Other Creative Pursuits

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much my other creative pursuits influence my writing — and even help me get through tough problems when I’m working.

There’s something about knitting, for me, that allows me to keep my hands busy and focus juuuuust a little, but frees the rest of my mind to work out a plot tangle or a question about character arcs. I’ve found the same thing in spinning (yarn, not exercise — ugh), and even calligraphy.

(Click to enlarge.)

I started wondering if some of my fellow Pub Crawlers had other creative outlets, as well. And yep. When I put out the call, they delivered.

JJJJ: I’ll start! When it comes to other creative outlets (or as I call them, other procrastinatory outlets ;-)), I tend to play my piano or guitar, draw, take pictures, or redesign my website. I think they all fulfill different functions; for example, I often redesign my website when I’m stuck or between drafts because fiddling with CSS and other types of code is soothing. There is something about typing one thing and have it show up as a concrete THING on the other end that is very, very comforting (especially when writing fiction, which is anything BUT concrete sometimes). I find it kind of mindless in the way algebra is mindless: simple enough to keep me occupied and let the subconscious wander free. (Which is why I am often redesigning my website when I am stuck.)

Music is less mindless to me, and I often play when I need to completely shut off and do something else for a while. I studied piano for 15 years, but when I play now, it’s less the classical stuff and more the “I just the heard the latest pop song and I want to do a cover” type of thing. Usually I cheat and figure out the chord progressions on my guitar first (I am a terrible, terrible, terrible formal musician. 15 years and I know fuck-all about theory.), or sometimes look up the tabs. Then I transfer the work to the piano. (Luckily, 99% of all the pop songs are the same four chords I-V-vi-IV.)

Sometimes, I doodle drawings of my characters. But that’s usually when I’m doing something ELSE and unable to write (that’s often at the day job). Doodling sketches of my characters keeps me in the right frame of mind for my story, but it also helps me figure out what they look like in my head. (I often post my doodles to Instagram and Tumblr. My doodles can also be found on my blog and Deviantart.)

I also take photographs.

If there’s a procrastinatory technique, then I will do it. 😉 Are you sensing a theme here?

SusanDennardSusan: I enjoy tap dancing, sewing, and blogging/newslettering. They all demand really different kinds of creative energy.

One thing that I started doing this year (and that I do a lot of now) is making my own body products and makeup. It’s like cooking crossed with chem lab. Lots of stirring and weighing and melting involved. Plus, you have to really understand how various butters or oils, oxides or clays interact–otherwise the consistency of the cream/lotion/lip gloss won’t be right. Or you might end up with a blush that’s TOO red or a pressed powder that’s so pale you look like a corpse. 🙂 I find that all that mixing and melting and measuring requires just enough focus that I can’t totally zone out, but it also frees up enough headspace for my subconscious to work through story knots.

Erin BowmanErin: As most of you know, I was a web designer prior to jumping into writing. Design is still a huge outlet for me. Even though it’s related to writing, I absolutely love designing my own promotional materials (bookmarks, stickers, postcards, etc), as well as maintaining my website. I’m a bit type nerd, too, so I tend to collect (read: buy) way more fonts than I should.

Another huge distraction for me, while not necessarily creative, is getting outdoors. Walks, hikes, camping, canoeing . . . you name it. I find being outside, totally away from the computer/technology is one of the best ways to give my brain a break and reset the creative well, if you will.

Kat ZhangKat: I love all kinds of art, and I get really inspired watching people dance, or put on a play, or things like that. As for as things I actually do myself, though, I paint (mostly watercolor at the moment), and I’ve gotten into digital art (“painting” with a wacom tablet and photoshop) this past year or so. It’s a great creative outlet that’s not word-based.

I love photography as well, but since I’m mostly interested in portrait/lifestyle photography, my ability to do it is limited to the times when my friends are willing to play model 😉

I post a lot of both my art and my photography on my Tumblr 🙂

Janice HardyJanice: I’m a graphic designer by trade, and I think that’s helped me a lot with being able to handle feedback without taking it personally. Clients always ask for changes and comment on my “art” and it’s helped me be able to see my creative work as a product and not just an expression of myself, and how the creative process can be a group effort to great success.

The last few years I’ve been drawing and painting for fun, and crazy as it sounds, I’ve been painting Nerf guns and toys. All of the guns were bright orange and yellow plastic when I started. My husband gave me a huge AT-AT toy for my birthday that I’m dying to paint. It takes hours, but it’s a lot of fun and very absorbing. It’s a combination of spray paint, fine detail hand painting and dry brushing.

red space pistolsteampunky shotgun blue space gun
(Click to enlarge.)

I’m not sure how “creative” this is, but I’m a gamer and I’ve feel having to make decisions about what to do it games and thinking about what that character would do (their motivations) has helped me plot my novels easier. It forced me to think about cause and effect and how character choices created effects and consequences. There’s also a lot of creativity in designing a game for friends and running one, almost like writing a book where you have no control over the characters, hehe.


5 Responses to Other Creative Pursuits

  1. JoSVolpe Oct 15 2014 at 8:51 am #

    You guys are all so creative! Ugh. I had nothing to add to that thread.

    Janice…those are just…AWESOME.

    • Janice Hardy Oct 15 2014 at 11:29 am #

      Thanks! I had such a good time painting them. It’s a little addictive, lol. Now I can’t pass by a toy shop without thinking about how something would look painted.

  2. Rochelle Oct 15 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Wow, you are all impressive! Janice, I agree with Joanna about your Nerf guns. They look crazy realistic.

    My own outlets are playing piano (although that one is really difficult right now–between a husband who works nights [and therefore sleeps days] and a baby, someone is almost always sleeping), editing photographs, and drawing/design.

    I also LOVE watching competitive gymnastics, which I used to do poorly. That’s my favorite way to completely zone out.

  3. Rowenna Oct 16 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    I tend to want to work really intensively on my projects, both writing and other creative stuff, so keeping a non-writing creative project in the wings helps me prevent burnout. I sew historical clothing–the process is kind of similar to writing in that you have to research, draft an “outline” (pattern), sew the main parts, then tweak the details and trim it out. And I hand-sew nearly everything (did I mention that I make my reproductions as authentic as possible, down to inane details no one would notice?) so it’s really hands-on, tactile work. Some of my stuff here: http://hyalineprosaic.blogspot.com/

    Jodi–I tried spinning years ago, and I found it really enjoyable and soothing! The motions are simple and repetitive, but it’s not easy to do well!

  4. Alexa S. Oct 20 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    How positively fascinating! I think it’s pretty cool that all these different hobbies/interests manage to take your mind off writing, and yet still work to positively influence it in their way. For me, I think it’d definitely have to be scrapbooking! And cleaning, because apparently, I consider that quite the hobby 😉

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