Out of the Box | Creativity Workshop Goals

2 May

Mr. Cat and I have something in common: we like our boxes.

He likes to curl up inside them, get comfortable, maybe play a little while, and only exit said box if provoked.  Like I said, we have some things in common.

My box is not made from cardboard; it’s made from routine.  I write where I’m used to writing, what I’m used to writing, how I’m used to writing, and so on.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to discipline or hard work — it’s just that these efforts, thus far, have been focused on one project, and one project only: my novel.

Something has provoked me to poke my head out of the box, and that something — as I mentioned the other day — is Merrilee Faber’s Creativity Workshop.  Both because we’re supposed to, and because I want (need) to, I’m setting some goals here.  By my calculations, each of these goals has to do with shedding and shredding my cardboard boxes, in one way or another.

Box #1: When I write, I write one thing: my novel.

Boxbuster Goal #1: Work on my ability to switch gears; make quality progress on two projects in the same week. I’m editing the second draft of my novel, and I don’t want to take a fourteen-week hiatus from it.  Thing is, though, I’ve been working on this novel for a while now, and have never tried to write anything on the side (other than blog posts).  One thing I want to get out of this workshop is the ability to switch gears from one project to the next, which means a) clear focus on each in its time, and b) quality progress made on each.

Box #2: I work on an über-flexible schedule.  This is comfortable.

Boxbuster Goal #2: Make a tighter schedule and stick to it. If I’m going to effectively break out of Box #1, this is imperative.  Having a flexible schedule works just fine for what I’ve been doing.  However, if I’m going to make quality progress on two different projects, I need to be a bit more specific in the way I plan my writing time.  This may include earlier wake-up calls or a few midnight-oil-burning sessions — early mornings and late nights are two times of the day I rarely use for writing.  It would be good to stretch myself to work in times other than those I’m accustomed to.  Specific application of this goal looks like making a weekly schedule on Sundays, with specific goals for each block of writing time.  Then, obviously, try to follow it.

Box #3: I don’t write short stories.

Boxbuster Goal #3: Learn how to write them and turn out some good ones. So, it’s not that I don’t like short stories, or think I can’t write them — it’s just that I’ve never focused any energy on learning about them, or trying to write them.  I’m in that writing-my-novel box, not the come-up-with-several-shorter-things-that-are-fresh-and-totally-unrelated-to-your-novel box, and frankly?  The idea of the second box sounds kind of scary.  That said, I’m excited about crawling inside, because it sounds like a worthy (and fun) challenge.

Box #4: Coming up with fresh ideas has never been my strong suit.

Boxbuster Goal #4: Write interesting things, from fresh ideas, that mean something. I can come up with fresh ideas for stories, but a lot of times, they either take forever to occur to me, or just don’t feel special enough.  I want to train myself to think out of the box when it comes to writing fresh ideas.  This includes everything from the plot itself, to the characters, to descriptions, to settings, to scenes: I want to make something special, something that cannot be labeled cliché.  I want to write not my first idea, but maybe the fifth.

The key to this goal is the phrase “train myself” — I want to devote time to working on ideas, to be more intentionally observant in everyday life, and to think away from paper.  What I mean by that is, I’ve noticed it’s hard for me to think through ideas while jogging on the treadmill, for example, or while doing anything where I can’t physically write/type my thoughts out.

Box #5: I like to make general goals instead of specific ones.  General ones aren’t as painful to fail.

Boxbuster #5: The first four goals were pretty all-encompassing, so I’d better include some specific goals that pertain to the writing itself. I tend to write about generally non-controversial issues; it would be a challenge for me to write something outside this comfort zone.  My current WIP stars a young male; I’d like to write about a young female (I’m thinking anywhere from five to thirty-five).  I want to write at least one piece that’s been inspired by song lyrics, and at least one piece that takes something extremely clichéed and puts a fresh twist on it.  I want to write something inspired by my experiences in Shanghai.  And, I shall give myself the freedom to make these inspirations manifest themselves as either an invisible top-layer of lacquer, or as the more in-your-face splash of red paint.

So, there you go.  This is going to be a lot of work, but I’m excited about it.  Also, just so you know, part of the workshop includes writing updates about our progress.  We’re to post every Sunday, so expect that here.

Other participants from around here include Linda Cassidy Lewis, Melissa, Cassie Hart, Chibi Doucet, Amber Dawn WeaverAshley Nava, and (of course) Merrilee Faber — I’ve linked to their blogs from their names, if you want to check out their goals (which should be up soon, if they’re not up yet) or their progress along the way.

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24 Responses to “Out of the Box | Creativity Workshop Goals”

  1. Meredith Sunday / 2 May 10 at 4:58 pm #

    Those are enormous goals. I can see you know yourself well. 🙂

    The story inspired by song lyrics sounds especially fascinating.

    I came here via Merrilee’s Creativity Workshop. Glad to “meet” you.

    • owlandsparrow Monday / 3 May 10 at 8:15 am #

      Hi, Meredith! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment! 🙂 Yeah, they are kind of huge goals, but if I take them just a day at a time, and come up with concrete steps to get there, they’ll feel smaller, I think.

      Have you ever listened to Patty Griffin? I wrote a post about her recently (click here) because I LOVE her lyrics (well, and everything else about her music). So many of her songs conjure up images of people, fully formed (sometimes lonely) characters, and inspire me to write about them. So, that’s where I got that idea.

      Nice to ‘meet’ you, too – I’m looking forward to checking out your blog, and the other participants I’m just now meeting. 🙂

  2. AuroraLee Sunday / 2 May 10 at 5:05 pm #

    Wonderfully put together and well-thought out list of goals! I really like how you used the ‘out of the box’ theme.

    as for the content… all great goals! I’m the complete opposite in several of them, so it will be interesting to see your process 🙂

    • owlandsparrow Monday / 3 May 10 at 8:21 am #

      Thanks, Aurora! (Side note: Aurora was my favorite Disney princess when I was little, so I’m quite partial to your name!) 🙂 I checked out your goals, too, and am looking forward to seeing your progress as well! Oh, challenges…so daunting, yet so rewarding when you achieve your goals…

  3. anna caro Sunday / 2 May 10 at 5:36 pm #

    Cute kitty! We’ve just moved house and our cats are loving all the packaging.

    I’m with you with the fresh ideas – it’s the main thing I’m hoping to get from this workshop.

    • owlandsparrow Monday / 3 May 10 at 8:25 am #

      Aw, I have to agree that he is a cute kitty. He’s quite well-behaved, too. Much better than our other kitty, who (while very cute) has taken to eating our windowshades, in addition to the paint chips he scratches from the wall.

      Anyway. As for the fresh ideas – that was the main draw of the workshop for me, too. Even though I figured it was an assumed goal – I mean, “Creativity Workshop” implies we’re going to work on creativity, right? – I figured it would be good to list it out, because it’s that important.

      Good luck to you, and thanks for stopping by/leaving a comment! I love making new blog friends.

  4. Merrilee Sunday / 2 May 10 at 5:41 pm #

    Good work Kayla! And you’re right about choosing specific goals. But now that you have identified the issues that you want to work on, we can slim them down into concrete, achievable items.

    I would like to see you thinking about interests, as well as issues. For example, I would definitely encourage you to explore either a Shanghai series or a young female protagonist. Or both!

    So this week, think about areas you would like to explore. Something that tickles your fancy, but is outside your writing “box” (great metaphor by the way).

    And don’t worry about the idea generation part – the whole workshop is geared towards that 🙂

    • owlandsparrow Monday / 3 May 10 at 8:33 am #

      Oh, Merrilee, you always find a way to challenge me even more! I love it. Thanks for pushing me – all of us, really – to be specific and concrete in our goals. They’re definitely more measurable that way. I’ll be thinking on the ideas you mentioned, and how to slim them down. I’ll post an updated version soon. (Not sure if that will be a whole new post, or just an extension to this one. Do you have a preference?)

      I figured the idea generation part was inherent to the workshop itself, but it’s such a big reason I decided to participate, it seemed worthy of a mention. I’m so excited about growing in the idea-generating department. Thanks again, Merrilee! 🙂

      • Merrilee Monday / 3 May 10 at 5:37 pm #

        A new post is fine, Kayla. I have everyone’s blog on speed dial, so I will see anything that comes up 😉

  5. Megs - Scattered Bits Sunday / 2 May 10 at 10:35 pm #

    Wow! Awesome goals. Makes me think about my own little boxes… Of course, most of mine have formed from some pretty real experiences of discovering that there’s a REASON I write the way I do, and sometimes changing the method is breaking it. That said…

    On Box 1: I’m totally the opposite, almost to a fault. I have so many creative fountains going at the same time, it’s counterproductive. But if I try to shut up one of them to focus on the others, ALL of them shut up. And I mean, ALL. Haven’t figured out the solution to this, except that on rare occasions, I can go into a box with just one story if I don’t have any others going previously. Hmm…

    On Box 2: I work on flexible schedule, but I also demand some real progress of myself, so I can’t admit to needing to unbox myself there. But I have BEEN there. I’ll be rooting you on here.

    On Box 3: Ah! Short stories… They drive me up the wall. They’re TOUGH. I have definitely put my hand to the plow quite a bit on these, but they’re such a different cup of tea than novels or even flash fiction. You have my empathy and well wishes. Please post up any remarkable discoveries you make. I’ll anxiously read them.

    On Box 4: Gotta admit. I have too many. But I admire the way your goal works with this part. And I like how you incorporated it into your specific goals (I want to write one based on a poem). Your GOALS alone are so well put together. I never thought about how do you go cultivating ideas, but I think you’ve hit it on the nose. Be open. Ask questions. Keep searching beyond the first or second or third ideas, until you find the one that’s just right. 🙂

    On Box 5: That is my waterloo. General goals don’t hurt as badly to fail, and they also give us room to stretch the definition of success. Your specific goals are awesome, and again, rooting you on. I think for myself: Need to finish revising In This Wood so that I’m happy with it, Write and finish a real, honest to goodness, submittable short story set in Calindria (preferably my working titled, “Singer, Sing”), Write a short story written from a poem, and Find THE novel that makes my heart sing and stops leaving me with nagging doubts about writing it. I know there’s one out there. There has to be. :sighs:

    God bless! I’ll be cheering and encouraging from over here! (As distracting as my blogging did prove to be, I’m grateful for two things especially: I met Rabia Gale and I met YOU!)

    • owlandsparrow Monday / 3 May 10 at 8:49 am #

      Megs! Thanks for such fun feedback to my goals, I like seeing how you and I are similar/not-so-similar.

      On your Box 1: Though I can’t relate to that problem with writing, I can absolutely relate in other aspects of life. I’m constantly torn between clean this, do that, run here, sit there, think about this, this, or that. So many things vying for attention, and sometimes I freeze, unable to decide which one needs to be done first. I can only imagine how hard this would be with an overflowing fountain of ideas you want to write.

      On your Box 2: I want to retain my flexibility and merge it with discipline. Sometimes sticking to a disciplined schedule enables more freedom in the long run, so I’m trying to remember that.

      On your Box 3: Thanks for your empathy and well wishes, haha. I know enough about short stories to know they’re tough, and that “short story” ≠ easy just because it’s short. You got it, on remarkable discoveries. I’ll do my best to unearth some.

      On your Box 4: I guess my strength lies in doing something with the ideas I get, and not the ability to come up with a ton of them. I had no idea how I was going to organize this post until I randomly ran across that picture of Mr. Cat. Then, BOOM, it all just worked. Same with writing – once provoked, I’ll get an idea and take off with it, but ideas don’t come all that naturally to me. I have to be observant, and look for them.

      On your Box 5: Thanks for the encouragement on my specific goals. I like yours, too. They seem sufficiently challenging, and hold promise to make you feel utterly satisfied when you vanquish them!! 😉

      Thanks again for the encouragement. I’m grateful I met you, too. Thanks for continuing to comment, even though you’re not blogging anymore. 🙂

  6. joyofdawn Sunday / 2 May 10 at 11:45 pm #

    Love your goals! They are so specific.
    The cat in the box reminded me of the Cat in the Hat. So cute!

    • owlandsparrow Monday / 3 May 10 at 8:52 am #

      Thanks, Amber! I tried to be specific, but as Merrilee suggested, I could still slim them down a bit into more bite-sized pieces. 😉

      Okay, and just a random side note, that bunny on your blog? SO CUTE. He’s adorable. If we didn’t have a psycho kitten (Dexter. Not sweet Remy, who is pictured here), maybe we could get a bunny. I think Remy would be totally chill with a bunny, but Dexter would torment it.

      • joyofdawn Friday / 7 May 10 at 3:24 pm #

        Our cat would probably eat them if we didn’t keep an eye open. The dog thinks they’re cool, as long as they don’t touch her tail. Then the dog runs away…so funny!
        Most of the bunnies live outside. That one was in privileged postion for a few days, since he was injured.

  7. Chibi Monday / 3 May 10 at 9:18 am #

    Haha, my sister’s cat loves a good cardboard box, too. Even if it’s too small to really fit her, she’ll find a way to curl up inside.

    I liked your goals list; it was very well thought out and I could definitely identify with 1 and 2. I’ve tried to work on a couple different projects at once, but then I like focusing all my energy on one to finish it more quickly. So maybe the workshop will teach me to change that. And I hear you on the schedule thing. Discipline is going to be a big thing for me with this workshop, I think – for all of us, it sounds like.

    It’s so interesting to read about someone who is doing the workshop but who has never really done short stories. I’m not sure I would’ve had the courage to sign up if I was in your shoes. When I first started doing them, it took me a while to wrap my head around them (some days I think I’m still not quite there). Hopefully you’ll have an easier time.

    • owlandsparrow Wednesday / 5 May 10 at 11:13 pm #

      Thanks, Chibi! Yeah, I’m a little out of my element (at the moment) when it comes to short stories, so we’ll see how it goes! 🙂 I’m excited about the challenge. Excited or not, it’s still just that – a challenge.

      The one time I tried to focus energy on another project while working on this one, it was during NaNoWriMo. I ended up ditching that effort for the sake of the one I cared more deeply about, which I don’t regret. The Workshop seems like it can/will produce some more sustainable habits than NaNo (i.e. not cramming 50K into a single month just for the sake of cramming 50K into a single month) and I have more motivation to stick with it.

      As for the cats, mine don’t care about box size, either. It could be way too small for them, or a paper bag instead of a box, and they’ll just curl right on up inside.

  8. Davina Pearson Monday / 3 May 10 at 3:49 pm #

    I’m right with you on 1, 3 and 4 – they’re pretty similar to some of the issues I posted myself, especially 1. I’ve been revising for three months now, and haven’t worked on anything else in that time. I love this book, but I want to play with something else, and I’m not even close to finishing this revision – throwing something else into the mix is the best option I can think of, since I definitely don’t want to leave it in its current state!

    2, not so much – I’d like to be on the same page there, but unfortunately my schedule is flexible not by choice but by necessity, as I have to travel quite a lot. If I had the chance, I would follow the same routine day after day, and I’m pretty sure I’d be a lot more productive for it!

    • owlandsparrow Wednesday / 5 May 10 at 11:23 pm #

      Glad to know someone else is knee-deep in revisions like I am! 🙂 Are you going to try to keep revising while doing the workshop, or just take a hiatus from it until it ends?

      Traveling sounds like fun, though not if it’s something you have to do, all the time. I guess every situation has its advantages, though – on one hand, perhaps you have less options for when to write, but knowing it’s the only time you’ll have that day could work toward more productivity. (In theory.) For me, it’s more like, “Well, it’s no big deal if I didn’t get ____ done this morning, I’ll just do it this afternoon,” and on and on, leaving me with several unproductive hours. I’m hoping to strike the balance of writing when I want, but growing in my ability to make the most out of every time I sit down to work.

  9. Linda Cassidy Lewis Monday / 3 May 10 at 5:23 pm #

    You’re so eloquent in your issues/interests/goals, Kayla. To be honest, I’m so freaked by the whole idea of this workshop, that it’s hard for me to think about what I expect from it. One of my faults is looking at the whole “job” and getting so overwhelmed that I can’t begin. So I think it’s better if I just sort of slide into this sideways and pretend I’m not really in this workshop.

    • owlandsparrow Wednesday / 5 May 10 at 11:36 pm #

      Thank you, Linda. 🙂 Hey, I share that fault with you – “Looking at the whole ‘job’ and getting so overwhelmed that I can’t begin.” Story of (many things in) my life, from cleaning, to praying, to projects. I have yet to master this. Sometimes, right when I think I have, I’m proven wrong. Taking things one day at a time, plus freeing myself from feeling pressured, helps a lot. They’re not permanent fixes – obviously, it’s good to plan for the future, and some pressure/responsibility is good, healthy, even. That said, one-thing-at-a-time helps me feel less overwhelmed in the moment.

      Don’t be freaked, friend. Your writing? It’s really, really good. Just be you, and do what you do, and enjoy it. 🙂 No pressure. Just a chance to try some new things.

  10. Rosalind Adam Tuesday / 4 May 10 at 9:48 am #

    I love your use of boxes (especially the one with the cat in it!) and your 5th point is so well thought out. It’s as if you’ve already got started on this workshop ahead of the rest of us. I love that idea of using lyrics for a short story. Some songs just cry out to be written about, don’t they.

    • owlandsparrow Wednesday / 5 May 10 at 11:41 pm #

      Don’t let the 5th point fool you. Basically, I read a lot of other people’s posts first, and noticed Merrilee had encouraged them to be more specific. These ideas came to me then, but I still have a lot of work to do, as far as the final set of goals is concerned. 🙂

      Oh, and Mr. Cat thanks you kindly for your compliment. He loved that box, before we threw it in the dumpster.


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