The downside of an unusually warm winter in New York City is that for every inch of snow you would have accumulated, you instead endure an equal amount of rain. The night of Sloane Crosley’s event at NYC’s School of Visual Arts was one of those cold-but-not-quite-freezing, unbearably drizzly evenings. Admittedly, if I hadn’t been working in-office with a client in Chelsea, there’s a great likelihood I wouldn’t have dragged myself out of the comfort of the indoors.
Despite the weather, public transit was running smoothly, and I arrived to the complex early. As I was signing in my “reason for visiting,” I glanced over my shoulder to see Sloane Crosley herself right behind me. Your name has two s’s and hers has one, I reminded myself. I turned around, extended my hand to her shoulder and nervously exclaimed, “I’m here to see you! And by the way, we happen to have the same last name, just spelled differently.” She glanced at the sign in sheet, turned back to me, and said, “Why yes we do!” As she signed in, I anxiously paced around the lobby, losing all memory of how to get myself to the third floor of a building. I ended up ascending the stairs with Sloane, assuming she knew where she was heading for her own event. She was immediately whisked off into another room to prep with her counterpart Adam Harrison Levy, and I waited outside until I was ushered in with the other attendees.
What started as an interview of sorts quickly evolved into a witty banter between two people who seemed like old friends. Over the course of the evening, Sloane spoke to an array of topics that appealed to writers and aspiring authors. Below is my account of Sloane’s responses.*
*Please note that the following account is based on notes complied during the event. They are not direct quotes from Sloane Crosley.
The Writing Process: I start with lots of cups of coffee, and I dress enough to escape in the event of a fire. Typically no music, but if I do it’s either classical or something with lyrics I know very well and can easily tune out or not pay much attention to. Living in NYC, I have enough extraneous noise from my neighbors! Sometimes I start to wander. If I do, I’ll print out a copy, write the pertinent things at the top – the theme or the timeline – then go through and highlight what sticks to those things. That’s what I keep.
Writing a Novel: It took three or four years to write The Clasp – you have to live with your characters and learn to see the world from their perspectives
Humor Writing: I want to tug at the heartstrings of my readers, and for me humor is the best way to do that. I believe the different types of humor people use tell everything about their character. People tend to gravitate toward and place greater value on content that is deep, like a drama. Comedic actresses or actors never win the Oscar. People think humor looks easy. Comedic individuals don’t get credit for addressing the same issues but in a humorous or more entertaining way.
The Significance of Objects: Objects are often associated with nostalgia. That’s the way my memory works. Without an object, I wonder if I’ll remember that moment or day. They also create a way into the story, an entry point. We’re not a society of Buddhists – we put a lot of weight on objects!
Collecting Details: I write about certain things because the details are already collected. What are nine objects of meaning to you? I bet you could think of twenty.
Confidence: Writers have the advantage of working in solitude or isolation. No one is there to see when you make mistakes. No one is watching while you write a million bad drafts alone in a room – you’ll figure it out in the editing process.
Why She Writes: I have a love of language. It’s also just how I see the world, how I know how to think about things.
Once the evening came to a close, the other attendees filtered into a nearby room for refreshments. I loitered as Sloane chatted with one of the event organizers, wanting to catch her before she left. I’d optimistically brought one of her books, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, in hopes she might sign it. I tried to be inconspicuous, casually fumbling in my purse yet knowing full well I’d deeply regret not mustering the courage to bother her for an autograph. Fortunately, an overly enthusiastic teacher from New Jersey who had also attended the event had no problem interrupting Sloane’s conversation and requesting a signature in her book. I seized the opportunity and successfully got her to sign mine as well. As I began to collect my things and brace myself for a cold-but-not-quite-freezing, unbearably drizzly walk to the subway, I couldn’t resist peeking at what Sloane had written – “Caitlyn, So nice to meet you! Best Wishes! Sloane Cros(s)ley”
To see Sloane at a future event on her tour, check out her website.
It’s funny that I often forget about reading, considering it’s such an essential part of being a writer. I’ll go through spells where I’ll collect a bunch of books and read them one after the other, then I’ll go weeks if not months without reading. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of blogs and magazines and online articles. I read daily doing research for clients or simply staying up to date in my industry, but I mean reading (a book).
Reading a book seems pretty self-explanatory, right? But there are a few ways you can make a habit of reading books in a more creative way. I’ll give you a pass if you absolutely adore your Kindle or the like – they do make things quite convenient, particularly for those who travel often or commute on public transportation and need a one-handed approach. However, I encourage you to read a physical book whenever possible. We look at screens all day, and many of us are conditioned to certain habits when reading on a screen. You may associate reading on screens with work as opposed to pleasure, and you may tend to skim to get through the material more quickly. When you read a book, it should be a ritual – you should slowly slip away from the world around you and into the pages. I believe physical books help facilitate this practice – they help to ensure reading is a leisure activity, and they help you to slow down and really take in each and every word.
What you read also impacts the creative habit of reading. I had such an “ah ha!” moment when I heard Cyndie Spiegel, a business strategy coach for creative entrepreneurs, talk about the benefit of reading fiction versus non-fiction. In one of Cyndie’s newsletters she discussed “turning down the noise” and reminded us that constantly reading non-fiction books on your industry or interests or stage of life can influence your connection to yourself. When you’re disconnected from yourself and more vulnerable to outside influences, your creativity is impacted. You may be more judgmental or less inspired. So, I love Cyndie’s suggestion to read more fiction. Escape into another universe, dive into the life of a character, and allow yourself to fantasize.
The holiday season and end of the year is an incredibly hectic and stressful time for almost everyone. Now more than ever, we need a creative outlet, particularly one that can easily be carried in a pocket or purse. Pick up a book this holiday season. When you need a break from the bustle or family, drift away into a story without even leaving the room.
If you’re just joining the creative habit series, be sure to look back at the challenges for the past four months for more creative inspiration and learn about the book that sparked the series, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Finally, don’t forget to share your experience making a habit of reading (a book) using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit.
I may be a little partial to the art of writing for obvious reasons, but even if you’re not a writer, there are creative benefits to writing. If you really want to get your imaginative juices flowing, the key is to write it! Don’t type it.
With the evolution of the digital landscape, people have gotten away from turning to pen and paper to write. There are notes in our phones for list making and blog platforms to help us tell our stories. Those of you who know me recognize that I’m pretty old-school when it comes to writing – I have a physical planner as opposed to a digital one, I handwrite my to-do lists on post-its, and I have at least one journal on my person at all times. In fact, it took me a long time to move away from handwriting everything. I vividly remember when we transitioned from handwriting to typing papers in school. For a long time, I continued to handwrite my first drafts, then type them. I believe that ideas free flow more organically from the brain to the hand to the pencil and finally to the page and that writing with pen and paper is crucial to the creative process of writing.
There’s another less obvious difference between handwriting and typing: privacy. The digital landscape has made it almost too easy for us to share everything. With a couple clicks you can send a note in your phone via text or email, in seconds you can publish your writing on a blog, and much of our days are spent sharing status updates on social media. However, when you handwrite a note and place it in your planner, no one will see it unless you physically pass it along. If you write in a journal, no one will read your entries unless you want them to. So, why is this important to the creative process? Judgement is the enemy of creativity. Most artists and creatives would be called crazy if they shared every idea that came to their minds. The creative process is filled with outlandish and seemingly illogical notions, but when executed properly, they’re brilliant. If you allow judgement to interfere, you’ll never reach the point of carrying out the concept.
For the month of December, turn to a pen and paper not the computer. Set the scene, buy yourself a cool new notebook, light a candle, steep a cup of tea, and enjoy a private moment with your thoughts without judgement. It’s that time of year when you may be thinking about ideas, goals, and plans for the New Year. There’s no better way to spark your creativity than setting aside some time to write with pen and paper.
If you’re just joining the creative habit series, be sure to look back at the challenges for the past three months for more creative inspiration and learn about the book that sparked the series, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Finally, don’t forget to share your experience making a habit of handwriting using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit.
When I went to college, my mom gave me an adult coloring book and a box crayons. At first, I chalked this up to a final attempt to salvage my childhood as I was heading out of the house and toward young adulthood. I tucked the book and crayons on a shelf between textbooks and framed photos and didn’t give them much thought. When people came to my room, they would notice the big yellow Crayola box, then look beside it. And they started to ask if they could color.
I ended up toting around that coloring book and box of crayons for the next four years of college. Pages got ripped out when people wanted to keep their work and others enjoyed making a contribution to the book. When I couldn’t pour any more words into my journal or my creative writing classes, I would turn to the coloring book. It evolved into this amazing tool and creative outlet for me and my friends whether we needed a mindless escape or to express ourselves.
I still have this book today, and surprisingly there are still a few blank pages left to be explored. Now, it mostly serves as a colorful walk down memory lane. But most importantly, my mom’s simple gift taught me the power of color (a verb).
So, for November’s creative habit, I challenge you to channel your inner child and color. If you want some guidance, purchase a coloring book (here’s the one I have), or simply get some crayons, markers, colored pens or pencils, highlighters, sharpies, pastels, and some plan paper. Just start coloring! It’s not just for kids anymore.
If you’re just joining the creative habit series, be sure to look back at the challenges for the past two months for more creative inspiration and learn about the book that sparked the series, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Finally, don’t forget to share your experience making a habit of coloring using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit.
Last month I kicked off a new series called the Creative Habit, inspired by Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit (which I highly recommend reading). For September’s Creative Habit challenge, I encouraged you to embrace the last few weeks of summer weather and go outside every day. However, I really urged you to take it a step further, be present in the outdoors, appreciate your natural surroundings, and remove the extraneous technology, noise, and distractions to better connect with your environment.
Now that fall is in full swing, we’re slowly but surely beginning to spend more time inside. Sometimes these cooler months and increased confinement indoors can really stifle our creativity. We may start to feel more lethargic and less inspired to be creative. That’s why it’s more important than ever to develop and maintain a creative routine!
As we get older and as technology advances, we begin to work with our hands less and less. Instead of writing with pen and paper, we type on a keyboard or tap on a touchscreen. Instead of making cookies from scratch we buy dough at the store or order a batch on Seamless. When was the last time you gardened or painted or did any type of work with your hands?
I recently had an experience that reminded me of the value in working with your hands and experiencing the sensation of touch. I attended a Salsa/Burlesque class, and the instructor encouraged us to touch and feel the movement of our bodies as we danced and use our hands as an extension of movement through our arms. It was here I remembered how the hands can be used as a mode to express and communicate. I realized what a powerful tool we have available to us.
During the month of October, make a creative habit of working with your hands. Find a fun DIY project or pottery class and build something. Pick up an instrument or take a sign language class. Get festive and carve a pumpkin or craft a handmade Halloween costume. The opportunities are endless! How are you going to take on this month’s Creative Habit challenge? Please share your experience making a habit of working with your hands using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit