I have been thinking about creativity lately. More specifically, on the well of creativity which exists in each of us, and what causes it to temporarily run dry at times.
Creativity can run dry on a given day. I have heard it said that each of us only has 3-4 hours of strong creativity each day. I tend to agree. Historically, I have done better if I focus on my writing in the morning and then shift to other tasks in the afternoon. By lunchtime, I don’t feel as if my mind is welling with ideas any longer. Since my allotment of creativity has run dry, it is better to shift to other duties in the afternoon. It is a good time to do more straightforward or “mindless” activities, such as research or promotion or even (sigh) paying bills. From what I have heard, many other romance writers take the same approach.
Creativity can also run dry for longer periods. All of us, at some point, go through a long drought where the urge to create is noticeably absent. For me, this is typically when I have other complicated or stressful events occurring in my life. In these situations, the dry spell usually lasts for much longer than a day -- sometimes for weeks or months. For example, I battled with this in recent weeks because all of the stress and decision-making associated with a remodeling project in our house was swamping my writing. And several years ago, I had a dry spell which lasted for two or three years while I was designing and then installing a large, complex IT system during my day job. That project took over my life and sucked up every ounce of creativity in me. I had nothing left for writing for a long time.
But like any drought, even creative ones end at some point. When I got past that large project a few years ago, it was like rain falling on arid ground, and the urge to write came back. And in my recent situation, just as a spring thaw melts the snow and encourages early flowers to bloom, mindfully making other distractions melt away allowed my writing to send up green shoots through the detritus which had piled up on it.
So if you are going through a dry spell, don’t despair. It will end someday and your well of creativity will start flowing once again. Just be ready for it when that gusher starts.
Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded on this date in 1587. This ended what had to be one of the most complex, tempestuous, controversial lives in history. After doing some brief research, I still can’t decide if she was a tragic pawn, incompetent, or a villain. Perhaps that is why she still intrigues so many people, more than 400 years after her death.
Mary was born in December 1542 to James V of Scotland and his French wife, Mary of Guise. She was his only living legitimate child and became queen when he died only six days after her birth. Thus started a life constantly beset with political machinations, war, and constant threats to her life as well as the lives of those around her.
The first of the many political skirmishes which were a constant in her life began with determining who would be Scotland’s regent until she was old enough to rule. One of the major claimants was a Protestant earl and the other was a Catholic cardinal. Thus, this first upheaval in her life was a harbinger of the many religious and political disputes she would experience.
She was only a few months old when Henry VIII of England proposed a marriage between Mary and his only son, Edward. However, when the Catholic (and pro-France) cardinal became her regent, this angered Henry VIII. He did not like the close connection between Scotland and France and sent troops to Scotland for years of war and “Rough Wooing” to try to force Mary to wed his son.
Mary’s supporters appealed to France for help, thereby setting up the next major phase of Mary’s life. She was sent to the French court in 1548 when she was five years old, with the agreement she would eventually marry the French king’s son and heir, Francis. They married when she was fifteen, and they became king and queen of France about one year later in 1559. Their reign was short-lived. Francis died about in December 1560 and Mary returned to Scotland. At this time, she was still only eighteen.
The next eight years of rule were a constant struggle. Mary’s hold on Scotland was tenuous. Her mother had struggled to maintain Scotland for Mary in her absence, but died a few months before Mary’s return. Now, the Protestant lords were rebelling against their Catholic queen, and France was no longer able to provide troops to help her. Plus, Elizabeth I had taken the throne in England and saw Mary as a real threat to her own power. Then the Catholic lords became upset by her attempts to appease the Protestants and Elizabeth.
Her personal life was also generally unhappy and stressful. She married Lord Darnley in 1565, but the marriage soon soured – especially after Darnley conspired with the Protestants against her. He was murdered in February 1567, and many speculated it was on Mary’s orders. Then, three months later, she married Lord Bothwell (though it’s possible she was forced into it.) This, her third marriage, put even more Scots against her. Bothwell (who was accused of murdering Darnley) was a Catholic and many did not recognize his divorce from his first wife. Plus, people were shocked she would marry the man thought to have murdered her husband. Things came to a head in Scotland and she was forced to abdicate in July of 1567.
For some inexplicable reason, when Mary escaped captivity in 1568, she went to England to ask Elizabeth I for help, even though Elizabeth viewed Mary as her biggest threat. Rather than helping, Elizabeth had Mary arrested. What followed was nearly nineteen years of house arrest in England for Mary, interspersed with an inquiry into her part in Darnley’s death and various plots which reinforced Elizabeth’s animosity.
Mary was executed, after one plot too many, in February 1587. Reportedly, she told the executioners “I forgive you with all my heart, for now, I hope, you shall make an end to all my troubles.” After forty-four years of constant battle and stress, perhaps she was ready for it all to be over when the executioner’s axe came down. (Ironically, even this did not go smoothly for her – it took three tries to behead her.)
Thus ended the life of one of the most intriguing people in history. There is so much more about Mary’s life I could have included in this blog, was I not already well over my normal word count. Yet, even after learning about her, I still don’t really know who she was. Was she an innocent pawn being shoved around by the many powerful people around her? Was she an evil person guilty of the many things for which she was accused? Was she simply unprepared and unable to comprehend the intricacies of Scottish politics after growing up in France? After more than 400 years of research into her life, historians still cannot determine the answers to these questions. Yet one thing is sure – Mary, Queen of Scots still fascinates many of us.
True confessions time – I love watching the remodeling shows on HGTV. I watch them nearly every night to help me unwind before I go to sleep. Which makes it all the more ironic now that I am having such trouble with my own remodeling plans.
We have decided it is time to give our bathrooms a makeover. One in particular needs help, because it still has the light blue fixtures which were popular in the 60’s or 70’s. Given how many hours I have spent watching other people on TV fix up bathrooms, you would think I would know exactly what I want to do with ours. Not so.
A couple of major design questions are stumping me. For example, both of our full baths currently have tub-shower combinations, and I can’t decide whether to keep that configuration in both rooms, or convert one to a walk-in shower. We no longer have small children needing a tub, but future homeowners might, so I definitely want to keep at least one tub in the house. But – which bathroom? The master on the second floor, or the bath on the first floor used by guests?
And speaking of the master bath on the second floor – there is a sharp corner with a sloped ceiling above it at the top of our stairs. So getting anything large up to the second floor is always dicey. (We have had to touch up the paint on that sloped ceiling more than once after carrying something up or down the stairs.) Which has me debating whether to replace the current vanity in the master bath with another large one (my usual preference) or two smaller ones which would have less storage space but would be easier to install.
Such decisions! This has been a part of the stress and distractions keeping me from my writing and my blogging the last couple of weeks. But we have a lull now in between meeting with people and exploring various options, so maybe I can get myself back into my regular writing routine. In the meantime, if anyone has any thoughts for me on the number of tubs or vanities – I will gladly take any input!
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