Hey, writers! I’d like to welcome back Stacey Oberle and thank her for her contribution to DarWrites! We are so inspired when artists join in! Thanks, Stacey!
Breaking the Rules
My muse has multiple personalities. She urges me to write a novel, but she speaks to me in poetry and hands me a paintbrush. Trying to reign her in is like herding cats… blindfolded. This combined with the fact that I am terrified of failing, terrified of disappointing anyone, is a nightmare.
So when Darlene asked me to do a guest post, as excited and flattered as I was, I was mortified. She asked for a creative piece on wizards. I asked if she’d like a writing/art prompt for her readers or a creative piece of my own, to which she replied, “What would make you happiest? Let’s do that.” And then she added the worst part – “I trust you.” While most people consider this a positive thing, it kicked my self-doubt into overdrive.
I’ve never been creative on a deadline before, at least not one that someone else was relying on me to meet, and with next to no instructions or guidelines, there were infinite possibilities. You might ask how on earth I could fail, but all I could ask was how could I not?
I tried to remember, at which times in my life have I been the most creative? Somewhat afraid to admit it, being the hardcore rule follower I have always been, I realized that I am most creative when I break the rules. Once upon a time in ninth grade, I learned that poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, and it was like the world broke open and I could do anything.
So, I started drawing with markers and added some watercolor. I came up with my wizard – a little boy who wants nothing more than to be a wizard. To find out why, I switched over to a web diagram to brainstorm. Naturally, this just gave me way too much material to organize in the week I had to get it done, but at least I discovered that he escapes to an alternate world where he actually is a wizard.
My dreams don’t come to me in chronological order, and I can’t see them straight on. It’s like watching a jumbled foreign movie with nothing but peripheral vision. My ideas for writing and artwork come to me the same way – I have a rough idea, a feeling, and while it’s incredibly vague, it’s also incredibly, infuriatingly specific. I’ve always struggled to figure out how to translate them into something that makes any sense.
Break the rules, my muse whispered to me.
So I got out all my art supplies – paints, both acrylic and watercolor, oil pastels, colored pencils and watercolor pencils and markers and brushes – and I wasted a lot of paper. Honestly I think my muse does drugs, and while I see her very unlikely potential of someday making me a brilliant success, I seriously want to strangle her.
Here were some of her suggestions: Create a graphic novel! (except I have never done that type of artwork and wouldn’t even know where to begin) Try found poetry! (except I am surrounded by a hundred dollars’ worth of art supplies and she wants me to go out and buy a newspaper?) Mix media! (Which media?) All of it! Write a fairy tale! Write a novel and have it finished and polished and ready to go in seven days! (Except I have a husband, three children and a job and have never actually completed a novel before… not to mention this is for a blog, and I highly doubt that’s what Darlene had in mind)… The list could go on, and believe me, it did.
I used a random name generator I found online. I googled children’s wizard costumes. I watched part of a tutorial on comic book art. I spent a lot of time falling down a rabbit hole of infinite possibilities. I knew I couldn’t waste time making the wrong decisions, but I wasted plenty of time not making any.
My challenge to you today is to play.
Put away your phone and laptop, step away from electronics. Dust off and don your wizard hat; allow yourself to be a child again. Pick up your wand, may it be crayon or marker or paintbrush (and yes, you can break the unspoken wizarding rules and have as many wands as you’d like), and grab some construction paper and glue. Get a canvas or paint on rocks. Create a mixed media picture by using leaves you find on the ground. It doesn’t matter if the end result is visually beautiful or hideous. Remember that this is a journey. Take the story you feel inside of you and instead of writing it, give yourself a day to express it in some other form. See what happens.
The second part of this challenge is that this is going to be about a wizard. Before you put too much thought into it, start drawing (or painting or making a collage) to see if you can get your wizard to materialize without using words. If it helps, here are a few ideas to get you started:
- What does magic look like?
- If you were the wizard, would your magic come from your wand or from inside of you? What do your bones feel like when you do magic?
- What does your wizarding world look like? Is it fantastic, or is it mundane?
- Draw up some wand designs that aren’t traditional. Maybe they’re disguised in some way – a pen, a paintbrush, a candy cigarette?
Once you’ve gotten some visuals for your story, challenge yourself further -if you usually write poetry, try a short story. If you usually write novels, try poetry. See what happens if you integrate words with pictures. Take all the rules you think you know and break them all.
On this amazing journey that I’ve embarked on this past week, I realized that I’ve only just begun. I’m getting closer to having a vision for this story that now I have no choice but to tell. I’m not sure if it’ll be a short story or a novel or a picture book, but I’m going to stop limiting myself to what I think I should do. The best self-improvement wisdom that I ever received was this: ‘Should’ is a guilt-producing word. I should feel this way, I should write that way, I should do the laundry and dishes and clean out the gutter before writing or painting or playing. Creativity is not about what you should do, and if you stop wasting so much time worrying about it, the possibilities really are endless.
Happy rule breaking,
Stacey Oberle is a mentor, teacher, writer, and mother of three awesome girls. In her off-time she enjoys chugging coffee and writing epic poetry.