Creative Autobiography

First creative moment I remember:

That’s an issue. I don’t remember a creative moment till high school. Then I wrote poetry in a journal and wrote a poem that the visiting poet liked so much he asked to take it with him.

If I made art in school, I don’t remember it.

I do remember swinging on a swing and singing Popeye. Is that creativity?

I remember teaching my family a song I learned at church when I was four or five. Is that?

The earliest story my family tells on me is someone asking me a question and me telling them a giant whopper, because I learned that from my father. Storytelling is definitely part of my creative DNA.

I remember in high school telling my sisters stories until they would fall asleep. I told them that I was an alien, with parents from Venus and Mars who had died in a flu epidemic on earth and I had been adopted…

I always loved to write and tell stories. That’s what people say, but I don’t remember writing or telling stories before high school.

Ah. I thought it had to be one I had done. No. The first creative thing I remember is singing with my folks and singing with my pastor at his house on his piano. And baking cakes with his little girl in her Easy Bake oven.

Anyone there?

Yes. The creative moments I remember, aside from the swinging, all had audience.

What is the best idea you ever had?

To marry R.

Creatively… To teach description using riddles and pictures? To model writing for my students? To tell Dielli’s story… “She has a name. We just don’t know it.”

Hmm. Maybe my creative DNA is storytelling and non-anonymity. Maybe I want an audience. I think I do.

How do you begin your day?

I get out of bed and turn off the alarm. I go to the bathroom and take my medicine and pee, or vice versa.

What is your creative ambition?

To write things that others read and appreciate.

… You know, it doesn’t have to be nonfiction. I love the fact that one of my blogs gets thousands of hits each month looking for help on a writing project.

I think I always thought it had to be nonfiction and that seemed a little scary. What if people didn’t like it? What if I got rejected?

Describe your first successful creative act.

The teacher gave us an assignment to write a poem. I wrote one, a long one, on being on the bus at camp in North Carolina. (I was living in New York by then.) I gave a lot of the interesting details, those being the ones I remembered and thought were interesting. The poet agreed. He read my poem to the class and asked if he could take it with him.

Describe your second successful creative act.

I wrote articles for the school newspaper in high school. I got some of my poetry published in the school literary journal in college.

Compare them.

All around the same time. All creative. All writing. All things I wanted to do. All things I was proud of. All things I did well.

Which artists do you admire most?

Ah, that’s an interesting question.

Suzanne Brockmann, though I don’t agree with her worldview. Mercedes Lackey the same. David Weber, though sometimes he’s too detailed for me. Gordon Dickson. Robert Aspirin.

Tarkay. Treby. Benfield.

You know, all of those people in the second list are figurative artists who are somewhat abstract and use color well. (Okay, Benfield doesn’t use a lot of color.)

But maybe that’s why I like them. Detail with the edges washed out…

Maybe that’s related to my creative DNA. Earlier I thought that my creative DNA probably had something to do with my focus on one part of a conversation and then my walking off without saying goodbye on the other side. I took it out because it seemed too negative, but it’s something I need to think about. I think there’s a kernel there.

Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?


Who is your muse?


When confronted with superior intelligence or talent, how do you respond?

By getting better myself. Applying myself. Working harder.

When faced with stupidity, hostility, laziness, or indifference in others, how do you respond?

With hostility, sarcasm, or indifference. Ouch.

Am I a mirror then? A sheet of shiny metal that only reflects (and warps) what it sees?

What is your ideal creative activity?

Writing. Writing poetry, letters, novel.

When you work, do you love the process or the result?Greatest fear?


Focal length

This is something R talked to me about. What is your creative DNA? How do you see the world?

Tharp writes about what good ways the focal length is seen… like in West Side’s Story’s choreography or Raymond Chandler’s details.

What is my focal point? It’s not big picture. I’m definitely not looking at the world as a whole. I guess it’s far more detailed, though not, I think, as detailed as Chandler.

Of course, in thinking about my face (see the last post) I was very detailed.

But I don’t think I really take in details usually. I think usually I’m farther off than that. It might be a middle focus, that takes part of the picture and concentrates on it, like R’s picture of the belly button ring.

When I was writing Dielli’s story, I had trouble describing the palace, but no trouble at all detailing the stairs. I know exactly what those look like. But then again, I know the house she grew up in and some of the stuff around it, but not the whole area. And I know the basic outline of the city, including where it is and what is on either side, but I don’t have a good picture of all the buildings in it.

What would that make my focal length?

It’s an interesting question, though I am not yet sure how useful it is, except to know that you have a certain style.

I don’t like chaos, I know that. But I don’t mind a little dirt. I don’t even see it, usually. Not until it’s big and “out there.”

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, read on the Kindle.

Quietness without Loneliness

The Creative Habit. Notes on a book by Twyla Tharp, read on the Kindle

Sit alone in a room and let your thoughts go wherever they will. Do this for one minute. (Anyone can handle one minute of daydreaming.) Work up to ten minutes a day of this mindless mental wandering. Then start paying attention to your thoughts to see if a word or goal materializes. If it doesn’t, extend the exercise to eleven minutes, then twelve, then thirteen… until you find the length of time you need to ensure that something interesting will come to mind. The Gaelic phrase for this state of mind is “quietness without loneliness.”

Many people do not like solitude. I am not one of those people.

So today, right now, I will sit down to think for a few minutes and see what comes.

Update: I set the alarm for five minutes and had no trouble whatsoever sitting in a chair with my eyes closed thinking.

One thing I thought about:
She housed an entire farm above her shoulders. Her neck was both turkey like, in its looseness and wrinkles, and pig like, in its handsome fold, when she put her chin down too hard.

Her hair was a horse’s mane, flat and thick, but not standing up like a rooster’s crown. She had to mousse and spray and spray and mousse to make it stand up like the hay piled in the barn.

Her ears weren’t barn doors. They weren’t that big. Instead they were more like the windows on the second floor, through which hay could be pitched out into the wagon. The sound of the sheep bleating in the distance rang through them, as did the cattle’s calls as they wandered home.

Her eyes were the color of the sky on an April-showers morning, or the pond, when the clouds passed over it.

One eyebrow, her right, was a mother cow and calf, where a scar placed a distance between the two.

I also thought about the idea that there were competing views of insanity and its treatment during the 1800s and that Gilman wrote about one view. I need to find more work on that view, since that is what I should be talking about in the paper I am working on now.


R got a Kindle for his birthday, sort of. I ordered it for his birthday, but he got it at the end of February. It is an amazing little device.

And a book we want to read is coming out tomorrow and it is on the Kindle and I am thinking, 12:01 am. Eastern? Or do I have to wait for Central or Pacific?

Definitely no delayed gratification… No waiting. No hoping it’s at the bookstore.


Why would they want to do this?

Amazon has scheduled a press event Wednesday in New York at which it is expected to introduce a larger-format version of its Kindle e-reader tailored for displaying newspapers, magazines and textbooks.

A great thing about the kindle is that you can read it one-handed. Why would you want a magazine-sized Kindle?

from Silicon Valley, via a friend on facebook.

A Critique of Education

In “The Prophylaxis of Insanity” by Mary Putnam Jacobi (originally published in 1881), she critiques education. The critique comes within a discussion of people who don’t learn well, which is, according to her, a major cause of insanity.

In minds predisposed to insanity there is often, perhaps always, a marked deficiency of elasticity. An impression sinks and remains; the mind cannot disengage itself or recover its tone; it cannot pass quickly enough into the contrasting mood… This capacity should, therefore, be carefully cultivated by encouraging alternations of attention at the first sign of fatigue. The contrary practice of forcing an immature mind to continued attention while under the influence of fatigue, instead of teaching it how to quickly change, is the habit of commonplace education. Injurious to all, it is especially so to persons predisposed of depressing forms of insanity. It exhausts still further the elasticity in which they are naturally deficient. (193)

from Essays on Hysteria, Brain-tumor, and Some Other Cases of Nervous Disease.

So when our students are tired of one topic, we should lead them to another? This seems to be the problem with shortened attention spans. Students must get all their lessons in “one minute lectures” and five minute writing assignments.

It seems to me that, rather, we need to have our students exercise their ability to do something for a sustained amount of time.

Perhaps I could add that to the freshman comp classes. Freewriting, which starts for a minute, then moves up to five or ten or even fifty minutes.

Poetry Reading

R found a poetry reading, First Friday, for us to go to. I took poems and read one. I talked too fast, though.

He didn’t really enjoy the evening and I am not sure I did either.

But I do want to go back. Though I am not sure I want to read any more poetry.

1888 description of insanity

The description, by Mary Putnam Jacobi, perfectly matches bipolar. She is discussing what kinds of people develop mental illnesses.

The psychic characteristics… The disposition is strikingly irritable and touchy; psychic pain arises for trifling cause; at the least occasion the most vivid emotions are excited. The subjects of this temperament alternate rapidly from one extreme to the other; their sympathies and antipathies alike are intense; their entire life is passed between periods of exaltation and depression, leaving scarcely any room for healthy indifference. (184)

from Essays on Hysteria, Brain-tumor, and Some Other Cases of Nervous Disease.

Of course, then she goes on to describe the savant and other mental illnesses, all under the same heading… So while it is accurate, it isn’t a useful description because it includes too many other descriptions.