Month: June 2019

Podcasts and the Well

Perhaps it’s the time of year or maybe it’s the time of life, but lately my inbox has been filled with blogs about “filling the well.” The phrase refers to Julia Cameron’s iconic, The Artist’s Way, in which she posits that to be creative the artist must have a deep well of experience and detail in order to pour out our creativity on the page. For many writers, this book is required reading, and re-reading.

One of my blog friends took a nature walk. I can definitely identify with that. Nothing like flowers and trees and water and the sound of birds to refresh the soul. Another learned a new skill — and perhaps a discovered a new hobby. Another technique endorsed by Ms Cameron.

A corollary to “filling the well” is the artist’s date. In this case, the writer takes herself on a date. She may go to a museum, take a walk, go window-shopping, take in a concert. The range of activity is limited only by the author’s imagination. The one rule for the date is that the writer must go alone.

While I understand that Ms Cameron’s thesis that the artist needs to be alone to avoid distraction, I don’t always agree. Sure, a walk on the beach with the wind and the waves, alone with your thoughts is a great refresher. But, as writers, we spend many hours alone. Sometimes, when I go on a date, I want company. I want to hear another’s voice, hear another’s thoughts, hear another’s laughter. The number of hours available for solitary well-filling is limited so I’ve hit on a compromise. When I really crave company, but want to open my mind to new things, I listen to podcasts.

In a way I’m still alone. I don’t have to answer any questions or smile politely or hold my tongue when I disagree, but I have the comfort of a human voice. Plus, it’s kind of like a free university. So many topics to chose from. I can get a new perspective on history. The Secret Life of Canada. I can get a music lesson. Ted talks is one of the best known broadcasts for new ideas, old problems and deep thinkers.

I’m a news junkie and a raving Canadian so CBC podcasts appeal to me. There are also many podcasts on creativity. Basically, pick your topic and someone has discussed it on the air somewhere, sometime, and you can listen in as mood and time permits.

I wouldn’t suggest podcasts can take the place of listening to a live concert, or attending a lecture or walking in a forest of tall trees. Those are all essential “fill the well” activities, but sometimes we need to look outside our own interests and try something new. A podcast may be just the spark to set your creative fires burning brightly.

P.S. Anyone care to recommend a favourite podcast? Leave a comment and I’ll send you one of my short stories.

 

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Writing Tips from Calico Cats

Now that the calico cats have taken over my life, I thought I’d pass on a few writerly hints I’ve learned from them.

  1. Anything is a toy —  a crunched up piece of tissue paper, a string, a dust bunny, your human’s fingers… That expensive invention from the pet store  will have a short life.        For writers this brings back the old adage of “write what you know.” It is tempting to think that travel to exotic places or rubbing shoulders with glamorous people would solve all our writing woes, but stories come from our imaginations. Exotic locales are only embellishments. Use the people and places around you to pepper your stories with “real life.” Even if you live in the dullest neighbourhood of the dullest city in the dullest country in the world, you know stuff. How about your busybody uncle? Take certain aspects of his character, exaggerate them and weave them into the mentor character in your story. Do you have a neighbour who obsesses over his lawn? That’s a gift to the story-teller
  2. Be curious. The world is an exciting place, observe, ask questions, reflect, rework, read widely. Spend an afternoon with a master quilter or a farrier or a dog walker.  Recall some of your childhood dreams. Did you want to be a ballerina? Volunteer at your local dance school and learn the behind-the-scenes reality.  You never know when those tidbits of information you pick up can add depth and interest to your stories.
  3. Pace yourself.  Play hard then nap.              For writers this is “Scene and Sequel.” Jack Bickham wrote a whole book on the topic but the essence of the concept is that scenes are full of action — stuff happens. Scenes are exciting, they move the plot they put the characters in dangerous places. Sequels happen after the scene. They are a time to catch your breath, think about what just happened and plan your response.
  4. Purr. Even a naughty cat can melt an owner’s heart with a full-throated purr.                                                                                For writers this equates to playing well with other writers. Be kind. Be generous. Post a review when you can. Send your favourite author a fan letter or comment on her blog. Offer a critique. Sometimes it seems we labour in a vacuum. Offering encouragement makes you a nicer person. Readers want to know nice people.
  5. If you’re cute enough, It is a very cold heart indeed that can resist a cute kitten .              For writers this means packing your work with sparkling prose, memorable characters and unexpected twists. Good grammar alone won’t save a poor story, but if your words are engaging readers will be more willing to suspend disbelief and accept the, perhaps, preposterous scenario you’ve presented. I know I’ve thought, “that can’t ever happen,” yet read to the end of the book because I enjoyed the conversation I was having with the author.
  6. Life’s an adventure — enjoy the ride.

Now, the calico cat just hid my pen. I’m off to discover the world under my desk.

 

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