creativity


Random quote of the day:

“You cannot govern the creative impulse. About all you can do is eliminate obstacles and smooth the way for it.”

—Kimon Nicolaides, The Natural Way to Draw—A Working Plan for Art Study

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

jimmy-choo-red-glitter-heels

Many have written about the ritual use of shoes, including me. This post isn’t about that, but it is about the fairytale-psyche-soulful aspects of shoes.

I’ve been reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes again. This is a book I have picked up and put down many times over the years. It’s as chewy as a chocolate caramel candy with almonds and each chunk of it takes a lot of mastication before you can swallow and digest. But it nourishes the soul and I love it. Ms. Pinkola Estes uses fairytales and Jungian analysis to help women reclaim—or never lose in the first place—their wild woman soul, that part of her that yearns for freedom and creativity and a life of standing on her own two feet.

In the chapter, “Self-Preservation: Identifying Leg Traps, Cages, and Poisoned Bait” she does a brilliant analysis of “The Red Shoes.” I’m not going to duplicate that here because, really, she’s already done it only better and I highly recommend reading what she says. However, the chapter does touch upon the special, deep-down meaning shoes have had for millennia.

Shoes send social signals, of course. Often people are judged by what they wear, especially on their feet. “Artists,” Ms. Pinkola Estes says, “often wear shoes that are quite different from those worn by, say, engineers.” However, if we’re talking ancient times, rulers had shoes, peasants didn’t. They were symbols of power. In a southern clime, shoes weren’t as necessary, but in a northern climate, they were vital to survival. Even the poor must find some sort of foot covering to withstand the winter.

The symbol of shoes can be understood as a psychological metaphor; they protect and defend what we stand on—our feet. In archetypal symbolism, feet represent mobility and freedom. In that sense to have shoes to cover the feet is to have the convictions of our beliefs and the wherewithal to act on them. Without psychic shoes a woman is unable to negotiate inner or outer environs that require acuity, sense, caution, and toughness.

It occurs to me when reading this that it might in part explain why so many women in these modern, privileged times tend towards shoe obsessions. Western society is divorced from so many of the soulful aspects of life that we seek that kind of toughness, that sense of freedom and creativity, from the outside in, rather than the inside out. It’s a strategy that can never work longterm. The soulful life is never an outer construct. It requires work, constant work, from the inside. As Ms. Pinkola Estes points out, “red indicates that the process is going to be one of vibrant life, which includes sacrifice.” You can’t buy that ready made. You can’t find your soul in an enormous shoe closet.

She also points out that in ancient matriarchal cultures in India, Egypt, parts of Asia, and Turkey, henna and other red pigments were given to young girls to stain their feet during threshold rites (a term Ms. Pinkola Estes prefers to the male-coined “puberty” or “fertility” rites). Onset of menstruation was one of the biggest of these rites, menarche being the symbolic crossing from childhood to the full power of womanhood. Girls were welcomed into the tribe of women, with all its attendant mystery and power and sacrifice, to become part of a larger group, a soul group, a belonging tribe.*

We in the privileged world no longer cross thresholds in the same way. We stagger through them as individuals, menarche is downgraded to a “curse,” we are made to feel ashamed of our bodies and their natural processes, and seek snake oil patents to cover “embarrassing odors.” We are privileged but deeply impoverished, caught up in a dance that has no meaning but goes on and on until we are exhausted and must amputate our own soles to get some semblance of rest. We are looking to cover our poor, naked soul-feet from the outside in, lining our caves with glittering, shining, must-have ruby slippers.

I have nothing against Jimmy Choo or Marc Jacobs or Van’s. I too have worshipped at the altar of the shoe fetish. But I recognize that the soleful life will never be the soulful life, and I try hard not to mistake the one for the other.

*Ms. Pinkola Estes sites no sources for these observations just gives a generalized bibliography at the end of her book.

Random quote of the day:

“The Muse visits during the act of creation, not before. Don’t wait for her. Start alone.”

—Roger Ebert, Twitter, March 24, 2011

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“The best thing is to write anything, anything at all that comes into your mind, until gradually there is a calm and creative day.”

—Stephen Spender, as quoted in The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction by John Defresne

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Ideas are poison. The more you reason, the less you create.”

—Raymond Chandler, letter to Charles Morton, 28 October 1947

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“What I cannot create, I do not understand.”

—Richard Feynman, on his blackboard at the time of death in 1988, as quoted in The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

The lovely and talented mnfaure recently posted these trigger words: read, crusade, kiss, beauty, back, us. They were part of a technique she and her husband use to spur on their creativity. I wrote the words down on a piece of paper and left work for the day. When I came in this morning and saw the words, this tumbled out, I know not from where:

I am on perpetual crusade
to return us to those first moments
when your battlements fell,
the beauty of that first kiss,
the way your eyes read my face,
the way my mouth crumbled
your defenses, our breath
intertwined, our skin’s
burning velvet embrace.
Can we fight our way back
to that fire of long ago
after so many years of comfort
and knowing? Or is it instead
a children’s adventure to try?
The contentment of our lives
is its own crusade, a gentle
battle against the world’s
harsh ways, a bulwark
against its fires of destruction.

Random quote of the day:

 

“We are all agreed that your theory is crazy.  The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”

—Niels Bohr to Wolfgang Pauli regarding the Heisenberg-Pauli nonlinear theory of elementary particles, quoted in Symposisum on Basic Research by Dael Lee Wolfle

 

 

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

 

“Inspiration has never really factored in the creative process for me.  It’s been about work, and it’s been about sitting down and rather doggedly trying to achieve a certain kind of idea.”

—Nick Cave, interview, LA Weekly, September 12-18, 2008

 

 


Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Okay, so the plot of that novel is nothing like any of my vampire novels (all 3-1/2 of them), but there are certain elements in the worldbuilding which really sounded familiar:

  • A 1500-year-old vampire
  • A group of powerful supernatural being overlords called the Congregation (mine was the Covenant)
  • Vampires who can eat normal food but don’t, mostly because the smell is abhorrent (especially garlic)
  • Vampire growth spurts, in which the vampire gets larger and more of an apex predator after being “changed” from mortal
  • Other piddling things that slip my mind at the moment

Now, none of these elements are earth-shatteringly similar, but chances are that if any of my vamp novels sees some form of publication someone will surely think I’ve ripped off Ms. Harkness, even though I did this worldbuilding twenty years ago now. It no longer depresses me when this sort of stuff happens, no longer even irks me especially hard, because I have been through this same thing so many times before. Seriously, click on the “simultaneous invention” tag if you want to listen to more hardcore whining on this subject. No? Can’t say as I blame you.

The thing is, the concept of simultaneous invention is quite well-known in science. And if it’s true for the tech fields, it’s also true for creative fields. It happens all the time—to me, to my friends, to writers and artists of all sorts. It’s just the way the zeitgeist operates, propagating certain ideas into the culture when their time has arrived. Some individuals are quick to pick up on them and “get them to market,” while others (like me) are painfully slow about the whole thing or otherwise blocked from getting their version before the public eye time. As with Ms. Harkness and I, nothing sinister is involved, no one has stolen anything.

Most of the time. Ideas do get stolen. It’s happened (verifiably) to friends of mine, it’s happened to me—which is one of the reasons I decided I didn’t want to be involved with Hollywood anymore. But most of the time, I firmly believe it’s just a case of that ol’ zeitgeist playing with folks, hoping somebody will take the idea ball and run with it.

The strangest example of this for me happened about a year before Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out. I started working on this idea about a guy name Roy who was a state trooper. One night when he’s out on patrol on a lonely stretch of highway, he has a close encounter with a bunch of UFOs that radically changes his life. He loses his job, his marriage breaks up, and he spends the rest of his time obsessing about and trying to solve the mystery of these strange alien craft. Sounds familiar, huh? I never heard a word about the movie in production until I was about six months into the worldbuilding on my own idea. The thing that is really freaky to me is that both my character and the Richard Dreyfuss character in Close Encounters had the name of Roy. The zeitgeist was working overtime on that one.

So, onward. If I do publish any of the old vampire stuff, I’m sure there are many elements in my books that have been used in other (and many) books since I first came up with the concepts. They can’t help but be labeled “derivative.” I guess the answer is to just keep writing new things, to keep moving forward.

Oh, and what did I think of A Discovery of Witches? I quite loved it, despite the cliffhanger ending. Which is all I’ll say about that ending—but you have been forewarned.

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