I’m pretty young, and already I have more projects ideas than I will be able to write in this lifetime. This is true even if I have the fortune of living well into my 90s (which I suspect I won’t, as my family’s history is riddled with darkly comedic early deaths- too much pull toward adventure, and not enough common sense in the Sutton genes).
I do periodically root out the “bad” ideas- the ones that wouldn’t work because of the mediums I write in, or the zeitgeist, or because they would be better expressed non-verbally, or by someone who isn’t me, or the ones that go beyond my current skillset, or the ones that wouldn’t help along any of my personal or career goals. I hesitate to call them bad though, as any idea can be good under the right circumstances. But I’m all about efficiency. Do I have time or inclination to cultivate new circumstances? Not right now. Let’s work with the circumstances I’ve already got.
So even after whittling down the list, it’s still too big. How do I pick and choose what gets written and which ideas go into the big ether of ideas to hopefully get recycled and occur to someone else? Continue reading “Choosing Your Next Writing Project”
Several months back I wrote a blog post about using Julia Cameron’s concept of the Morning Pages (from her book The Artist’s Way) as a form of regular journaling. As I noted then, I began to develop this practice not long after finishing my dissertation as a means of self-care in that confusing landscape post-dissertation life. I’ve since received a number of inquiries about the Morning Pages. Do I still use them? How do they work? How are they helpful?
Although I have offered of basic thoughts to people one-on-one, I don’t feel like I’ve fully explained how I still find them useful. This is partly because they have become so routine that I hardly think about them anymore. The Morning Pages are part of a comforting morning ritual that happens before my child gets up. I write them (almost) every day, always with a cup of coffee by my side, and usually on my couch with a blanket draped over me (it’s still chilly here in the PNW!).
Sometimes when people ask I feel like I can only explain their value to me as much as I can explain why I always drink that coffee from the same mug. That’s the other reason I trip over explanations: the Morning Pages are personal. Once you start to do them regularly they can feel like an old friend – and like an old friend, for each person, they’ll provide a different kind of value. Still, there are common features to the Morning Pages that make them broadly useful – as I remembered once I went back to Cameron’s book as I was preparing to write this post. What follows are some of the main reasons they are one of my go-to morning rituals. Continue reading “There’s No Wrong Way to Do the Morning Pages”
This morning, I drew a tarot card to give my day some shape, and it was Death.
It was the card I’ve needed to see for a while. This post is about scaling back your goals and killing off that which does not serve, in light of new priorities.
Instead of resolutions for the new year, I spend each December crafting my writing goals for the following year. I write them and pin them above my computer so that I have to stare at them every day, and so that every day I take a step toward them. And this works. I’ve had a really productive and prolific run these past few years- I landed a literary agent with a killer book proposal, I made headway on my first academic manuscript, and I wrote a few novels. This is in addition to the writing and publishing (academic articles, press releases, etc.) that I do for my jobs. I’ve been riding that cloud of smugness for years now, with no real empathy for the people who have to bleed all over the page just to get a few sentences down.
And then disaster struck.
It’s no secret that the new administration hell-bent on running our country into the ground has got me raging. Anyone even on the peripheries of my life has heard it from me, several times. Their misbegotten and selfish decisions already affect me, and most of the people I love, in countless little ways. It’s as if the administration wants to kill us with the death of a thousand cuts: someone’s health insurance here, someone’s livelihood there, someone’s ability to own property, to plan their family, to live the American dream.
And that has real-life consequences.
Suddenly, writing feels less important. Continue reading “A New Goal Emerges: Writing and Resistance in 2017”
“2016 is the year that killed satire.”
So many people have said it in the past few months that I don’t even know who I should attribute this quote to. But it’s true: nobody can tell the difference anymore between awful reality and caricature. 2016 is the year that extinguished many of our heroes and filled the swamp with bonafide jack-booted villains who half-joke about rounding us up.
I’m not going to mince words: the world feels unspeakably grim right now. I know that my feelings are not 100% a reflection of reality, but they are a reflection of the uncertainty the US and the world are facing. They are also a reflection of the fear I have for my own personal safety, and the safety of people I care about. A lot of things many of us were fortunate enough to grow up taking for granted, like universal human rights, are up for debate on a scale that only the most maligned among us truly saw coming. Nothing about this situation is normal.
Trying to peer into the future is incredibly scary, because the worst might actually come to pass. No one knows if it will or not, but it’s no longer out of the question. It’s a possibility. A deeply terrifying possibility.
So what do I do with that, as a writer?
Continue reading “Writing in the Apocalypse of 2016”
“I teach. Computer Age Philosophy…”
-Jonathan Larson, Rent
I tend to think of myself as a late bloomer. No, that’s not accurate. Let’s put it this way, instead: I have a lot of different interests, and I’ve always been this way. Growing up, I considered many career options as a result. First there was my archaeologist phase, in no small part inspired by the Indiana Jones movies and a fascination with ancient Egypt (which my dad happily helped foster). For a long time, there was also the doctor phase (pediatric plastic surgeon, pediatric neurosurgeon). And of course, I can’t leave out the time when I was going to get a degree in international business (for the traveling), and also own my own martial arts studio.
Teaching never crossed my mind, even when I figured out at age 20 that I wanted to get a PhD. Even then, I wanted the degree because I saw it as a personal milestone. I wanted it for the research and for the writing, and possibly also because it was a way to get to spend years reading books.
Continue reading “Teaching as Creative Process”