Tag Archives: creativity

Part 2: Running away from your problems isn’t always a bad thing

14 Apr

In my last post on having a mental breakdown I ended with the idea that in order to survive a mental breakdown you must face your problems. Now I’m going to tell you that I coped with my mental breakdown by running away.

I know, I totally contradicted myself there. But hear me out.

I am running away from my problems because I can only draw one type of tree.

Wait, wait! Stay with me! Let me explain.

I recently read Creativity Inc. which was written by the founder of Pixar Animation Studios, Edwin Catmull. In the book, Catmull discusses the importance of being able to see outside of a particular paradigm or way of thinking. This is something that can be facilitated by a creative and positive environment (the specifics of which I won’t get into, just read the book, it’s worth it).

For example, if I ask you to draw a tree you will visualize a particular type of tree such as a maple or an olive tree. That is your model for what a tree is. Some people are able to shift their default understanding of a tree, to allow it to encompass other types of trees. Additionally, they can see and draw the tree based on the area around the tree rather than the tree itself (i.e. the negative space).

I found myself living in a reality where only one type of tree existed and that tree was all there was to life. There was no negative space, no alternative. And when any other type of tree came in the mix, I couldn’t accept it because it challenged my entire worldview.

So what did I do to overcome this? I changed my world. By moving myself into a new environment, I allowed myself to see more trees. I detached myself from my problems so I could gain greater perspective and learn to accept.

(Okay, so my analogy is lame. Whatever, you understand what I’m trying to say. I’m going through something, gimme a break.)


A Foolproof Guide to Stellar Writing

11 Feb

1. Get nasty and own it

I once asked my friend to help me stage a picture for my LinkedIn profile that screamed “I’m a writer, hire me!” but wasn’t too cliché. She asked me what I look like when I write to help give her an idea of the essence of my writing.

I thought about it. My answer: gross.

I strive for nasty writing. Not “I’m not wearing any underwear” writing, but rather “I’m pretty physically repulsive right now” writing. The kind where you are so into your creativity and brilliance that you don’t care to brush your hair or put on deodorant, and the only time you practice any form of hygiene is when you get up to relieve your bladder of the venti coffee you just drank. Or you need to wash your hands because the sebum from your fingertips is making it hard to accurately type.

I’m a strong believer that showering will wash away creativity and promote social distractions when your friends can bear you enough to talk to you. Inspiration is an elusive creature so it’s important that you hold onto it as long as you can. Who knows when this rogue lover will find you again? Make passionate love to that dirty beast while you can!

That B key doesn't look very sanitary

That B key doesn’t look very sanitary

2. Sleep with a pen and paper nearby

In line with the above advice, it’s important to keep a pen and paper nearby when the beast rouses you awake from the verge of sleep. It’s also a good idea to practice writing in the dark, or if you’re more daring, to practice writing under the glaring light of your iPhone with one eye strained shut in pain.

This method can be tricky when you try to recall a dream that made a lot of sense to you in la-la land but loses it’s Harry Potter-esque fantasy and intrigue when you wake up. For example, I have a sticky note written in blue highlighter that reads “Geisha garden gnomes that hop backyard fences to steal amethyst to save the world.” That’s as far as I got on that pitch.


The unsung hero and likeable protagonist

3. When you get stuck, move

When I find myself lost for words or unable to work out a plot or character inconsistency, I like to take a break that doesn’t involve sitting in front of the boob tube, because let’s face it, once I’m there I’m committed to at least 30% of whatever reality show marathon is on.

Instead, I go for a walk (pen and paper in hand), run up and down the stairs, or even do some ninja* kicks and punches. It gets the blood moving away from the feet and ass (where it has likely pooled due to hours of sitting) and into the brain! A personal favorite counter writer’s-block activity of mine is Hip Hop yoga. Something about listening to street poetry upside down really gets me out of ruts!

*OMG, ninjas would work perfectly in my Geisha Garden Gnome story! I could probably get at least three series out of the GGG franchise (trademark pending).

Downward Snoop Doggy Dog

Downward Snoop Doggy Dog

4. Never revise a rough draft of a section of writing until it’s done

Just go with what comes into your head, and finish off that paragraph or chapter. I’m sure it will be awesome.

5. Have a respected peer edit your revised draft and be prepared to become fully and irrationally invested in your work and respond emotionally and dramatically to all major suggestions

I’m not referring here to the occasional typo or poor word choice, but rather major changes to the core of your work.

Because writing is such a personal and emotional process, it’s important to protect it like a mother duck would protect her duckling: with a big mouth and violence. It is your work, after all. And you are a genius, aren’t you? So aren’t you’re ideas golden? Yes. Yes they are.

It’s important to have that mentality enveloping you so that you stay true to yourself and listen to your gut. Only allocate reason to a small portion of your brain and only let it speak to you when you’re done acting like a prima donna. You owe at least that much to yourself.

This is my favourite part of writing.

Be a diva

Be a diva, Dah-ling