Friday, December 07, 2012

Staying Creative

Over the past four months I've been working on my critical thesis for my MFA in Writing for Children and YA (through Hamline University in Minnesota). In earlier semesters I was writing essays, but also doing a lot of creative work, so it balanced out. This semester, after two months, my adviser said, "When you send the next draft of the thesis, how about sending me some creative work, too?" It wasn't until I sat down and wrote some poems for my new verse novel that I realized what was happening - I felt freed up and joyful about writing again!

Don't get me wrong - researching for the thesis, thinking deeply about what I wanted and needed to say, roughing out ideas, diving even deeper into the topic - all of this has been terrific. Challenging, yes, but it's been immensely satisfying to be able to think about what a verse novel really is, and more importantly, what it can be. Other people's ideas and opinions feed into this, but ultimately it's up to me to work it out. However, actually writing poetry is a whole different thing. Like going from overhauling a car engine to actually driving it down a sunny country road at 100 miles an hour! (And I'm not going to count how many adverbs are in this paragraph.)

I've continued with the verse novel, but now the thesis is done, I'm working hard on revising a historical novel I've been writing for 18 months. It can take me 3 hours to rewrite about 8 pages, so this is a major revision, not tinkering around the edges, and it requires a lot of concentration and focus. On the other hand, at night, while my husband watches TV, I've been reading the last 38 issues of Poetrix, the poetry magazine that my writing group publishes. After 20 years, we are closing it down - it's a lot of work and we've decided it's time. But our last issue will be a double and will include our favorites from Issues 1-38.

What I have found is that reading through so many poems, night after night, is inspiring me to write single poems again. Not verse novel poems, where character and story and voice are also important, but poems that just arise from the ether, sparked by an image or a word or an idea. And I'm back driving down that country road again. It's reminded me that not everything has to be perfect, that to simply write for the joy of it, without expecting anything except fun (and often passion or those exciting sparks) is real freedom in writing, and to be savored and encouraged.


Lucia Nardo said...

I was sorting through papers this afternoon and came across a whole lot of my ‘writing for the hell of it’ on loose leaf pages. I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote these and none necessarily translated into anything more concrete but it was evident from the amount that I was in ‘the zone’. Sometimes you just have to write to hear the scratch of pen on the page. It’s the best sound to me!

Sherryl said...

You would be surprised how it feeds in. Over the years I've done a few "write a poem every day for 28 days" things in notebooks. Years later, when I've looked through them, it has astounded me how many of those early scribblings have re-emerged at some point as a fully-formed poem or piece of writing. The mind truly is a giant, intuitive filing cabinet!

Kristi Holl said...

Oh this was a good reminder to me today. In the hubbub of Christmas rushing around and meeting other nonfiction deadlines, the novel work had been rushed (if at all). This morning, before anyone else is up, I'm heading to the novel to just enjoy it again. Thanks for the prod, Sherryl!