Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

Where does your creativity come from? (06/15/03)



Featured writer: Susan Bono



Contributors this month:
Betty Winslow
J. Randal Matheny
Marlene Cullen
Susan Bono


Seeds

by Susan Bono

My poet friend Timothy had a dream in which Joseph Campbell came to him with a packet of seeds. The old man shook the little paper envelope gently in Timothy's face. "Plant these," he said

Such advice I never got, or if I dream such encounters with my muse, no memory of them carries me into the morning.

I would like to experience my creativity as a force that takes up residence inside me-a permanent lodger, a constant companion. I want creativity to be my seeing-eye dog. All too often, I am led by my ambition, my anxieties, my sense of duty. These energies cause me to produce writing I consider successful sometimes, but I don't like to think of them as the well from which my creativity flows.

A well of wisdom and vision and strength-many of us picture ourselves drinking such healing water, being filled with inspiration, which is then manifested in some creative project. When I hear that Jane has designed a bathroom with a garden in it, I think, "Ah, she probably has that special water on tap at home!" I don't really imagine that she might feel the same way I do about all this-that we are both more like desert nomads, in search for the refreshment of an oasis.

It might be better to think of myself as a tree, rooted to the earth, drawing up sustenance from the soil and ground water, taking in the regenerating light of the sun. A tree, if it has reached a sufficient size, does not need to travel in search of water. It gets what it needs wherever it is growing. In the dry times, it can wait. I don't know if a tree dreams, or, if it does, what it remembers. But it builds its canopy of limbs and leaves out of whatever's available, everything it finds there.

Susan Bono is trying to keep her garden watered in Petaluma, CA.

Betty Winslow



My creativity (and any talent I may have) comes from the Great Creator of the Universe Himself and I am inspired to creative heights when I look around at the things He Himself has created.

Snowflakes, scraps of frozen lace floating down from heaven, no two the same.

Flowers of every shape, size, and description, brilliantly hued or quietly tinted, some with lovely smells, some that eat insects, some that poison, some that heal, all marvels of construction.

Rocks of every color, hardness, and structure, from the hard crystalline beauty of diamonds to the soft greasy feel of soapstone to the lovely shades of blue and green found in turquoise. He could have made all rocks the same, but even granite comes in colors!

Shells, whose intricate whorls and smooth pearly interiors, tinted pink and yellow and purple, house mollusks who cannot even see the loveliness that surrounds them.

Animals, from the tawny majesty of lions to the sleek smoothness of dolphins to the goofy assembly that is the duck-billed platypus.

To find my creativity, all I need to do is consider the creativity of the One who made me. Then, I cannot help but draw (with words) the wonders I see and hear and smell in the world of His creation that surrounds me.

Betty Winslow, Bowling Green, Ohio, lover of both the Creator and His creation

J. Randal Matheny



ohn's poetry style differs from mine, but I often find a good thought, a point of contact. After reading one of his works published to his list, I wrote him a short note. "I hear ya, brother, I hear ya."

Shortly, John replied, "Don't know what I would have done without your work of late -- thanks."

Enigmatic, but suggestive.

I chewed on that phrase most of the day. It stirred something deep within me.

It bespoke trials, discouragement, a tiny light of hope seen in something I had written -- assuming I wasn't reading into his reply. I wondered, what in my work did he find that braced him?

John and I have swapped poetic ramblings through email for some time. So his phrase wasn't a mere electronic drip without context. The implied tenuousness of his words had moved me, and that emotion sought expression.

In minutes, a poem had taken shape. "Frailty." Oh, it still needs revision, but the essence had appeared. Creativity had been stirred.

The creative urge springs from many fountains, but none so powerful as the reflections from one soul to another. The proverb, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another," is never so true as when a friend sparks in another the fire of creativity.

J. Randal Matheny

Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil

Randal's creativity percolates on www.cloudburstpoetry.com .


Marlene Cullen



My creativity comes from my friends, especially the amazing writing group that I am fortunate to have joined. I listen to their free-writes and am in awe of their ability to transform words into gorgeous vistas that take my breath away and transport me to other times and other places.

My creativity is garnished from snippets overheard in the grocery store, or a tantalizing conversation, or a shrug. I receive moments of clarity and flashes of lucidity when digging in the garden. It looks like I'm calmly pulling weeds but I'm really absorbed in a past conversation, usually in the form of, "I wish I would have said. . . "

My creativity sparks when I'm driving, especially while waiting for the light to turn green. Behind the wheel I come up with the most brilliant solutions to perplexing problems. Too bad I can't remember those satisfying solutions after I reach my destination.

My creativity arrives from resources such as Tiny Lights and especially Searchlights & Signal Flares. Flash in the Pan is going to be another gem in the Tiny Lights treasure box. I float on a bubble of inspiration after reading excerpts such as Christine Falcone's "What keeps me going as a writer?" Searchlights & Signal Flares (May 2003)

"The image of a homeless couple sitting on the bolted-down chairs outside Jack-in-the-Box waiting for the doors to open so they can use the public restroom; the image of a pregnant nun or a once beautiful burn victim, her face now unrecognizable; headlines about infidelities, faked suicides, elaborately planned robberies; all the stories, images, symbols-the music of everyday ordinary life. It's my need to record those things, explore the nuances of a personality or the dynamic of some relationship (usually dysfunctional-in fact, the more dysfunctional the better) that keeps me going as a writer. "

My creativity flows freely among treasured friends and the gemstones of the written word. And for that, I am grateful.

Marlene Cullen daydreams in her garden in Petaluma, California and warns others to watch out while she is driving because she is never really sure where she is heading.

Seeds

  by Susan Bono

My poet friend Timothy had a dream in which Joseph Campbell came to him with a packet of seeds. The old man shook the little paper envelope gently in Timothy's face. "Plant these," he said

Such advice I never got, or if I dream such encounters with my muse, no memory of them carries me into the morning.

I would like to experience my creativity as a force that takes up residence inside me-a permanent lodger, a constant companion. I want creativity to be my seeing-eye dog. All too often, I am led by my ambition, my anxieties, my sense of duty. These energies cause me to produce writing I consider successful sometimes, but I don't like to think of them as the well from which my creativity flows.

A well of wisdom and vision and strength-many of us picture ourselves drinking such healing water, being filled with inspiration, which is then manifested in some creative project. When I hear that Jane has designed a bathroom with a garden in it, I think, "Ah, she probably has that special water on tap at home!" I don't really imagine that she might feel the same way I do about all this-that we are both more like desert nomads, in search for the refreshment of an oasis.

It might be better to think of myself as a tree, rooted to the earth, drawing up sustenance from the soil and ground water, taking in the regenerating light of the sun. A tree, if it has reached a sufficient size, does not need to travel in search of water. It gets what it needs wherever it is growing. In the dry times, it can wait. I don't know if a tree dreams, or, if it does, what it remembers. But it builds its canopy of limbs and leaves out of whatever's available, everything it finds there.

Susan Bono is trying to keep her garden watered in Petaluma, CA.

Searchlights Editor:

Susan Bono

Columnists:

Christine Falcone, David Samuel Johnson, Betty Rodgers

Susan Bono is a writing coach, editor and freelance writer whose work appears in newspapers, anthologies and the Internet. She has published Tiny Lights, a journal of personal essay, since 1995, along with its online counterpart here at tiny-lights.com. From 2000ó2005 she helped coordinate the Writer's Sampler series for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Her short essays and columns have appeared in various anthologies, magazines, newspapers and on the radio. Her most recent credits include Passager Magazine, Red Hills Review, the St. Petersburg Times, the Petaluma Argus Courier, the Anderson Valley Advertiser and KRCB radio's Word by Word.

Christine Falcone has been writing most of her life. Her work has appeared in print and online, and it has aired on public television and public radio. One of her writing goals for 2008 is to find an agent for her recently completed first novel, "This Is What I Know," which was named as a finalist in the William Faulkner Wisdom Creative Writing Competition out of New Orleans. She is currently in a new writing space, painted purple for inspiration, busily at work on another novel -- this one having to do with the nature of violence.

David Samuel Johnson was reared on a mountain in Arkansas. He lived the bohemian lifestyle in the Ozarks as a hillbilly vagabond, traversing the mountainside shirtless and most of the time shoeless, exploring the sensuality of the aromatic, organic-rich soil of the forest floor or the harsh poetry of greenbriers twined around a devilís-walking-stick. As a kid he wanted to be a writer and own a snake farm when he grew up. His Mama knew she couldn't dissuade him from either goal. When he brought a poisonous copperhead snake home in his pocket, she bought him a book about snakes so heíd know which ones he could bring home and which ones to leave behind. When he wrote his first poem to a girl in kindergarten, she showed him how to use a dictionary so he could spell the word "beautiful." David's goal of a snake farm and the love of his mountain have manifested into a PhD in ecology. Davidís dream of writing has evolved from his first poem in kindergarten to essays in newspapers to interview articles in magazines and columns in this journal. He is living a beautiful dream, some of which you can glimpse below.

David the Writer

David the Scientist

Betty Rodgers and her husband, Ken, live and watch birds in Boise, Idaho. A transplant among transplants, she has chosen to learn the local landscape through the lens of her Pentax K10D. Her writing career began at an early age when she wrote plays and coerced her boy cousins to perform them. She has enjoyed a life-long affair with journalism, writing for the Sacramento Bee, the Cloudcroft Mountain Monthly, the Sebastopol Times and News, and the Boise Weekly. Born in Steinbeck Country, she has also lived in Maine and New Mexico. Betty publishes a bi-monthly online newsletter for Idaho writers, a labor of love inspired by Terry Ehret. In 2006, she published A Mano, a book of poetry by the late Vince Pedroia.

Thanks to all who participated this month. It's good to know you're out there! We're looking forward to hearing from you and those you inspired sometime soon! Check this column each month to see what's new. Return to Searchlights & Signal Flares menu for future topics and guidelines.

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