Creative Conversations -THE VORTEX!
Welcome to Creative Conversations real-time discussions about the creative process. Today Janet’s talking with author/teacher Katherine Grace Bond
We’re also celebrating Valentines and Black History month with a two book giveaways below.
Janet: So, Katherine let’s take on THE VORTEX!!
Katherine: Ah, The Vortex! I know it well, and used to fear it greatly.
Janet: I remember, Katherine. What did you most fear about The Vortex and has that changed?
Katherine: First I should define “The Vortex.” It’s that space I go into when I write. It’s actually what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, calls “flow,” when all your focus and concentration is on one thing. I think I didn’t understand it, then. I had young kids and I was always afraid that when I let my writing “take me away,” I would miss some crucial aspect of their safety, development, or care.
Kit hiding out, trying to write.
Janet: You’d return from bliss and the house would be in fire or some such? I remember feeling that way too. Do you recall the signs we put on our office doors? The Do Not Disturb unless blood is being shed? I think you have a sign like that now if I’m not mistaken? Mine says Warning Dragon At Work Do Not Disturb!
Katherine: 😀 I do have such a sign! I’ll post a picture of it here!
My youngest, who is still living at home, has autism. I’ve found it’s best to spell it out.
Janet: Girl you crack me up!
You actually drew a house on fire here! And love the altered time. I can see you changed it from 2:00 to 2:30 giving yourself an extra half an hour. Our writing time is precious and we tend to go in deep. Diving down and down into the story world. It’s hard to come up for air. Family members have to be taught to leave us be, and that’s a challenge since we are often working at home and “seem” to be available. Also, the tragic truth is, we are such Nice People!
Katherine: I think you taught me that. When our kids were all small, you always carved out that time. Then you’d take them to the swimming pool later. You were always committed to your novels. I was writing short fiction for children’s magazines at the time, and I’d write in the middle of the night when the kids were sleeping. But my novels were always on and off the back burner. You helped me learn that it was better for me to go to that deep place and write than not to. We are Nice People, but I can tell you I am much nicer when I’ve had my time in the Vortex.
I was talking to Andrew about that this morning–that kids need to be given opportunity to enter that state of flow. You know he teaches junior high now, and he makes the learning really fun, which makes it memorable. I think teachers need to encourage teens especially that “The Vortex” is a good place. It’s the place we are when we are immersed in learning and creating, the place we naturally go to relieve stress and replenish, and the place where we put things together.
Janet: I needed to go there regularly to hear my own voice amidst all the voices in my life. To, as the Brits say “sort myself” through story. Makes me think of a passage I read recently in Big Magic
After a writing class, poet Jack Gilbert asked his student what she’d like to do with her life. She was shy, but said, that perhaps she wanted to be a writer.
“He smiled at the girl with infinite compassion and asked, ‘Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.’” (Big Magic pg 7) I’ve read your books and I’ve had the privilege to hear the one you are working on now.
Katherine: Bless you for saying that! I think one of the biggest struggles for me has always been believing in the work long-term. I get inside of a book and at first it’s going swimmingly, but then it gets hard, and I begin to think it’s a stupid book. This one, in particular, has brought me to that place regularly, because it’s so close to the bone. You and the rest of the writing group have really kept me persevering. So I think one of the things necessary for flow, or entering into the Vortex, is placing oneself among encouraging and like-minded people. People who also write and who love to read.
That Jack Gilbert quote gives me chills! I must read that book!
What I love about what he said to her is that it’s both a challenge and an encouragement. To know that what we have inside of us wants to be said, and saying it is a way of offering treasure to the world, is absolutely the key to the Vortex. Writing is such a raw and vulnerable activity–or can be. I can certainly write little information-y things or pieces that only hit the surface, but I tend to be an emotional writer. When I can hit that wellspring of emotion and meaning, it is infinitely satisfying. (That doesn’t mean it has to be all grim, though. Mirth is an emotion, too!)
Janet: Yes! I’ve been seeking that treasure a while now. I think listening to our own stories and writing them gives others permission to Speak their stories. As Ram Dass says, “we are all just walking each other home.” And I’m rediscovering the treasury of humor in my latest excursion into the writing Vortex. Sometimes I come out deeply quiet and satisfied, as when I feel like the scene really worked and was true. Sometimes lately, I come out laughing. That’s new and feels refreshing. Maybe we can all help each other set some Creative Boundaries? Say to each other that it’s okay to go into The Vortex, to fully concentrate and fully listen.
I’m picturing someone standing on the edge of their writing project and saying. “Okay, I’m going in,” and others standing behind them saying “Okay, we’ve got your back.”
Katherine: 😀 I’m picturing my much-loved friends standing behind me as I gaze trepidatiously into the Vortex. You are there, and you are smiling. All the others are gathered around, too. You have your hands on my back, and it feels so soothing…until you all give me a big shove!
Janet: Ha! We shove because we love. And we know you won’t be lost, but that you’ll come out with treasure — for yourself, and possibly, for many. The book giveaways below attest for former Vortex adventures that have gone out into the world.
Do you have anything you’d like to say to the Dreamwalkers listening in to our Creative Conversation?
Katherine: Sometimes you have to lure yourself into the Vortex. Set a time that is reserved just for that, and stick to that commitment, even if it’s a different time each day. Listen to some focus music (no lyrics) to block out distractions. I like focusatwill.com. If you feel stuck, remember that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. You just need to write in a different format. Perhaps you need to open a Story Journal and rant about how hard it is to get into the story. Priming the pump really does get the flow going. Take some classes and read some writing books so that your craft is always developing. Sometimes the “stuckness” is a technical issue–just not yet knowing effective ways to plot, for example. And, by the way, this goes for other creative work, as well. Not just writing!
Whatever you do, honor that Vortex inside of you. Let it take you where you need to go.
Janet: Thanks for the great Creative Conversation, Katherine. Some treasure here for Dreamwalkers to mine, and maybe a few readers/writers feel the permission now to go in. One thing I gleaned is that it really helps to have some other people supporting us as we enter into our creative spaces, to cheer us on, say it’s worth it even when we are unsure, and to be there for us when we come out again after a hard day or joyous day of real work.
Katherine will sign a copy of The Legend of the Valentine, her bestselling picture book that celebrates Valentines and Black History Month in a beautiful and transformative story.
And her novel that’s a perfect Valentine gift The Summer of No Regrets
NOTE: To those of you who are new to rafflecopter, the only thing you have to do is tweet. The tweet is written for you ahead of time. You just need to click. Also you need to click “I Tweeted” to confirm the entry. Good Luck All!