How do you put together a creative life?
First, a status report. My next deadline is at the end of the month, when I have a Folkroots column due. I thought this might be the one in which I wrote about the myths and legends behind the Narnia novels. But that will take more research than I have time for now, and I still have to think about what to use for illustrations. So instead, this month I’m going to write a brief history of monsters. I think that might be interesting, right? Then, I need to complete the Secret Project, and I also have a dissertation chapter due. Yes, that’s a lot, I know. But what wonderful projects they all are. You’re really going to like the Secret Project, I promise.
And in the meantime, a very nice thing has happened: my story “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter” is one of the storySouth Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2010. Here is a lovely review of the story. I’m especially glad that people seem to like “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter,” because I love those characters and want to tell more of their story. There is so much more that they’re going to do . . .
But back to my question. How do you put together a creative life?
I asked myself that today because sometimes I wonder if I’m straying too far from writing in this blog. After all, it is supposed to be a blog about the writing life. And there I was this week, writing about face cream. But you know, I think at some level it all fits together. I want to create a life for myself in which I’m productive, and in order to do that, I need to take care of myself. I need to eat healthily, which is not at all easy for a writer. Last weekend was a long weekend here in Massachusetts, where Patriot’s Day is an actual holiday. I spent the entire weekend writing. Some nights, I was up until 3 a.m. And I found it very hard to eat healthily. I found myself substituting food for sleep. That’s another thing I need to be productive, sleep. And not just sleep, but rest. I need a quiet mind, and quiet all around me. (That’s why I wrote a blog post on appreciating silence, which will be broken at approximately 9:00 tonight, when Ophelia comes back with her grandparents.) And I need to feel well and happy in my own skin, which is where the face cream comes in I suppose. It is when I feel most confident, and most as though I’m being the self I want to be, that I do my best writing.
And in addition to taking care of myself, I want to take care of my surroundings, to make them beautiful, unique. I want to create my writing and living space. So I blog about going to antiques stores, to thrift shops. It’s all part of an effort to create an environment for myself that allows me to focus on writing.
So I think you put together a creative life out of small things. Or at least I do. Out of a rock that says BELIEVE sitting on my desk, where I can always see it. Out of just the right brand of cheap pens. Out of a collection of thrift store cardigans, brown and gray and rose. Out of an annoying cat. Out of a bowl of acorns picked up in a park.
And you put together a creative life out of all the intangible things I also write about: making choices, and taking risks, and searching for beauty wherever you can find it.
I suppose that’s why this blog can seem so scattered sometimes. Because my own creative life is a continual process of bricolage, of putting together things that can seem disparate in an effort to create a greater whole. But that’s what a writer does. A writer is a sort of bricoleur, always putting together the material of life in an effort to find meaning. As I attempt to do here.