Tag Archives: creativity

Creative Silence

I just finished reading Wallace Stegner’s 1971 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Angle of Repose.  I so enjoyed. Others did as well as it was voted one of the top 100 novels about the West by the San Francisco Chronicle.  Angle of Repose

This book takes place in various early mining communities of the late 1800’s. The main character is a displaced Victorian artist and Easterner, Sarah Ward, an educated artist who married a mining engineer and unwillingly moved out west from mining camp to mining camp in support of his career.

Stegner’s novel is based on the letters of artist, Mary Hallock Foote, who married an engineer and lived and wrote of early Western mining life. Foote was an accomplished artist, illustrator, and writer whose works appeared in many magazines of the day, including the Atlantic Monthly. Stegner quoted from 35 of her over original 500 letters and sketches in the mountains around Colorado, Idaho, and California to create the voice of Sara Ward.

 Mary Hallock Foote

An excerpt that really spoke to me was Stegner’s description of the silence of Sara’s surroundings: and outside the silent, house, the silent moon-whited mountains, the vacant moon-faded sky. No cry of bird or animal, no rattle of hoofs among stones, no movement except the ghostly flash along the surface of the river, no noise except the mutter of water as muted as ruminations.

 Stegner goes on to contrast Sara’s silent environment to that of the 1970’s: 1970 knows nothing about isolation and nothing about silence. I so agree:  In our quietest and loneliest hour we have continual background noises vying for our attention. Even the hum of fluorescent lights invade our silence without our even knowing it.

What does silence do for a writer? I write best when background noises create isolation from the concerns of daily life which tug at me. Actually, one of my favorite places to write is in the car on long trips with my husband. When we run out of interesting things to chat about – which doesn’t take long on some trips – the hum of the road invites my brain to engage in random thoughts that soon burst into a whole.

I have to jot these ideas down else I forget them when life intercedes. I’ve actually written a rough draft of my next children’s book on my iPhone as we traveled down the highway.

What about you? Where do you create best? How does silence play into your creativity?

The Many Gifts of Playtime

Puzzles, Leggos, dolls, and oh so many more gifts provide opportunities for children to use that right-brain, creative side of themselves. Don’t forget to add the magical ingredient: an adult to “play” alongside the little one. 740577_giddyup_horsey

Besides being fun for the child, the adult has the opportunity to model the importance of using the imagination. The insights into your child’s amazing brain can be priceless with this investment of your time.

For example, during play time spent with my grandchildren, they created a scenario where the six-year-old was explaining many basics of our culture to the four-year-old who was supposed to have come from another planet.

Their simple dialogue was so pure and precious to hear. They discussed the meaning of love and family. His questions probed deeper into the basics and she came up with pure and simple answers. Their conversation went something like this:

He: What do you mean by love?

She:  Love is what families share.

He: What is a family?

She: A family is parents and children who take care of each other.

He: What are parents?

She: Parents are who brings babies home to take care of until they’re grown.

He: What’s a baby?

She: A small, helpless human who needs love and care.

He: What’s a human.

She: I’m a human.

He: Oh.

I felt honored to be included as a participant in this personal conversation. They were not the least hesitant to be open and honest in my presence because I’m in included in their inner circle so often.

My heart swelled with pride at the compassion and tenderness she showed about family values. His continued digging into the meaning of her words also inspired me with his logic and good listening skills.

I would have missed this opportunity to glimpse into their hearts  and minds if I hadn’t said yes, to the ongoing invitation to “play with us.” That’s another blessing of being a grandparent. That’s another reason I wrote the book.

I hope you also confirm the RSVP to this invitation as often as you can. The blessings you will achieve are more precious than gold.

Story Starters for Children

Reading stories written by professionals can be a good springboard for children to create their own pieces of writing. Santa Claus Meets the Tooth Fairy opens the door to many writing ideas.

For younger children, the following ideas could prompt creativity:

  1. Write a letter to the Tooth Fairy.
  2. Write Santa a recipe for a healthy snack.
  3. Write about the time you lost your first tooth. If you have not yet lost a tooth, make up a believable story about what you think it would be like. Hint: Interview others who have lost a baby tooth to get details for your story.

For older children, the writing ideas can be more complex:  Student Writing

  1.  Research what children in other cultures do with lost baby teeth. The Tooth Fairy does not visit every house around the world. For example, in Japan, the first baby tooth is thrown on the roof and the second is thrown under the house to ensure prosperity. In another version from the Japanese culture, lost upper teeth are thrown straight down to the ground and the lost lowers are thrown straight up in the air to ensure that incoming teeth will grow in straight.
  2. What does the border in this book represent? Can you retell the story by touching the border? Create your own border, then write a story to go with it.
  3. Create a new fantasy character who will visit children in secret. Explain why this character visits children. Describe your character in detail. Does your character have any special powers. For example is there a character who visits children on their half birthday to reward them for good health habits? What about a character who visits children when they have completed other firsts in growing up like the first time they rode a bike, or the first time they used a cell phone, or the first time they ate an artichoke, or the first time they saw the beach?