An Age Old Theme

It is Monday afternoon. There are seven young women waiting for me to share with them some pearls of wisdom about creative writing. But all I can really think right now is

My desk is a mess.

I am finding it nearly impossible to write today because my desk is a mess.

And let’s be honest. Those girls are not waiting for  pearls of wisdom. They need what we all need: time and space to write which Creative Writing Club gives them with no penalties, homework, or grades. We write and share. Eventually we’ll critique and expand. Later we’ll even publish. But for now, in the beginning, this our second week, we just all write on the same prompt and then share our stories after a half hour or so of writing. They can let their imaginations run wild and see, too, how the same prompt can lead in so many different directions.

Last week I gave them “Whoops,” said the doctor, “there seem to be triplets here” as the first line of their stories. Each took off in a different direction with varying points of view. Each resulting “story”–or first scribblings–was unique: a daughter moaning over hearing her mother tell the story of her and her sisters’ birth yet again; the discovery of abandoned triplets in an alley in a post-apocalyptic zombie world; a woman terrified at the thought of triplets; and mine a dog owner fretting over the smallness of the litter. We had great fun writing and sharing. I enjoy writing with them.

This week’s theme is a story retold. Imagine that your Romeo’s family is one of criminals–you choose the crime–and Juliet’s family is one of law and police. The girls are going strong. And my mind is blank. I really do not want to teach them so early about writer’s block. Yet, here I am.

Maybe I am too old or jaded for a Romeo and Juliet story, but I would prefer to think that the block is caused by my desk. Piled high with essays to grade, Scantrons to run, make-up quizzes, textbooks, workbooks, late passes, note pads, and file folders, there is little room left to write–or to think. Even now, my arms are unevenly resting on papers and planbooks just to reach the keyboard to write this. I want to clear it all away so I can begin, but by the time I clear it away, the writing time will have passed.

This is the dilemma, isn’t it? This is the age-old theme for writers. This is what inspired this blog in the first place. Finding the time and the space to write in the whirlwind world we’ve created for ourselves. Bills must be paid, laundry done, food made, dishes cleaned. How does one find–no, make–the time for creativity? Today, I am leaning precariously on a stack of summer reading reports (probably plagiarized) in order to write. I may not be writing on the prompt (of my own choosing), but at least I am writing.

And so are they. Once again they took their stories in all different directions and left the room with smiles on their faces. That’s today’s lesson: write, share, smile.

And eventually clean off the desk.

my desk



For Tyson and J. S. 

I write here about creativity, about finding ourselves, about expressions of self. Indeed the last post was about the time we spend in solitude, the time spent alone, in order to create. Creativity can sometimes seem a very egocentric thing, and indeed, it does require a bit of selfishness to accomplish. However, I am reminded today that the most important thing we can create are connections. 

Every time we create something, be it a sketch, a painting, a dress, an afghan, a story, a song, we release a part of ourselves into the world. We are asking people to know us, to “get” us. When we hope that people “like” what we post, we ask them to acknowledge us. Even when the art is controversial, or perhaps especially so, there is a clamor for attention, for interaction. Humans are social animals. Our creativity, in whatever form it takes, allows us to engage with those around us. In some ways it is oxymoronic in that this deeply personal expression can act as a gate keeper. We can both express ourselves and hold others at bay through the medium of our art and our reaction to others’ reactions. Yet, in the long run, we want to drop those barriers and connect. Connections feed us as much as our creativity does. 

Have you noticed, I’m sure you have, how much of Facebook and other social media sites are inundated with animal pictures–cats especially, but dogs too, and other species? We humans are addicted to watching dogs and cats snuggling, bears saving ducklings, puffins falling down and sliding. Why do you suppose that is?

My thought, my answer, is because animals don’t judge. As much as we need our creativity to fulfill a human part of our soul’s being, animals allow us to be. We do not need to create for them. They will cuddle up whether we’ve finished our painting or not. They will prance and wag their tails whether or not we’ve written the next chapter. They will sing, bark, mew even when we could not think of dragging out the sewing machine. Our animals are specials gifts to our creativity. They are the rechargers of our batteries. They offer us open, unconditional love in exchange for a kibbles, bits, and an honest, loving petting. And when it comes their time to go, if they can, they wait until the loving arms of their human parents can birth them into their next world. We feel the great grief of their loss, but the memory of their lives can continue to calm us. And this in turn feeds the human creativity within us.

These wonderful beings do another amazing thing. They connect us to each other. We group ourselves sometimes by species: cat people, dog people. We meet friends at the dog run. We share stories and photos of our animals with new friends. We call our friends animals by name; they do the same with ours. And when one is lost, we commiserate. 

Rest in Peace Tyson. God Bless.