Sunday, August 10, 2008

Co-Creative Writers

Co-creative writing.

This is not a creative adventure for two as it might first sound.
It's a solo gig.

This is what it's called when writers create something else in addition to their writing - something that ultimately helps the writing, either directly or indirectly.

I was reading a new author's blog and she* mentioned it was necessary for her to 'co-create' in order to write her best. This activity could be directly relating TO her work or just be a creative act WHILE she works but it has the same result. Whether it's cooking, acting or world-building, the idea is to 'play' so she can loosen up and let go of expectations she has about the characters and story in order to not force the outcome (avoiding a strained, superficial novel, not worthy of much except a complete rewrite. *shudder*).

I often read about people using music to aid their writing. It's becoming more and more popular for writers to list the music they were listening to for inspiration in their blogs and sometimes even in their books (see Rachel Caine's Music Page HERE for an example - she writes the UF Weather Warden books along with the Morganville Vampire series.) These 'playlists' are very interesting to read and listen to as it 're-invokes' the mood and atmosphere the author was surrounded by while writing and may even give you clues and 'insider-information' as to how the thought process was working at the time. I've even found a new-ish podcast that interviews authors & writers who specifically use music to aid their writing process and it's a fascinating listen. (The podcast is called Writers and Their Soundtracks and is hosted by Julie K Rose. You can find it - and listen to it - HERE.)

There's no doubt creating a playlist specifically for a novel is a form of creativity even though the music they use is not usually music they, themselves, compose (though I have found an exception in Matthew Wayne Selznick, who both compiles playlists for his novels and writes music for them which is very cool).

It's this exploration and expression in different/additional art forms as part of the writing process that fascinates me.

More and more I'm bumping into writers who paint**, writers who draw, writers who collage and writers who sculpt - all as part of their pre-writing, plot-knot picking and refresh-reboot process. Even the relatively new wave of writers-who-podcast find that creating and editing the voices, narration, score and sound effects (essentially creating an audio production) for their novels breathes life into both the existing works and provides inspiration for new ones. It's discussing these additional creative explorations that makes a whole lot of sense to me as far as process goes and encourages me in my writing too. And it's no surprise that a lot of these are organic writers.


Because I'm one of them. If given the chance I will collage settings, symbols, images, colors, objects etc into a new form to try and capture the mood, put together inspirational art boards, assemble mood slideshows, doodle costume ideas, storyboard the scene (when no one's around of course, and they don't stay on the planet long - I'd die a slow and painful death of embarrassment if anyone ever saw these!) and I have one project in particular that I've written and planned the entire 'movie trailer' to. (I'm working on those drawing skills too but until I can relax about it this blocks me rather than frees me up - yes, I've put myself on my own Works-In-Progress list!)

What's the point of it all? It helps me 'find' the story and keeps me true to that initial charged image that started me writing in the first place.

Oddly enough, it helps if I'm also being creative in other ways as well (I'm hoping drawing will join those activities soon), as if it flexes my creative muscle so that when I bring it bear on my writing, I have more creative oomph (and who doesn't like oomph!).

There definitely seems to be a 'frequency' needed for writing (for me anyway). I'm not talking about consistency of writing (though that definitely helps the word count). I'm talking about tuning in. It's not about waiting for inspiration (the days that comes are wonderful but in no way guaranteed). Instead it's about a particular way of thinking. The lack of Zzzs make it difficult to concentrate, without doubt, but there's something about a hazy brain - whether sleep-muddled or lack-of-sleep-muddled - that seems to bring a whole different sort of focus to a story and let it live a life of it's own. Any explorative creative play in the story-world (and even alongside it) helps keep me on track and seems to aid in communicating directly with my elusive Muse, quickly bypassing all the 'proper' (and dangerous) writer-ly conventions my brain wants to employ (you know, the ones that tend to end in wooden prose and destined for death-by-red-pencil).

When I create facets of my story in another form besides the novel-writing itself it seems to take on more life, become more dimensional and keeps me both
true to the real story I'm trying to write - no, SHOULD write and open to interesting possibilities.

When I'm making an effort to create in addition to (not in place of) my writing, tuning into my story - the REAL story becomes a LOT easier.

This isn't something I can methodically plan out. I just have to determine to do it, then start and see where it leads. It's exploration, it's experimentation, it's 'felt', it's organic and it's play.

When I realize other writers - professional writers - are employing these kinds of techniques in their own writing process I find the confidence to explore my own unconventional methods as I write my stories. There's always the concern that 'it's a waste of time' or 'there's no point unless you're creating something of professional caliber' but when you accept that it's part of the process it makes this 'play' not only OK but necessary. Then when the play has served it's purpose and it's time to write more words I'm already where I should be head-wise.

My only trouble then is staying awake long enough to get the words down before the images and voices fade and sleep washes away the dream...

... ZZzzzz...

*Dawn Metcalf - author of the soon-to-be-released YA urban fantasy novel 'Skin & Bones'.
** Chris Howard - author of the newly released dark urban fantasy novel 'Seaborn' (post about the novel coming soon!)
NOTE: Art is by surrealist painter Remedios Varo - click on any picture to be taken to a brief bio and a gallery of available paintings.

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