Harnessing creativity at Conflux Writers Day

On Saturday I attended the inaugural Conflux Writers Day — a day of short talks and workshops on various aspects of writing, held in Canberra. Organised by the Conflux team, headed up by Australian SF author Nicole Murphy, the Conflux Writers Day was also the prelude to the annual Aurealis Awards, which are Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards.

The thing I love most about such days is hearing other authors talk about their process, their philosophies, their methods for keeping disciplined, fostering inspiration, staying positive.

One of the themes of the day was harnessing creativity — one of my favourite topics.

In her opening plenary session, Joanne Anderton talked about transforming ideas into story. Her process as it turns out is remarkably similar to mine (notebooks for each project, seeding a story with the world… I rather liked her concept of ‘world growing’).

She also emphasised how important it is to let yourself get bored, to give yourself the space to daydream and be creative.

“Just because a writer is looking out the window doesn’t mean she isn’t working.”

And then, in the second plenary session, Kaaron Warren (after putting us all to shame with her stern words on how to ‘use the minutes when you don’t have hours’) made a similar point when she said how ‘daily life’ is a key part of writing. It’s when one does one’s daydreaming, observing, listening…

Kaaron’s main point was that she believes

“We shouldn’t try to change the way we live, we should change the way we write.”

Utilising all the ‘down time’ as thinking and daydreaming time is an important part of this, so when we do have that rare 20 minute or hour-long time window available to write, we’re ready to get right into it. We’ve done all our thinking and away we go…

“A writer’s place is inside our head. We are in control of what goes on inside our heads.”

I really wish I was better at this. I think best with a pen in my hand. But it would be good to better utilise walking or cleaning activities. Perhaps I need to train my brain…

Finally, in a short session called Wrangling the muse, presented by Craig Cormick, he made the point that the thinking:writing ratio is different for everybody.

This last I know to be true. I truly envy those authors who can churn out 8,000 words in a single day. The most I can handle at once is about 2,000 words… then I need to have a break and wait for the well-of-words to refill. (Or maybe it’s the well-of-ideas.) And usually it doesn’t refill until the next day…

Craig’s other main point was how important it is for us to eradicate negative belief systems and foster positive belief systems instead.

Doubt can intrude into reality. The brain tries to ensure that whatever one believes must be.

i.e. if we don’t think we can do it, we’ll sabotage ourselves.

I went to several other interesting sessions, which might find their way into a later post. But I think the points I’ve summarised here are my main take-aways from the day.

Embrace doing nothing — make the most of it. Accept the need for time and space to think and ruminate. But make the most of writing time as well!

As might have been expected, I’ve returned home from Canberra full of enthusiasm and determination. Inspiration too. There’s nothing quite like hanging around with a bunch of other writers to get those creative juices flowing.

 

8 comments

  1. Sounds like a fantastic day, Ellen. I really relate to Kaaron Warren’s ideas. I spend a great deal of time thinking about my WIP when I’m cleaning, ferrying kids, walking my dog etc. I find all that thinking really helps me to be productive. I often write in snatches of time – 30 mins here, 45 mins there – and I think I can do this because the novel is pretty much always present in my mind no matter what I’m doing. Something for us to discuss at lunch methinks!

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  2. Even 2,000 words is a great amount for a day. I wish I could do that consistently, but always seem to fall well short of that these days.

    And I can definitely improve on making use of minutes when I don’t have hours.

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    1. I’d be more than happy if I could write 2000 words a day consistently, but I only manage that on a good day. It’s frustrating… Interestingly, though, I’m quite good at making use of the small time windows when I’m a mission – such as a NaNoWriMo mission. Accountability can make all the difference.

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