Creativity In and Out of the Box (or How to Eat an Elephant Part II)

Photo from my driveway. Rear view mirror for scale.
Photo from my driveway. Rear view mirror for scale.

Wow! What a crappy winter!

The snow and gray days and snow and ice (and did I mention snow?) are starting to take a real toll on me. My creativity is low and my energy even lower. It’s hard to sit my lazy butt in a rock-hard chair for an hour (or 1000 words, whichever comes first) when the couch and an afghan never looked so good.

So I don’t. Then I say really mean things to myself about it.

I received an email the other day from Gotham City Writer’s Workshop in which Kelly Caldwell, dean of faculty, discusses this exact thing. Writers try to constrain their writing within stringent limitations (see above!). Worse—when they don’t make the cut, they beat themselves up about their “failure,” fueling even less writing. Vicious circle.

Hello, that’s me. Is it you too?

Fergus the cat. His creativity is all boxed up too. See how cranky he looks.
Fergus the cat. His creativity is all boxed up too. See how cranky he looks.

I had taken my creativity–supposedly so free wheeling–and boxed it up completely. It had to be during the day. It had to be within this time frame. It had to contain a certain number of words. If creativity is so fluid and mercurial, why was I constraining it so much?

It’s time to break out people!

For the next month, I’m taking my creativity out of the box. I’m writing when I can, where I can. If I don’t get an hour in one sitting, so be it. For this time period in my life, I’m going to quit trying to make my writing look like a box and make it look more like not quite set-up watermelon Jello—sloshing and oozing and fitting around  my winter-weary life.

Fergus Warwhol.  Out of the box and loving it! Really, that's his happy face.
Fergus Warwhol. Out of the box and loving it! Really, that’s his happy face.

Here’s the current word count on my WIP, Reservoir: 30254. I’d like to see it be 38K by March 17. I would also like to finish the dreaded quilted frog project (remember running into me in Jo-Ann’s Fabrics on spring break 2 YEARS AGO, Christine Allen-Riley, and I was buying fabric for these frogs? Yes, those.). And I want to do it all out of the box.

It could be an epic fail. Yet again, it could surprise me.

How about you? Pick a project and put it in the comments below. Let’s watch together where our projects go when we take creativity out of the box.

12 thoughts on “Creativity In and Out of the Box (or How to Eat an Elephant Part II)

  1. Joselyn says:

    Those boxes are so easy to create. We need to have a cardboard burning party or something. 🙂
    It’s really surprising what you can get done in ten or fifteen minutes when you put them to good use.

    1. Tess Grant says:

      And hard to break out of!

      I used to be much better at squeezing things in when my kids were little because that was all I had–a minute here, a minute there. Not so much lately. I always feel like I have to have a huge block of time.

  2. Kris says:

    I have a few projects to work on — a hat that’s been half crocheted for the last couple of months, and that fabric I got for pillow covers that really wants to be used up. I even have the sewing machine out on the dining room table!

  3. Eileen says:

    Fergus’ happy face does not look all that different from his sad/mad face? Must be the angle!! I’m not tooo creative so steer clear of those type of projects, but I do need to stitch up a dog toy so the stuffing isn’t quite so easy to pull out. Does that count?

  4. Dianne Salerni says:

    I write whenever I can, wherever I can. I sneak revisions in at work during my lunch break. I carry my laptop to the doctor’s office whenever I go for an allergy shot, because I have to wait 20 minutes after the shot before leaving.

    What I have a problem with is walking away and taking a break. Sometimes, when creativity is low, I should really close the laptop and read a book, watch TV, maybe do some laundry or play Scrabble with my kids. My “out of the box” means letting myself have non-writing time.

    As for that elephant … I ate it. First draft finished today. Woo hoo!

    1. Tess Grant says:

      I am so happy to hear free-form time works for you, because it scares me! I am too quick to let myself wander off task. But I think right now it will be the best fit.

      Congrats on that first draft. What a great feeling!

  5. Christine Allen-Riley says:

    I’m kinda in love with Fergus. Also…how has it possibly been TWO YEARS since we ran into each other at JoAnnn’s. It’s funny – now, I always scan for you when I’m there. Which feels like all the time lately. 😉 I’m great at getting craft projects done, but what I really need to do is get some writing projects out of the box and finished. Here’s to five minutes at a time. 😀

  6. J.Q Rose says:

    Oh how I wish I had crafty fingers for stitching up a cute project. Alas, I may have the fingers, but not the patience. I am going to expand my crafty mind to allow myself to write early in the a.m. AND in the pm…but not after 4 pm. It’s like your jello by then. Cute post and very inspiring. So I am going to say I WILL finish the first draft of my mystery by the time we leave for the north country this spring. I am 15 chapters into it at the moment.

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