Friday, April 19, 2013

Creativity and Productivity

I read something this week that has been churning in my mind ever since. It's a fabulous blog post on creativity done by Margarita Tartakovsky and you can view the entire post here:

The entire thing is fascinating, but the part that really stuck with me all week was the story about the pottery class. Basically, students who had to produce quantity of pottery produced more creative--i.e., higher quality--pieces than students who were permitted to take an entire semester to create a single piece (i.e., those who strove for quality, not quantity). 

Tartakovsky's advice is to stop striving for perfection in creative work, but instead to focus on a "magic threshold" where you're happy enough with it but you're able to let it go and, in the words of artist Jolie Guillebeau, who taught herself to paint faster, "hope that the quantity of my work will also improve the quality."

This is a fascinating concept, and one which skilled, bestselling writers surely must learn. Could it be that the more you produce, the more creative you become and the better you get at being creative?

It reminds me of something I read--I don't remember where--basically, this writer said that not everything you produce is going to be great. But the MORE you produce, the BETTER CHANCE you've got at putting forth something great. 

So are speed and perfectionism mutually exclusive? 

Well, I think they can co-exist, if the perfectionism is toned down. How to do this? (I don't know, but I am working on it. )

This article also addresses the fear the creative ideas are finite. I remember reading something from a bestselling author saying she felt she had more ideas than she could possibly write about in a lifetime. I am on the opposite spectrum. I fear not having ideas. But filling the creative well is a skill that can be cultivated, and it starts with showing up every day to work. And work hard.

More great advice:  Focus on process, not outcome. Focusing on outcome stifles the process, says creativity coach and writer Miranda Hersey. Worrying about if your work sucks, if you'll be able to get it all together and have it make sense, and what will happen in your career are creativity killers.

When this happens, I think about why I sit in front of the computer day after day. The answer is--because I wouldn't want to be anywhere else! I'm so grateful to be here! Things are a little different than when I was 12 and writing Star Trek fan fiction to my heart's content. The muse is a little older and more scarred, and the devil-may-care attitude has been pulled back and restrained. But the joy is still there.

I think this article reinforces the fact that the skills it takes to write fiction, including the creative skills, are trainable with lots of work and the determination to show up day after day to do your job. Like any other job, practice makes perfect--or at least better.

How do you teach yourself to write faster or tone down your inner perfectionist?

Beautiful brickwork on a Savannah sidewalk outside of Colonial Park Cemetery (my photo).

Sidewalk of seashells in Savannah--I think they call this tabby, a concrete made of lime, sand, and oyster shells (my photo).

Friday, April 5, 2013

My Crazy GH Call Story

Well, I thought I'd share my Golden Heart®  call story from last week. As you all know, The Romance Writers of America calls all of its unpublished manuscript finalists in its annual Golden Heart® contest every year on a designated day.     

I was picking up my 16-year old son’s friend to take them both to volleyball practice when the letters “NE” popped up on my cell. All I could think of was, if this is some weird telemarketing call coming in from Nebraska, this is a very cruel trick of nature with TERRIBLE timing.

But I didn’t believe it could be RWA calling! How COULD it be, when I’ve entered this contest six–maybe seven?–times, and I had sworn this one would be my last. I’d even determined to go about my day and just be happy for everyone else later. I’d ridden the roller coaster too many times and just couldn’t bear to do it again.

So anyway, it was Cindy Kirk, Harlequin Special Edition author AND an RWA board member, and she told me she had great news. Then she said I was a DOUBLE finalist. I barely heard. I just started bawling, right there in the driveway in front of these teenage boys. And I could not stop.

I told my son I just couldn’t drive, that he better drive until I calm down. I figured even a teenage driver with his temporary permit was better than a hysterical crying woman. So a few miles later after I did a little, he said, “Mom, just thought you should know, I don’t have my temps with me.”So somehow I managed to calm down enough to drive the rest of the way.

 After all, I wouldn’t want the GH to be responsible for him not getting his real license!

So anyway, it's been a crazy week. I'm getting to know all my fellow finalists, there are pictures to be taken, dresses to be bought, and plans about manuscripts to be considered. And of course, the rest of life's responsibilites to fulfill.

I am thrilled to be a finalist. I still can't believe it. But I just don't want to lose track of the ultimate goal, which is getting published. That means setting the craziness aside every day and making my daily word counts. 

How do you all set craziness aside every day to get your work done? Actually, the past week isn't dissimilar to the usual craziness of life. There's just been a bit more of it than usual.

This is a picture from my own yard today. It was very sunny, but still only 50 degrees (that's northern Ohio for you!). You can see the bare tree branches in the background. I don't know what these little purple flowers are, but they resemble violets. They looked amazingly vibrant popping out of the grass. Spring is finally, finally almost here, after a very long and cloudy winter. 

Do you see the analogy to my call story? :)    

Purple flowers, northern Ohio, early April, 2013 (my pic)