Friday, June 25, 2010

Creative Trance

by Sarah-Anne Playle

I hit the keyboard and type out letters and words. Next to me, long shadows fall across the studio suite as the sun sets outside. I barely notice as I continue to type, trying to figure the story that has hounded me since November, now with an official three false starts. I open up a new document and try starting for the fourth time, but like the other attempts it fizzles and stalls, like a car running out of gas, a few spurts, a few grumbles, and then it's dead. I go down a paragraph and try again. I turn the ignition but the car doesn't start. I am creatively stuck. I lean back and stretch my shoulders as the pet behind me squeaks for dinner. Her pleas fall on a brain that is not currently focused on the real world. Instead it is focused on the imaginary and fictional.

What is it with this story, I question again. It hounds me, haunts me – the premise, the title, the characters, but the theme eludes me. And this is problem, I think, the fact that I can't find the true essence of the story. The sun has finished setting now and the studio slowly fills with evening darkness. I roll my shoulders to release some of the tension and then lean back over my keyboard. I don't know what to write. I have two characters, each of which have starred in different aborted beginnings, and I do not know which one is the star of the story. Who's story is it, I wonder, Rogue or Katlin's? And what about that third time travel assassin that crept in last week? I would like to forget it, just get up and walk away and go and get a real job, but I know I would end up feeling creatively stifled and miserable like I have at every job. For some reason, this story wants to be told, and I'm the one who has to tell it.

I stretch my neck, moving it side to side, hoping inspiration will hit. I sip cold Starbucks coffee, waiting. I turn on my antique Victorian lamp as the studio gets darker. Inspiration does not hit. Finally, in frustration, I try an old writing trick I know. I set my cell phone alarm for ten minutes, put fingers to keyboard and start writing about the story, without editing, without stopping, letting anything come. Slowly, as type, the story begins to take shape and create meaning in my mind. I begin to understand what it is about the story that has fascinated me and what I want to tell. The main premise takes shape, the plot begins to evolve and scenes get outlined. Rogue and Katlin stay, but switch roles and the third assassin becomes a pivotal player.

The pet behind me is now chewing on her cage bars to get my attention. I continue to write, barely noticing her. Professional athletes talk about being "in the zone," and a similar thing happens with writers when we are fully engaged in their work, when the outside world ceases to exist. The pet chews and squeaks and I, I write. By the time the alarm goes off I finally, after nearly six months, have a clear picture of the full essence of the novel. I stretch my back again I glance at the clock. An hour has gone by since I sat down at the computer. It feels like five minutes. I don't remember working with such interest and focus in months, and with such a sense of satisfied completion. My art career was filled with half finished pieces that needed the last boring bit of layering done that I would have to force myself through, or, more often than not, put off until all inspiration was dead and then start a new drawing, just to repeat the process.

The pet now resorts to ringing the bell at the bottom of her hay bale. “I know, I know,” I say to her as I reengage with real life. “I'm a terrible owner.” I ruffle her nose and pour her food. My mind still back with the story, I feel excitement for the next day when I can go back into the creative trance.

Sarah-Anne Playle started writing novels at the age of ten and finished her first published work, The Distance Between Us, at the early of eighteen. Since then, she has worked various 'real' jobs in order to support her writing “habit” as she nicknames it. Recently, she has also started a visual arts career, and has already had one gallery display, with another one coming in the near future. Both writing and artwork can be found at

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