How do we nurture that creative flicker into the flame needed to write imaginative stories?
Setting the wheels in motion to create, allowing the mind to fly free ... as writers we all have different ways of reaching that place, zone, space, whatever you'd like to call it, that taps us into the creative well and flow.
Having a time to write when you are at your creative best is a good start. Also, having a place to work where you feel content, whether that be the garden shed, the kitchen table, or a rented office space, is important too.
And then there are the funny little rituals we use to ease ourselves into it ... Nuthin' wrong with those!
Author Toni Morrison is quoted as saying, "I tell my students one of the most important things they need to know is when they are their best, creatively. They need to ask themselves, What does the ideal room look like? Is there music? Is there silence? Is there chaos outside or is there serenity outside? What do I need in order to release my imagination?”
In this same piece from The Paris Review, she also tells us that "Writing before dawn began as a necessity. I had small children when I first began to write and I needed to use the time before they said, Mama—and that was always around five in the morning."
And because she was in the habit of getting up early to work, this became her writing schedule after her children were grown.
Toni has something to say about rituals too, those little activities we perform before we begin to write. Often we don't even know we're doing them and yet they are essential to 'getting started'.
"I, at first, thought I didn’t have a ritual, but then I remembered that I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark—it must be dark—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come... for me this ritual comprises my preparation to enter a space that I can only call nonsecular . . . Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense."
This mysterious process of creativity ... how does it happen for you? We often hear that writers are indulgent and dreamy creatures, staring into space for hours whilst seeking inspiration. Then we hear the other side where discipline is paramount - no time for dreaming and whiling the time away. Get to work, churn out those words and pages.
All very well to say but it's not that easy. Like Toni Morrison, we need something to ease ourselves into that place where we can create - and it is a place unlike the every day. As she says, it is a space she defines as 'nonsecular' - religious or spiritual. I"ve often thought about creativity: where does it come from, how does it arrive, is it a God-given gift? I still don't know and no longer question. I feel blessed to have it - well, mostly although at one time in my life I felt it was a curse, a burden. Now it's like an old mate that I hook up with. We chat, catch up, brainstorm, drink coffee together. I connect with it, like hooking up to to an electric power point.
I'm a 'Toni-Morrison-type'. I am at my best in the morning. After lunch, brain switch goes to off, time for a walk and other things. If I miss my morning slot, I propbably won't get much done that day. It's just the way it is.
What's your best time of day to work? Before sunrise? Are you a nocturnal, thirving in the silent dark of a deep night? MIddle of the day over lunch? And what are your rituals? Perhaps a cup of something nice, or a meditation at your desk before beginning?
It doesn't matter. The more eccentric and odd the better, I say!
As long as whatever it is can link you into that creative flow.