Monday, April 1, 2013

Metaphors for the creative process: What's yours?

Vesuvius erupting, June 1774, by Joseph Wright of Derby

Okay, readers, it's time for you to get involved.  I'd like to think a bit about how we create - how we write, make music, create art, or whatever our particular area of creativity is.  I'll start with my process, and then I'd love to hear from all of you about yours.  Use the comments section, or get in touch with me through other avenues and I'll add your words to this post when I receive them.  (No, that doesn't mean there will be a quiz.  It's all just for fun.)  Try to think in terms of natural phenomena, just to narrow things down a bit and keep us all more or less on the same page.

Here's mine:

I was recently asked in an interview about my creative process.  The question got me thinking about how I might describe it, and the image that came to me was of a volcano.

First, things rumble around deep underneath the surface for a very long time.  Then, as the pressure builds, we see occasional belches of smoke - something's happening, but it isn't yet obvious what it is, exactly.

Stromboli from a helicopter, copyright Tommasso Checchi, 2007
(sketchy scenes, an outline, a snippet of dialogue)

And finally it erupts, all over the pages (cyber or otherwise)...

Mt. Etna, ca. 1766, by Alessandro D'Anna
(Oh, look!  A rough draft!)

... resulting in a huge mess which requires a vast amount of cleanup.

Lava flow on a street in Heimaey, Iceland (from a U.S. Geological Survey publication, 1973)
(Time to start revising.)

I'm currently at the smoke-belching stage of my WIP.

That was me.  Now - how about you?

What's your equivalent?  Inquiring minds want to know.  I'm eagerly awaiting input!  Don't leave me stranded here, all by myself. 


The comments are starting to come in, and so far, they're fascinating.  I'm going to add a few images here, based on those comments, to tempt you to read what people are saying.






Uphill hike


Dense fog

On Facebook, Barbara Gaskell Denvil adds this:  "Volcanoes and tidal waves have long been how I see my creative energies.  Shame about the soggy boring grey rain showers in between!"  Yes, indeed it is!  And here's a tidal wave, for Barbara:

Tidal wave

Also on Facebook, Adelaida Lucena-Lower says:  "It has always been quiet, like gardening.  I till (read/research), seed (an idea/scene/character grabs me), I plant it (mull over for a long time).  It germinates (start writing maniacally).  It generally needs manure (more detailed research) and light (distance from the piece).  Eventually, it will require pruning."  As somebody who writes a blog which (most of the time) is about research, I love the idea of more detailed research equalling manure!  Here's a garden, for Adelaida:


And the comments continue on Facebook (though I'm afraid I don't have time to keep finding images to accompany them - still, they are plenty vivid as they are).

Melanie Spiller:  "I'm more like a whirlwind with a whole lot of cleanup afterwards.  Not quite a tornado (I stop and suddenly change directions)."  I can certainly relate to all the cleanup...

Sue Millard:  "I see no-one has shared one like mine:  I think of it as water, seeping from an upland bog, then a stream trickling downhill and gathering speed as it goes until finally it is a grand river carrying the story to the open sea.  Then I spend a LOT of time as formless water vapour before the whole process starts again.  I'm at the water vapour stage right now BTW."  May you seep again soon, Sue.  (That sounds odd, doesn't it?)

Images in this post are in the public domain, except for the photo of Stromboli by Tommasso Checchi, which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, Wikimedia Commons, and Dense Fog, which is copyright Florian K at the German language Wikipedia, under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.


Joansz said...

For me, it's like a wormhole opens and allows me to see beyond the boundaries.

Marren said...

I write for pleasure:

Like a hurricane. I have have that severe writer's block. Think of this as clear weather. Suddenly, I feel so inspired and the words start flowing. I am jotting ideas over everything and anywhere. Think of this as the violent winds and heavy rain. Then, the words stop coming, I cannot think of anything to write. Think of this as the hurricane passing or downgrading.

Linda Collison said...

Childbirth -- following a 3 year gestation with periods of drought insterspesed with hailstorms and at least one tornado.

Marie Parsons said...

My creative process tends to be one of two things. It is either a supernova: an enormous explosion pouring out a complete story, or, it's like the entire process of preparing for a long and arduous (the definitive word) uphill hike, starting with acquiring all the equipment and supplies (worldbuilding research, character attributes, plot fillers and tensions, enjoying the few times the characters take off a bit on their own), then marking out the route (e.g. chapter outlines, timelines), and then finally, actually taking the hike (writing the tale).

Anonymous said...

Recently, my writing has been like walking in a dense fog. I can't see far, but as I move, the area near me becomes more clear.

Tinney Heath said...

I find it fascinating that there's such diversity in the metaphors we choose, yet I can relate to all of them. Each reflects both difficulty and overcoming difficulty, in various ways. For me, some days I'd emphasize the problems, other days I'd emphasize the euphoria of working through them. (Sometimes, for example, my process is closer to sinkhole than to volcano.)

Heather said...

I can relate to all of these too! I tend to use cooking metaphors. Flashes of inspiration like fire on a grill or madly chopping vegetables; the prep work of gathering your tools and ingredients; figuring out which seasonings to use and in what quantities; consulting the recipe but tailoring it to your own tastes; trying to be patient and not cut corners or rush things, etc. I always tell people I'm a Crock-Pot writer. I take forever, but I generally find the end result tasty. :D

Kim Rendfeld said...

Writing is like playing with my imaginary friends. Yet I also like the cooking analogy, provided the cooking is done with utter abandon. The results is delicious but always leaves a mess.

Tinney Heath said...

I like the cooking analogy too, though in my case the results of my cooking are not reliably delicious, alas. The mess, though - yes. Absolutely. Off to play with my imaginary friends now...