Fiction, poetry, painting, paper-mache, memoir, technical writing, composition, clarinet– who said you had to choose just one? Okay, your University, when, by your fifth semester, they finally made you declare a major.
But, if you’re anything like me (or anything like our beloved We Put Words On Paper group– a hodgepodge of screenwriters, poets, fiction writers, rhetoric writers, and journalists), you, my darling, simply want it all.
And so, with my ounce of wisdom (and two ounces of research), I confidently advise: go ahead! Write! Draw! Sing! Your creativity counts on it.
The Devil’s Advocate raises his bushy brow and intervenes with: Yes, but you made a goal to finish your short story by Wednesday. How is painting going to bring you any closer to your final draft?
Fearful this is true, I bust out my journal and a pen instead of paints. With no stroke of genius, I write, “gotta write!” at the top of the page. And then stare at the letters, maybe outlining them in bold. The page stares back like an indifferent teenager. I yell (to myself, because the roommates are in the next room…), “My adult knowledge will crush your puny teenager brain!” When ridiculing fails, I proceed to glance over my earlier notes, hoping for inspiration. The page, in all my scrutinizing, still does not care. Desperate measures call for…eyeglasses! I put them on as to appear smarter to my journal. I brew some coffee, because at this point in my addiction, it actually settles nerves. But, all I can think about is brush strokes and color schemes and how my empty living room wall needs a makeover. By the end of the hour that I set out to write, the page is covered in squiggles and birds and music notes. It looks pretty. I rip out the page, because I could use it later for a collage. Progress on short story? Nil.
I took my creative woes to Fantasy author Robert Stikmanz, who writes and draws and designs. He shared what I was hoping to hear:
When writing, as you’re well aware, a writer maintains an imaginary visual space in which details of the written work stage and play out. When words don’t come, I often draw, referencing that same space. Perhaps I intricately doodle a character, or part of a character, or even nothing more than a leaf on a plant in the imaginary field. In a way, that doesn’t matter. The result is often that the literary blockage disappears while I am not thinking about it, but thinking about something else. Other times I draw in order to clarify exactly who, what, or where I am trying to describe.
Kim: Well, I wanted to be a musician. So maybe I would have stayed with the music. But I still play. I’m learning blues harmonica now. I really love the blues.
Poetry Flash: Your poems are like blues. So you haven’t gone too far from that.
Kim: Yeah. And I originally wanted to be a singer. But I think I’ve ended up being a singer in another way.
So folks, if the words aren’t flowing, try a different technique. Write a song that might be a song your characters would like. Draw out a map of the town where your story takes place. Develop the world you’re creating through any medium, and see how each art form acts as a catalyst for another, and when the time comes to write your story, I hope, in the words of Bukowski, “it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you.”