A Little Prompting #9

This week’s prompts push you with the idea of perseverance. Such an important idea for all creatives. 

Have at it!

THEME Perseverance
RANDOM LINE PROMPT She lay in the darkness, her husband’s warm indentation cooling. From the bathroom the stream of water striking the bowl overpowered the dripping of the showerhead.
PHOTOGRAPH Lamenthttp://epitemnein-epitomic.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/psalm-40-how-long-must-i-sing-this-song.html
SENSORY SUGGESTION A child’s wet kiss on the cheek
QUOTE Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little – Plutarch

Moving Forward When You’re Stuck Looking Behind You

How do you move forward creatively when you feel like you’re stuck looking back?

In the last couple of weeks I have been re-reading the collaborative epistolary novel, Post Marked: Piper’s Reach, I wrote with Jodi Cleghorn between January 2012 and April 2013. 

The novel has been thoroughly edited and we are now at the place of writing the synopsis. Late last year we began the process but due to a range of metaphysical circumstances it had been put on hold. 

For me, because I cannot speak on behalf of Jodi, the latter half of last year burned me out creatively. The pressure of my job (high school English teacher) and other external pressures saw me roll into January hoping for a recovery. But it never happened.

Putting this out there and waving it around with abandon: Writing a synopsis sucks.

It’s the Pit Of Despair from The Princess Bride coupled with the Pit of the Almighty Sarlac from Star Wars topped off by The Buzz Cut from Wayne’s World (Boy, it really does suck). As we wrote it, we felt the summary sucking the life away from the narrative we had created.

On top of the synopsis situation, other projects lay scattered like discarded underpants and it was killing me that they were unfinished. My sense of self in regard to my creativity and writing had disintegrated. I doubted my writing skills and wondered if it was worth continuing. Doubt is insidious, and lethal, to a creative life. 

But I am not one to go quietly into the night for a bag of doughnuts and never return. I used February and Post It Note Poetry to begin the rebuilding process. I gave myself permission to put projects on hold, think them through again.

Now that it is March, I returned to the first project on the list: the Post Marked: Piper’s Reach synopsis. I opened up the final document and began reading, familiarising myself with the story again. It was nice to come at it again with new and fresh eyes, delving into other aspects of the characters again and their development, marking up plot points and knowing I’ll probably cry at the end. Again. (And, yes, I did cry).

While doing this I went back to other pieces written in the Piper’s Reach world. The stories precede the events of the novel in that they are about the lives of Jude and Ella-Louise in their youth and in their adult life. They were done as an indulgent exploration of our characters from different perspectives (letters have a very limited frame of reference when writing).

The first is the Christmas Special Jodi and I wrote at the end of 2012. It recounts the events of the Surf Club Christmas party (mentioned in the novel) when Jude and Ella-Louise were in Year 11 (their second last year of high school). It introduces the main characters from a different perspective as each character had the opportunity to speak in their own voice, not limited to the first person recounting of Jude or Ella-Louise. You can read the Christmas Special here.

The second story is from Jodi. “What I Left To Forget” tells the story of Charlotte MacKay and Jake de Britto and is told from the 3rd person, a departure from the narrow focus of a personal letter.

I wrote a companion piece to it, which precedes it chronologically, but was written after a comment I left on Jodi’s blog where I riffed an idea. Jodi dared me to write a romance from the perspective of Jake. The resultant piece was The Photographer’s Concerto.

Any of the pieces can be read without knowledge of Piper’s Reach, and you can read the first letter from Ella-Louise here.

How did this help me move forward? 

Up until the reread, I doubted I could write well again. I hated what scrawl occupied my notebooks. Even when writing Post It Note poetry I felt hesitant and uncertain.

By going back into the past, I could see the progression of my writing skills. What I wrote 3 years ago is still good. Sometimes I wonder if it was really me who wrote the passage. It has been an encouragement to see that I can write. I am proud of those stories, the world that was created. Yes, it’s hard work, but rewarding when you see readers gain a connection. That was one of the most rewarding aspects of writing “Piper’s Reach” and releasing a letter a week to our small, but faithful, following who shared their love of the series and the characters.

Taking pause to reflect has allowed me to refocus my creativity and move forward.

If you’re stuck, unsure of the direction, pause, reflect, give yourself permission to stop for a time and look back as a way of seeing progression. It may help you move forward. 

Are you stuck? Feeling like momentum has stopped? Would looking back work for you to help you move forward?

A Little Prompting #8

Welcome to another set of prompts for this week. What have you been working on?

THEME Fidelity
RANDOM LINE PROMPT Everything creaked: floorboards, hinges, knees and back. Only some of them would respond to the liberal application of WD-40.


SONG/MUSIC VIDEO Aretha Franklin – The House That Jack Built

SENSORY SUGGESTION Running fingers down a paling fence, carefully avoiding splinters
QUOTE Complaining is good for you as long as you’re not complaining to the person you’re complaining about – Lynn Johnston

Failure Is Always An Option

Why is failure a negative response?

Well, yes, failing attempts at flying, playing with power points, or gaining your friends’ attention with the exclamation, “Hey, check this out!” can have negative consequences resulting in death, bloody maiming or a great story to tell.

Failure is couched in terms of shame, of disappointment, of not being successful, of letting people down, of not living up to a set of standards, morals or values. To fail, therefore, is to be less than, to be inferior, to be forgettable and forgotten. 

So when it comes to beginning a creative project, or learning a new creative art, skill or craft, we are programmed to think of our early efforts as failures. They do not meet up to our expectations of what it should be (and yes, there is a disconnect between what we create and produce, and the expectations we have set for ourselves in the production of our work but that’s another blog post). 

But as creative people, failure should not be considered a negative response to a project.

Failure does not define who we are as creative people.

Failure is not a measure of our worth.

Failure is a part of the creative learning process.

Every creative project we start is an experiment. It may or may not work. But that’s the beauty. When I am beginning a new story I am unsure if it will work. I write the first draft, let it sit, return to it and look for what needs to be improved (often, a lot of things). Whether it’s point of view, too florid in expression, characterisation or character development, dialogue or imagery.

A recent idea in its genesis. Pure unadulterated nonsense.

A recent idea taken from my notebook in its genesis of pure unadulterated nonsense. It’s all part of the failure.

Don’t be afraid to put in the hours of practice required. I think it’s where a lot of fledgling creatives stumble. They want the accolades but haven’t put in the necessary hours. The Mythbusters make it a part of their show: failure is always an option. It shows you one way it didn’t work. Repeat the experiment until you find the solution.

I love seeing Kathleen Jennings (@tanaudel) put up images of her sketch books, her practice pages, on twitter. She sits in public transport terminals, shopping centres, food courts and sketches people. Please check out her awesome work via her blog: Tanaudel.

I am very grateful for her permission to reproduce one of her images. I love how the colour frames a distinct individual. She had this to say about her process.

“They are part of my practice. I’m fairly timid drawing naturally. So I made myself use markers, limited colours, and draw people as they walked past. It made me commit, be bold, be confident and develop a visual shorthand.”


(c) Kathleen Jennings @tanaudel Used with permission.

Practice. Practice. Practice. 

I know I have not spent enough time behind my drum kit practicing rudiments, beats, fills. I have not practiced enough. The same applies to my writing; I need to spend more time with pen and paper scratching out paragraphs, lines, half sentences.

I have many documents of half started stories, poems, scripts and the like sitting on my computer hard drive as well as in multiple notebooks. This is the practice time spent conditioning my mind and perspective like an athlete to achieve the goals I have set.

Practice is repetitive. 

Practice is boring.

Practice develops a discipline.

Practice is extending the boundaries of your skills, extending the place of your tent (to borrow a biblical phrase).

And, yes, there will be failures. Days when you feel like you’ve been given a fork to eat a bowl of clear soup. Days when you feel like there’s a hole in your shoe (and it’s raining), sit in gum, forget your lunch and suffer the ignominy of a nasty paper cut.

This is failure. And it sucks. 

Keep practicing.

Write a paragraph a day. Sketch on the back of a shopping receipt. Doodle in the margin of the newspaper. Practice rudiments or scales for 5 minutes a day.

Keep failing.

Failure is always an option because it is a learning opportunity. Failure is necessary to grow and develop in our chosen creative field.

The path behind you is not littered with the carcasses of failed projects but the evidence that you have trained and practiced.


A Little Prompting #7

Hello there again.

I hear of people who want to be creative but haven’t found the access to ideas to get them started.

That’s what A Little Prompting is for: to give beginning creatives a helping hand.

But it’s not just for the novice and beginning. It is also for the professional who needs something to get the mind ticking over.

Here is this week’s set of prompts. Have at them!

THEME Precipice and Valleys
RANDOM LINE PROMPT The bowl of cornflakes sat on the table, dry as the Sahara. Without a second thought, she turned to the fridge and grasped the strawberry milk to turn the desert into an oasis.


SONG/MUSIC VIDEO Aerosmith – Livin’ on the Edge

SENSORY SUGGESTION The wind whistling through your ears
QUOTE If you can judge a wise man by the colour of his skin, mister you’re a better man than I – StevenTyler

I Could Never Be Creative

“I could never be creative!” 

A plaintive cry from those who see other people create marvellous things and all the while bemoan their own futile attempts. 

Perhaps they tried once, and failed, not to take up a creative tool again. Yet the desire is there, the want is there, the need is there. They feel something is missing, a vacant space on the mantlepiece that wants to be filled.

I suspect at the root of it is fear.
The fear of failure. 
The fear of commitment.
The fear of rejection by family and/or friends.
The fear of not being good enough.

Every creative person I know has these fears. I have these fears. However, I do not let the fear dominate. 

I know I will fail. This is how I will learn to improve.
I know I must have commitment. This is how I learn discipline. Without it, I will not achieve my goals.
I know I will be rejected. This is normal for a writer. Rejection does not define my creativity.
I know I will not be good enough. This is how I will strive for greater. Comparison is a false economy to judge yourself.

“I could never be creative!”


(Think Bob the Builder).

You can be creative. You have to give yourself permission to start being creative. You have to start. You have to continue. You have to finish. 

Then you start again.

Start small.

If you want to be a writer, write a paragraph.
If you want to draw, scribble on a Post It Note.

If you want to cook, make cupcakes.
If you want to garden, buy a pot plant.
If you want to knit, learn to knot a basic square. Knit enough to make a baby’s blanket.
If you want to serve others, volunteer for a local charity.

For whatever creative endeavour you want to pursue, start small. Something you can do in twenty minutes or half an hour once this week. Commit to doing this creative act once a week for a month. In the second month, commit to twice a week. Give yourself permission to miss it if you need to (just don’t beat yourself up over it). In the third month, commit to as often as you are able: once, twice, three times a week. Even daily.

It’s understanding the power you have to be creative. Doesn’t need to be world-changing, just changing your world. Creativity is a safe place; a place where you are able to be you.

Be creative. Create.

A Little Prompting #6

Welcome to another week of A Little Prompting.

What has been inspiring you? What have you been creating? Have you started something new or developing an older project?

If you’re stuck, here is this week’s prompts.

THEME The Wild Child
RANDOM LINE PROMPT He drank lemonade while everyone else drank bourbon; kissed his mother in public while other boys cringed in embarrassment and still wore black jeans in the middle of summer.
PHOTOGRAPH  David Bowiehttp://www.wineandbowties.com/music/david-bowie-rebel-rebel/ 
SONG/MUSIC VIDEO Gojira – L’enfant Sauvage
SENSORY SUGGESTION The smell of an old, worn leather jacket
QUOTE The gratification comes in the doing, not in the results – James Dean