Monday, June 20, 2011

The New Project High

by Julia Buckley

My summer headquarters

I had a plan for the summer which included revising two things and corresponding with various agents. (And by corresponding I mean me writing them letters and them writing back and saying "No, thanks.")

No other plans were on the horizon, and these were things that needed to be done. I had a dearth of creative ideas, as I do every year at the end of a stressful school year. My mind is just played out.

I have heard, though, that if you want a new idea, you need to rest and de-stress, and the idea will come. There must be something to this concept, because every book idea that has ever popped into my head has done so when I am relaxed.

So this week, the one week I have off before I return to teaching, something came to me. A kernel of an idea--just something that seemed interesting.

So I went to the computer and started tapping out ideas. They turned into a chapter one, and then a chapter two. I had to get up and do some household tasks--motherly things like making grilled cheese and driving people places. But then I drifted back to the computer--not out of obligation, as I do the revisions, but out of a kind of passion. Pursuing a new project is like a brand new love affair. I am fascinated by this new thing. I want to know more about it. While people are talking to me, I am partly thinking about my new project.

That is what I call the new idea high, and for me, it's the best part of writing because it's the most exciting and satsifying. Every idea that I manage to translate from my mind onto paper is a pleasure and a satisfaction; I can move on to the next idea and the next, knowing that those first ones have been safely nailed down.

I suppose people can get the same sort of energy from a new household project--building an addition or re-decorating a room. At the beginning you have nothing, and then, suddenly, it starts to take shape, and you can imagine what it will be at the end. But it's the building, sometimes, that is the most fun.

What are some other creative projects that have given you this feeling?

And writers, have you ever had ideas come to you at a time of total rest and relaxation?


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

How true about being relaxed, Julia. Many of my ideas (new ones or the view of what's next through the mist) come to me when I'm lying in bed in the morning, not ready to get up, or when I'm running, in the shower, or driving. Yesterday I had to stop in the middle of my run to jot down ideas for how to use a cello on one of the songs I'm recording for my CD. I was thrilled to experience a moment of musical creativity that felt just like what happens with my writing.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

PS Running or driving may sound more like stress than relaxation, but my BRAIN is relaxed during those activities, as it's not when I'm sitting at the keyboard staring at a blank screen.

Julia Buckley said...

I agree, Liz. You are much better about exercising than I am, but when I belonged to a club I got a lot of my ideas on the treadmill.

I get a great deal of them when I'm walking, too--just looking at the scenery and taking deep breaths.

Sandra Parshall said...

Anytime I have a problem with a plot or character, I know the answer will never come to me if I sit and think about it. I have to deliberately NOT think about it for a while. Then at some point, when I least expect it, the solution will pop into my mind. The brain is a weird and wonderful thing! Always working at some level on any task we assign to it.

Julia Buckley said...

I remember learning in college that when you try hard to retrieve something--a lost name or idea, for example--it will elude you more completely the harder you try to drag it into your memory.

You have to forget it, and go about your business, and then it will spring into your mind when you least expect it.

My professor said this was called "The A-ha! theory of psychology."

The same applies to creativity, as you said, Sandra.