Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thoughts About Creating....


When you think about the creative process, be it writing a novel or painting an abstract design, everyone goes about it in their own unique way. As a writer, I'm just getting started, so that process is still being formed, but as an artist, my process has pretty much solidified in the many, many years (yup, I'm old, who knew?) of practice. I find this unique creative finger print each of us has to be a fascinating subject. 

 Today I was reading a blog from one of my favorite authors, Maggie Stiefvater.  If you've read any of her work (Shiver, Linger, Forever, Lament, Ballad,  ...I could go on) it reads almost as poetry.  Her wording is so beautiful it's breathtaking.

Maggie is a self-proclaimed perfectionist, a kindred soul to me.  As an artist, I often leave my "half-done" work sitting out for weeks while I stare at it deciding if it's finished or what else needs done.  For classes I've taken, I've many times stayed up all night finishing a project.  Not due to poor time management, just a compulsive need to have it just so.  The picture on the upper right is of one of those school projects on which I logged unbelievable hours.  After painting unique textures on bristol board, I cut mosaic tiles out and placed them together to form this image.  As this is a book blog, I won't go into further detail (I can ramble something fierce about art & wouldn't want to bore you -- tee hee hee).

In honor of our shared perfectionism, I have included the blog I read earlier today below.  There's a link at the end for you to enjoy more from Maggie's blog.


And I think this is okay.

I know a lot of writing advice out there encourages you to kill your inner editor and let your work run free and to release mental possession of your draft. I know this advice is trying to battle the scores of writers out there who cling to their drafts, picking over them instead of working up the courage to send them out to critique partners, agents, and mothers. But I'm not sure I really like this condemnation of continual editing as a universal truth. For a beginning writer? Yes, I think there's some sense to it. You have to learn how to tell when a first draft is done. You have to learn how to give it away. But once you've finished a novel or two, I don't see why writers should be encouraged to think perfectionism is a dirty word. For me, "done" is such an intuitive thing. I can tell when my novels are done when they stop needling at me. When I stop thinking of things to do to them. When the characters are no longer acting out scenes in my dreams. It can't be about the fear that I haven't covered everything. It has to be that feeling that the movie in my head has reached the last reel. Until that happens, I edit and re-read and tweak and move one word three sentences down the page. Though a reader might not notice that you changed "cold" to "icy" on page 47, a word by word attack on a draft can change the subconscious effect of it on a reader.

So yes, I am an unrepentant fastidious editor.

I think this pretty much goes for every element of my life. So it should surprise no one when I say that I edited the recipe for November Cakes. A few months I posted about how I was delighted to have invented a food for THE SCORPIO RACES, and then I added a recipe. Well, it was still niggling at me. They were fine, but FINE IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I spent several months turning over possible solutions to my perceived unhappiness with my first November Cakes recipes, and then . . . I edited it.

Yesterday I tried out my fix. Of course it was hugely better. The cakey bit was fluffier, richer, more nuanced. The glaze was gooier and clung to the crevices of the cakes better. The entire consistency was improved. Now you bite through a caramel-honey glaze with a bit of resistance and into a fluffy, sweet dough beneath. That was what I was trying to do before.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't kill your inner editor. Just set up boundaries for her. Also, use this recipe and not the other.

***You can see the recipe and yummy-looking pictures as well as read more from Maggie's blogs by clicking here.***


  1. Wow you artists and creative people make me jealous. I don't have a creative bone in my body lol. But I do understand about the perfectionist part. I've had that trait come to the rescue quite a few times ;)

  2. Thanks for sharing this! We are all artists in our own ways even with cooking. I think it is important that we never really feel satisfied with what we do, how else do we continue to grow?

    So, of course we should keep picking at something. We should stay up late to keep tweaking just one more thing. We should ponder our word choices and reread every sentence, because in the end it makes us better for the next project ahead.

  3. Maggie's blog is my FAVORITE author blog! She's wonderful! From the writing advice she shares, to her favorite new music, to her favorite recent reads, to her book trailers, she is definitely a must-read blog. Her books are beautiful too!
    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews