How it happens

As I’ve delved into writing in college, I’ve learned what I need to get my creative juices flowing. At this point, I can’t say I’m an expert. It’s an on-going process; I will always be learning how my creative forces in work. But this is what I have so far.

the written word

the written word (Photo credit: paloetic)

First of all, the process of creating a concept and writing it out does not happen in one isolated episode. When I get an assignment or some sort of inspiration I spend my non-writing hours mulling it over. I do my best creative thinking in the shower in the car. (If you ever find me dead in a ditch down by the river next to an overturned vehicle, you’ll know I was thinking about writing.) Many a thesis, lead or theme have been conjured up well before my fingers touch a pencil or keyboard.

I absolutely need a deadline for every single project. It is impossible for me to follow a “get it done whenever” mentality. If my editor does not give me a deadline I assign one to myself, because without one there is simply no hope of that project ever coming to fruition.

Unfortunately, I am one of those writers who puts other things off to ensure that I meet my deadline. Usually, the thing I push back is eating. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t starve myself between those certain crucial dates, but I will not let the opportunity to eat throw off my “flow.” More often than not, when I’m on a roll I forget to eat because my creative forces simply refuse to put up with silly things like appetites.

When sitting down to write, perhaps the most important thing I need is relative quiet. Some soft music gets me started, when I come to a point where I have to carefully consider details like word order I usually turn it off. Outside distractions easily derail me, sometimes if I’m on a role I close the door or put headphones in even if no music is playing.

However, I prefer to have easy access to others to discuss my ideas if I get stuck. My ideas may begin as seeds in my own brain, but they often bloom during discussions with other people, especially other writers. The discussions cover questions ranging from “Does this sound stupid?” to “But what is the meaning of life anyway?”

In the end, it gets written. I edit, overanalyze some of my creative choices and then edit some more. As the editing process continues, I become fixated on and tweak things that probably won’t end up making much of a difference. By the time I publish or turn it the project, there are plenty more changes I’d like to make, but I’ve consented to the thought that the project is probably better than I think it is and is where it’s supposed to be. I think that’s something all writers share.

Fellow friters, I’d like to hear from you. What does your writing process look like? Leave a comment below!

Vine: giving the artistic inch

Give ’em and inch, and they’ll take a mile. This could be a good thing or a bad thing.

In January Twitter released the Vine app, which allows users to shoot and edit six-second video loops with only a few taps of their fingers.

Iphone-picture

Apple iPhone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In March Marvel used it to produce a trailer for this summer’s “The Wolverine.” The app reached the top of the overall best free app list two months ago and currently holds the number four spot.

It’s like the Twitter of the video world. The artistic challenge is to cram as much content, impact and creativity into a tiny space. On the other hand, this concept could also be an artistic downfall.

Making the video-making process that easy reduces the value of good craftsmanship. Anyone–artists and non-artists alike–can now piece videos together, so we can expect to see Vines of all types. Unfortunately, there’s no quality control.

Like Twitter, you’ll find well-constructed, clever videos. And you’ll also find pointless ones (like those “Here’s what I had for lunch!” tweets) as well as stupid or even downright embarrassing ones. (Luckily, Seenive has collected some examples of this latter category.)

As Vine continues to grow in popularity, it may take more searching to find the better ones. But rest assured; they do exist. People are using Vine to make bite-sized bits of video art, employing rapid storytelling and stop-motion techniques.

Following in Twitter’s footsteps, Vine is yet another example of the Internet’s sped-up and short-attention sense of humor. The quality of the content depends on who you follow. I recommend subscribing to FunnyVines on Youtube or following them on Twitter. Follow individual users at your own risk!

Retail tales

For the last three summers I worked at a shoe store in a local mall. Whenever I would tell people I worked in retail, they would look at me with pity, assuming that I had a terrible job.

“Oh, I’ll bet you have stories,” they’d say. Or, “Well, I bet you really earn every paycheck you get.”

I’ve worked three back-to-school seasons, two Black Fridays, two holiday seasons, and countless buy-one-get-one sales. So yes, I do have stories. I have something of a treasure trove of stories.

I’ve had to tell children to stop running headlong into our wall mirrors. I’ve thwarted (and been thwarted by) my fair share of shoplifters. I’ve dealt with crazy coupon ladies. I’ve witnessed two kids walk out of our store with two handfuls each of our miniature plastic shoehorns.

But for every story of frustration, there are many more of satisfaction and fulfillment.

I see customer service as an opportunity to create. When a tired mother toting three toddlers would enter the store with a tired scowl, I’d have the chance to create a happy end to her day. When a rushed businessman would come in on his lunch break, I’d have the opportunity to create a quick, get-in, get-out shopping experience.

The most challenging experiences were also usually the most rewarding. When a woman would come in with a very uniquely colored dress–say, rust or chartreuse–it would be my job to create her outfit by helping her find just the right shoes to top off the look. For some strange reason it is thrilling to end a shift thinking things like, “I found shoes to match a purple-and-gold paisley cocktail dress.”

Each customer presented a unique challenge. I know I’ve met that challenge when a customer walked out of their store with a smile on his or her face. In those moments, each crazy retail story seemed a little more insignificant.

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