Creative Community & The Fear of Becoming “Normal”

Writing is viewed as a solitary activity. Some writers believe their isolation is what defines them, and even imagine that socializing would not only detract from their uniqueness, but diminish their creativity. Mingle with the herd, and you’ll become one of them. Call it the writer’s fear of becoming “normal.”

But these folks have it all wrong. We are social beings who need to interact with others. What’s more, social contact improves our craft, as this piece from PsychCentral explains:

As creative people, we need others to see the work we do (after all art is meant to be seen), to give us feedback and also to normalize some of the chaos that comes with the creative territory.

Aside from these internal benefits, being a part of a community of creatives can also expand your audience reach, increase the chances of doing collaborative work (in which you can discover a brand new part of yourself and a new method to create) and extend your creative network. A community can give you the opportunity to experience art and creativity from the various perspectives of all the other people surrounding you, at a collective level rather than the individual one you can provide for yourself.

I know I’ve benefited from my participation in the Charlotte Writer’s Club and my monthly critique group, as well as various writing workshops. Even when you’re stuck in the office, you can exchange views and ideas by posting comments on writing blogs.

Naturally, we also need time alone to think and create. The ideal is a balance of separateness and socialization.

Andrew Nelson Lytle advised us to “throw out the radio and take down the fiddle from the wall.” By that, he meant that art, entertainment, and companionship were not meant to be separate things. Art should be a social, interactive endeavor that not only engages everyone who  participates, but beckons all toward beauty and a sense of connectedness.  To me, that’s the ultimate aim of any art.

Quote of the day

“I’m not a really good writer, and I’m okay with that. What I do have is this ability to dissect my emotions and feelings, and write about my deepest secrets, about what terrifies me, about what I hate.” Cristian Mihai 

Now one could counter that the ability to capture your deepest secrets and fears with words is the definition of good writing.

Consider H.P. Lovecraft. His characterization and dialogue could be laughably bad, but his ability to construct scenarios and concepts that thrilled and challenged readers made him a giant among fantasy and horror writers.

Bottom line: We can’t be good at every aspect of life, or even good at every aspect of our chosen craft, but we can focus on what we love and make the most of what we have.

Stuck on your next move?

Chess

We’ve all been there. Despite your meticulous outlining, you find yourself stuck in your story and have no idea what your protagonist does next. How do you advance your plot?

Fear not. This is something every writer has to wrestle with. Even the pros admit to hitting an occasional road block. So whether a best-selling author or lowly scribbler, you have to deal with the occasional plot snag somehow. So I’ll share what I do.

My approach is two-fold: First, go back to your protagonist’s basic motivation. What does he want? Then imagine the worst that could happen to prevent him from achieving his goal. Throw that at him, and watch what he does. If you understand the protagonist’s history and heartfelt desire, you should be able to visualize how he’ll respond.

Read the rest at Alice Osborn’s blog, where I’m guest blogging today.

Contemporary Literary Art

Raven King

Annette Hassell “John Uskglass the Raven King”
click to enlarge

Today’s  Remodern Review blog features a post on an exhibit of the works of Phoenix-area Remodernist painters. The exhibit’s theme is “works inspired by favorite books.” These paintings revive the artist’s role as a visual storyteller. Unlike post-modern painters, Remodernists reject the nihilism that an inaccessible elite insists is the proper focus of the “true artist.” Instead, Remodernists seek to recapture art’s primary purpose of stirring the imagination of the general public and inspiring an appreciation of classic ideals of nobility, courage, and beauty.