So today we went to the Bookmarks Book Festival in Winston-Salem, NC. The book fair was awesome, and I’ll let Ursula talk up the finer points from her perspective, as a guest and speaker. I will say the fans were awesome as always, and the staff was awesome as well.
We went extra early, because we wanted to see former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins speak (something you should do if you ever get the chance) at the opening . And, after reading several of his poems he took questions.
One question was “How do you find your ‘inner voice’?” And the answer was surprising : read. If you are a fiction writer, read fiction. If you are a poet, read poetry. And so on. Your voice is your experience, and the effect other writers have on you. And all that “inner voice” stuff about soul searching and such? Junk – although he was much more diplomatic about it.
Then, another question. “How do you know when your poem is any good?” And again the answer was a little surprising : “When it’s something no one else could have written.” I never looked at it like that, and neither had Ursula, or the guy next to us (a very nice man who offered some engaging conversation before and after Mr. Collins’s appearance). And it’s just as true – no one else could have written about a shrew in a snailboat, no one else could have written about the Relationship Achievements (at the time. Lots of other people have done it since), and no one else could have written about the dog barking next door in quite the ways that we have written them. And that applies to stories about cats, or very minor super powers.
So I mention three things I learned this weekend in the post title. The third comes from a video of John Cleese talking very seriously about being creative. Go watch it. It’s worth it. But the bit that stuck with me is that to be creative, we have to create SPACE to be creative. To let our minds play, without the distractions of TV or Internet or Work. To find or set up an oasis for letting our minds go. This is something I’m bad at, and am going to try to be better at.
All that, and the weekend is only half over. I wonder what the rest will bring.