Last Friday evening, I was walking the streets of Bisbee, Arizona, the copper-mining town turned art colony in the Mule Mountains. I was soliciting–not trying to sell my body but distributing call-for-submissions fliers for Mirage Arts and Literary Magazine, published annually by Cochise College.
Most of the Bisbee galleries were closed, but the eclectic and amazing SamPoe Gallery (Sam Woolcott and Poe Dismuke) was open. I asked the man who was painting T-shirts just inside the door if I could leave a Mirage flier on the gallery manager’s desk. He said sure.
Turned out the T-shirt painter was Poe. It was great to thank him for the art he and his wife had submitted to Mirage in the past, including Sam’s “High Road House” on the cover of the 2008 issue.
I remarked that this was the first wearable art I’d seen in the gallery. He told me something that made my writer’s radar perk up: They were always trying new things as a way of keeping their creativity fresh. Consciously. Deliberately.
I walked back to my car, making a mental list of ways to do what Poe suggested.
- Do something in a completely different art form. I recently took a ceramics workshop. I hadn’t played with clay since the third grade and found it refreshed my writing. It reminded me that I used to draw or paint as a warm-up. It was mostly abstract doodles, but creating them stimulated some part of my imagination. I thought I ought to get back in the habit. Repotting plants is good for my creativity, too.
- In your usual artistic milieu, approach a topic or style you’ve never tried before. In my fiction, I’ve written in the first person as a man who kills his girlfriend in a jealous rage. That was a stretch. I’ve written a lot of landscape poetry–and switched to domestic issues such as writing with the “help” of my parrots.
- Try your usual topics in a different form. Free verse can be great, but sometimes the structure of a sonnet or the repetitions of a pantoum can pull my ramblings together and suggest better directions. I’ve tried the same piece about being thrown out of a canoe in a whirlpool as non-fiction, poetry, and finally fiction, where I think it worked best. Each approach showed me something different.
Thanks, Poe, for your art and your help.