Focusing on another form of creation sparks the next step in your writing
Since then, I’ve owned multiple 35-mm cameras—some film and others digital, some point-and-shoots, some with special lenses—of various brands and models. The Leica is still on my dream list (although my bank account weepeth at the mere thought).
I approach my photography with the novice’s passion and magical what-if. I’ve taken online, non-credit classes in still-life and conceptual photography, but I’ve never had my photography formally workshopped by a professor and fellow students, as I have with my writing. Photography is my retreat. My place of renewal. A treat and a conundrum. Unlike the goals I set routinely for my writing, my freelance critiquing business, and my teaching, I am much more loosey-goosey with my photography. I peruse images online and mark favourites in photo magazines for new ideas and to see what’s possible. I might shoot three days in a row or not pick up my camera for six weeks. I don’t impose limits or even much structure on what I choose to photograph or on my editing. I accept ideas as they arise and see what I can do with them with contentment.
A lot of what I photograph doesn’t match what I envision inside, and much of what does work is intuitive and I couldn’t replicate if I tried. I’ve had my photography published several times, but I don’t know f-stops or much technical jargon, as I do for writing. I’m happy not to consider myself a photography expert—I am a photographer, period.
There is much that can be brought from other arts to enhance writing. Consider getting a kiln and throwing vessels (as one of my favourite fiction-writing university students does), take a class in tap or yoga or hip-hop, get a loom, make jewellery or knit hats or play the piano or trumpet or take voice lessons or sculpt or learn calligraphy from a book you borrow from a friend or the library. Make your own digital shorts and post them on YouTube.
Whatever flavour(s) of art you choose, it’s bound to shake loose your old ways of approaching your characters and scenes. Another art restores the sense of play and discovery. My interest in imagery is a thread that runs through my poetry, prose, and photography. Symbolism and characterization, too. When I get stuck or have a blah day with my current writing project, breaking out some props and arranging them on my photography table for an impromptu still-life gets the creative mojo moving. Perhaps you’re at an impasse with your protagonist and have no idea what he’ll do next or your antagonist is boring or you haven’t written a new article or poem in weeks. Why not choose another art—whether new-to-you or a favourite hobby—and give your writing brain the afternoon off? You might be surprised by how focusing on another form of creation sparks the next step in your writing work-in-progress.
What arts do you practice in addition to your writing? What art might you try as a novice to enhance your writing?
Try this exercise: Run, do not walk, to an art near you. Or take a course online. If photography is also your bag, try courses through personal photographers or schools like CreateLive. Keep a journal and write down the fun and the challenges as you go. You may be surprised how many of the lessons you learn that apply equally to your writing projects.