I’d like to give a big shoutout to Kari Mitchell of Kari and Company, who put together my beautiful new website and blog. Thanks for all your hard work, Kari!
At the same time, the revised and polished-within-an-inch-of-its-life manuscript of The Flower Reader is finished and sent. So this has been a crazy week. Now it’s time for a little fun!
I’ve made a big change in my schedule this past week, and it’s turned out to be a whole-life transformation. Isn’t it funny how small things can make such big changes?
Anyway. I’ve moved my writing time to first thing in the morning. I get up, let the doggies out, make my coffee, and start to write. Period. No email, no news, no journal, no morning pages (sorry, Julia Cameron)—just coffee and writing, pure and simple. I am a natural morning person and the Broadcasting Legend™ isn’t, so I even have solitude, with the sunrise gradually lightening my south-facing windows, coffee steaming and doggies curled up on their pillows behind me. I’ve been working till I get to five pages or ten o’clock, whichever comes first. And then, amazingly, I am free. I can manage everything else in the course of the day, because my real work is done and no matter what else happens, I have achieved something important (well, important to me) for that one unique, irreplaceable day in my life.
I know it sounds ridiculously trivial, but for me it’s been a revelation. It is such an enormous relief to have my work done and the rest of the day stretching out enticingly before me. Do I sometimes do more writing (or particularly research and editing) in the course of the day? Why yes, I do. But only because I want to. If I want to take a nap instead (with Nigella Lawson or Ina Garten rambling soothingly about food in the background) I am utterly free to do it.
What special rituals seem to make your creativity work for you?
In other news of the week: Cressie has also experienced a transformation—into a tri-color predator extraordinaire. This week she added a rabbit and another squirrel to her list of victims. You do not want to know the details.
I am reading Great Maria by Cecelia Holland. For about the leventy-leventh time, but I love this book so much and it is out in a beautiful new edition from Sourcebooks. If you haven’t read it, please put it on your list. You will not be sorry.
I am making a lovely pan of Mexican Lasagna this week, since the Broadcasting Legend™ is going to be out of town and I’m free to eat casseroles every night of the week. (I love casseroles. The BL™ is a large-recognizable-piece-of-meat man.) I take the wonderful chili I wrote about last week, layer it with plain, lightly oven-toasted corn tortillas (the toasting makes a huge difference in the flavor) and a mixture of colby cheddar, monterey jack, and queso fresco tossed with lots of Mexican spices. Then I bake the whole thing till it’s brown and melty and crunchy around the edges. The corners are my favorite pieces.
And finally, did you see the story of Paris Japonica, the white flower that has been determined to have the longest genome ever discovered—fifty times longer than the genome for a human being? Can you imagine what my floromancer heroine Rinette would make of that? Unfortunately I can’t put Paris Japonica into The Silver Casket, because it’s a native of Japan and would have been outside the ken of anyone in sixteenth-century Scotland or France. But! Paris Japonica has a relative called Paris Quadrifolia, known to folklore as Herb Paris or True-Lover’s Knot, and that plant might indeed have been found in damp and shady places along Aberdeenshire streams. Rinette wouldn’t know about genomes, of course, but with her uncanny affinity for flowers she might sense something unusual about Herb Paris. I’ve already worked out just what part this enigmatic plant is going to play in the story…
See you next week!
Do you have a writer on your Christmas list? A musician, a painter, a sculptor, a dancer, an actor, a weaver or embroiderer, any kind of creative artist? Give that person this wonderful book. Do you have a businessperson, a teacher, a homemaker, a parent, a medical services provider? Those are creative professions as well. Give those people this wonderful book, too. Oh, heck, just give it to everybody! In case you haven’t already guessed, I love this book.
Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life is an honest, plain-spoken handbook to a creative life, from what Tharp calls “scratching” for ideas, through finding the “spine” of the idea you choose and getting into the “groove” of productivity. She’s blunt about the need for good old-fashioned virtues like preparation, routine, discipline and perseverance. Whether you’re choreographing a dance, writing a novel, designing a dress, creating a PowerPoint presentation of the last quarter’s sales figures, or whipping up a soufflé à la vanille (mmmm! And of course you always use good vanilla), Tharp’s brisk and engaging philosophy of the creative life will get you on the right track and keep you there. She even includes exercises to get your imaginative blood flowing and your artistic muscles limbered up.
“It’s vital to establish some rituals—automatic but decisive patterns of behavior—at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way.”
—Twyla Tharp, in The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.
Need inspiration? Need motivation? Exercise is one of the best ways to kickstart one’s energy and creativity. (So are showers, but that’s another post.) Walking has been my exercise of choice ever since I adopted my first beagle Raffles, my much-loved companion and personal trainer for eleven years. Today I walk with Cressie and Boudin, and very inspiring and energizing it is, too.
However, sometimes my fingers hover over the keys with the next words tantalizingly close, and a long walk would actually be too much. That’s when I employ my new technique of the micro-walk—getting up from my desk and walking through the house for a minute or two, or going out into the back yard and smelling the roses (literally—our roses are blooming like crazy now that we’re having cooler weather). The trick is making the micro-walk just long enough to refresh my mind and shake my thoughts loose without being long enough to completely break my focus.
Sometimes less really is more.
Starting a new book is kind of like meeting an interesting new person. You make small talk. You find out about each other. Maybe you go out for coffee, then to a movie, then to dinner at a special restaurant. You like that person more and more. Then all of a sudden you turn around and KAPOW! You’re in love.
I’m in love with The Silver Casket. It has everything—a wonderful heroine, a compelling cast of good and evil and funny and sad and mysterious and bright and dark characters, fabulous and bleak and beautiful historical settings in sixteenth-century Scotland, heaps of opulent intrigue, murder and courage, and a romance that both breaks my heart and fills me with passionate delight. How will I ever get it all out of my head and onto paper?
One word at a time. One word at a time.