Monday, July 29, 2013

The Creative Itch

My friend Pam and I like to do something special in the summer. Usually we get together and go to plays that the local University produces, or maybe find a new place to eat or both. We make it an event. Last year we didn’t do this and we felt the effects; so this year we signed up for some art classes at the local pottery place. It’s about tapping into the creative.

So the project we did was a “leaf bowl or vase”. We were each given about a pound or so clay that was to be rolled out like pie dough, then we’d roll real tree leaves (that the art place provided) into the clay, cut out around the leaves and then sort of clay-glue them together and make a bowl. Once we got the gist, we went to town. I myself was having a great time and felt twenty years younger back in high school, in art class, doing pottery again.

Then Monday came. Not only did I have to go back to work, but my hand was kinda itchy. I scratched. It got worse. By Wednesday, I had something on my face about the size of my hand, like I had been slapped. Lovely. And there was a rash spreading up my arms and my hand? Oh, it still itched like wildfire. Where had I gotten this rash?

I rolled back through the activities of the weekend and deduced it could have either been this leaf class or the activity in the garden on Sunday, except I’ve gardened before and it hadn’t done this. I emailed my friend Pam to see if she had a rash. She said no. I was confused, but I went home from work Wednesday and slept in hopes of taming it a bit. I took off Thursday as well and went to the doctor who told me I had contact dermatitis. We surmised it was probably the pottery class after I told him my theories.

Thursday, Pam wrote back and said she’d gotten some rash on the back of her hand. By Sunday she was texting me to ask where I had gone to the doctor and what I had gotten to treat it. I told her to have them give her a shot because I had cream and though it helped, I still itched like a mo-fo.

Long story short (too late): we had run-ins with poison ivy via the class. So has the teacher, incidentally, which I thought was only fair since SHE provided the leaves. Mind you the leaves I used were maple leaves…and Pam had some elm, but clearly poison ivy had spread its joy somehow on the leaves and we were all affected.

Point being, we now hated our vases. We couldn’t look at them with any degree of appreciation especially while we were itching. Now it’s been about six weeks, about two weeks or so after the itching finally cleared up, and only now am I thinking remotely fondly of my artwork. Where I might be willing to finish it with some glaze and fire it again.

I think my writing goes a bit like this. In the beginning I’m struck by the need for creativity and fun, and I’m all enthused with my masterpiece and have shaped out a nifty beginning-middle-and-end, but then I get something that’s akin to poison ivy. Something that pretty much happens with every book. I get itchy. I want to get away from it. I want to pretend I never fucking heard of this book to begin with. And no matter how much I invested in it, I don’t want to go into the shop, bring it home, and display it anywhere because all I can think is: this stupid thing is godawful and I never ever want to speak of it again.

Then some time passes and you’re away from the book. You stop itching. Maybe you work on another project and that takes your mind off how awful the last one was. Anyway, enough time has passed you think it might not be bad to revise the thing. Someone tells you the project actually came out really good during the firing. It just needs its other stuff, you know? Revision and polish.

Poison ivy during a project is very normal, I’ve decided, though technically speaking I never want to make another leaf bowl. Ever, ever. It’s okay to itch though and hate your work for a while. But it’s important to come back to it when the pain has past and you’re no longer close to the pain so you can see the beauty in it again.

Scratch on, my friends, scratch on.

 

So how are you feeling about your writing lately? Still on good terms or like you’re in the midst of a batch of poison ivy?

21 comments:

Maureen said...

Wonderfully put...and oh, geez! I bet your teacher felt stupid. I barely step foot in my yard without full gloves...even without the wicked leaf in my yard, there are still plants that reach out of my yard and brush against it as they grow into my yard. Like ivy, berry, vinca...

Next time, try Tec-Nu. Get it over the counter. You wash with it and they even have a scrub that just draws the itchy stuff to the surface of the skin so it can be washed away. Over and over and over...

Now, as for being repelled by my work? Damn straight! I'm about 3/4 thru book five and revising and want to throw the sucker at a wall. I may get thru it and put it away for a month or so. (It isn't due for release until March, so I gots time.) I really like the first 90k, it's the remaining 49k that is driving me bonkers.

And, no, I can't get rid of that part. It's integral to the remaining series.

Maybe I need to start a new love affaire and see if I can write another short. I still like my Holmes story...

Marnee Bailey said...

I have definitely hit the point in the story where I've hated it. Usually it's the characters that are on my nerves. I don't like them, they're grating on my nerves, etc. At the worst, the characters bored me or I wasn't rooting for them at all and wouldn't have cared if they fell off a cliff.

It didn't happen during the draft of this book. I did stop in the middle because I wasn't sure about actions there and that happens a lot. But I didn't hate the characters. I think that's been the difference this time.

I love that you do art and this story is nuts. Poison ivy. Geez. LOL!!

Janga said...

Poor Hellie! I found myself scratching my left hand just reading your account of the battle with poison ivy.

You continue to amaze me with your ability to find writing analogies everywhere. Didn't someone suggest a Stump Hellie contest once where we proposed subjects and you drew analogies? :)

Marnee Bailey said...

I love the idea of a Stump Hellie contest! LOL!!!

Terri Osburn said...

I've never gotten a rash from a WIP, but I am at the point when I'm sure none of it makes sense and I'm wasting my time. Time I don't have to waste!

At the risk of being forced to walk the plank, I'll admit I'm not allergic to poison ivy. Have never gotten it, and we played in the words a lot as kids. I had a neighbor who got it every year, usually more than once. But my sister and I never.

We're weird. (My little brother has gotten it, so I don't know what's so special about my sister and I.)

I'm all for stumping Hellie. Though I doubt it can be done. LOL!

Marnee Bailey said...

Ter, is okay. I'm with you. I've never been allergic to poison ivy either. None of my siblings either. We played in the woods a lot too. The hubs, though, is incredibly allergic to it. Like, if the wind blows it on him, he gets it. It's awful. :(

Terri Osburn said...

The stuff can just float on the wind and attack you?? Les needs to put that in a book.

Haleigh said...

What a perfect analogy. I have a serious case of poison something from my current WIP. To the point that opening up the file makes me sort of want to throw-up :)

That sucks about the poison ivy, and also glad the teacher got it too, because how much would that suck if she'd passed it on but missed it herself? I'm normally allergic to poison ivy, I guess. I get the rash if I touch it directly, but as long as there's no physical contact, I'm good.

MsHellion said...

Mo, thanks for the advice about Tec-Nu--that sounds like a great idea. Not that I plan to ever touch leaves again at all.

I'm sure the other 49K are integral to the story or there wouldn't be that many words to begin with... *LOL* Good luck dealing with your itch! *LOL*

MsHellion said...

Marn, glad to hear that your enthusiasm for these characters didn't peter out mid-draft. I was thinking that the great thing about this art class was that it was a set amount of time to get the goal accomplished. You didn't get to dawdle on it for eons. So at the time, I LOVED what I did--it was only after it was "done" and I got the rash that I became disenchanted with the work. And I think that can happen too. You finish a story, love it at the time, but later when you need to do revisions, you're reading and you hate everything. Again, that might just be me.

MsHellion said...

Janga, thank you! :) I do think Mo did try to stump me with a sci-fi version of an analogy and said I didn't do it strictly right, so I suppose I failed that one. *LOL*

MsHellion said...

Terri, of course, you never suffered from poison ivy. *eye roll* Easy childbirth, no allergies, never depressed...*LOL* Not that I'm jealous or anything! But in all honesty, I wouldnt' wish a poison ivy rash on anyone. Nasty things!

MsHellion said...

Terri, yup, you can get poison ivy from the air...usually if you're burning poison ivy and you breath the smoke, you can get the poison ivy in your lungs. YEP. Not kidding.

And I agree: poison ivy would make a great Bombay treat. *LOL*

MsHellion said...

Hal, as meanspirited as it is of me to say, I was VERY glad the teacher got it too. I would have been pissed if she hadn't. Okay, so I was wrong, Terri, there is someone I would wish poison ivy on...

Maureen said...

Oh, God...yeah. When the hills of California are on fire...smoke is nasty! Because of all the poison oak that goes up at the same time. Horrid stuff! And it seems to love growing underneath eucalyptus trees, which are invasive and don't belong here...

Well, I don't think the stump Hellie blog was fair. You didn't know the genre... We need to stump you on something you know...but is difficult!

Maureen said...

Death by poison oak would be awesome...must be someone particularly evil though...

quantum said...

I reckon I could win a 'Stump Hellie' challenge! LOL

Stumping is a very common way of getting out when batting in a game of cricket.
I can bowl a very mean and tricky leg break which often produces a stumping.

But I know that American girls don't play this game .... It would therefore be unfair ... Alas. LOL

Sorry to hear of your allergy Hellie ... sounds very unpleasant!

P. Kirby said...

Hee. Is is wrong that I found your poison ivy story funny? Yeah, probably, but I'm warped that way. Who knew pottery could be so dangerous?

I don't even think the stuff grows in New Mexico, not in the desert anyway, so my only frame of reference to poison ivy is via Batman (Poison Ivy is a supervillainess).

I don't get a rash when writing, so much as simply lose steam when my characters stop talking to me, about 2/3 of the way through a story. Either way, it can be hellishly hard to get re-motivated when story malaise sets in.

Terri Osburn said...

Pat, does that happen with every book? I'm finding I hit about the same point in the draft and get amnesia about everything that came before. It's a weird thing, and another reason it helps to have the storyboard.

MsHellion said...

Q, yes, you would definitely stump me if you were going to insert CRICKET into the ranks here! *LOL* But I'd love to watch you handle your bat. *winks*

MsHellion said...

Pat, you're more than welcome to laugh. It's what I would have done if it was Terri's story. And it IS funny, now that the rash has healed up and I can sleep at night again. I think that was the part that got us: here we paid GOOD MONEY for a CULTURAL EXPERIENCE and it turned into this "And one time, at summer camp..." Gah.