Today I’m grateful for creative downtime!
For the past two nights I’ve spent part of the evening doing something creative and it has felt good. Last night I did some calligraphy, which I’ve not had time to do for ages, and this evening I wrote down some of the story ideas that have been bouncing around my head for a while.
I often get ideas for books that badger me for weeks before I convince myself that they’re naff and eventually forget about them. However, I’ve had this current idea bobbing around in my limited free mental space (the space that isn’t taken up with uni work, you understand), so I decided to write it down. Typically I do this digitally. I have so many word documents that contain only a handful of words and jumbled thoughts, and more still that only have names and ages of some long-forgotten characters. Names are important to me and often my ideas will stem from an unusual name or place name and evolve from there. Other times, I am repeatedly visited by the idea of a character (frequently a woman with red hair – I’ve always wanted to be a redhead.) Aspects of her personality or life gradually present themselves to me and, often, they reflect part of my inner self. I always have the sense that this character and I are intrinsically linked, and she is always part of me in a way that the other characters never are. And yes – she is always a she. (Sorry guys, no discrimination intended.)
It isn’t the ideas that usually trouble me. I have so many fragmented stories in my head that I’d like to construct and unravel. However, many of these ideas feel foolish or infeasible when I consider them more deeply. I feel limited by my own experiences and my lack of knowledge about so many things, aspects of life that I have never encountered or experienced first hand… I feel like a child again, like I know nothing and have nothing genuine to share. I play Devil’s advocate with myself so much that, in the end, I tend to see all of the flaws and none of the positives…
All of this is before I’ve even started writing anything. However, tonight I decided to commit some of these ideas to paper. Actual, real paper. I opted for a pencil so that I could easily erase anything I changed my mind over, as I could have done on the computer. (I hate crossing stuff out. My perfectionism is, at times, a total pain!)
It was a surprisingly pleasant process. I didn’t love everything that I wrote. I didn’t give my characters names and intricate identities, I concentrated purely on plot and the possibilities therein. I focused on the process rather than the end goal and allowed my thoughts to come freely. A couple of times I revised my ideas and, in perceiving potential pitfalls, paused to consider ways around them. And when I felt like stopping, I did. I didn’t try and force more from my mind, to complete and conclude in the way that I’m so often driven to. I left the plot midway through and will allow my thoughts to percolate, for my characters to reveal more of themselves to me.
In contrast to my usual story development, my focus is currently centred on this image of a house – whitewashed and overlooking the sea. Unusually, the protagonist has yet to fully show herself, although I have a flavour of her personality. But mainly, I just see this empty house and I’m working my ideas around it, moulding the clay on my mental potter’s wheel… We’ll see how it goes.