The Sum of All the Parts

IMG_0163IWSG Question o’ the Month: Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

Pretty easy question this month, you would think, since I’ve talked about this topic a few times before.  Heck, I even spent some time thinking about this topic over the last couple of days, thinking about the points I wanted to make, and even about the structure I wanted to use…
Then my unconscious mind remembered just how random and unprepared I tend to be when I write these posts and … umm … well … my train of thought has never met a track it couldn’t jump.

I started thinking less about creative outlets, and more about breadth of experience and quality of life.  I started thinking about the kinds of things that come into play in my own writing, things like balance and adventure and random wanderlust…

Some of what I thought about, I should say, are other creative outlets.Gdansk 1  In addition to writing, I am also a photographer.  Photography is an outlet that very much influences how I write.  It is fundamental to how I envision and create scenes, and to how I try to write them.  When I visualize my scenes, I very much think in terms of contrast and color, in terms of light and shadow.  It’s more than just visualization, however.  That contrast comes into play in my characters and settings, as well.

Personally, I think anyone who lives and works creatively absolutely needs an outlet different from their primary one.  We need a different way to think, a different way to feel, if we want to truly empower our chosen field.  For me, that other expression is photography…

Train_wreck_at_Montparnasse_1895…and that’s where my train of thought and planning jumped its tracks.  That’s where I started thinking about other things: things like experience, and passion, and the life I’ve lived…

I can’t play music.  I gave up learning the piano when I was 11,* but that doesn’t stop music from being the other major force in my writing.  Without music, in fact, I have no writing.  Without the passion and energy and inspiration it brings, I sit at my keyboard and stare blankly.

*Yes, Mom, you were right back then, I DO regret quitting!

But that’s not all, not by a long shot.  You need more than inspiration and creative outlets, you need life.

I talk and joke about my “other” life in the craft brewing world, but it is a very real thing.  Beyond writing and photography, I have my passion for brewing & cooking…for flavors and textures and combinations.  I describe it to folks, my love of brewing and cooking, as similar to music: it is the process where you can turn a bunch of disparate and unrelated parts into a whole that is far more than just their sum.

Kinda like writing,* in fact.  When everything works, a completed manuscript is so much more than just “characters + plot = story”…

*Imagine that.  Ahem.

But that ain’t it, either, or at least not all of it.  Those things I talked about, they’re are all parts, but they’re not the whole.  You need more than that, I think … you still need life.

Intellectual passions come into the mix, too, of course.  I love history, as well as astronomy, languages and literature.  I love those things, and they all play a vital part in what and how I write.  As do, of course, other influences in my life: the Russian films I admire, and the Japanese philosophies I’ve explored, and the socio-cultural wrongs I see, and the politics I abhor, and … and … and.

I’ve been just about everywhere, by the way.  I’ve lived at the geographical and social extremes of the United States, and I’ve travelled the geographical and social extremes of the world.  I’ve been drunk in some, ahh, questionable bars in Tijuana, and I’ve sat silently in the most beautiful cathedrals and basilicas.  I’ve been overwhelmed by the ruins of Rome, and lived amidst the awesome wonders of Yellowstone.  I’ve transited the Panama Canal, and swum in the Adriatic.  I’ve windsurfed off Spain, and kayaked the Bay of Fundy.  I’ve spent a day in silence at a Buddhist monastery in Japan, and a night reveling amidst the chaos and excess of a rave in Berlin.  I’ve explored the poorest slums of central America, and the grimmest Stalinist apartment blocks in Central Europe … I’ve walked through all of that, then I’ve walked to the mansions and “palaces” that lie just a few miles away…

I have, in short, tried throughout my life to do it all.  I’ve tried, and I’ve barely scratched the surface.  And that is all part of what I need to write, as much as are my other creative outlets.

If you take away even one of those things, my writing is less … I am less.  The sum that is my writing, the sum that is me — the two are the same thing, really — is made of all those things.  It is made of them, yet it is more by far than just their sum…

2 thoughts on “The Sum of All the Parts

  1. debscarey February 6, 2019 / 10:05 am

    Totally spot on. When I was training to be a counsellor, I struggled over the selection of training provider based upon following a particular counselling path, until a counsellor friend of mine pointed out that what she’d trained in and how she now practised were at opposite ends of the spectrum. As she said “you’ll be the counsellor you’re going to be and training will only form a part of that”. We do bring ourselves – our whole selves, both our genetic nature and our life experience – to everything we do and are. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be authentic. Of course, that applies to writing as it does to any other professional; equally as it applies to the type of human being you’ll be.

    What a great mantra for life – keep learning, keep experiencing, keep growing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ronel Janse van Vuuren February 15, 2019 / 3:58 am

    “If you take away even one of those things, my writing is less … I am less. The sum that is my writing, the sum that is me — the two are the same thing, really — is made of all those things. It is made of them, yet it is more by far than just their sum…” Love that!

    Ronel visiting for Feb’s IWSG Day Being an Insecure Writer — And Happy About It


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