The Art of Making Time for Creativity

Image found via Pinterest.

Image found via Pinterest.

I’ve been thinking about creativity lately.

Specifically, the time needed to be creative. The time needed to drop inward and create something of meaning, of value.

I have a crazy busy week—even month— ahead of me. My youngest graduates from high school next weekend. We have guests coming in for that. My husband and I will be working the All Night SeniorParty that lasts—you guessed it— all night. Throw in a dance recital, a grad party to host, many more to attend, more guests, not to mention teaching yoga, editing for elephant journal, my own writing and you know, just life in general and I’m not left with any huge swaths of time to be creative.

But I’ve decided I don’t need huge swaths of time. I love the quote in the image above. Because being creative is a way of life. And that is such a relief. It means that I don’t have to excavate huge chunks of time from my day to “be creative.” I can weave my creativity into and throughout the moments of my days.

In that spirit I have decided to challenge myself to a 30-Day Challenge for the month of June. Yes, my craziest, busiest month. But that’s the point. That in the midst of all the craziness and business, creativity can still thrive.

So, for the next 30 days I will create something once a day. It can be anything:

~ a scene in my WIP

~ a page in my art journal

~ a zen tangle

~ a photograph

~ a recipe

~ a blog post

~ a yoga sequence

Who knows what else? The point is to be creative about weaving creativity into my life. I will post here daily, and try to as well as on my Facebook and Instagram.

Feel free to join and/or follow me. #createonceadayfor30days

My Love Affair with the Short Story

Photo: John Levanen / Flickr

Photo: John Levanen / Flickr

I don’t remember the first short story that I fell in love with.

It may have been “Hills Like White Elephants” by Hemingway. I mean, the tension, the powerfully pruned prose, the dialogue that kept me on the edge of my seat. It may have been one of the first short stories I read for pleasure and not for a high school
English class, where I was expected to dissect every aspect of it. Instead of dissecting I allowed myself to be immersed in it—in the language, the setting, the characters, the story. I swam far out into the depths of the story, treading water, staying there as long as I could.

I remember looking up and feeling out of place. Like I had traveled some long distance.

And, indeed I had. That story revealed the power of the short story. The power to transport us in such a brief amount of words.

I don’t understand why story collections aren’t more popular. In this age of truncated attention spans it would seem that short stories would slide easily into those gaps.

Writing stories myself is where I began really honing my craft. The brevity of it allowed me to play with character, plot, setting and theme without drowning in the massive undertaking of a novel. As Lorrie Moore says:

“A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.”

I could hold a short story—physically in my hands and mentally in my mind.

I still love to read and write stories. It still stuns me to read stories that are perfect whole worlds unto themselves. I read them for pleasure, for the ability to be transported, to read a story that will, as David Sedaris, says:

“…take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.” 

I love that feeling of being a tad discombobulated after reading a story. Like all of my cells have been slightly rearranged. Nothing is exactly as it was.

And I strive to write stories that evoke the same thing in my reader.

I love how an entire life can be revealed in the brief space of a story as Alice Munro does so masterfully.

I love reading a collection and the writer’s obsessions are revealed through what she chooses to write about—love, family,loss, betrayal, loneliness.

I love when a story takes me to some place unexpected like a man’s memories and literal brain as in Tobias Wolff’s “A Bullet in the Brain.”

I love when a story that I read years and years ago still lingers like “MIlk” by Ron Carlson.

I love when linked short stories all stand on their own yet merge together to reveal a whole life like “Stop That Girl” by Elizabeth Mckenzie or “Normal People Don’t Live Like This” by Dylan Landis.

I just love the short story. The really short ones, the long ones and all the ones in between. I love reading them. I love writing them.

How about you? Are you a fan of the short story? Reading them? Writing them? Please feel free to share in the comments.

“I love short stories because I believe they are the way we live. They are what our friends tell us, in their pain and joy, their passion and rage, their yearning and their cry against injustice.” ~ Andre Dubus

“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.” ~ Neil Gaiman

“Short fiction seems more targeted – hand grenades of ideas, if you will. When they work, they hit, they explode, and you never forget them. Long fiction feels more like atmosphere: it’s a lot smokier and less defined.” ~ Paolo Bacigalupi

“My short stories are like soft shadows I have set out in the world, faint footprints I have left. I remember exactly where I set down each and every one of them, and how I felt when I did. Short stories are like guideposts to my heart…”  ~ Haruki Murakami

“When well told, a story captured the subtle movement of change. If a novel was a map of a country, a story was the bright silver pin that marked the crossroads.” ~ Ann Patchett

In Honor of National Indie Bookstore Day.

Gertrude & Alice's bookstore

I admit, I’m a bit of a stalker when it comes to indie bookstores.

Whenever I visit a new city, the first place I look for is the nearest independent bookstore. I’ve even amassed quite a collection of bookmarks from The Tattered Cover in Denver, Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor and Shakespeare and Company in Paris.

It was in an indie bookstore in New Hope, Pennsylvania that I stumbled across a book called The New Diary by: Tristine Rainier. I had attempted to keep diaries over the years with many pages filled with the hastily scrawled words “forgot to write.” The obligation to write on every dated page was stifling. The New Diary opened up a new way of journal writing that was more spontaneous, deeper and even (gasp) fun. I began filling up blank pages with my words.

Then one day I was attending a seminar in Philadelphia. During the lunch break I browsed this amazing little bookstore off Sansom street. I can still see the table filled with this book called Writing Down the Bones. Just the title gave me goosebumps. I picked it up, stroking the image of ink spilling across the cover, already aware on some level that my life was about to change.

I began filling notebooks with what Natalie Goldberg called writing practice. Practice made it easier to approach. I wasn’t “writing.” I was practicing.

I was becoming a writer.

Of course, the flip side of writing is reading.

Read the rest of the article here.