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The Dark Side Of Creative Writing

Death By Pen And Inkwell —
The Dark Side Of Creative Writing

I discovered the joy of lying to readers and calling it art rather late in life. Up until my 40s, I had only ever dealt with non-fiction — cranking out a dichotomous mix of instructional/motivational articles (designed to help folks improve their lives) and snark-laden diatribes (bemoaning the lamentable state of the world in modern times). Quite frankly, I’d’ve rather been stabbed repeatedly with a chewed-up Bic (not even a quality writing instrument like MontBlanc, mind you) than have to fabricate plausible characters or pull convincing dialogue from my nether-regions.

Fact Distilled Into Truth

Ramona-Exercise-In-Brevity

The last piece of fiction I’d composed was in sixth grade, when I penned a story (under complete duress) for gifted class, about a planet inhabited by anthropomorphic chili peppers. (I still have no idea why Mr. Hoffman found this idea so innovative — my so-called art was grounded more in “desperation” than “inspiration.” The big “ah-ha” moment? I was eating Taco Bell after softball practice, while simultaneously freaking out about having procrastinated on topic selection until the night before ye olde assignment was due.)

I got an A+, but that was it for my literary career. No angsty poems in high school. No hyper-intellectual abstract short stories or pretentious essays about the meaning of life in college. I’d made it through the most dangerous liberal arts years without a belletristic scratch — I thought I was safe. Then two decades later, I got talked into popping my cherry at a creative writing group. Dammit!

I sat in a darkened garage-grotto in the glamorous L.A. suburb of Reseda, surrounded by an odd assortment of artistic types — some hoping to sell a screenplay, a couple wishing to pen The Great American Novel, one or two tortured poets, and a handful who couldn’t afford therapy (but had become bored with solitary journaling at home). I was in a low-grade state of panic, terrified that my brain would seize up and leave me (for the very first time in my life) with absolutely nothing to say. I sweated and stewed and fought back the urge to puke.

Our leader did everything she could (just shy of having us drop acid) to trigger our brains to think a little differently — inspirational music ranging from Jimmy Durante to Björk, guided meditations, scented candles, motivational affirmations, and a never-ending tide of wine upon which to let our creativity flow. (To misquote Oscar Wilde, drink is the curse of the writing classes.) While alcohol definitely helps the muse juices along, my brain (and soul) were most happily nourished by those verbal/visual cues we were given to stimulate the old gray matter.

Out of a seemingly bottomless box of miscellany came the most amazing assortment of crap — I’m talking vintage magazines covers and cracker jack toys, old photographs and love letters, advertisements and event tickets and random doo-dads you couldn’t even begin to identify. The exercise was simple enough. Look at a picture, an object, or an index card with two or three words on it — then turn what you see into a story. But you only get a few minutes for each burst of writing, so you have to keep it short and sweet.

Those who know me, recognize that I’m a tad, shall we say — verbose. Economy of language is not my strong suit. But I tried damnedest to be pithy, succinct, and concise as I dove into short-form writing. (Dontcha just love how I use three words to describe the concept of eschewing prolixity?) Then, a miracle — the language enveloped me in that familiar and comforting way I’d grown accustomed to in my non-fiction life. Lost in vocabulary, seduced by phraseology, nurtured by locution — the words swirled through my head and around my heart, soothed my deepest darkest fears, then flowed right back out through my pen more eloquently than I could have ever imagined possible. Loquacious though I normally am, I discovered a tiny talent for sparsely-worded prose and poetry as I sat drinking cabernet and inhaling patchouli. I was proud of what I’d written

As we went around the group reading our work and providing each other feedback, I realized that I had nothing to fear from these people. Together, we formed a cohesive and supportive authorship tribe. No matter what our individual artistic goals or levels of writing experience, we collectively shared one thing in common — an obsessive and passionate love affair with the taste of language. We couldn’t help but suck it in, chew it up, and let it drip from our mouths — our tongues gloriously stained with ink by the end of each night’s scribbling. The room overflowethed (overflew?) with talented wordsmiths, the air was thick with ideas, and the atmosphere fairly crackled with the sound of so many gifted neurons firing at once!

Not surprisingly, most of my work is either dark or inappropriately funny — although I do occasionally get sappy and sincere, just to mix things up — I thought I’d share a few of my favorite creations with you here.

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.

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