I Mentioned I Love Questions…

If you haven’t yet visited Maryn’s blog, The Well, please take a moment and drop by at http://www.thewellspringblog.com and you will find it well worth the time. Maryn recently answered questions posed by Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit, and passed those questions on to me. After reading Maryn’s responses I am going to look into this Habit a bit more.

But anyway, Maryn suggested I respond to the same questions.

1. What is the first creative moment you remember?

Kindergarten, show and tell day. I’d forgotten to bring anything. So I told the class about seeing two men with gas cans going into woods where we kids played and built camps. I said I followed them, saw they were going to burn our woods down, and managed to save the day. The kids were in awe (the teacher less so). Even though I was too young to put the feelings into words, I can still remember clearly that moment of realizing something powerful had just happened. Little did I know it was opening my eyes to the strength of a story.

2. What is the best idea you’ve ever had? What made it great in your mind?

I find this question really difficult. I’ve had a lot of good ideas over the years. Such as ‘let’s have a baby’ and ‘let’s find mice in the field and make them into pets’ (my brother broke his nose during that one). But I think to answer this is to talk more about a realization rather than an idea. The gradual realization that I belong in the woods. That there’s something about being in the forest, surrounded by trees, that brings out my creativity and releases something inside so I can write. All my daydreams happen in the mountains.

3. What is the dumbest idea?

Possibly catching mice. Followed by the idea, cemented over many, many years, that I am homely and of lesser value than those around me. I’m chipping away at that cement, but it’s pretty set.

4. What is your creative ambition?

To capture the stories surrounding me and get them on paper before they are gone. To honor those stories and tell them in the way they want to be told.

5. What are the vital steps to achieving that ambition?

Oh, great question. To achieve that I need to value my writing time as being just as important as the things I see as responsibilities. Which also means needing to value myself a bit more.

6. Describe your first successful creative act.

Successful as in finishing a manuscript, having it edited, and putting it out into the public view would be The Memory Keeper. It started as a way for me to answer a question of my father’s, and ballooned into a fictional mystery I didn’t expect. But my first complete manuscript was another mystery dealing with green garnets and Bigfoot (A Place of Wild Things). Someday I’ll resurrect that one and rework it.

7. Describe your second creative act. How does it compare to the first?

The Memory Keeper was extremely difficult to write because I was in the midst of what I called radiation fallout. Just coming off treatments for Lymphoma. The creative side of my brain was dormant as I was in survival mode, and many, many times I thought I would never write again. The anger inside was terrifying. The struggle for each word was unbelievable. Luckily my husband held me up through that. So then the second book, Sparrow’s Silence, was like a celebration, a triumph, proof that words still flowed.

8. Which artists to you admire most, and why? What do you have in common?

For writing, Elizabeth Peters, Meg Gardiner, and Elly Griffiths. Each, in their unique style, have this amazing power to transport me to other worlds. In music, Lisa Gerrard and Loreena McKennitt for the ability to inspire me to write with just their voices. In art, Lisa Hsia (www.satsumabug.com) for her honesty in portraying her struggles and successes in her creativity. What do I have in common with all of these? Not much. But I strive to.

9. What is your greatest fear?

Returning to those days of living with no stories inside.

10. What is your idea of mastery?

My wonderful friend Kathy called me one day, crying, and read a passage to me that had spoken deeply to her. She said it was from The Memory Keeper. I thought she’d made a mistake; I thought, clearly, ‘I didn’t write that’. Then I returned to the book and realized I had. And I thought, just as clearly, ‘where did that come from?’ For me, mastery is those moments when words that have come through me touch someone. I see that as a goal to still be reached.

And now I’d like to follow Maryn’s lead and challenge all of you to answer these questions no matter what form your creativity takes. And let me know when you do so, in order for me to learn from your answers like I did from Maryn’s.

The view from my back yard

The view from my back yard

7 thoughts on “I Mentioned I Love Questions…

  1. #9 is silly! YOU will never be without a story!!! There is a story in everything you say! And that is next to many more things one of the most awesome things I love about you and it always makes me stop in awe when I read something from you. Just like Steven said, you draw with your words and it is like this literally! Just needed to say this one thing before I went to sleep…


  2. Lisa, this blew me away! There is so much to respond to, but I especially love the gas can story and the link you made between valuing our writing and valuing ourselves. As for your “dumbest idea,” I think we all struggle with that to some degree. I was just skimming through old photos and I remember feeling so self-conscious and frustrated with my appearance as early as 5 or 6 years old. It’s really only in hindsight (10-20 years) that I can see some beauty there. Thank you so much for sharing and participating!

    Funny side note: I stumbled on Lisa Hsia’s blog when I was looking up these very questions. She answered them years ago: http://satsumabug.com/2011/04/13/twyla-tharps-creative-dna-exercise/. Then I found you through one of your thoughtful comments on her site and here we are full circle.


    • That’s funny that Lisa Hsia answered these questions years ago because I just asked her to answer them! I just love her approach to creativity, and how so much of what she says can translate to any form of art. And having come full circle, as you say, leaves me a bit awestruck at how these things work out. It’s good you finally see the beauty that has always been there. Some (maybe most) never reach that point.


  3. Oh! Thank you so much for the shout-out! Geez, I can’t believe you’ve put me in there with the other artists you admire. I bow to you. I admire YOU so hugely, not only for your thoughtful blog posts/comments (and what they show about your character), but for writing books — BOOKS, plural!! — I really love.

    Speaking of which, I adore that your friend had to awaken you to the beauty of the passage you’d written. I feel like the things we create take little pieces of us and crystallize them into a form everyone can examine, ourselves included. We may not even know those pieces are within us until we find them in our creations… although our friends might recognize them. Have you ever seen a photo of yourself and totally not known (for better or worse) that you make that expression, and then showed it to someone you love and they said, “Oh yeah, you make that face all the time”? Maybe it’s like that.

    This also makes me think of what you said about feeling homely and of lesser worth. I think a lot of us don’t know our own beauty and worth — I mean not only that we have beauty and worth, but what others find beautiful and worthy about us. Quite often I find that the things I most value about others are things they take completely for granted, because they are so essential to their being that they don’t even see them.


    • Okay, your words here made me teary. And I think you are very right in saying that the things I value in someone else are the things they don’t see. I also really like your image of tiny pieces of us crystalized so others and ourselves can examine. That’s an image worth pondering on for a while. And see, these things you say are why I admire your creativity!


  4. Pingback: Ten Answers | The Well

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