Letting Go in Creativity and Writing

Letting Go in Creativity And Writing

As a writer I look for great examples of creativity and approaches to art, whether it is writing, art, film, photography, dance, as sources of inspiration, technique or information.

I came across this video, initially drawn to it by the chalk art, but listening to the artist’s approach I saw it had applicability to writing. It confronted me about how as a writer I am attached to my words. It made me view the permanency of my words in a different light and to become less attached to them.

Watch the video here: Hand Drawn Chalk Art

As a writer, I want the words I write to have an existence beyond when I write them.

This video has taught me to let go of it, to understand I can erase and rewrite.

The process becomes important; the writing, drafting and editing until what I have left is a permanent record of what I do and say.

But even then I cannot be too precious about my words. When my words are read they will be interpreted, reinterpreted and misinterpreted; quoted and misquoted. And I’m cool with that.

For example, I wrote a piece of flash fiction, “The History of a Relationship As Told By A Mix Tape of U2 Songs.” It is in the reader’s interpretation of the song titles to make meaning. It doesn’t require knowledge of U2 songs, but if you know them it does enhance the story. I could have used almost any other band’s back catalogue for the same purpose; now I am imagining a story told by Pink Floyd song titles.

I have quoted some of the statements made in the video and make their connection and application to writing and the writing process.

“With paper, you’re using white paper or a toned paper and you’re going darker in value, which means you’re going black. On the chalkboard it’s already black so you’re working in the opposite way; you’re bringing your highlights to the front.”

The white paper or the white screen of a new document is often a terrifying prospect for the writer. Once you have reached “The End” of the first draft you are confronted with the darkness of the page inscribed with words. The editing process is like drawing on a chalkboard, bringing the highlights to the front, seeing the essence of the scene and the story and paring away what is not required.

“It’s about the biggest shape to the smallest shape. It’s about the big picture, not about the smallest detail… What is the biggest shape you see?”

Whether you plan everything in minute detail or let the wind blow past your bare butt cheeks as you fly merrily along where the plot and characters take you, there is still a simple premise and focus of the narrative. Developing a log line or brief statement about your work in progress means you have the really simple shape outlined. From there it is filling in the blanks and adding detail.

“Dynamic sketching – it’s about the interpretation of really simple shapes.”

When I am writing a new story, I like to know the end from the beginning, and have some of the points in between mapped out. This gives me the big picture, the biggest shape of the story. If I get focused on the little details, the motifs, symbols, characterisation, I lose sight of the big picture. Each of these details is an interpretation of the simple shape of the story arc.

“Because I enjoy the process more than the finished product, I can erase, I can let go of it… When you can let go of it, you can give yourself to it, give it focus.”

This is what first drafts are for. They are called ‘brain vomit,’ ‘word explosions,’ ‘smearing the alphabet with wild abandon.’ Call it what you will, the process is important. The finished product is a culmination of the process but if you’re too focused on the end, to be able to say, “I gave birth to this novel,” you won’t let go and you’ll focus on word counts, sentence structure and wickedly crafted metaphors to be the doyen of your writing group. You have to know when something isn’t working and not be afraid to excise it from your manuscript. It may be a character, a plot point, symbolism, dialogue, or sentences of description.

“When you’re too limited by how you think about your pieces, your pieces become limited as well.”

Letting go of preconceived ideas about the purpose of your narrative allows you to explore the ideas further, rather than being restricted in the parameters you have established. Let the narrative breath on its own rather than relying on you to breath for it, compressing its chest in the vain hope it will be revived.

In the words of Princess Leia to Grand Moff Tarkin, “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

Hold onto your work loosely but keep a firm hold. Be prepared to let it go if necessary and never lose sight of the big picture.

How tightly do you hold onto your words? Are you prepared to let go?


3 responses to “Letting Go in Creativity and Writing

  1. I loved the video clip, loved his art and love your comparison. I am currently looking at whole chapter in my WIP and am almost convinced the thing needs chucking, if not all together, at the very least condensed and divided between it’s neighbouring chapters. This post has underlined my feeling about my own work. Still not quite ready to slash through with a scalpel, not just yet 🙂 maybe tomorrow.

    • In co-writing with Jodi I’ve found it easier to cut words away as there is someone to bounce ideas off, discuss character and motivations. Today we had a good half discussion over skype about Jude and Ella-Louise. All for one paragraph of text to add in. Hence, the beauty of the beta-reader to be the fresh set of eyes.

      • I was thinking about the cutting away. As I edit I realise that while doing the NaNoWriMo is great for getting that first draft and 50k+, my ms is left with a superfluity of words. So therefore, cutting is a good thing. Right? Words for the sake of the word count is fine for the first draft and nano-ing, but they must go when it’s edit time! Party food is for Parties.

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