There’s not a lot to write about while recovering from an accident – well, not much that people want to read anyway. Two breaks in the clavicle, one cracked scapula and a couple of cracked ribs, means that even if I’m not confined to quarters, I’m not exactly out and about on an adventure.
And why does "clavicle" sound like a musical instrument, probably from the harpsichord family?
Writing is hard right now – geez, would you believe how much pressure goes on your collar bones every day, even when you’re using the opposite arm? And I’m not great at the whole hands-free-voice-recognition thing – I think with my fingers. So, I haven’t been very productive, though I am working my way through the copyedits on my next novel – but sitting in a chair is no fun, and I cannot work lolling around on the bed. However, as the saying goes – be grateful for small mercies, because it could have been a lot worse, and at least my little collection of broken bones will heal.
One thing I have tried to do since my accident, is to keep up with my acting class. I know – that felled you, didn’t it? Trust me, I am no Dame Judi, but I am really enjoying myself.
I love learning new things, love to take classes and workshops, particularly in the arts – and I’ve discovered that it has a positive effect on my writing. Some years ago, at a point when I’d published my first novel and was terrified of my second (I was sure I was going to be found out – I had clearly written the only novel I had in me), we moved some 400 miles away to a new area where I knew just about no one. I was fed up, lonely, scared by my audacity to have thought I could write another book, and wondering how I could really get to grips with myself. I was working “virtually” for my company – which was a very good thing, because I felt much safer having that job. Knowing how at sea I felt, one of my old friends, who lived about an hour away, suggested I join her in an art class at her local community college – one semester, two nights a week. I signed up. I also signed up for a class at UCLA Extension – “The Illuminated Writer.” If ever a writer needed some illuminating, it was me, and the almost 2-hour journey each way was worth it.
Now, I am no more am artist than I am an actor, but I loved that art class – “Working With Acrylic” – and it was intense! But something happened that was not lost on me – the class was on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and ran from 6-10pm. On Wednesdays and Fridays I wrote like a dream – the words flowed and it was as if I had accessed a vein of words/phrases/images I didn’t know I had in me. Both classes seemed to kick-start my creativity, and soon that book was coming along nicely. My classmates voted me the “most improved student” (my prize - a tube of cadmium red) – mind you, I was so inept, there was only one way for me to go! And in the Illuminated Writer, we played with memoir, short writing exercises, bits of poetry, you name it – it was a blast!
Now, with a travel schedule that encompasses long book tours, and trips to the UK to visit my mother, I don’t really have much of an opportunity to attend regular classes, however, during a visit to see a production by the local theater company last December, I saw a line in the program about the new classes for adults. I looked it up online as soon as I got home, and signed up for “Improv 1.” I couldn’t make every class, but we were all working adults, and everyone missed one or two sessions. It was so much fun, I signed up for “Improv 2” and now I’m in Acting 1. And I am learning more about character than I ever knew I needed to learn. OK, so I can feel you acting experts out there shaking your heads, “You mean she never knew that???” Well, of course I knew actors studied character - I loved theater in school and it’s one of my passions; I go to as many productions as I can – but I didn’t realize the depth of preparation (we’ve studied Meissner and Uta Hagen, for the initiated). And what’s great is that we’re such a mixed bunch in terms of our day jobs, the class is brim-full with different perspectives, different ways of looking at the world.
Has it impacted my writing? It’s certainly made me think about how I approach my work – character development drives both my own writing, and what I’m drawn to as a reader. And I also believe that to really find reward in the process of creating a story, you have to try something new with each endeavor, you have to be prepared to go deeper with your writing – oh the joyous terror of taking risks! Sometimes thinking outside the box demands you step right out of the box – and I’ve a few works of (ahem!) “art” around the house to remind me that nothing life-threatening happened as a result. Perhaps we all sometimes need that reminder. And with reference to Jim’s post yesterday, there’s a certain type of troll-like critic who might try to put you down when faced with your audacious creativity, but remember, you are the one with paint on your hands, ink on your fingers, or a script in your hand, and giant smile on your face … rather than a miserable frown.
Have a great weekend !!