Welcome to the official blog of Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America! We're a local writers' group in the Toledo, Ohio area. Most of us write romance, but we also have members who write other genres too. New members are always welcome to visit or join the group. See the meetings page for details. We post every Monday and Friday about all things book-related. Whether you're a writer, reader, or both, we hope you'll stop by often and get to know our dozen contributors.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Deposits and Withdrawals

Lately, I've been thinking about creativity as a bank account. Our bank accounts need to have enough money to pay our bills, buy groceries, put gas in the car, and take care of all those last minute, unexpected expenses--such as boy scout uniforms, or new brakes, or a root canal. We need even more if we want to indulge in evenings out, vacations, or a day of beautification.

So, what happens when we don't make consistent deposits to our bank account? We run out of money, leaving us unable to take care of the basic necessities, let alone anything fun. I don't know about you, but when this happens, I'm put into a state of worry and fear. How will we pay for food this week? What if one of the kids needs to go to the doctor?

Therefore, we work to earn money. We work to try to stay ahead of the curve, so we don't run our bank accounts dry. After all, a low (or even worse, an empty) bank account means we don't have the necessary resources to deal with everything that needs dealing with. We budget, clip coupons, look for sales, and hope we can keep it together until the next paycheck--or, in too many cases, until a lay-off ends or a new job is found.

As a writer, I have begun to think of my creativity as my personal account of ideas. Following this train of thought, every book I write is a withdrawal from that account. Even partial books are a withdrawal, because even if that book is never finished, I've still taken that idea out of my account. Each time I do that, I have fewer resources available to me for that next book.

Unless, of course, I am also constantly depositing new ideas into my account. Now, this might sound simple--after all, ideas are free, right? Well, yes. But life can be exhausting. The day job, the husband/wife, the kids, other family, friends, daily responsibilities, appointments--the list goes on and on--and the more exhausted we become, the more difficult it is to find the energy to keep our creativity account high.

But it is necessary, and not only because writing is my job. I am a writer, which means I am a creative person. If I can't create, I don't feel whole. So for my own peace of mind and happiness, beyond the practical aspects, I have to be able to create. And that means keeping my account as full as possible at all times.

How do I do this? In many, many ways. One easy answer is reading, because good books will always inspire the muse inside. Another is television. Some television programs (The BBC drama, Sherlock, for example) are so well done that I am amazed by what I'm watching. The characters, the dialogue, the plots, the overall production value all add to my inspiration, all help to keep my creativity account full and thriving.

I've also learned that indulging in other creative activities can assist in keeping my account full. Sometimes, that is as simple as coloring with my children, or drawing a picture. Other times, that might mean playing a game (yes, a game) that either involves creating a character to role-play with (such as World of Warcraft, Sims, etc), or a building/design game (such as Roller Coaster Tycoon) that will allow other sides of my creativity to flourish.

Of course, we all have different interests, which lead to different keys to unlocking our creativity, and filling our individual accounts. For some, that might be gardening, or cooking, or music. Perhaps it is visiting a museum, or sitting outside on a clear, warm day, or taking a walk with your dog. Maybe (as it is for one friend of mine), it's housecleaning with music blaring in the background. Or it might be as simple as soaking in a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine.

Regardless, as writers, we need to find those moments that will allow us to dream, to think, to fill our creative souls with ideas and possibilities. Even when life is hectic. Even when we're so tired at the end of the day, we believe we can do nothing but go to bed and sleep to power up for the next day. There are always moments, even if they're tiny slices of time, that we can take as our own, that we can use to keep our bank of ideas brimming and percolating.

Learning to do this isn't always easy, but it's well worth the effort. By doing this, I've found that when I sit down to write, there is always something there, some story waiting and wanting to be told. Sometimes, in fact, I have a difficult decision in determining which idea to go with next. As a writer, I can't think of a better dilemma to have.

What about you? What are your tricks for keeping your personal bank account of creativity and ideas full? Or, if you're currently experiencing a low ebb of creativity, brainstorm some ideas for filling your account and share them here.

Tracy Madison is an award-winning author who currently writes contemporary romances for Harlequin Special Edition. Learn more about her at her website, www.tracymadison.com.


Kristina Knight said...

"other' creative is my trick, Tracy. I sew and quilt.. the work of matching up corners, finding coordinating fabrics/colors helps me match up areas of my books, think up new stories or figure out where I've gone wrong when I'm i the written-into-a-corner place.

Great post - thanks for sharing!

Patrice Kavanaugh said...

Watching fave TV shows and movies helps fire up my storytelling self. Also, song lyrics! I always wonder...what's the back story to this song? Great post.

Constance Phillips said...

Great post, Tracy! I'm like Patrice. TV, music, movies, and books feel my creative well.

Em-Musing said...

I don't know where my creativity comes from...but it's never run dry, thank God. I learned long ago, when I had to write scripts on demand, to trust my gut. If I thought too long, I'd go wrong. It's perfecting the craft of writing that's agonizingly.

Tanja said...

Like the post. Good analogy. Every time I start a new spiral notebook (yes tecchies, they still exist) I flip to the last page and write at the top: Idea Page. I never thought of it that way before, but, you're right, it does feel like opening a new "savings account." -- Tanja

Shay Lacy said...

Since I've learned to use a camera as an artist, instead of a tourist, I see lots of visual "deposits" to fill the well. The snow painted trees this morning, for instance. Thanks, Tracy, for reminding us how important deposits are.

Tracy Madison said...

Kristina: I wish I had the sewing/quilting gene, but I'm lucky if I can sew on a button! But yes, often, indulging in another creative activity is the trick. I think the simple fact of concentrating on something else helps the writing wheels turn--if that makes sense.

Hey, Patrice! I don't listen to music all that much, but I'm with you on the TV shows, and to a lesser extent, movies. I think the reason I love TV shows so much is the exploration of character--we get to go along on a journey with them through multiple episodes, which seems deeper to me than a 2-hour movie (not that I don't have my fave movies, because of course, I do!)

Thanks, Constance! I'm like you and Patrice, as well. Though, music is probably farther down my list than it is for you.

Tracy Madison said...

Em-Musing, you're a lucky girl. I've had to work hard to keep the creative juices flowing. You're absolutely right in trusting your gut, though.

Hi, Tanja! Thanks :) I don't use a spiral notebook, but I do have a Word file filled with "ideas" that I'm afraid I'll forget. So, same concept, just different medium.

Oh, Shay, I love the idea of visual deposits! Perhaps I'll have to dig out my old (very old) camera and give that a shot. Thanks for sharing!