Tag Archives: Art

My Creativity Toolbox

I was out of town for a few weeks and to be honest, had zero creative spark. Nada. Not even an ember, it was just plain extinguished. Now that I’m home in my little corner of Oregon and back at it, I started thinking about the tools I use to get those ideas burning again.

Here’s what I rely on the most:

  • Music is a HUGE part of my writing. I think more than anything it helps to keep me from getting distracted. And to get very specific here – I love writing to Celtic music. If I’m writing a really intense scene, bring on the Riverdance! I use Pandora (it’s free if you don’t mind the occasional commercial) and I have some very finely tuned stations to fit my “writing mood.”
  • After many years as I handwritten writer, I finally transitioned to writing direct on the computer several years ago. Maybe not as romantic, but a much more effective use of my time. But when I’m stuck, I always default back to scribbling on a piece of paper. Instead of focusing on writing actual prose, I “talk myself” through a block. Such as “Okay, what I am trying to say here. I’m trying to get this character to____.” Before you know it, your story is off and running.
  • Write/draw/compose/create by a window. Even if it’s dark out, it always helps.

I started getting curious about what other artists use as tools to help with creativity. Here’s a few ideas that I might add to my own toolbox that are easily available online:

  • Allow yourself to get lost on Flickr…there’s some amazing photography on there to peruse and you never know, you may find an image that inspires your own project. (If you actually use it, make sure it’s part of Creative Commons!)
  • Many sites recommended using Pinterest for ideas…now, this is a tricky site for me. I tend to get VERY distracted on Pinterest and before I know it, three hours have passed and nothing is accomplished except 30 more pins. But I found searching specifically for “art journal ideas” or “art therapy”  or “writing prompts” came up with some amazing options! So if you tread carefully, I think it is a great creativity sparker.
  • Motivational quotes can be a big, well, motivator. For me, I have a poster with a Margaret Atwood quote hanging right over my computer.
Proof.
Proof.

To be honest, many of the websites that boasted “motivational quotes” were drowned with ads. I’m recommending my go-to for quote finding…which is good ol’ Goodreads. If you search for “quotes” they have a huge selection organized by tags such as love, knowledge, power, etc.

What are some of the tools you use to help “spark” your creativity?

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The Color of the Wallpaper in my Head

I see a specific shade of blue and I think of a Charles Vess comic.  I see another shade of blue combined with marigold and a Chanel lipstick red and I think of Wes Anderson.  I don’t think of the artist maybe as much as I do the way their art made me feel at a certain time.

It’s almost like when you hear a turn of phrase and think “Oh, that’s so Wodehouse” or that feeling that Chesterton would have phrased it in a similar way.  Or you see something quiet and startling in the spring and know you have wandered unknowing into a Neruda poem.

Color is different though.  There’s something about color that lift your heart and dashes it all at once.  The best writing speaks in color.

I am so much an infant still sometimes because I see something beautiful and I want to put it into my mouth.  Not to eat it, just because I feel like if I could take it in I would understand it better.  I am not sure if anyone else has that impulse, or if I’m just sort of regressed.

Patrick Rothfuss writes in green.  Neil Gaiman and Madeleine L’Engle write in the colors of Moonlight.

Paint is so difficult to shape into colors that make sense.  I am always in awe of painters.

This last weekend I was laid flat with a pressure headache and didn’t make it outside as I wished, nor could I draw or paint.  But as I thought about color and saturation, hue and contrast, Robert Frost just ran through my head over and over… “I have been one acquainted with the night”.  I don’t know what color the poem is, but I feel like I have been one acquainted with color. Perhaps some day we shall be friends. rcw600x600

 

Wesley and White-ness

Oh Charles Wesley, I sort of love you and dislike you deeply all at once.  Though I tend toward Wesleyan and Methodist congregations out of preference, I always come to little bits of un-comfort in the writings of the Wesley brothers.

I wanted to write about “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing” because I love the build up in the song,  it is just a really triumphant sounding piece especially if you are at a church with an organ and an organist who really knows how to jam.  Wikipedia tells me that this tune is by Carl G. Glaser, and the one they sing in the UK is a different tune… which if Wikipedia is to be trusted makes me wonder how much I’d like the song with a different tune.

Doing my research on this piece, it seems it was written by Wesley to commemorate the year anniversary of his renewal of faith.  I had no idea it was a 10 verse poem originally, or that it had the  verse with the very problematic imagery of:

Awake from guilty nature’s sleep,
And Christ shall give you light,
Cast all your sins into the deep,
And wash the AEthiop white.

See, this is what I’m talking about.  I’m all into the triumphant nature of the song and the freedom of belief… and Wesley uses the imagery of washing an Ethiopian white.

Now, I get that he lived in a time that was super racist.  I get that the missional statement of the time was that brown people needed God because they were savages.  I get the socio-political and cultural context of the poem.  It still makes me upset.  It still makes me feel like it alienates a bunch of people from the song.  Most hymnals agree, and don’t include that verse… in fact, you usually get only 4 to 6 of these verses (and if you are Wesleyan you probably only sing the first and the third anyway, haha).  But now I know it’s there.  You might say to me that the imagery is saving an African, not whitewashing them, but I think you will find that contextually that’s Saving An African, not sharing the gospel with a human who happens to be from Africa, and has way more whitewashing than a poem with imagery of whitewashing, and oh man I’m not sure how equipped I am to really address that level of Patriarchy all throughout recent Christian history in a quick blog about a hymn.

And here is where we approach the hymn as a piece of art,  a religious poem as a poem.  Is it good to just throw out the part that is racist to save the rest of the piece?  Have we missed an opportunity to talk about religious leaders as fallible people? Should we address the idea of being Clergy as a career path and the pitfalls that come along with that?  Why should it get a free pass because of time and place? Am I holding it to a higher standard than I would another piece because of it’s use in worship and is that a good thing?

As a poem, I find it fascinating to delve into.  As a hymn, I find the truncated version beautiful. As a human, I find the inherent racism troubling.  As a Christian, I find the historical context embarrassing.  As a white person, I have the privilege if I want to skip the verse, pretend it never happened as my place in the song’s internal world is secure… but I don’t think that is a good use of my privilege. What do we do with the huge swaths of our culture that were inherently passively racist?  I mean, I’m asking.