Monday, July 21, 2008

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel For a Creative Boost

It should be no surprise that the zombification both continues and appears to have eaten at my brain, not that this has to be a bad thing...

The last time my brain was eaten I ended up creating a whole human being. (Yes, it's true. Babies eat your brains! Pregnant woman actually lose brain mass while they're gestating. No wonder I couldn't finish a sentence back then! What they forget to tell you is that the brain does regain its mass about 6 months after the baby is born. I think by then mothers are too tired to be concerned about how much space the jelly in their skull cavity takes up so they don't remember to pass this little piece of information on. By then they're worried about all the other things the baby is eating!)

So it's not all bad news. Am I carrying a months worth of luggage under my eyes? Yes. Is my hair doing an impression of a birds nest? Uh huh. Are my eyes hanging out of my head? It certainly feels like it -

- BUT! -

- there are resources available to me to help me keep functioning in a creative milieu. (That's right I actually used a fancy word and put it in the correct context. Not bad for a zombie, hey?) Though it might be a fact that you're scraping the bottom of the brain-barrel (mmm, guacamole anyone?) for ideas and inspiration it doesn't have to be a case for despair.

You see, bottom of the barrel stuff isn't always bad. There's usually something surprisingly good to be found there.

Take vegemite for instance. Vegemite is the notorious black-like spread Australians spread on their toast for breakfast. It's a thick, paste-like substance that tastes yeasty and salty and vaguely like roast beef. While it is, without doubt, an acquired taste it isn't just a weird cultural affectation. As the highest known food-source of vitamin B in the world it's actually REALLY good for you! (Don't ask me what the non-food-sources are - I have no idea.) If you don't know much about vitamin B, just know that if you don't get enough or keep enough in your body you can get sick. Very sick. Days-on-end-paying-homage-to-the-porcelain-god sick. Vegemite eaters never have to worry about this problem - thus the saying 'happy little vegemites'.

Not bad for the scrapings off the bottom of a beer barrel.

Yes. Vegemite is basically what's left in the bottom of the barrel after the beer brewing process. (Kind of makes you want to try some now, doesn't it?)

And what's left in the bottom of our brain-barrels after a grueling time can be just as 'vitamin-filled' for our creativity, if we're prepared to sample it.

Being tired, fed up, and generally run down has a way of forcing you to realize what's important to you and what you love. You retreat to those people and things that give you pleasure or relax you and you have little energy to spare for those that aren't. The Big Ones feature, of course - family, pets, yummy food, sleep - but this is also the time where you find yourself picking up books to read just to escape (not because they're 'good' for you), where you watch shows you really enjoy without having to think too much, where you tinker around with seemingly-silly things that normally you'd consider a waste of time. And this will tell you something about yourself.

Apart from people you love and your nice comfy mattress, what are you drawn to when you're tired and running on empty? What are your retreats? Do you find yourself coming home with extra chocolate-chip cookies in the grocery bags? Do you find yourself looking for re-runs of Friends, Buffy or Scooby Doo? Are you suddenly devouring Star Trek novels, romance novels or other fiction you normally consider pulp?

What do I do? I start reading masses of paperbacks in series - starting with the first one published and continuing to the next one as if they were all one big book, I browse the internet for illustrations and pictures I like to collect into an 'inspirational pics' folder and I find myself rearranging my bookshelves. And there's more than one way to convince myself I could use another piece of chocolate (mmm, chocolate....)

How is this creatively-friendly?

It tells me that I'm more relaxed when there's order around me and yet it also tells me that I get tired of being disciplined the whole time. It tells me I'm a visual person and that my imagination is stimulated by other, visual creativity (also known as 'art'). It tells me I like to be immersed in one world and not pulled in many different directions. (It also tells me I'd better stay active otherwise that chocolate weakness will start making my clothes a bit snug! But that's a whole other topic...)

And how do I use this revelatory-information? When I'm writing and find myself frustrated, the immediate things I can do to get beyond it are to organize my resources and writing scraps, snippets and files for the project, that I should try some random methods and approaches to the project to mix-it-up a little, that I need to go back to the 'charged image' (or images) that got me writing in the first place, that I'll do better if I concentrate on one project instead of many and that a chocolate break may just be the thing to relax me out of my tense state of mind and into a more relaxed and muse-friendly one.

And there's one more very important thing I can learn from this: when I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel and my concentration is scattered, there's a good chance my creativity (i.e. the portion of my brain that enables my synapses to fire together like crackers at Chinese New Year and gets me writing) could use a vitamin boost of it's own - literally. And what's the best vitamin for this? Vitamin B.

Perhaps it's time for some vegemite!

NOTE: Comics from TOONLET by Cloister - make your own webcomic!

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