Monday, August 1, 2011

My Creative "Cocoon"

Several years ago I took a tour of the now closed Animator’s Building at Disney MGM Studios. Disney had moved roughly 80 animators from California to Florida to work on such classics as “Lilo & Stitch”, “Mulan”, and “Brother Bear”. A wall of windows allowed tourists to look down on a huge open space filled with animator cubicles. Each cubicle contained the same wooden animators desk with the illuminated circle over which paper was place to draw scenes. But, what was so striking was how unique each cubicle had been rendered (pardon the pun) by each animator. Cubicles contained posters, drawings, stuffed animals, models, and toys!

I came home and transformed my writing space into a “creative cocoon”. I appealed to each of my five senses:

TASTE: This was very easy. I like jelly bellies of all kinds of flavors. Each flavor evokes a different feeling of time and space. Pineapple reminds me of Hawaii. Buttered popcorn of the latest movie I saw.

But, I can’t write without coffee. And, coffee can be so ordinary at times. So, I ordered these two earthen mugs from the Rabbit Room. They are fashioned after the mugs from the Lord of the Rings movies. I put my coffee in one of the mugs and when I heft it, and heft it I do for it is quite stout, I imagine myself surrounded by the songs of Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippin. I am inspired!

SMELL: I keep different scented candles and pick a fragrance reminding me of a specific locale I am using in my novel. I have a candle that reminds me of the clear, cold mountain air; a candle that smells like fresh baked apple pie; a candle that is exotic and reminds me of far away lands. I am inspired!

TOUCH: I keep several objects at arm’s length that have different tactile sensations. For instance, a large coral ball polished to perfection or five small pebbles from the valley where David killed Goliath or a chunk of fragrant cedar wood from the trees in an Alaskan rainforest.

SOUND: I love music and over the years I have collected hundreds of soundtracks. I pick pieces that evoke certain emotions or tensions and construct lists in iTunes. I label these lists with titles such as Conflict, Escape, Danger, Otherworldly, etc. Some lists have character’s names on them and to listen to the music is like listening to a mini-concert reflective of that character’s personality. I find odd and bizarre musical compositions using foreign instruments. For “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” coming in October, I found an entire musical suite based on ancient Aztec music played with reproductions of instruments from that period. I played it in the background while working on portions of the book that applied to Aztec history and practices.

SIGHT: I surround myself with hundreds of visual cues. Everywhere I travel, I try and find items that will allow me to recall memories from those places. I collect Disney collectibles because of my respect for the genius of Walt Disney and his classic tales. I have one of the first Darth Vader masks, almost thirty years old. It gazes down upon me from a nearby shelf. Not long ago, Greg Mitchell and I were discussing monsters and our love of the classical monster movies. In my childhood, I built models from these monsters and other science fiction movies. Unfortunately, only two survive. I have a badly scratched model of the robot from the original Lost in Space series. And, I have a model of the original Enterprise from the early seventies. It is missing one of the nacelles, but I have it positioned so it looks like it is about to go to warp speed over my desk. Hanging above the door to my library is the “Periodic Table of Storytelling”. However, my most inspiring piece is a gift from my son. It is a simple sign with the words, “Never Surrender Dreams” from Babylon 5 and it is hand signed by J. Michael Straczynski. But, my prize possession is my very first rejection letter from 1975 when I was finishing high school. It is from the Isaac Asimov Science Fiction magazine and it is hand signed by this icon of science fiction!

All of these visual cues stimulate my creativity. They help me kickstart a moment of writer’s block. They jolt me out of a scene that has become too pat and predictable. And, all I have to do is look up, look around, and let my mind explode with imagination!

What is your writing space like? Do you have a writer’s “cocoon of creativity”? How do you keep your creative side fresh?


Caroline said...

I love the idea! Great post.

Beth Shriver said...

The ever lingering gquestion...we all seem to be blogging about the topic so it is obviously a continous obstacle for writers in general. I apprecaite you sharing your way of staying inspired. It helps to know what others do to keep the ideas flowing.

Jillian Kent said...

Hi Bruce,
I enjoyed this. I've lost my office because we need another bedroom. It'a all good but my desk is now in the dining room. Not a good place for a writer. But I'm working on jazzing up a corner and currently looking for a room screen to make my own little cubicle if I can't keep others out of the area all together. Also, bought a pair of Sony noise cancelling headphones.

I think I'll add a picture above my computer, and I have a window. To that I'll add a dish of skittles, lots of hot tea, and various kitty cats that will come visit.

And whenever I can I stay at my office at the work place and write on my luchtime if possible. Lots to think about with writing space at the moment.

Bruce Hennigan said...

I like the Skittles, too. Especially the sour ones! I can't have a window because I get to distracted by what goes on outside. I keep my window closed for that reason. But, when I am in the final rewriting phase of my novels, I usually wait until I can go on a long week trip to someplace with something more than the house across the street to look at. In April, I went to Austin, Texas to a bed and breakfast overlooking the rolling hills around Lake Travis. It was perfect for my creativity! Unfortunately, the neighbor next door decided to break up his driveway that week with two jackhammers going all day! I discovered the noise canceling headphones! Good advice there!

Martha W. Rogers said...

I have an "office", but it's like a rabbit hole. I disappear into it and don't come out for hours. We're retired with just the two of us in our four bedroom house. I have quiet space away from TV and noise from the street. (usually)One drawer of my desk has my chocolate stash. The walls are lined with bookshelves filled with wonderful books. Whenever I run into a blank wall and can't get started, I pull one down and read it until the creative juices flow again. Sorry, Jillian, I'm not fond of skittles...dark chocolate is my choice, but I do like the tea and drink it every morning while I read what I did the day before.