Creative Ways To Manage Creative Thoughts
Inspiration. Where does it come from?
In my case almost everywhere. One sideways glance at the perfect shield-shaped carapace of a stink bug can send me reeling. Or a chance encounter with a few notes from a Louis Armstrong ballad. A brief exchange with a decidedly eccentric person (this is my favorite – you’ll see why later).
You get the picture. My head is always jam-packed with snippets of ideas, thoughts on paintings I need to get working on, prime moments to capture photos, and of course, all manner of writing. Too many things, in fact, until I came up with a system of keeping it all straight.
Creative Octopus Folder
I have a folder on my hard drive titled Creative Octopus.
It started out with eight subfolders, designed to accommodate my random mind wanderings, but soon exceeded that number – which I suppose technically makes it a squid. The thing is this; while I have developed the discipline to work on a project consistently enough to finish a novel, I have a need to honor my whims, my nudges of inspiration. I fear that if I don’t, my creative energy might dry up.
The octopus folder provides a sense of expansiveness, a place to capture what I feel a gravitational pull toward at any given time. In addition to titles like Poetry and Fiction, I have files labeled Entomology, Pics of Succulents and of course Doodles (see blog number four).
Some days I play ‘choose a tentacle’ and dive into a folder sheltering a nascent idea that I sense needs my attention. I have to be careful, though, because a monster lurks among the others.
My Memoir folder.
To say I had an unusual childhood is an understatement. It took well into adulthood for me to realize that the things my family viewed as normal were, in fact, otherwise. But coming to terms and embracing our inherent ‘oddness’ has fueled and continues to fuel my imagination. It’s what has made me a writer.
In recognition of this, I can easily say that my mother remains my absolute inspiration.
Here’s an example of a ‘captured’ thought that may one day, work itself into a full blown story. It was the late 1960’s and we were on our way ‘Up North’ to our cabin on a lake when we stopped for lunch at Howard Johnson’s – the iconic orange and turquoise building that looks like a dock and dine for a spaceship. We traveled to and from ‘Up North’ a lot (this was what Michiganians call anything north of Wayne County).
Anyway, there was my mother – driver of our red station wagon with red vinyl seats and no air conditioning – my sister, myself and three of our neighborhood girlfriends. That’s five kids and one adult if you are counting.
We stopped, unloaded the car, and single-filed it into the restaurant with our mother bringing up the rear. The only thing was, we included our black and white tuxedo cat Kitty Kartz – Kartz for short (yup with a z – don’t ask).
All six of us sat at the lunch counter, with me keeping the cat on my lap, half under the counter. Kartz was in no way restrained or leashed – a particularly bad idea since his disposition ranged from baseline nasty to outright hellish when disturbed.
I have no idea to this day why he didn’t shred me into pieces and bolt. Probably the promising odor of a fish-a-ma-jig sandwich or whatever ‘special’ they were frying in the back that day kept him semi-placid in my lap.
The server, a pock-faced teenager, probably no more than sixteen at the time, lifted the edge of his paper hat from his forehead, eyed us, and then spoke in that flat tone of adolescence.
“I can’t serve you. You have a cat.”
All five girls turned in unison toward my mother and searched her face with our ten questioning eyes.
Indignant, she demanded to see the manager.
Kartz by now was growing restless (I could just hear the drums in the distance like in the old Tarzan movies) and incisor-sharp claws began to pierce into my thighs (it was August, so shorts only), but no way was I letting go. Luckily, he discovered a patch of dried ice cream next to a wad of hardened Bazooka Joe on the underside of the counter, which he began to slowly devastate with his rough tongue. That was good for a minute or two at least.
The manager came over. He was a big guy with a large red face, his paper hat tilted to one side like a fedora.
“You can’t have a cat in here, lady.” His tone was incredulous.
Did I mention she was born in England? She came over when she was seven and was in every way an American with the exception of her view that all English-born humans were somehow royalty. Getting her British up – she sat tall, assumed her ‘queen’ posture, and took a long moment before responding.
“In that case, we shall all leave.”
We took her lead and filed out in a single row, my mother in front this time, and me in the rear with a struggling and mewing cat now crushed to my chest. Once we piled back into our red station wagon, she gunned it over to the Dog N Suds where you ordered from your car and they served you curbside.
It was, quite frankly, glorious.
What inspires you and how do you act on it? Do you write it down to return to later or let it mull in your brain? Do you have anything like a Creative Octopus folder?