“Life offers you a thousand chances…all you have to do is take one.” Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun
Last week's writing prompt was "What was the last thing you wondered about?" Today's creativity challenge is imagining you are somewhere far away and writing about it. I love the limitless possibilities of imagination that open the channels of creativity and fun. After writing In the Cleft Joy Comes in the Mourning, my creativity went down the toilet. My head felt like a scrambled egg, and my writing lost its spark. Even writing emails felt gruelling and cumbersome. My goal now is to bring the fun back into my writing before I publish any more books. I want my creative writing experiences to be freer flowing and spontaneous.
For the next while, I will be experimenting with different creativity challenges, writing for the sheer joy of it. I won't be editing a lot, so what I'm sharing may be boring, fragmented, and may not make any sense at all—it’s writing done quickly. There is nothing scarier for an author than a blank page, with that cursor freaking you out, and suddenly you have nothing to say and feel as dumb as a stump. The goal of free writing is to get the words on the page without the inner critic taking over and the blank page overwhelming you. The inner critic always convinces you that you have nothing creative to bring to the table. The goal is just to write even if what you are writing seems elementary, choppy and unpalatable. It's OK. The point is that what you are creating has never been written before, and that's pretty impressive.
Creativity Challenge: Imagine Yourself Far Away. Where are you? What are you doing?
I remember one time, my 4-year-old son Zach had on a pair of my reading glasses, cozied up on the couch reading Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. "Zach, what are you doing?" I asked him. "I'm mommy," he said, with his sweet little smile. I loved that book! So, my faraway place is going to be the Chianti valley in Tuscany.
I can't believe I'm in Tuscany, the place I've always wanted to visit since reading Under the Tuscan Sun. Tuscany is every bit as beautiful as I imagined it would be. My little villa lies amongst the ancient castles, medieval rural churches, and artisanal shops. I'm near the markets and can hop on my red townie bike to pick up colourful bouquets of flowers, fresh herbs, warm bread and plenty of red wine.
Being here has awakened something in me that felt dead at home. Routines, people pleasing, and to-do-lists have a way of deadening the heart. Here my heart is full and alive. There are no "shoulds" preoccupying every waking moment. I have the luxury of time slowing down. People seem lighter, happier and more passionate. Their joy wears off on me. Families seem more present and less focused on what is meaningless, a reminder for me to get my priorities straight when I get home. Watching how life unfolds in a more natural way here, I wish I were flesh and blood Italian.
In between writing, napping and eating copious amounts of bread, I visit art galleries, vineyards and coffee shops, carrying my notepad with me at all times to capture moments in words. I don't want to miss a thing. I want the sights, smells, textures and sounds to come alive through words.
Cooking is creative. I turn up Andrea Bocelli and dance, chop and sauté. I feel alive doing what is usually a pain in my rear end. I can take as long as I like and don't have to do the dishes until morning. I can try new things, like painting, pottery and poetry, because I am more open to trying new things. Creativity gets to come out and play.
I’m more extroverted and laugh more easily—the heartiness and charm of the Italian lifestyle suits me. People all around invite me to their homes and I get to enjoy family recipes that have been passed down for many generations. Their hospitality is unmatched and I plan to take a bit of it home with me to lavish on my neighbours and friends. Every day, someone comes to my door with fresh organic vegetables. Sharing is as natural as breathing. I just hope I can hold onto the spell this place has cast on me. It feels beautifully liberating.
When I go to bed at night, I feel exhausted, but it’s a different kind of fatigue. It’s not emotional weariness brought on by chaos and drama, but a tiredness from a day fully lived. My heart has been liberated and I’ve had a glimpse of heaven touching earth.
So there you have it. Pour yourself a glass of wine and have a listen to Andrea Bocelli...and...maybe doing a little creative writing.