As I mentioned last week, I’m interviewing people for the Sisters in Crime podcast. When Cathy Pickens and I “met” on Zoom for our interview, I knew who she was. I’d seen her on panels, and met her briefly when our paths crossed at a SinC board meeting years ago. She was a past president of SinC, and is occasionally called on for advice and context. I also knew her Southern Fried Mystery series. But we’d never had a chance to talk. Well, let me tell you, I’m so glad we did. She’s been writing a series of Caroline true crime books, and the research sounds fascinating. I was so glad to learn about her creativity workshops, and the work she does with people to help them tap into their muse. I am enjoying her book, and am thrilled to welcome her to the blog today.
WHAT SCARES YOU?
When I’m not writing about crime—fact and fiction—I lead in-person and virtual creativity workshops for all kinds of groups.
A while back, in a room with a hundred young business and non-profit professionals, I was encouraging them to keep a creative notebook and to take rambles to sharpen their abilities and fill their well of ideas.
One young woman shyly raised her hand and asked a very businesslike question: “How do you know if you’re doing it right?”
Interesting question, especially when applied to developing your creative process. I could’ve given a flip answer: “It’s creativity. There’s no right or wrong.”
But the real answer hit me out of the blue: “When you’re a little bit afraid,” I said.
In stretching your creative muscles, you’re doing it right when you’re a little bit afraid. After I said it, I knew that was the answer to growing your creative self. Are you trying new things? Stretching yourself?
I’ve mulled on that answer for some time now, and I still think it’s the right one. If I try a new recipe that’s a bit ambitious … Or write (or read) a book unlike anything I’ve tried before … Or if I experiment with a new workshop exercise when it might flop … Or if I call a stranger to learn the details of a murder in that happened in my hometown the year I was born …
Those don’t sound like wildly creative acts. But they do require a little risk-taking. Isn’t that the start of all creativity—taking small risks and getting better, more confident as you go? A creative act isn’t one big leap, but all the small steps that make it happen.
Readers, the last year has given us opportunities to stretch ourselves, in ways little and large. Did you take steps in some creative risk-taking? Try something new? Were you a little bit afraid? How’d it work out?
Share something new you’ve tried in the last few months or something you plan for this summer. Post it and you’ll be eligible for a drawing to receive a free copy of CREATE!
BOOK BLURB: CREATE! is a six-step guide to developing your individual creativity, a roadmap tested and enthusiastically endorsed by hundreds of workshop participants, from those who already defined themselves as creative to those who didn’t (yet).
Cathy Pickens, author of the Southern Fried mysteries (St. Martins/Minotaur), served as SinC president and on MWA and Forensic Medicine Program boards. She taught law in business school, entrepreneurship in jail, and offers virtual and in-person workshops on developing creativity.
Latest books: a series of Carolina true crime books (History Press) and CREATE! Developing Your Creative Process (ICSC Press).
I think most of us spent the bulk of the last year and a half a little (a LOT) afraid.
Amen to that! Too much fear, in some instances. I prefer that “little bit” of fear!
Welcome to the blog, Cathy! I challenged myself this spring to write in three POVs and two eras, something I’d never done before, and without the parachute of a contract. It felt good – and scary.
That does sound like a good scary — but scary nonetheless. It’ll be a treat for your readers, though!
The penny dropped. Thank you, Cathy!
Big things like changing genre from traditional to cozy and writing a book on spec to last night’s discovery that I did not like the crochet pattern of the panel I was working on for an afghan so I created a pattern of my own. Both made me feel a frisson of fear. Not sure how the book will play out – seeking representation – I like the crochet panel.
That’s how it felt for me, when I realized what that little frisson was all about — like something had suddenly fallen into place or made sense! You make a good point: recognizing that our creative efforts occur in more than one area, balancing the uncertainty of the book (such a long-term proposition) with the success of the crochet panel keeps things going.
There’s an aspect of the book I’m about to start that scares me a little because I’m diving into an area I really know very little about and is out of my experience. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Sounds like you’re not letting yourself get bored! All the best with that — the “little” scare bodes well for what you’ll find.
The mysterious Anonymous above is me, Cathy. Apparently skimping on caffeine wasn’t a good idea this morning.
Great to hear about Cathy’s new projects—CREATE! sounds inspiring indeed! I’m working (again (again)) on a novel…. Wish me luck!
However long it takes, Art, readers will be waiting!
I’m so happy to see Cathy here with us! She is a little known support system for many SinC presidents and she made my 14 months as president easier. I love your answer to that question, Cathy and it is so timely as I’m writing a thriller and wondering if I can do it or not.
Sherry, you made the “president-ing” look easy! As to writing a thriller, enjoy it—and may that little twinge of fear bring good things.
Welcome to the blog, Cathy. Every book I start I’m a little afraid. For me the key is overcoming the fear to keep going.
Glad I’m not the only one that starts every project that way.
I recently made the decision to postpone my return to “real work” (aka, getting paid to write technical papers) in order to focus more on writing my cozy mystery. Definitely scary!
Okay, that is scary—but also fun, I hope. All the best and happy writing!
No creative stretching on my end. I’m working full time (plus a little) while working from home, so I haven’t had much extra time in my life.
My guess is that you’re filling your well in ways you may not realize. Hope you can find more of those little moments soon!
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