Turns out the universe is sneakier than I thought. I’ve been feeling very un-creative lately. I’ve been worrying that I haven’t been writing enough, that I haven’t been photographing enough, that I haven’t been blogging enough. I’ve felt like I was wasting my days off from my day job because I haven’t followed through with my plan to devote them solely to creative endeavours. Instead they’ve been filled with dentist appointments and grocery shopping and other mundanities.
And then the universe started sending me messages–little moments of synchronicity that have become impossible to ignore. More and more of my friends seem to be reaching turning points in their lives. Everybody seems to be discovering that where they are now is not where they want to be and, in order to get where they want to be, they need to make scary decisions. The theme coming out of hours of deep and meaningfuls is that in order to get what you want, you have to take a risk and jump in wholeheartedly. You have to believe that you have the ability and determination to pull off your dreams. I started this process last year. However, it’s becoming clear that I haven’t quite managed to follow through. Going part-time at work was a big step for me, but I haven’t done enough with the time. I think the universe is onto me.
Perhaps it’s just me, but the number of inspirationals about following your dreams in my Facebook feed seems to have doubled in the last couple of weeks.
And then there are those stupid gambling ads on TV that keep yelling at me to back myself. Even Masterchef the other night (I swear I wasn’t watching it and just flicked over in the ads) was going on about how I am the only one that can make my dreams come true and that if I don’t actually do anything, I’ll forever be just a dreamer.
So I was going to write a blog post about how I was failing at writing and failing at photography and failing at being the change I need in my life. But as I was doing it, I started to come up with a list of all the things I’d been doing instead of being creative. And I realised I’d made a mistake.
A couple of weeks ago I did two of half-day courses in Photoshop and started going back over old photos to see if I could improve them. Turns out I could…
I also started a document of random, incomplete story ideas the other day. So I’ve actually been doing a couple of hundred words of writing every day even though it’s not on one specific project.
And on top of that, I made up some Valkyrie wings for a fitness model friend for her next comp. So it turns out that I’m a bit more on track than I thought. Instead of the horrible I-Haven’t-Done-Enough motivation I had at the start of this post, I’ve got more of an I-Can-Do-This motivation. It’s amazing how much more motivating that is. Thank you universe. I need to go write something.
2014 ended in an incredibly appropriate way for me…with a storm chase. It was only a few kilometres from home but it still counts. I saw the cumulus towers going up on the horizon, checked the weather radar and warnings and raced off to get a good position to watch it coming.
It wasn’t a very big storm, it didn’t get severe-warned and it fizzled pretty quickly.
But it still looked impressive and the chase took me back to the endless days driving across the endless plains searching for supercells in the American Midwest.
Because that’s what started all this for me. I found my passion for writing and photography and creativity on the plains, looking for storms. The swirling vortexes sucked me in, blew apart my old life and set me on a new path–into a dark forest, lit by lightning.
I’m starting to realise that my attention span, in relation to creative endeavours, is slightly shorter than that of a sugar-crazed squirrel in a forest full of trail-mix and rabid dogs. I started this blog almost six months ago with an idea for a novel about storm chasing. I spent a bit of time on that and then progressed through a series of photographic projects. Then yoga. Then learning French. Then an idea for a visual novel. Then an idea for an urban fantasy. interspersed all that with a series of trashy romance stories that will only ever be published under a pseudonym, should I ever finish any. And now the next thing…
…wait for it…
…steampunk Christmas decorations.
I know. “WTF?!” doesn’t even begin to cover it. My turkey spirit guide has been hanging around quite a bit lately so something like this was bound to happen. But even I wasn’t expecting the sheer magical insanity of this idea.
And while I was busily cutting gear wheels out of cardboard the other night, I had the idea of a Christmas party to show off all my hard work, create an incentive to finish it all and also to somewhat justify the effort. So now I’m writing a steampunk murder mystery Christmas party for a bunch of friends who were gratifyingly excited by the idea.*
I haven’t quite decided how I feel about this revelation about my creative attention span. Every new idea is fun and exciting and I begin all of them with the intention of finishing. And it’s not like I give up on previous projects when I begin another; they’ve all taken up residence in a clearing at the back of my mind. It’s quite a little community now and every so often one charges out of the brush and grabs my attention and I spend a bit more time working on it…Until the next idea comes along.
The problem is that advancement on any one project is slow in the face of the torrent of new ideas. It makes me feel like I won’t finish anything and I think this is the real root of what I wrote about in my last post. I’m hoping that the extra time I’ll have when I go part-time next month will give me a chance to get ahead of the inspiration stream a little.
In the meantime…
*I will post pictures.
Well, it’s happened again. Work on my storm chasing novel started to slow. I’m still in the planning and development stage. I’m spending longer planning this one than any of my earlier work because I really want to create strong, realistic characters. But I was enjoying it, plodding along. Then work happened. And a few social things. And then the biggest calamity…
Yes, the Portentous Turkey struck again.
I was walking to the train station to go meet a writer friend (Matthew Karabache) for drinks, looked up and there was the Turkey in the middle of the road. At the time I just thought, ‘Hey! That’s hilarious!’, whipped out my phone and took a photo.
I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN SOMETHING WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!
Because while drinking and talking, Matt happened to mention visual novels. I’d never heard of them before but a visual novel is sort of a cross between a computer game and those old Choose Your Own Adventure novels. The reader becomes the main character and as they read, they make choices that influence the story. They can choose to build relationships with some characters and ignore others and generally make the story as they go. All against artwork featuring the settings and characters. Each time you read one, you can make it come out differently. And, unlike the Choose Your Own Adventure books, they can and should have detailed plots and complex characters.
Isn’t that just the most exciting thing ever?! I can combine my fiction and photography into ONE EPIC MEDIUM!
DAMN YOU, PORTENTOUS TURKEY SPIRIT GUIDE!
It’s impossible for me to resist a new idea like this!
So the storm chasing novel is on hold while I explore this new medium and attempt to adapt an earlier novel idea into a visual novel.
It’s always exhilarating when a story idea grabs you by the head and gallops off down a road you didn’t even see. Of course, you have to run as well as you can to keep up. And it’s a little scary not knowing if it will go somewhere or if it’s just going to smack into the wall at the end of a cul-de-sac and waste all your effort. And your neck can get a little sore.
My current writing project started as the story of a young man discovering the ability to influence weather in a world ravaged by climate change. I struggled with that for a long time, trying to get a decent plot happening. Eventually, I realised that the problem was that my ideas were clichéd and the story had been told in other forms too many times before.
Then, inspiration struck and I suddenly had a new main character – a grief-stricken woman, conscripted by a government agency to confront and overcome the weather systems that destroyed her life. I found this story much more fascinating and almost immediately a solid outline formed. Once I had the plan, I began fleshing out the supporting characters.
However, now that I’m getting to know the other characters, they’ve started getting more and more interesting. The story has changed again. I now have an ensemble of increasingly complex characters working with and competing against each other. The plot is now looking very different to both of the previous iterations. It’s a lot more complex and will need a lot more planning but I think it will (eventually) be a much better story. Of course, that wall at the end of the road is looming. I just have to hang on, stay with it and hope we either bust through or jump over.
It occurred to me quite suddenly that, if I want to be a professional writer, I have to take inspiration a lot more seriously. If one of my goals is to regularly finish and publish stories, then inspiration is a resource I simply cannot waste. Any moment of brilliant thought has to be captured before it vanishes.
Taking that thought further, it makes writing a much more hardcore profession than I first thought. It’s 24/7! If I’m eating dinner and inspiration strikes, I have to write it down and deal with eating a clammy, vomit-like risotto later. If I have an idea in the middle of the night, I have to get up and write it down. I can’t just wriggle back to my optimal snuggle position and go back to sleep. If I’m in the shower, I have to get out and write that thought down and worry about things like towels and spilt shampoo afterwards. How many other jobs (aside from parenting) demand that level of dedication?
But, if I wait or put off getting ideas down in writing, the moment ends and the inspiration slips away. And that could be the difference between a good novel and a bad novel. Or even a good novel and yet another addition to the collection of unfinished documents on my hard drive.
It’s kind of like photographing lightning. You practice your camera skills, chase down a storm, find the right place and get all set up. Then you sit there and (if you don’t have a fancy lightning trigger – which I don’t) take photo after photo of clouds and clouds and more clouds and clouds until you think it’s never going to happen. But if you stop and let the moment go, you’ll never have the amazing shot that only comes when circumstances align and you click the shutter at precisely the right instant.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get dressed and mop up all the water.