Thursday, July 4, 2013

When Real Life Crowds Into Creativity

We have a sloppy, dripping Fourth of July today, and I feel like I'm sitting in Jane Austen's deluged  England rather than the hot and sticky Bluegrass of Kentucky.

I wanted to do some creative writing today. There are unfinished stories on two of my blogs that I would like to revisit. And frankly, as someone who writes for trade magazines to pay the bills, sometimes a little creativity is just the juice I need to refuel my tired brain.

But today, it wasn't happening.

Real life was encroaching.

You know how this works: You start to write, and all you can think about are the things that are creating worries. In my case, I shelve the writing and immediately start thinking about solutions to those worries. And then of course, all creativity is dissolved.

In this case, I've had several spinning plates during the past week, all related to onerous health care insurance policies and having to wait until October so that I can shop for an affordable plan under Obamacare. This may not sound like much to most people, but as a single mom who sees 60% of my freelance income absorbed by health insurers, it is a significant issue and regularly drains my energy and creativity.

And face it -- holiday weekends are no picnic for those of us who are divorced. If you have your child under roof, you worry about whether they are missing out on the benefits of a "traditional family." And if your child is with your ex-spouse, you are relegated to finding ways to caring for yourself while alone.

In my case, it was the latter today.

Now I'm not telling you all of this to trigger pity. Life is what it is. My point is that all of us have our own storm clouds. They take different forms. But just like the rain on the 4th of July parades and fireworks, they can dampen the most steadfast among us.

What I decided to do next was flip the tables on this rainy day. I did an Internet search for book stores that were open on the 4th of July. If I couldn't read a book in a hammock, eat a hot dog from a street vendor while watching a parade or lounge under the stars to watch fireworks -- and if my Muse was not cooperating due to the worries -- I'd create my own version of a "new" way to celebrate. I found a place where I could meander through bookshelves, inhale the wafting fragrance of brewed coffee and escape into the tales written by others.

And that's when it happened.

On a table reserved for books about artists was one with a simple title: "642 Things to Write About." The cover was designed to look like blue-lined yellow notebook paper. And within the pages were statements, questions, descriptions -- and open spaces.

They were things like this:

"You are a pirate. Describe your perfect day."

"Fix the plot of the worst movie you've ever seen."

"Write a love letter to a person you dislike."

"Pen an ode to an onion."

It was a journal of sorts, except it was a book for writers to kick start their writing juices. The writing "prompts" were compiled by members of the San Francisco Writers' Grotto.

How cool is that?

I bought the book, along with some greeting cards and small gifts for friends and some Kentucky Bourbon balls for myself, and here's what I'm going to do:

For the next 642 days, I'm going to tackle each one of these prompts. I don't know where this will lead, if anywhere. But my point is that when we are saddled with too much worry and care, sometimes we need the insistence of others -- in this case, the dear writers of San Francisco -- to get us going again.

Maybe one of these entries will lead to a short story for a magazine.

Maybe one will lead to the beginnings of a great book.

And maybe one will just give me what I need for that particular day so that I can accomplish that which is most difficult for me.

Does real life crowd into your creativity?

Take a deep breath. Take care of yourself first ... and along the way, you may be surprised to trip over the next thing to inspire you to move those mountains of worries aside.

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