Friday, September 11, 2009

The Good in Creative Clusters

I'm getting together with two friends today who are also poets to discuss our manuscripts.

All three of us have been finalists in recent contests, so a few weeks ago we decided to exchange manuscripts to talk about how we could improve our manuscripts and if there was anything missing from it.

I'm a very strong believer in looking at one's manuscript to figure out what's missing, what poems need to be written for it to be complete instead of doing the opposite of putting all your poems together and taking out the ones that don't fit as well or aren't as strong.

I'm interested to hear what they have to say about manuscript. I feel I am way too close to it to see or know what's good and bad anymore. It goes back to Tim Gunn's monkey house quote from Project Runway--

Chris, from Project Runway: "Check out my fur-inspired line of clothing, it's covered in human hair!"

Tim Gunn (politely gagging): "I have this refrain about the monkey house at the zoo. When you first enter into the monkey house, you think, ‘Oh my god this place stinks!’ And then after you’re there for 20 minutes you think, ‘it’s not so bad’ and after you’re there for an hour it doesn’t smell at all. And anyone entering the monkey house freshly thinks, ‘this stinks!’ You've been living in the monkey house."

It's basically my biggest fear to think I'm doing something incredible and artistic when really I smell like poop.

But back to getting together... If you've ever read the Artist Way you'll know that Julia Cameron talks a lot about creative clusters. These are your artist friends you draw positive energy from. They are the circles of people you surround yourself with (hopefully people who bring you up and aren't wet blankets...if they are, there's a chapter on what to do about the wet blankets and crazymakers in your life).

Julia believes that success happens in clusters, that there is no need to feel envious when someone in your group has something good happen to them as it just means something good will be coming your way as well.

It's kind of woo-woo, new agey stuff, but I do believe that energy can be pulled to a certain group working together. And what's the alternative? Be ridiculously jealous when something good happens to someone and wish that is was you. That will put your internal organs in a twist.

There's enough good, publication opportunities, awards, book prizes, kudos, satisfaction for everyone. No one needs to feel as if they are going to be left out. There's room in the party for everyone.



  1. The project runway example is funny by also a really good illustration about a lot of things in life. It's like I can proof read something I've written four times and keep missing something because I continue to see on the page what I think I wrote, not what is printed therein.

    I think synergy is a wonderful thing and maybe even more applicable to the art world than business world. I know I'll hear from someone on that statement, but I see it that way.

    Great post Kelli!

  2. Gee - I think my first sentence above illistrates my point perfectly! By should have been but. Go figure.

  3. I have no cluster! So lonely and hopeless.

  4. Michael, Thanks. When Tim gave that little project runway speech to Chris (who was seriously using HUMAN hair on his clothes)- I thought- Holy poetry, Am I in the monkey house?

    Appreciate your note.

    Lori-- Oh no! You know, your note does make me think about something as I writing it - virtual creative clusters.

    Maybe we don't have to have a next door neighbor or good local friend whose an artist we work with, but maybe creative clusters can now exist virtually.

    I know your blog has a following, so maybe you do have a cluster (??) I'm happy to be considered as part of your virtual cluster.

    Also, I definitely do not see you as hopeless!


  5. I think writers need that support from other writers to tell us when we're on target or off base.

    The contest system is so subjective. Ugh! It can suck the energy right out of you.

    Being selected as a finalist is such an achievement. I know you're hoping for a better outcome, but I think that's a matter of time.

    Still, enjoy the time with your circle. Seems like a good group to give you an objective opinion about your work.

  6. I love the monkey house example :)
    You really do need quality readers to share your work with.
    The first time I tried to put a manuscript together I tried to do the other way of construction and it really doesn't work. I wrote 9 more poems before sending it off !


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