Creative ProcessingMar 12, 2022
If you're reading this, I bet you are creative.
You might not say you are (ah those titles and identities have so much baggage), but I bet you are.
Once I got that MFA in Acting, I was forever a theatre kid. Could I also be a painter? No. (Also, that's funny because I cannot paint.) Could I be known as a singer? Maybe? A poet? No. A writer? Only if it's theatre related.
Whether that binary is influenced by my thoughts or by the art culture or both, the binary exists. You are this or that.
While I followed a crumbling career as a theatre professor solo mother, I found life writing in the form of Story Slams. If you don't know what a story slam is, I recommend you check out The Moth. You could also check out my podcast where we did a whole season just on story slam stories from women.
A bit about Story Slams:
Story Slams are events where multiple people tell 5-7 minute stories that are true and that happened to them without notes. They usually have a theme. Kinda like writing prompts, but for spoken stories.
My creative process for these includes going back and forth between writing them and orally practicing them. As a story professional, I know there's a way that the brain puts things together that is helpful to notice when you're rehearsing. Is there a bit you keep forgetting? Maybe you don't need it. I record myself sometimes, a trick I would have shunned as an acting professor, but as this is a director less auteur medium, I need the feedback loop. Even with myself.
I find this style of creativity to be my speed: short, intense, and communal. My old theatre life involved days, hours, and months of time, now time I have to cover with baby sitters. Story Slams are the opposite. You get the prompt. You do your work creating and rehearsing. You show up. You do the darn thing. You enjoy story community. You go home. One evening. If it's virtual, I don't even need to pay a sitter.
Story Slams work for my life.
In my coaching life, most of my clients eventually tell me they want to write. Fiction, nonfiction, church curriculum, blog posts, social media, memoir, new forms. Some of my clients want to do a traditional route in publishing (more on that later), and some will self publish.
Most have, like I did, a block on calling themselves writers, authors, or creatives.
I find this fascinating. It is me, too.
Recently, I was asked to participate in a gallery show at my local library. The submissions were either poetry or art. I didn't outwardly share that occasionally my words were brief (my way of writing poetry). I had a block on it.
My friend and poet Loli was participating, so if you go back to my perfect art needs: short, intense, and communal, this fit the bill.
I did the thing I love to do in communal writing sessions, and dug deep in my thought garden (forgive the cuteness), and brought up what it really means to me to be a woman.
That poem was some of my bravest work, but not my spiciest.
It was rejected.
I was upset. It stung. I felt ashamed that a committee of my neighbors thought my work was not fit for a broad audience. Like I was an unfit mother author, putting people's precious children at risk.
Of course, this is not at all what my contact SAID. She said that they could not have ANY mention of sex, and my poem discussed a sex ed moment in my childhood.
Still, my feelings were in need of some reflection (and that poem needs a new home).
I had a choice: to write something else or sit in my feelings.
I decided (remember: short, intense, communal) that being in a show with my friend was the most important thing to me, and that I could write something even shorter, more condensed, more secretive, that would make me happy.
And so, I dug down again, into that same place, thinking about how many stories women are told to bury to be allowed out.
We have a local lake (that I have never been to) where there are entire neighborhoods buried in water. They intentionally filled it up where lots of people had full lives. This is not a small lake. Lake Murray is huge and deep, and at times, dangerous.
So too is how we ask some people to bury who they are.
And so, I wrote a short poem about it. There's a wink in there, as we, who have been taught that decorum is a nonnegotiable, share.
When the show opened this month, Loli, her husband Jesus, and I, went to see it. They arrived before me, and located our work. Play the video for my reaction to finding where I was placed.
I'm still so glad I chose to reach back in that creative grab bag of things to write about. I am glad I chose to embrace fear that other writers would have critiques of my self taught poetic style. I am glad I chose to play.
By the way, Loli recommended a course called ModPo. As I went through it, I found lots of inspiration, and will continue to hone my craft, as my poetry is like me: short, intense, and communal. Big stories in small packages. And this works for me.
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