Monday, June 1, 2009

Toggling between the Arts--Refresh Your Writer Mind

Do you pursue more than one art form? How does it help your writing? Are you toggling between the arts to good effect?

Most days, I write. But when the writing dries up, when my chapters feel old and tired, I switch to painting. Susan Hodara from the New York Times interviewed me about my artistic multi-tasking--click on the link at top of right column above my photo to read it. I'm certainly not alone.

Joni Mitchell was a painter first. Steven King plays in a band. There are hundreds of other examples out there--who can you name?

Benefits of Artistic Multi-Tasking
Having another art form lets the writer mind play. Images, for me, lead to better writing. My painting feeds my books. A well-loved writing mentor told me she has dry spells that last for months. She's well published, prolific--from poems to novels to plays to even an opera. This used to worry her but no longer. She realizes a renewal time is necessary between efforts. Whenever she finishes a big writing project, publishes a book for instance, she lets her creative self lie fallow. Eventually, the ideas begin to bubble up. I often do this in summer, for one month.

When summer comes to New England where I live, when my garden bursts with iris and peony, I become slightly disinterested in my book and my painter's eye wakes up.

Another Way to Do Artist's Dates?
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, calls this "filling the well." Cameron recommends a weekly artist's date, solo, away from your work, to get renewed. I do it with my painting. Slop on some color, daydream over images for a while, and the writing ideas begin coming through again.

This week, your writing exercise is to play with color. Get out some markers, crayons, oil pastels, watercolors, collage materials. Paint your story, your book idea, your frustration, your glee with your writing process.

It only needs to take 10 minutes out of your busy schedule, and it'll pay you back many times over in renewal of creativity. See if toggling between the arts affects your writing the next time you face the page.