticated one), the latter claiming hers hired a mercenary.

Mine, in the meantime, is beyond fashionably late.

She or he or it is not entirely necessary for writing. However, I need something to create what lays before you, or what fills the space between pictures of my content-writing job.

I try. I do.

The ceremony to call upon a Muse can be much like a séance, conjuring, or sacrificial ceremony. “Here, take my children,” I say to the television screen. “And, here are the five pounds I managed to lose last month,” I tell our chocolate stash. I light the computer’s candelabra and pray.

Despite my best movie marathons or sugar-splurges, my efforts usually summon Muse’s distantly-related cousin’s best friend’s significant other: Motivation.

And even she often shows up hungover. It’s time for something stronger.

Before turning to literal flames or pentagrams, I turn to my gym bag. Inside, twisted in on itself, rests my mP3 player and headphones. Besides the creative gifts we enjoy, headphones are the greatest blessing a distracted artist may ever receive.

Properly attired, I may focus on the influence of Aoede instead of the distractions of everything.

Stephenie Meyer, that author who wrote something a few years back, was one of my favorites to read. No, not her actual published works (at least, not openly.) I am referring to her honest descriptions of writing, publishing, creation, etc.

I can relate to her, since both of us have at least three boys. Did you know she also used music? That she has a playlist posted?

As mentioned at the end of the lame, rambling autobiography (nobody got that far, did they?), I can’t write without music. This, combined with the fact that writing Twilight was a very visual, movie-like experience, prompted me to collect my favorite Twilight songs into a sort of soundtrack for the book. This list is not chiseled in granite; it transforms now and again. But, for the moment, here’s the music I hear in my head while reading the book. (stepheniemeyer.com)

Her website has songs for Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn.

We’ll need to talk more about tempting Muses in other fashions. Perhaps you even know a secret incantation.

In the meantime, what are your favorite tracks to play for inspiration?

“…Don’t be afraid, don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cock-eyed Genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed for just one moment, through your efforts, then Olé. But if not, do your dance anyhow, and Olé to you nonetheless.”

-Elizabeth Gilbert, Your Elusive Creative Genius TED Talk

Ready or Not -Ah, Forget It

Perfectionism is the writer’s block of my life.

“I think I’ll clean the house,” I tell myself. Sometimes I say it out loud, confidently. I feel motivated and self-assured when I do so. I feel that nothing can stop whatever I want to do. I know I’m baiting my old enemy, taunting him, and I thrill in the power of supposed victory.

“Door decoration for my kid’s anti-drug week at school? I can do that,” I tell a neighbor. If I say it in public, there is more culpability. The encroaching hesitancy I’ve moved on to will have less power. Strength in numbers, I assure myself.

Maybe I’ll write a book, I think to myself timidly, as if staying quiet will save me. I should know by now there is no safe place when I’m feeling down. He’s been laughing for a while, through all the resistance. He knows the true battles, and that he’s been the ultimate victor.

“What’s wrong?” The few concerned who are left in my life ask me. They don’t understand the reason I’m in bed, or in the closet, or on the couch mindlessly distracting from thought and life.

Perfectionism knows.

He’s reclining comfortably in the disused spaces of my mind; the spaces he’s artfully cleared of annoying furnishings like deep feelings, motivations, ambitions, and inspiration.

Nothing disturbs or demands him. He stretches out to watch the video game flashing before his host’s eyes.

“Ah,” he says, sipping brain fluid from a convenience store cup, “Perfect.”