Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Dip into Art, Find a New Writerly You by Leslie Colin Tribble and Kathy Halsey

Any amount of creativity takes incubation.
Kathy:  This past fall was hard on me mentally and by October, I felt creatively dry. I had not read Julie Cameron's The Artist's Way but I have done Morning Pages and knew to take myself on "creativity dates" to art museums, the woods, or whatever to just feed my soul and heart. I changed up my creative routine and challenged myself to try pen and ink sketching with Inktober a week into the challenge. Although I didn't get 31 drawings done, one a day with a prompt, I did enjoy the pursuit of another medium. Here's what I learned dipping into a new art form.
One of my pen & ink sketches w/acrylic. Inspired by a photo and the prompt "angular."

  • It freed me from being too critical of myself, since I didn't consider myself an artist. 
  • I met other artists and saw how many different ways there are to render art with pen & ink.
  • I sketched on planes, in pubs, and found that people were interested in what I was doing. 
  • By the month's end, I realized that as I wrote, I was beginning to think in pictures and what I would sketch on a page. 
  • I gained courage from trying an art form that was new and realized that all artistic expression has rough patches, trial and error, fun, and breakthroughs.  
Sometimes you have to be patient and wait until the time is right.
I knew some of my kid lit friends had other talents and asked them to comment on what they enjoyed in addition to writing and how each art helps feed the other. Twenty-three writers responded to my question over at KidLIt411. I'll share just a few responses.

  • To me, creative writing is just one form of artistic generativity. Almost any form of self-expression is useful for generating writing ideas and for getting into creation-mode.
    Different ways of creating often feed into one another. A necklace I've woven may lead to an idea for a different way to decorate a cookie, which in turn may result in an unexpected idea for a children's book. - Michele Blood
  • I enjoy handicrafts like sewing, knitting and needle-felting along with costuming. I also garden. For me, it's about letting my brain have some time to fallow, but my hands need to be busy somehow.  - Kimberly Christensen
  •  I love gardening, and mowing the lawn. How is lawn mowing creative? I mow nonsensical patterns, or only see from above patterns some times. It's great non-interupted creative time too, much writing is figured out in the fresh air! I also do t'ai chi and qigong which help my writing a great deal. - Charlene Brandt Avery
  • Cooking, gardening, and oddly, doing puzzles. I realize that it's not creative in the sense that the pieces are already there. But it both focuses and relaxes my mind. It's very meditative and I often come up with ways to approach a manuscript I'm working on while I'm doing them. - Julie Foster Hedlund
  • Finally, GROGger friend, Leslie Colin Tribble, is an author/photographer and treats Facebook followers to amazing photos. I asked her to tag team with me on this post. Her photography makes me conjure up stories. (They are throughout this post.)  
Leslie: I use photography to help me sharpen my creativity. Often when I'm out hiking I see things in nature which prompt story ideas so I snap photos to help me remember. Or I take photos of things I want to research later - what might that animal track be; what woodpecker makes those types of holes; do kangaroo mice hibernate? I could write these ideas down in a notebook, but slipping my cell phone out of my pocket and snapping off one or even ten photos of something is so much easier. Thank goodness for digital!

Creativity is a reflective endeavor.
I'm not on Facebook much anymore, but I have a presence on Instagram (sagebrush_lessons) and I love it. I follow people, places and hashtags that inspire me to create, whether it's photography or writing. I really enjoy posting my own photos and love showing people a slice of my outdoor life. I seldom post anything personal, but I do post things that I find interesting in the natural world. Instagram boosts my creativity and keeps me looking for unique and fun subjects for posts. 

I also think it's good to take a break from your regular writing. I didn't do much of any writing this past year, and when I finally picked up a pen, I wrote personal journal entries exploring emotions and thoughts, something I definitely am not comfortable with. And I've been trying to write a nature-related tidbit per day, just to jump start the words. Writing is practice and when I don't practice I feel the words and ideas stop flowing. 

Sometimes you have to just stop and absorb all that good energy.
Another practice which has come into my life is that of sketching. I've always wanted to keep that tried-and-true naturalist's notebook filled with beautiful sketches of plants and animals. But I really can't sketch for anything. The point is though, that sketching helps me notice both intimate detail and overall impressions. It helps me better understand what I'm looking at and inspires me to increase my knowledge. It's a creativity booster, even though I am absolutely no good at it. I figure I may never create a journal on the lines of Claire Walker Leslie, but my sketching certainly can't get any worse than it already is. And who knows? In several years (decades?!) I just might be slightly better at sketching than I am now! 

What are some ways which you can try to ratchet up your creativity by exploring other art forms? How about taking a watercolor class or learn sculpting? Maybe you could join a Toast Master's group, learn glass blowing, or learn to knit? I find I do a lot of mental writing when I'm just knitting down a long row of the same stitch (plus I'm not a very gifted knitter - plain and simple for me!) Find something you aren't very good at, especially if it requires you to use a different side of your brain.   
Other times you have to head out and pursue it.
Kathy:  As author Sarah Aronson reminded me in her recent newsletter, "In our creative lives, when we take risks, we don't always succeed either. But you'll never know what can happen in your story unless you try. Unless you let go of playing it safe. Unless you risk losing." Here's to new forms of creativity in 2019. What might you do with this one fabulous life? 

Its always worth the effort and you can congratulate yourself on a job well done.



  1. Excellent post Leslie and Kathy :) Dipping into creative adventures is a challenge. I love to draw and write. I study the work of others, read books on writing, and illustrating. Those ideas spring from everywhere, but you do have to train yourself to be an observer of life.

    1. TY, for commenting and reading this , Charlotte You are a artist and writer. both.

  2. Great post, Kathy and Leslie. Lately I've been joining a monthly art gathering where we explore different media. It's inspired me to locate my sketchbook and I plan to do more drawings this coming year.

    1. What a great idea, Sue. That sound like inspiring fun.

  3. Interesting and helpful post. I also play the piano and violin. And sometimes I just stare out the window. It may sound weird, but I have to give myself permission to daydream, because sometimes that's what gets me past the roadblock. I hope that both of you are filled to overflowing with ideas for the coming year. Happy Holidays!

    1. I like quiet time , too, to sift though thoughts. Thanks for sharing your creativity.

  4. I enjoy creating and making. Whether I'm working on a multi-media sketchbook/journal entry, painting with acrylics or watercolor, sewing, baking, or even gardening, these hobbies are important. All of this creativity supports me as a writer.

    Perhaps it is *productive procrastination*I practice and pursue as I play with various projects!

    Thank you Kathy and Leslie for this fantastic post that inspires all to find the creativity in our creations. Both Perry and I enjoy your nature shots on Instagram. Your photography is amazing.

    1. Garden Girl, you are a maker and have a hubs who is a maker, too. Love to see what comes from your garden, you flowers, what you cook. You are a creative soul.

  5. Wonderful post! I love how you reached into other forms to find creative expression.

  6. Love the Grog posts. Thanks Kathy and Leslie. Artist, I am not...doodling, camera and phone are my handy tools! Merry Christmas-Happy Holidays to you.

    1. Mona, your photography is wonderful. Merry Christmas and the best in 2019.