The Creative Process
I am sitting here in the middle of a mess. Dozens of books are scattered around the room — reference books, a few westerns, lots of romances — and my desk is littered with notes, calendars, last month’s royalty statement from my publisher, and a few classical CDs. Let’s not even talk about the paper plates with the remains of the cheesy Mexican chicken and bean pizza I’ve been eating while working. A shipment of printer inks just arrived along with an order of fragrant essential oils — my weakness — and everything is crammed together in my tiny little office. Yes, I will put it all away…as soon as I figure out where it all goes.
Without doubt, the best definition of creativity I’ve ever heard is “making a mess, and then cleaning it up.” The first time I heard it, I was in the midst of a project with papers, cut-outs, and notes strewn across the floor. I could definitely relate to the “making a mess” part of the equation. It’s true. Being creative usually involves a big mess.
But I’d never before considered the “cleaning it up” aspect. That day, however, as I begin putting the pieces of the project in order, I realized how perfectly the concept worked. Yes, we make messes, but as we clean them up, the mess turns into something new, something exciting, something we’ve created.
Writing, of course, is one of the most creative endeavors we can pursue. I’m surprised, though, by how often people try writing stories without making any mess. Too many writers seem to think that the act of writing something down — whether on paper or on a computer screen — means making a commitment. Some struggle with character charts and interviews, and attempt to outline every last detail before they begin writing. Others, who like to call themselves “pantsters” claim to sit down and write without knowing where they’re going, but as often as not, they end up writing themselves into fictional corners and don’t know how to get out. They run into walls, often referred to as “Writer’s Block”.
The problem in both cases, I think, is that dreaded fear of “making a mess”, because heavens! If we make a mess, we’ll have to clean it up. It sounds dull, it sounds boring, it sounds like a lot of hard work.
Maybe, but writing is work. It can also be fun though.
Right now, I’m not only sitting in the middle of a literal mess in my writing room, I’m dealing with a ridiculous mess in my head — figuratively speaking. I’m throwing out ideas for a new romance. And, brother, do I mean throwing!
I have Daisy, and I have Cecelia, and maybe I have a werewolf or two. I don’t read or write paranormals, so where the wolves came from is anybody’s guess. I have political intrigue, and a fantasy world with a grand Procession of the Nobles where the rich throw alms to the poor. Nice idea, but it will probably get tossed in the trash when I clean up this mess. I have an evil mistress, no idea who the main character is — will it be Daisy or will it be Cecelia — and there’s a greedy aunt and uncle, and Athene wants to help her father by sleeping with Michael, and maybe Daisy catches them together, and oh, my! Daisy was involved in some moon-goddess cult and she was out dancing naked in the moonlight, and somehow they killed a man, and now if anyone finds out it will ruin Michael’s political career because she’s supposed to marry him since his brother died and…enough. It’s crazy. It makes no sense. It’s not supposed to at this point. It’s just supposed to be a mess.
Later, I’ll clean it up and somehow I’ll figure out where everything — and everyone — goes. The werewolves will probably be banished to Siberia, and the moon-goddess cult might become something slightly less fantastic. The greedy aunt and uncle could turn out to be extremely kind, supportive folks, and where it will all end is anybody’s guess at this point. But, once it’s cleaned up, it will be all right.
Every romance novel I’ve written has started out as a mess. I play around with my characters, spend hours writing silly scenes where they sit and talk to one another about the story and the roles they’re supposed to play. They do weird things — like throwing their hands up in the air and then catching them. I like to write weird things while I’m making my messes.
Writing is work, but work can be fun, and as long as it’s fun, I’ll keep doing it.
My point is this: don’t be afraid to make messes. Have fun when you write. Be outrageous. Do crazy things. Grab every ridiculous idea that pops into your head and play around with it. Afterward, when it’s time to clean up, you can throw out the trash. Or better still, you can hide it away somewhere. Never know when you might need a werewolf or a greedy uncle!
Blurb: Happily Ever After
Historical Romance Published by Sweet Cravings Publishing
Anne Hopkins wants to help Rowena Mather, a troubled 9-year-old girl who is grieving over her mother’s death. But helping Rowena means dealing with the girl’s father, too.
George is a desperately lonely man. He’s drawn at once to his daughter’s new caretaker, but his heart is trapped in the past, still bound to his late wife, Margaret, and to the vow he made to her.
An innocent child with frightening nightmares, a broken man struggling to cope, and a devoted grandmother who can’t stay away from her opium…the Mather family need Anne in their lives.
But what of the secrets Rowena shares about her father? Could George be the dragon of Rowena’s dark dreams? Has his grief turned him to anger and violence?
George has questions about Anne Hopkins, as well. He’s seen her with another man, and he’s heard the rumors about town. Is she the kind-hearted woman she appears? Or is she hiding a shameful secret?
Happily Ever After is available at the following online booksellers:
Christina Cole fell in love with words at a very young age. She’ll always be grateful to her grandfather and his patience as he taught her the joys of reading. Throughout her childhood she loved telling tales. She begged and pleaded for her mother to type them, but soon — with her grandfather’s guidance — learned to type for herself on his old Underwood. Things have changed now. Her grandfather is gone, and so is the old typewriter, but Christina’s love for story-telling has remained strong. She now does her typing on a computer in a cozy little writing room filled with books, treasures, and a much-cherished photograph of her grandfather.
She is married, lives in the midwest, loves history, hates winter, and is happily at work on her next historical romance.