Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Editing and Creativity

Natalie Goldberg told me I have to send my ideas out into the world.

Well, not specifically to me, which is to say, Goldberg does not know me from Adam, but DID address me as a reader in her books on writing.  Writing Down the Bones and Wild Life have both been players in my past.  In one of them, she specifically addresses the urge to hang on to creative ideas, saying that if you aren't going to use it, you need to share it.  That's right, give it away.  Her point being that if you don't get it out, you won't have space for the next great ideas, and meanwhile you obviously aren't doing anything with the one you have been so reluctant to get rid of.

This is tricky.  Ideas can be very personal, and letting them go means allowing them to be realized in somewhat different form.  Or, even if they remain basically intact, someone else will get credit for that idea.    (There is also a practical application...if I had a great idea for a screenplay/movie, let's say, and somebody else gets wind of it, and gets a green light first, then I would be sunk.)  Add in the instincts of a hoarder, and if Goldberg is right, you've got the recipe for one gigantic logjam of ideas, with little result.

As hard as it was for me to admit at the time, she is right.  And now that I've got a few decades under my belt, it's actually kind of liberating to admit and embrace that.

I'm not going to write all of the ideas that pop into my head, not create all of the gardens I envision, not birth all of the business ventures I conceive.  I can't.  Even if they were all brilliant and viable, there just isn't time enough.  Besides, I need to be humble enough to allow for practice, and mistakes, and forks in the road.

I have taken to sharing my ideas with others.  I admit I do parse them out, sharing with folks I feel with at least understand the concept.  If I feel like there is a chance it could take life with a particular person, I'll seek them out to tell them.

My life is finite.  I have a family who needs my attention.  There is the little issue of our currency economy, which means I have to bring currency in so that I can use it to "exchange" for things like food, and shelter.  And I am not a single-minded creative type; there needs to be room to flex back and forth as is appropriate between various endeavors.

This all does apply to perfume.

I am exiting the gather and hoard phase of my perfume journey.  I am coming to terms I won't be able to smell everything...even if I did, my nose is not quite clever enough, my olfactory memory not sharp enough, that I could whip through a few hundred (thousand?) perfumes and immediately catalog & sort them.  Part of my enjoyment comes from being, um, ignorant.  This is one creative realm wherein I do not create, but solely act as audience.  I like to sit back, experience, have no idea what just happened, go back for more, figure out what it means in/how it affects my own sphere of experience and knowledge.  THEN I'll start to broaden out, gather official notes and identify them (okay, I am at the point where I can do this at the initial stages for some fragrances), learn about its history, get the "official" take on it, etcetera.  You can see, this takes time.  As I mentioned, my lifetime is finite, and there are other things I want to do, too.

So I am letting go of the idea that I can do it all.  Or even in great quantity.

And I am sharing, so that there is room for new to come in.

I am back to focusing on decants and bottle splits.  I'd say that I always sample first, but I don't.  I now know how my experiences jibe with those of other perfume folk, in general if not in total, and will sometimes get a small decant/bottle split based on what I have gathered from their feedback without sampling first.  This doesn't always work, just like my gambles on vintage or auction finds don't always work.  But I am usually happy with the outcome.  There's a certain amount of "miss" and loss involved.  I treat it like I would Vegas:  know my budget, and walk away when it is spent.

Sticking to small amounts allows room for new in a very literal sense, of course:  smaller bottles, less storage space.  There are other ways to edit, to make room, too.

I've stopped worrying about all of the vintage fragrances I could experience.  This is a biggie for me, a person who was known in my family as "the keeper of the stuff."  Anytime anybody had something they felt guilty for getting rid of, but really wanted out of their space, they'd call me.  And I'd take it.  I see history and meaning and personal attachment in old hair pins, in scrapbooks, in banged up teakettles, in armchairs that sat in a certain corner for two decades.  I feel the connection to the original owner, and to me.  When it comes to vintage perfume, I imagine a wearer in context at the time it was introduced, and in the time since, and then me.  Both with and without that history attached.

All of which makes for a rich experience, but a lot of weight.  Figurative and literal.

So, if a vintage treasure comes my way, or come across a curiosity with promise at an estate sale, I'll take it.  But I have been purging my home of the many things collected over the years, and I don't plan on active estate sale-ing.  Truth be told, I'm enjoying being lighter.

I've also been sharing.  Creative ideas with certain friends or colleagues.  Good leads on vintage finds with others.  I'm not going to get it.  And I'm no longer going to feel bad about not doing so.

Whenever vintage Femme comes my way, I have pledged to give it to a friend who adores it.  I struggle with it; why should I keep it just because some call it a masterpiece?  I kept a sample.  Maybe someday it'll knock my socks off.  Meanwhile, someone else can enjoy having her socks knocked off, while I enjoy the peculiar pleasure of the hunt for just such a potion.

Put your ideas out into the world, either by realizing them yourself, or sharing them with others.  Don't hoard them; you run the risk of losing years protecting them but not actually creating them or moving onto to something else that will actually pan out.  It's good advice.

I know there's a yin and a yang to this.  I mentioned Vegas before, so I'll quote Kenny Rogers now:  "got to know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em."  This is about the fold.  But there's a happy twist; instead of leaving your cards on the table, you pass them on, and maybe someone else can make something out of them.



The Daily Connoisseur said...

What a cool concept... and I think it is SOOOOO true. For ten years my excuse for not writing a book was (I'm not sure... but I made a ton of them). When I started writing my book- my blog suffered and my excuse was (again, unclear, but there!). Now I am doing both- just getting it ALL out there and I've never felt more creative in my life. I look forward to your creative outbursts in the future :) xo

ScentScelf said...

Daily, that's just it...the more you hoard, the easier it is to keep it inside...and the easier the excuses flow. Isn't it funny how working on BOTH writing projects allows the energy from one to instigate the other? There will be times when you need a time out, probably, but a time out is much different from waiting.

I am so glad you are enjoying a creative outburst yourself! I know I have been enjoying the results in your blog... :)

Rose said...

this is a lovely post. the thing is ideas are like little babies and it's hard to let them go but when you do and you see them grow and become something more- well that's just wonderful. It doesn't always work and sometimes the things you had the highest hopes for are the ones that don't do as well as you think- but that's just life isn't it I suppose.

I gave up trying to be like a perfume encyclopedia a long time ago. I smell and write about scent because I love to but I do it my way and it's maybe a bit more abstract and less scientific than some but well I am abstract and not terribly scientific in real life so it makes sense!

ScentScelf said...


Yes. :)

And, to stretch it even further, we come equipped with makings for a LOT more babies than we could ever create, let alone raise, ourselves. Hmm. Feeling even better about this now!

As for the perfume...I can't be encyclopedic, or a blood hound. I can be informed and always learning, of course, but a concrete nose? Naw. I tip my hat at those who do, and do so well. :)