Sunday, September 9, 2007

Holding Water -- by Larry D. Sweazy

I’ve been thinking about creativity a lot this week. How to define it. How to tame it. How to channel it. How to push the On-Star button and get immediate directions when I’m sitting at the desk, staring at a blank page.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that trying to capture creativity is pretty much like trying to hold a cup of water in your hands. It’s impossible to hold the water for any length of time. It seeps through your fingers, evaporates, spills onto the floor—leaving only droplets on your palms. Water can’t be controlled. Neither can creativity.

I used to be so focused on my writing that it was the only creative endeavor I would allow myself to commit fully to. I thought I was committing an act of infidelity if I spent time with my camera instead of sitting at my desk. Or cooking. I like to cook, a total act of creativity, especially if you like to cook for a lot of people. I do. A good meal can take all day to prepare…or sometimes, 2 or 3 days. That’s a lot of time away from the desk.

I never took music lessons as a kid, so I decided to take guitar lessons. I took lessons diligently for 2 years—made a lot of progress, learned a lot about music. But I always felt that practicing scales on the guitar was time I should spend writing. Guitar became the mistress to my mistress. So I quit playing guitar for a while. Now I pick at it for fun, for the vibration, for the joy of stringing notes together that make sense.

Back to the camera. I’m a visual person. Several years ago I lived in a cottage along a river. I grew up spending summers at a lake, and life around water calms me. But I didn’t know a lot of what I was seeing, didn’t know the birds and wildlife of the river…so I began documenting everything I saw and identifying it so I would remember the difference between male and female kingfisher, or know a mink when I saw one, or a the joy of seeing a migrating osprey, or the warm fuzzy feeling you always get when you watch a clutch of mallard ducklings swim nervously or happily after their mother. I was on the right track then, because I knew photography only fed the writing. A kingfisher splashing into the river head-first, spearing a bass minnow tells you a lot more than a bird diving into the water and catching a fish.

Somewhere along the line, I got all bound up with desire and ambition. I wanted to be a writer, damn it. Writers write. They don’t cook or spend all day out in the woods taking pictures—or sitting on the porch playing guitar, right?


Droplets of water create rivers and oceans. Simple as that. Every creative act feeds another. There are no mistresses to mistresses. Once I began to allow myself the pleasures in every aspect of my life, my writing got better, began to sell more often. But I had to learn a lesson the hard way…always the hard way.

Writers live. And then they write. That’s a hard lesson to learn. At least it was for me.

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