Creative Cross Pollination
Today’s post is a special treat – a guest post from Jennie Nash, author of The Only True Genius in the Family, which was published earlier this month by Berkley Trade.
Creative Cross Pollination, or How Knitting, Painting and Gardening Can Help You Become a Better Writer
by Jennie Nash, author of The Only True Genius in the Family
Writing is a thing that you necessarily do by yourself. Even if you’re sitting in a crowded Starbucks or the reading room of a fantastic library, you are the only one who is going to decide which word to put down next, which scene to write next and which project to see through to completion. In a great essay entitled, “The Talent of the Room,” Michael Ventura put it best: “Writing is something you do alone in a room. Copy that sentence and put it on your wall because there’s no way to exaggerate or overemphasize this fact. It’s the most important thing to remember if you want to be a writer. Writing is something you do alone in a room.”
The strangest thing has happened to me, however, during the writing of my last two books. Around about page 100, I start to obsess about getting up and going out, and the places I always fantasize about going are places where I could make some other kind of art. I’d think about going to the art store and buying giant tubes of paint, going to the yarn store and buying bags of merino wool, or taking a class in how to throw a clay pot. I became mesmerized by the idea of starting a new project – something with color, something with texture, something that’s just more tangible than words on a page.
I used to fight the impulse. I thought that a “real” writer would just stay in the room and finish the story. What I found, however, is that if I allow myself the freedom to wander, creatively speaking, it always helps my work. Spend a little time in a bead shop stringing chunks of turquoise on a wire and you’ll understand something about rhythm. Run your hands over some bright red baby alpaca yarn, and you’ll learn something about texture. And if you need a reminder that failure is an inherent part of creativity and that throwing out a few hundred words (or pages) isn’t the end of the world? Try turning a chunk of clay into a bowl.
I know that writers have to work alone in a room, but I also know this: the more experiences of life we can take in there with us, the richer our work will be. I no longer shy away from the urge to create something besides stories – to play with color, texture, pattern, rhythm, and taste. My fifth book is coming out this month, and I’m in the middle of my sixth…and I also have some horribly misshapen clay bowls on a shelf, some painfully thin scarves in a drawer, and a few paintings on my bathroom wall that feature a rather hideous shade of olive green that I mixed right on the canvas just because I thought it would be fun.
About the Author
Jennie Nash lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband and two daughters. She is an instructor at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Visit her website, www.jennienash.com, to read first chapter of her new novel, The Only True Genius in the Family. Visit Meet Your Muse, Jennie’s blog about creative inspiration.
Other books by Jennie Nash:
The Last Beach Bungalow, a novel about a breast cancer survivor who falls in love with a house.
The Victoria’s Secret Catalog Never Stops Coming: And Other Lessons I Learned From Breast Cancer, a memoir about love, loss and lingerie.