Being forced to be creative outside of your comfort zone is difficult. Without my laptop, I feel that I am trying to juggle five balls with one hand tied behind my back. My creative productivity has plummeted.
I am obviously too dependent on creating words on my laptop.
And that is why, two nights ago, my Muse handed me a stack of magazines and said, "Remember that dream you had two weeks ago? The one with the little girl and the stream and the large rock you waded out to."
"There were dragonflies flying all over."
"Yes. That's the one. I want you to create that with these." She tapped the stack of fashion magazines in my arms.
The magazines had been collecting in my living room over the last year until they were a large stack of dusty, glossy pages needing to be tossed in recycling. I don't typically buy them, but on occasion a particular article or cover will attract me and I'll spend an hour salivating over beautiful clothes and images, imagining what it must be like to wear Channel while sipping champagne at Cannes.
I dropped the stack on my desk. "I'm not a visual artist."
My muse rolled her eyes. "Don't limit yourself. That's the death of art." She opened the top right drawer of my desk and pulled out a pair of scissors and masking tape. "Go get that sketch pad out of the pantry."
I did as I was told, not wanting to piss off my muse any more than absolutely necessary. When she's made up her mind I'm supposed to do something, she won't let me sleep until it's done.
She was already going through one of the Vogues, pulling out photos of water and rocks. Nodding at the stack she said, "Pick a magazine."
I sighed, sat in my chair, and opened Vanity Fair. This is such a waste of time, I thought. I should be working on my novel, or finishing the synopsis of my play, or sending queries for my article, not pulling pictures out of magazines to make a collage no one will ever see.
A strange thing happened as the hour passed; the images absorbed me. I didn't look at the words, although a few phrases did catch my attention, such as "you are the dream." Pictures became the language. After I had several different images of water ( deep blue, fast moving, ocean waves, green algaed lake, tranquil stream, clear flowing from a faucet, reflecting moonlight), I began arranging them on a large, blank paper.
My muse found a black and white picture of a little girl wearing a tutu with a plastic sword strapped to her waist. "This is you!"
I laughed. "I love it."
Carefully trimming the little girl out of the background, I felt the dream become tangible on the paper. It isn't exactly how it looked, but all of the images recreated the feel of the moment in my dream when I stood on a rock and looked across the river at me as a little girl watching the dragon flies dance in the sky. The images told the story far better than any words I could come up with.
In our constant rush to produce literature, we writers tend to forget how to play. There is so little time to write it seems, every second is precious and must not be wasted. I can still write in my journal and on scratch paper, but my productive writing is all on my laptop. What if you were forced to stop writing for a while? What if your muse demanded you take a break and be non-verbal instead? Could you do it? What would you create without words?