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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

McCormick Templeman: Dipping your toes in different realities

glass_casket_high_resTo celebrate my new website, I’ve planned a series of fun and juicy Q&As with some of my favorite creative people. First up is McCormick Templeman, novelist and all-around marvelous being. Her new novel, The Glass Casket, comes out in February!

 

You told us in our first Q&A how you came to study Chinese medicine, and how acupuncture school gave you a healthier sense of perspective about your writing. You’ve also said that you sometimes use diagnostic techniques from Chinese medicine to organize and revise a manuscript in a more organic way, and that acupuncture treatments can sometimes lead to a breakthrough. Do you feel that studying acupuncture has allowed you to tap into a deeper reserve of creativity?

Absolutely. I’ve had many of my biggest breakthroughs while getting an acupuncture treatment. It’s like a plot walk on steroids. Moving the Qi through one’s body clears up physical, mental, and emotional blocks, and I’ve found that in my case it also clears up narrative blocks. It really works wonders.

I also think that studying something deeply can do wonders for a person—especially if it’s a jog away from the path you’re already on. Writers spend so much time alone, living in our own fictional worlds, that it’s important to keep a toe dipped into a different reality. I think it has become difficult to do that these days when promotion and social media presence have become such a large part of our job, and while I think social media can serve a purpose, I think it can also prove detrimental to our writing and to our wellbeing. There’s so much noise and so much of it can make you feel bad and is ultimately meaningless. In the immortal words of Le Tigre, “GET OFF THE INTERNET!” Get out into the real world, challenge yourself, try new things, commit yourself to something unfamiliar and difficult. Step out of your comfort zone for a while and when you come back to your writing, it will be all the easier to reconnect with the pleasure, the magic of it. And because you are replenished, you will have that much more to give.

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAYou’re one of the most intuitive people I know. How would you say you use your intuition in the service of your writing?

That’s so kind of you to say. I don’t think I’m especially intuitive, but I do think I trust my intuition more than most people do. When I’m drafting, I’m really following a sense of joy, a desire to tell myself a story, and in that stage, there is nothing but intuition for me. I shut out logic and external voices, and just allow myself to wander and play.

When it comes to editing, I become much more analytical and rigid in my approach, but even then, I’m still trusting my gut. Usually when I set a manuscript aside and then approach it again, I don’t do close read-through at first. The first thing I do is think about how I feel about the different parts of the book. Is there anything that’s been sitting wrong with me? Is there anything that makes me feel a little queasy when I think about it? That’s the part I start with, and only once I’m sure how I feel about the part that doesn’t work, do I get really rigorous and critical in my approach to how to fix it.

 

Contrary to that popular cliche of the self-destructive artist, the older I get the more I see just how integral a role self care plays in my creative process. Are there any special foods or rituals you find particularly nourishing as you are settling in to write?

I wish that I could say I’m always mindful of self-care, but I’m afraid it goes in cycles for me. I don’t write every day—far from it. I think and plot and plan every day, but I only sit down to write once I’m ready to write or revise the whole book. During the phases where I’m not writing, I spend a lot of time daydreaming about a book, letting the world start to form in my mind, getting glimmers of a character or an event, and during that time, I try to enjoy a full, balanced life where I eat well, exercise, enjoy spending time with my family, and get good sleep. It’s like that phase of the cycle is preparing my body and mind for the main event of drafting or revising. But when I’m working, I lose track of the real world. It’s like I’m possessed, and I can’t stop to think about healthy habits, nor do I have any rituals. I just work constantly. I become reliant on the kindness of strangers. (I seem to remember you once sending me an email reminder to eat lunch.) This is the phase where things like coffee and processed foods can become dietary staples. I try to make up for it during the healthy cycle by eating lots of spinach and kale and things like that. And then, of course, there’s the part of life where a book goes out on submission. That’s vodka and Ho Hos for breakfast time.

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I’m a little afraid to ask if she was joking about the vodka and Ho Hos. Seriously though, I love what McCormick has to say about removing physical blocks to clear creative blocks, and about stepping outside our comfort zones to rediscover the magic in our own work. Do you see why I adore this woman??

Find McCormick on the web at McCormickTempleman.com, and on Twitter at @mktempleman. Preorder The Glass Casket on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or Indiebound. And of course, there will be another giveaway come February! (An undead Snow White—I am so jealous I didn’t think of it first!)

2 Comments to McCormick Templeman: Dipping your toes in different realities

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    September 30, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    McCormick makes me think that I need to try acupuncture 🙂

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.