Friday, October 3, 2014

4 Reasons to Give Up Writing Creatively...and it's Poetry Friday!

Howdy, Campers!

The winner of  our latest autographed book giveaway is....KAY S!  Congratulations, Kay!

Today is Poetry Friday and the fabulous Jama Rattigan is hosting. A poem from my first verse novel is waiting for you at the end of this post. The poem is about... 


An example of creativity from
In case you've missed TeachingAuthors' series on Creativity, JoAnn started us off with kindness and community, Jill left us on a high note with 5 secrets of creativity, Esther got our juices flowing with a Writing Workout inspired by punctuation, Carmela offered "4 Ways I Boost my Creativity", and Mary Ann, back from a TA sabbatical (yay!), grants us permission.

My turn!

Here are four reasons why I think you should give up trying to be creative:
1) Don't you dare tell me what to do;
2) Get miserable;
3) Find someone so frickin' honest you want to hit them.
4) Write weird things.  Other peoples' brains are are loony as yours. Trust me.

1) Don't you dare tell me what to do.  For me, authentic ideas come most easily when no one is expecting a product; when I let myself play with words...the reason I fell in love with writing.

If you're our regular reader,you know I've been writing a poem a day since April 1, 2010.  I send them to my best friend, author Bruce Balan, who sails around the world in a trimaran, and he sends me his poem. (BTW, Oct. 2nd was Bruce's birthday. Since it's past his birthday, kindly sing to him the Birthday Song...backwards.)

Bruce can always smell if a poem is an assignment.  "It's stiff," he'll write.  "It's not you."

After I shake my fist at his sail mail critique, I pretend I'm not writing on assignment. I toss out everything I think I'm supposed to write and stand on my head...because I WANT to stand on my head. That's when words begin to flow from my heart.
Me, writing a poem...okay, not LITERALLY on my head...
2) Get miserable...(if you're already depressed, think of it as a big mud hole of ideas made especially for you!)  Some of my deepest, truest words are written when I am in a muddle of misery...or when I think back to some terrible time in my life, feeling every heartsick, petrified or bewildered feeling. (Why would anyone want to bring back life's worst moments in living color? You think writers might be just a teensy bit cuckoo?)

So, how can you stimulate creativity in students?  Make sure there's misery in their lives. When I read my students the tender book, I Remember Miss Perry by Pat Brisson, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch (about the death of a beloved elementary school teacher), the topics they choose to tackle are much deeper than if I give them time to write without reading it first.

3) Find someone so frickin' honest you want to hit him. I write better when someone who believes in me and who is on the writing path with me (usually Bruce) reads my work and tells me his truth. (Sometimes I want to throw darts at him for his stupid, doo-doo head honesty--good thing he's in Thailand right now.)

Exhibit #1--recent correspondence between us:

From: Bruce 
To: April 
Subject: RE: poem for September 25, 2014 
Hi You,
This feels more like a very short story than a poem.
Doesn’t have your heart in it. It feels like an assignment.

(See what I mean?  Can't he just pretend a little bit that he likes it?)

From: April 
To: Bruce
Subject: Re: poem for September 25, 2014 

Well, damn.

I read it again tonight and see that you're right.  But maybe I can do something with it.  But maybe I can't.

Not sure it's worth it.

I am so tangled up in my novel.  I wish I could hire someone to sit with me and figure the darn thing out.

Why do we do this, again?  I forget.

From: Bruce 
To: April  
Subject: RE: poem for September 25, 2014 

"I wish I could hire someone to sit with me and figure the darn thing out."

Unfortunately that is not possible. I, too, wish I could hire someone to fix so many problems but those problems always seem to be ones I need to deal with…not someone else.

I hate that part about writing.

4) Write weird things.  Other peoples' brains are as loony as yours. Trust me.  Go ahead, unlock the heavy wooden door in your brain and let the odd stuff out.

Let the odd stuff out (this odd stuff is from
For example, here's a poem I thought no one would get. I wasn't even sure I got it.  And listen to this: my editor didn't throw it out--it's in my book, Girl Coming in for a Landing--a novel in poems (Knopf 2002)!


I want to
make something


If I could
make peaches--grow them
from my pen...

or stretching my palms
up to the sun, watch as
they grow from my lifeline,

would be something

drawing and poem (c) 2014 by April Halprin Wayland.  All rights reserved.
  Okay, I'm done. I order you to be creative. GO.
And remember, Poetry Friday is at Jama's today!

Posted by April Halprin Wayland, who thanks you for reading all the way down to the end.  


Anonymous said...

Love all your advice, especially "let the odd stuff out." I will carry the images from your poem with me all day. They are "something beautiful."

Linda B said...

Coming from two different workshops, this is like the exclamation point for both, April. I think I need to print the picture of you standing on your head & hang it at my desk. Thank you!

jama said...

Love your poem (peaches!) and all the good advice. The odd stuff picture is scary, though :).

Carmela Martino said...

>>or stretching my palms
up to the sun, watch as
they grow from my lifeline<<
What a WONDERFUL image, April. Thanks so much for sharing this terrific poem with us!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Love this post, April. Thanks for the slap upside the head and for your gloriously oddball, drives-it-home poem.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Dear Readingtothecore [what IS your name? I searched your blog...even clicked on "about"--which was funny],Linda, Jama, Carmela and Michelle ~

Each time I post, the comments make me feel braver to letting even more odd stuff out...even the scary odd stuff, Jama! :-)

So...thank you!

Tara said...

Love this: "unlock the heavy wooden door in your brain and let the odd stuff out." Yes, that is what we aim to do.

Margaret Simon said...

This post made me cringe, then smile, smile and cringe. All so real and true. I especially like the permission to be weird. Sometimes I get caught up in perceived expectations of what I should do. Will any of your group be at NCTE? Would love to meet you.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Tara...initially I wrote, "and let the wild cats out"...but as I searched for a picture of wild cats on, it didn't seem right. Then I thought "junk"...but IS it junk?
Thanks for your comment!

And Margaret ~ Hi! I won't be at NCTE. If any other TeachingAuthors plan to be, we'll let our readers know.

GatheringBooks said...

Love the dynamic exchange of ideas here and the great advice. :) Peaches from one's pen - that would be great wouldn't it? :)

laurasalas said...

What a wonderful, brave, beautiful post, April. I LIKE to write poems on assignment sometimes, because other people's expectations draw things out that I wouldn't have come up with on my own. But I also need to write the loony junk that resides in my own head. Sometimes I forget how much I need to do that, so thank you for the reminder!

And Margaret, I'll be at NCTE--but you already know that! Looking forward to meeting you there since I was so booked at IRA!

PS - I love that you shared this exchange between you and Bruce, April.

jan godown annino said...

Hello April!

"Writer:Creator" is stunning.

These reasons to keep on, can work wonders. Very cleverly said.

And so cool of you & Bruce Balan to share a peek about crit. honesty, with your back & forth.

Many appreciations for this.

j a n

April Halprin Wayland said...

Dear Myra, Laura and Jan,

I asked Bruce for permission to reproduce our email conversation here. It is so heartening to have someone out there with whom I can share the hard stuff and the beauty.

And Laura--you're absolutely right: I, too, am often rocketed to another place BECAUSE I get an assignment from an anthologist. I would NEVER have written about fire ants unless Lee Bennett Hopkins had assigned them to me. I ended up loving them, in an weird way...