Monday, August 9, 2010

Laying the groundwork

We went to the German-American Folksfest last week. It reminded me of the Midway at the Minnesota State Fair. Lots of rides, games, and sweets (but no cheese curds). A mini-amusement park.

The amazing thing is, the Folksfest comes together out of nothing. Most of the year, the "plaza" where it takes place is nothing but an open field. Occasionally, a circus comes to town, but there's nothing but bare ground for a good chunk of the year.

It got me thinking about how, in many ways, the festival is similar to creativity. The first thing we have to do is lay the groundwork. For the Folksfest, this involves quite literally putting down a layer of rocks and setting out the paths along which attendees will walk. People run power cords and water lines. All of this takes place long before a single kiosk or ride arrives on its 18-wheeler.

Writing and other creative processes are, in many ways, similar. Before we can begin to create a new world, we must lay the groundwork. Prepare the stone to be carved, whitewash the canvas, find names for characters and a realistic setting in which to place our stories.

Only after the groundwork is firmly established can we really begin to tackle the fun part--the act of creating something new and different. Something to tantalize the senses and stimulate the mind. And, one hopes, something that the audience will remember with fondness.

How do you begin a new creative project?


  1. I love this!!! Comparing festivals to writing... what's not to love!!!

    I begin a new project with the idea, I let my characters marinate for a few weeks until they give me their story, if they want romance, horror, what they're into. The groundwork begins before the documents open!

  2. Jen: Glad you liked the comparison. :)

    My characters sometimes marinate for months before I figure out what they're up to.