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.
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
Growing up in the south, fall never felt like a profound transition. Sure we went back to school and started following football instead of baseball, but the weather remained temperate, if not hot, well into October.
This year, at almost the exact moment we transitioned to the autumnal equinox, fall fell on New York City. The air has started to get cool and crisp in the early morning and at sunset, and there’s a distinct sensation that something is shifting.
The changing of seasons can be time to slip into a slump or, oppositely, get caught up and carried away with transformation. I urge you to ease yourself into autumn, and start fall in style with five of my favorite seasonal activities:
1. CURL UP WITH A NEW BOOK
One of my favorite fall pastimes is holing up in my apartment on a Saturday with a good book and a warm cup of tea. When weather permits, it’s also lovely to embrace the chill in the air, pile on a scarf and some layers, and soak up the last remaining months before winter by posting up on a park bench and reading outside.
2. STAY ACTIVE
Bikini season is over and the weather is getting cooler, but it doesn’t mean it’s not important to stay active in the fall and winter months. Prepare for rich foods and overindulging during the holiday season now by maintaining your exercise routine. Staying connected to your body will also help you weather the transition!
3. RECONNECT WITH FRIENDS AT YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD BAR
Fall is a time when everyone tends to return home and settle into their typical routines. Now that everybody is back from irregular summer schedules and trips, it’s a great time to come together and reconnect. Simply gather with your friends on a Friday night at your neighborhood bar and catch up!
4. REASSESS YOUR BEAUTY ROUTINE
When the weather changes, so should your beauty routine. With cooler temperatures, drier air, and increased winds, it’s important to keep your skin nourished. Reassess your bases, like moisturizer and foundation, and invest in products that will keep you hydrated into the winter.
5. SUPPORT THE LOCAL MUSIC SCENE
Concerts are a great indoor activity for fall whether you’re planning a date night or enjoying a girl’s night out. Indulging in artistic entertainment will help boost your spirits and eliminate the cold weather blues. Scope out your city’s venues, check out the tour dates for your favorite artists, and support the local music scene this season!
Today I’m kicking off a monthly series, the Creative Habit, inspired by Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit (which I highly recommend reading). The focus of the book and this new monthly series is best summarized in a passage from Tharp’s practical guide:
“The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more. And this routine is available to everyone. Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for businesspeople looking for new ways to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way… Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell.”
Since leaving college and the cushion of being surrounded by countless peers, professors, and mentors all of whom were writers or dancers or artists, I’ve struggled to maintain my creative self. In my experience, the older you get, the more you lose that youthful abandonment and in turn, begin to lose your creativity. In addition to outside forces impacting our creative selves, we’re at greater risk of inhibiting our own creativity as adults. We allow the left brain to kick in with logic, analysis, and judgement, and we become quick to extinguish or abandon our natural creative impulses. Slowly but surely, over the past five years, I’ve fought to maintain my creative self. It’s challenging, and that’s why I believe in forming a creative habit.
For this Creative Habit series, I’ll present you with a creative assignment toward the end of each month. Then, for the thirty days that follow, I challenge you to incorporate the creative habit into your routine. The tasks will start out very basic so that you can discover what creative habit works best for your lifestyle and your creative self. September’s challenge is to simply embrace the last several weeks of summer weather and go outside every day. I don’t just mean walk from your car to your office or step in the backyard to let out your dog – really go outside! When was the last time you sprawled out in the grass and gazed at the sky? Do you ever go on a walk or run without your headphones and let your surroundings speak to you?
So many of us are confined indoors for 80-90% of the day. As a freelance writer who typically works from a home office, there have been periods where I didn’t leave my apartment for three to four days at a time! This is an extremely unhealthy work practice, and I can definitely say my creativity was at an all-time low during these stints. Now, living in New York City without a car, I’m forced to spend time outside almost anytime I need to go somewhere, but that doesn’t always mean I’m engaged with my surroundings. Most people who are going from Point A to Point B on the streets of NYC are in their own worlds – talking on the phone, listening to their headphones, or even reading a book or newspaper. Remove the extraneous technology, noise, and distractions! Don’t just go outside, be present in the outdoors and appreciate your natural surroundings.
Over the next month please share your experience making a habit of going outside with the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit