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I write novels for teens and adults. Visit me here & on my website http://www.jenniferarcher.net

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Creative Kickstarts: Water, Walking & Words

Last night was the first class meeting of the creative writing course I'm teaching at Amarillo College. We had a nice turn-out--23 students! The ice-breaker exercise didn't go as smoothly as I'd planned but we winged it and everyone ended up getting to know one another a bit and had fun with it, anyway -- at least I did!

In class, we talked a little about the need to determine your best writing environment; whether you prefer background noise, quiet, solitude, other warm bodies in the room, etc. I mentioned that your preference can alter from book to book, week to week, and year to year, depending on changes in your life situation. For instance, when I had small children at home, I needed peace and quiet in order to write. I wrote early in the mornings before my family woke up, closed away either in my home office or propped up on pillows and under the covers in bed in my spare bedroom. And I would revise what I'd written during breaks at my part-time law-office job. Now that the kids have grown and moved out of the house, I feel stifled sometimes by the confines and solitude of my home office. I often write at coffee shops now, where there's noise, but not noise that's directed at me--as was the case when I was raising children! But one thing I failed to mention in class is that I also write outside sometimes when weather permits. Long ago, I noticed that ideas and words seem to flow more freely from my mind down into my fingertips and onto the page when water is nearby. Since I live in the landlocked great plains and don't have an ocean, river or stream within easy driving distance, my husband and I have turned our backyard into our very own tropical paradise, complete with palm trees, lush foilage and flowers, and even a waterfall. (That's it in the photo above!) Watching the water trickle over the rocks, listening to the soothing, musical sound of it, somehow frees up my imagination. To read a good discussion on the topic of water and creativity, click here.

Another "tool" I use for coming up with ideas, dislodging writer's block, or solving a plot problem is to take a walk. Get moving outside. Let the fresh air clear your head and let your mind wander. I don't know why walking works, but it does. And you're likely to burn off a few pounds and tone up in the bargain!

Reporting in on my "Do Something New" weekly challenge: Last week I actually managed to do TWO things I've never done before. (1) I trained to become a Volunteer Deputy Registrar--which is a fancy way of saying that I can now register people to vote if they live in my county. Then, on Thursday, I worked the voter registration drive at my alma mater West Texas A&M University. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was assigned to an outside table on the new campus mall right next to the impressive new buffalo sculpture and down from the new clock tower. I hadn't been on campus in a while and I was amazed at the transformation. What a gorgeous campus it has become! Flowers everywhere and walking areas instead of ugly parking spaces between buildings. Wow.
We had great success in signing up lots of new, young voters, too. (2)The second new thing I did: On Saturday morning I participated in the Walk For The Cure, supporting breast cancer research. One of my sisters, my parents and I walked approximately 3 miles through downtown Amarillo with hundreds of other folks, young and old. It was great seeing all the ladies in their pink t-shirts--the survivors of that terrible disease, my lovely mom being one of them.

What I'm reading and watching: In anticipation of Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Rick Bragg's talk next Tuesday night at the Amarillo Globe News Center, I'm continuing to re-read his memoir ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN'. It's even better and more impressive the second time around! My Netflix envelope arrived in the mail with the movie ATONEMENT. Haven't sat down to watch it yet. As for television, I'm glued to politics -- the campaign and the on-going financial mess. Why watch anything else? It has everything: drama, comedy, farce, horror, intrigue, bad acting!

Happy reading and writing,



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Anonymous said...

Good for you for your new things! I know your students are going to love your class.

And I can say your backyard paradise is SWEET!

When I DO write, I like to surround myself with instrumental music. It seems to really help my mind work better, streamlines me. MAybe it's a practice I should revisit. :)

Travis Erwin said...

Wish I had more time right now. That way I could have signed up for your class.

Christen said...

Yay! I'm so glad to see people getting involved with the election! (kicking myself for not being conceived half a year earlier. I want to VOTE!!!)