Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Creative Stretching

Movies and books and sleeping, mostly sleeping, have been the shape of my days for a few days now, as happens infrequently when my back decides to go on a slide slip and leaves me with an acute awareness of how things work and don't work -- mostly don't work. I've been out of it for five days due to a bout of muscle spasming and a slight shift of a lower back disc. It happens.

The last time when we left our intrepid adventuring author she was touting the benefits of doing more than sleeping in bed in response to Tim's doctor's claims that a bed is to sleep as floors, counters and other furniture are to sex. That is not to say that Tim, sweet young man that he is, was in any way involved in things to do in bed other than giving me the idea. He'd be a prodigious young man indeed if his talents stretched from New Jersey all the way to Colorado. And, no, the pictures of nether parts my sister sent me were not Tim's but someone she knows very well and has known for y-e-a-r-s, so now you can stop emailing and calling for details. Some details are meant to remain hidden.

I'm in a strange mood today, bouncing from sleep to reading to trying to find a position in which my open mouth does not emit a high pitched scream of sirens bearing down on a stalled car in the middle of the main drag, although sirens were definitely screaming last evening, at least a two-alarm blaze in practice heralded by the thunderous boom of, well, thunder. At least it sounded like thunder. It was probably nothing more than hollow booming echoes from somewhere people were engaged in actual work and not lollygagging around the house in search of comfort and quiet, especially since ear plugs don't deafen the noise of your own screams. There it is, screaming again. If I keep this up, everyone will believe I'm in actual pain, which is not the case at all. As long as I breathe shallowly and don't move too much, I'm fine.

I did have one interesting few hours this weekend when I looked over a friend's novel. As I do whenever I critique a novel and don't have it in a format where I can -- as one friend would have it -- bleed all over the digital page, I keep a pad and pencil at hand to take notes. There was about a page of notes (the usual things: grammar, spelling, extra words, etc.) and a sense at the end of the book that I had been had. The book was good and I've read enough YA novels to know good when I see it -- from my perspective. Intrigue, really good red herrings, memorable characters and a satisfying ending were all there. The big flash is that during the time I read the manuscript I didn't think about my back, except when Nature forced me to rise and attend to the necessities. No doubt the author, a misguided soul who actually reads this blog, will be surprised to see his experience sandwiched between the mundane daily maunderings and sirens screaming. He shouldn't be. After all this time, he should have figured out I only mention things and people worth mentioning. He's one of them.

In the course of writing I often change the names of the guilty and the innocent just to keep things even, but the stories are all about people I actually know or have known, and I have known a lot of people. Comes with the territory when you've traveled as much as I have over the past nearly fifty-five years. I'm not shy -- never have been -- about approaching people and talking to strangers. It was one of the things that worried my parents most when I was a child. I didn't understand that stranger didn't mean potential acquaintance and possibly friend. I'm still indiscriminate that way. I talk to anyone and anyone talks to me.

For instance, this morning a young man (I say young, although I don't really know, because most people seem young to me these days) contacted me about what kind of radio he should buy starting out as a newly licensed amateur radio operator. He had some very strange ideas about power, believing that it isn't possible to reach someone across the country, let alone across the world, without a big rig -- radiowise, of course. I yanked that idea out from under him and gave him the name of a reputable ham radio operator who has proven that you can reach anywhere in the world on 5 watts of power and a long piece of wire. He's pretty amazing that way. I also explained, in my capacity as team contact, that he could talk to old and grizzled professionals at the exam session next month who would be glad to talk first radios and their attributes and drawbacks. I could practically see the glow in his words and on his face when he thanked me. That's me, a fount of trivia and information, none of which is trivial.

Since pain has a tendency to make it difficult for me to concentrate on editing and writing, I decided to take up pencil and paper and do a little sketching, stretching creative muscles I've not used in over a decade. I was surprised to find my muscles in fairly good shape once I took off the restraints and let go the worry and recognizable human features appeared on the page. I've decided, like many other creative people, that I need more than one medium in which to work in order to remain fresh and creative. Drawing and painting have always provided me with new creative energy and fueled my writing as much as watching people and researching and reading. I've occasionally considered writing a children's book and doing all the art work. Maybe one day I shall. Right now I'm in search of creative fuel and different creative muscles to flex, hence the drawing. Unfortunately, sketching with charcoal and sepia are not enough. I need color, the feel of chalk and brush between my fingers as I play with color. I'm sure there will be knives involved at some point; I can feel the handle in my grip and the joy of slashing through layers of colors to open a gash for the light to pour through. That would be a palette knife for those of you worried I might pick up a carving or butcher's knife.

Music has also been helpful in boosting creativity, and I don't mean just Mozart's brain-boosting rivers and streamlets of skirling notes, but all kinds of music. I do have to draw the line at anything with vocals because I have a tendency to begin singing and that throws off the writing. I reserve vocals for cleaning and chores because I forget how tedious bagging trash, vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing toilets and tiles and other household chores are when I sing.

There are so many creative outlets and most of us tend to choose one and ignore the rest, concentrating on getting it right. It is in the exercise of many different arts that we return refreshed and renewed to our primary art, and for me that's writing. Painting. Drawing. Singing. Dancing.


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