Ksenia Anske, dark fantasy writer and sometime axe-wielder, is here to share her secret potion and spells for creativity. I may have had to donate some blood and use up a bit of salt, but it was worth it to get her answer to what makes creativity –
What makes you creative? Often it’s simple things, like smelling a flower or listening to the rain or staring at a peculiar shape of a cloud and catching yourself thinking about nothing. Nothing at all. It’s at those moments our incessant internal chatter stops. It’s those moments we tend to remember. That sunset. That gorgeous, yellowing tree. That puddle that reflected the sky and made the whole world look like it turned upside down.
Do you remember those moments? I know you do. Remember how you wanted to sing or dance or jump or making something exciting, for no reason? Build a snowman. Run really fast through a field of tall, green grass. Or draw doodles forever, clutching a pencil with your tongue stuck out without you noticing. Or write a story.
Then life happened. It does, to all of us. We get busy. We get serious. We consider these moments of staring at the clouds a waste of our busy lives. Those moments distract us from our big shiny goals of getting that car, that house, that job, that money to on vacation. All for what? To try and capture what we’d forgotten while we’re on the clock. One week out of a year. Two, if we’re lucky. We seek to run away from our daily lives we ourselves have created.
No wonder we can’t relax while we’re on vacation. Well, maybe we do for the first few days, but then the dread of returning to the boring routine starts creeping in, and in a flash it’s over, and it’s back to the grind. Get up, eat breakfast, commute to work, pretend you like your job, gossip at lunch, make yourself do your tasks in the afternoon, clock out, commute home, buy groceries, cook a fast, bland dinner, then plop in front of TV, brain-dead, staring at the screen in the hopes of unwinding. From what? What for? Why wind up in the first place?
Creativity. It’s what we all wish we had and what’s demanded of us at work, in any line of work, to make a magnificent change. Yet it eludes us. Why? Because we banished it early on instead of cultivating it and growing it, letting it glow.
Some of us have a rude wake-up call at some point in our lives.
I had mine not once but twice—the first time after deciding not to attempt suicide and the second time after waking up in the hospital because I was hit by a truck and would’ve been dead if not for my helmet (I was biking). And it took another six months after that to finally quit my career and sell everything of value I owned to start writing full-time. I had decided that waiting for the third wake-up call would be too risky. I might not wake up at all.
That motivated me, at last.
Fast-forward six years. I’m still writing full-time. And I’m finally making a living, as of these last few months. I’ve written seven novels and lots of short stories. I have self-published them, and when things weren’t looking up, I never quit. I remember the promise of that third wake-up call, and I don’t want to tempt it.
It’s happening, can you imagine? It does. After all these years, after all these thoughts of “Who am I to write books? I never studied writing. I’ve no clue how novels are written. English is not even my first language!”
How did I get here? By following a long, twisty road and writing and reading every day. I have resolved with myself to write and read every day, no matter what. You know what motivated me? Clouds. When I started writing, at first no words would come, and I’d sit and stare out the window. That’s when I remembered looking at the clouds when I was little. I couldn’t remember the last time I did it. Since I blocked out the time to write, I decided it’d be okay to allow myself to just watch them. Then a little miracle happened. I got giddy. I saw a giraffe morph into a monstrous face of a fish and then become a bear, then a hippo, then a flower. I was mesmerized. I’d lost track of time. Then the words came. I banged them out. And only after I was done did I realize I’d found my childhood again, that creativity that I’d lost that was always there if only I allowed myself to feel it.
I guess I’m writing this for you in hopes to make you look at the clouds again. Or smell flowers. Or hug trees. The time you spend doing it is more important than working hours, your commute, shopping, vacations, and so on. You won’t need vacations anymore, that’s the paradox. I love writing more than anything; it’s not my job, it’s my permanent vacation. Like jumping in puddles. Or counting stars. Or reading books into the night with a flashlight under the blanket.
I invite you to join me. What’s one thing you haven’t done since you were a kid? Do it now. Yes, right now. It’s of utmost importance and it can’t wait. Then write to me and tell me what happened. Here is my email: email@example.com.
(Ksenia is currently working on the final draft of TUBE, her upcoming novel that launches on March 17th, 2018. It’s the novel she started writing when she boarded the train for her Amtrak Writers Residency in 2015, so of course it’s about a train and a young woman who has to visit compartments to recover her long forgotten and unsettling memories of her violent childhood. Here is the official summary: “To overcome her fear of intimacy with her dancing partner and lover, a Russian ballerina must take a memory train to her past, to remember her sexual abuse and to forgive her abuser.”)