Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Creative Spark and How to Re-Ignite it

by Julia Buckley
I haven't written for a while. The other day I tried venturing into the shallows by attempting a short story. My husband read it and said it didn't seem "like something I'd put my heart and soul into." My soul? I don't know that I put my soul into my writing.

But I do know that the creative muse is hard to pin down.

My oldest son (newly thirteen) asks me to type his assignments for him, so I am given access to writing that he would normally not bother to show me. Recently I looked at his freewriting--journals that they must do in class but which the teacher doesn't always read. Her philosophy is that they should be writing all the time, whether she has time to go over it or not. I think that's a good idea.

In any case, I read Ian's journals and was amazed by their energy. They were fun, creative, interesting--everything I want my own writing to be. Perhaps, though, I want it too much. The advantage of Ian's writing is that it's done without pressure. Come up with a journal, jot it down. No fear of whether or not it's quality stuff, no fear of rejection. He's not writing for publication, he's writing for himself.

He did, however, give me permission to publish one of his journals here--one that struck me as a humorous modern day fable. Here it is:

The Snowman Who Could Turn Invisible

Once upon a time there was this snowman that lived in Queens. He was made by some kid who abandoned him in a park. One day he was pelted by freezing rain, and gained a thick coating of ice. That night two losers who had nothing better to do put the snowman on a sled and pushed him down a hill. He stayed in one piece the whole time because of the coating of ice around him. Eventually, he crashed into an electric fence. Then he passed out.

It took him until he woke up to realize that he was ever alive. And then he realized that, for some reason, he could turn invisible, probably from the power jolt from the electric fence.

First he thought he should use his powers only for good. Then he decided to use them just to annoy. So for the next few weeks, he’d turn invisible and push someone into the snow, or tie someone’s shoelaces together.

One day, he made a mistake and didn’t turn invisible when he pushed one kid over. Then everyone knew that a snowman was causing the problem, so they thought of a solution: they used a guy as bait, making him wait in the snowy park. Now they could see the snowman’s footprints as he walked through the snow.

Then someone ran out with a blowtorch and melted him into a puddle.

The End

What do you think? Does he have the creative spark, or is it my imagination? :)

(Photo courtesy of me--that's a candle making cool lines on my wall.)


Nina Wright said...

Yes, Julia, your son has the creative spark! And you have hit on exactly why that is, other than the obvious fact that he has inherited his mom's awesome storytelling talent. Ian, at age 13, is still writing for the joy of it, for the heady thrill of creation and combustibility, to see what will happen when he spins a tale from the ether onto paper. Who will show up and be part of the story, and where will that story lead? It's not so much an assignment as an experiment, an adventure.

Thanks--to you and to Ian--for reminding us why we started writing in the first place.

Mark Terry said...

"First he thought he should use his powers only for good. Then he decided to use them just to annoy."

If good storytelling is about, as I've written before on my own blog, "surprising inevitability" then Ian (I have a 14-year-old son named Ian who is a writer) may truly be gifted. That line made me smile and it was true and it twisted the cliche, because I thought he was going to say "evil."

Felicia Donovan said...

Julia, lovely post and I did so enjoy your son's snowman story. The crux is that we know when it's our best writing because it does have "spark" like your candle on the wall. I hope your son's tale inspires you to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard soon.

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Nina, Mark and Felicia for your comments.

Nina, I do agree that writing is full of possibility and revelation when you're thirteen (or even younger!).

Mark, what an interesting coincidence! I wonder if we both thought the name IAN would look good on the spine of a book? :)

Felicia, you are so right, and I suppose that's what writing seminars and workshops are all about--getting the spark back.

jbstanley said...

I think he seems like a natural writer - perhaps a chip of the old block or refined shard of crystal in this case.

Julia Buckley said...

Why, thanks! I think he's a natural, too, but I'm biased, which is why I had to bring it to this august group.

Candy Calvert said...


I love Ian's feisty, creative Attitude, with a capital A. It speaks of both talent and a great self-esteem (plus wonderful parenting!)

I'm currently taking the "Artist's Way" workshop, and there is much mention of nurturing your inner "child artist."

What could be better proof and affirmation than Ian's wonderful freewriting?

Thanks for sharing!


Julia Buckley said...

Hi, Candy! Thanks. What's the Artist's Way? Is it something you have to go to in person, or is it an online thing?

Candy Calvert said...

It's a 12-week course based on Julia Cameron's teaching--a "spiritual journey" to unblock/re-discover your creativity." It's been around a long time, and is used by writers, painters, actors, sculptors and so on. Pretty cool, but intensive stuff.
Thought I'd give it a try. You can study via her book (The Artist's Way)by yourself, or take the course within a class setting. I'm taking it with a small group--a painter, a weaver, and moi.
My luck, I'll discover that I was meant to be metal sculptor, and have to go out and buy soldering irons and blowtorches. ;-)

Julia Buckley said...

Cool! Thanks for the info. Be sure to let us know what you find out about your creative soul.

Jude Hardin said...

Paraphrasing Raymond Chandler:

If you ever get stuck, send in a couple of guys with...blowtorches! :)

Loved your son's story!

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Jude! That's exactly right. We must learn from the children--and Raymond Chandler. :)