Monday Musings: Samantha's Mid-Year Challenge Check-in
"You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.” - Dr. Maya Angelou
For the last four years, I’ve come up with a phrase or quote to challenge myself in the new year. For 2020, I chose the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.” I’ve ignored my life-long creative aspirations for two decades and this year seemed like as good a time as ever to pursue them.
I had the pleasure of listening to one of Dr. Angelou’s lectures and poetry readings in-person in the Spring of 2006 when she visited the university where I worked and attended graduate school. She was magnificent. With a captivated audience, she told parts of her life's story and used her powerful voice to read her work aloud. She often flashed us her beautiful, iconic smile. Overcome with emotion and full-body goosebumps, I held on to her every word as she read Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman. It was an amazing evening that I spent with my mom--one we will never forget. Dr. Angelou’s life and legacy are an inspiration to be creative, to preserve and to fulfill your dreams. Her words seemed fitting for what I hoped to do in 2020.
I didn’t choose this quote blindly. I had a couple of things in mind. For one, I have a desire to improve my writing and to meet some lofty writing goals. This includes both fiction and non-fiction writing. In this first half of the year, I’ve harnessed creativity to co-create And She Writes. This has brought exciting, challenging and inspiring moments each day. I love what it has added to my life both professionally and personally. My top priorities for this digital space are to provide meaningful content and to grow our community. I feel optimistic for many reasons; the biggest being my smart, supportive and creative partner, Fay.
"I have a desire to improve my writing and to meet some lofty writing goals."
Five years ago, I began my second fiction manuscript. The first one I wrote about 10 years ago when I had two very young children. I didn't plan to publish it, but it challenged me and frustrated me in ways I didn’t know were possible. I learned a lot about the writing process; time management when you have young children and the importance of a strong plot, dynamic characters and conflict. Then, five years later, when another storyline and its characters entered my head, I again felt this desire to write fiction. So, I began my second manuscript as it appeared in my mind, and after two months of periodic writing, I had about 20,000 words. I had the beginning, climax and ending written, but then I succumbed to an awful case of writer’s block. It became so painful that I left the story and told myself I’d come back to it in a few months.
"I learned a lot about the writing process; time management when you have young children and the importance of a strong plot, dynamic characters and conflict. "
Those months turned into years. On January 1 of this year, I opened the document after it sat untouched for more than four years. I read all 20,000 words in one sitting. It was better than I remembered. I reviewed my writing notes and plot diagram, and told myself I would give this story another try. After a month of writing, I had more than 50,000 words. During this time, I cleaned up parts of the story and reorganized scenes. I began to feel better about the overall storyline. I took another hiatus from writing in the early months of social distancing and remote working, but in the last month I’ve returned to it. I’ve redefined characters and reworked parts of the plot. I haven’t set a deadline for completion, but my hope is to have it ready for beta readers in the next few months. We will see…
In addition to writing, I’ve focused on creativity as it relates to my family. It wasn’t what I planned originally, but thanks to COVID-19 we’ve made some great memories through creativity. We’ve had a few movie nights where my daughters created movie tickets, made a concessions area with popcorn and candy, designed a home-made scanner to “scan” the tickets and transformed our living room into a dark theater. The pre-movie ritual also included a really cool theater voiceover to remind us to silence all electronic devices. We most recently did this on July 3rd to watch Hamilton on Disney+. (We are big Hamilton fans having seen it on tour last summer.)
"We’ve had a few movie nights where my daughters created movie tickets, made a concessions area with popcorn and candy, designed a home-made scanner to “scan” the tickets and transformed our living room into a dark theater."
I also had to tap into my creativity when balancing full-time remote working with distance learning for my children. I created daily schedules, planned meals and created a master calendar for when our formal living room, turned dance studio/music room, was in use. I had to get very creative with three different schedules to balance.
At the end of 2019, I would have never guessed the current state of affairs around the world. However, the slower pace of life has been the most influential factor in the amount of creativity I’ve been committed to in the first half of the year. As I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago, Fay and my decision to start this blog could have very well never happened if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic.
Without a doubt 2020 will be a year I’ll never forget for obvious reasons. But, I also hope I remember it for my abundance of creativity!