Find a place you trust . . . Part II

A private space

Photo copyright Ev Bishop

The Saturday before last, I wrote about Rule 1 (Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while) from Corita Kent’s Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules. This week I fully intended to explore one of her other wise instructions, but realized I wasn’t finished with finding that place you trust (or it wasn’t finished with me).

I previously thought of the place she refers to on inner terms: finding that place within you that wants to create, allowing it room in your life, and having faith that it will always be there within you, ready when you are. I still think that’s the most helpful reflection on the quote (for me)—yet a literal, physical space also strikes me as very important.

I know other writers who can pile up plots, twist story threads, and ponder deep thoughts in coffee shops, on buses, in parks . . . you name it. Their muses seem to spring to life and find amusement anywhere and everywhere. Not so for me.

Perhaps ironically, creative spontaneity is more likely to hit me when I plant my butt at a specific time, with great regularity. The more disciplined I am in carving out time and adhering to it, the more wild my imagination and flights of fancy seem to be. I don’t really understand that . . . but it’s how it works for me. And the same can be said about having a private space to work that’s all my own—that people don’t interrupt me in, that I can trust is for my eyes only.

One of the greatest gifts I ever gave my writing (thanks to my husband’s ability with a hammer and saw) was my own work station in my old house—a corner nook in the heart of the house, that, literally, put my nose in the corner for my writing stints. Now I have an actual office. With a door. I love—and I need—to be able to shut the world out, while I go inwards.

The idea of people watching me work and wondering what I’m up to is intimidating, makes me self-conscious, pulls me out of whatever world I’m trying to tread into. Random questions, or, worse—gulp and blech!—requests to “share” a piece in progress shuts me down. Doesn’t inspire at all.

One of the most damaging things I ever did to my writing (twice, before I learned!) was to share first a long short story, then later a novel (much worse!) with a “first reader” (different people each time), before I felt the stories were ready to be read.

It took a bit to recover, but I learned a valuable lessons (why are those often so painful?). I not only need a private, physical place I can trust. I need a private emotional place. This is very subjective and personal, but I have no interest and see no value in having young drafts responded to, let alone critiqued. But you learn what works for you as you go along. . . . Other writers swear by a more shared “process.” Still, I think, most writers would say that first drafts especially require privacy. That they, at least need to be able to choose when and if and how the bit of their souls they put into print are revealed.

So yes, for me, the place I need to find, keep and trust that Kent refers is both figurative and literal, but I’d love to hear thoughts on this. Do you need a private place to work, or do you like public/shared spaces? And when it comes to projects . . . do you workshop and share as you go along, or do you, like me, prefer to wait ‘til the story is solid, quite close (sans final cutting and polishing) to what you envision the finished result will be?

Find a place you trust

Trust That Place

Trust That Place

A week or so back, I wrote about the power and inspiration I found in Corita Kent’s words, “Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There’s only make.” I then promised (threatened!) to share my thoughts on some of the other Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules in the future. Well, the future, to quote some guy from somewhere, sometime, is now. And I’m starting with Rule 1.

Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while.

If you read my blog, you’ve no doubt heard me allude to some of my many insecurities and neuroses as a writer (and sometime, just to change things up, I’m going to write about the flipside—the bizarre ego and arrogance I also have . . . but that’s another day). I almost always go on to say that the solution is to write anyway. Write through the fear. Write through the conviction that whatever I’m writing is crap. Write through the confidence that this piece is the one that will finally pull the curtain from in front of everyone’s eyes and reveal me for the impostor I am. Etc., etc., etc! (And I believe that: writing through, despite—even because of—whatever terror or sadness or confusion I’m feeling is crucial.)

I’m sure I’ve also shared that when I’m writing, in the act itself, I’m freed from my obsessive inner whining, criticizing, and self-abuse. I love stories. I love words. I love the adventure and freedom and challenge in trying to express the worlds within me—and I’m endlessly fascinated by the worlds and wild places that exist in others. On the outside we often share such similar lives—and our inner lives have similarities too—but how those similarities manifest in our dreams, visions, and imaginations are so crazily divergent.

I trust that writing place, when I’m deep into a plot, running through an essay, or mucking about in the dark recesses of my past, one hand out so I don’t smash my face on a low hanging limb, searching for the word or phrase to get that image out on the page.

I don’t always know why I write (though I try to articulate it once in awhile)—or what I should write. (Is there a form of writing that’s higher than another? Are some literary or artistic pursuits more worthy than others? Is seeking to entertain enough? Can one ever aspire to more than that without being a pretentious idiot?) But I trust that I should be writing. And I trust that inner place.

It’s the latter part of the quote I’m working on: And then try trusting it for a while. As in, maybe letting myself get all crazy with self-doubt and angst and really mean self criticism when I’m not physically writing is something I can work to let go of . . . and, actually, as I write this, I realize something that makes me freakishly happy: to a large degree, I have let go of it.

Yes, I’m still familiar with the winding tunnels of insecurity—but I have map to get through them. I know the language of creativity curses—and have counter spells. I used to want to write, need to write—yet didn’t write. I didn’t trust the place—and wasn’t sure it existed, or that I could find it if it did exist.

It is still hard to get to the page . . . fighting inner dragons, toughening up your maiden self, nurturing your mother side, honing your inner crone . . . it’s hard work (exhilarating, joyful, fun—but also intimidating, trying, scary . . .) But something has changed. I used to worry . . . What if there’s nothing there when I try to write? Now I know there’s stuff there, will always be stuff there . . . It’s more like I have to use a scythe to cut all the distracting ideas away so I can get to the ones I really want to explore.

I trust the place. I’ve been trusting it for a while. And that’s . . . well, pretty cool.