Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blogging and the Creative Process - A Short Interview with Brenda Schmidt

Spruce Grouse
Photograph by Brenda Schmidt

Capacious Hold-All: Can you talk about the ways in which your blog has affected your creative (writing/painting/ photography) process?

Brenda Schmidt: Living in a northern mining town in Saskatchewan has its advantages. Here I have the space and time to concentrate on my work. Thanks to the digital age, I cannot imagine living anywhere else. Gone is the craving for a writing community. Thanks largely to blogs, I am part of it. Gone is the-grass-is-so-much-greener-in-big-urban-centres fantasy. Thanks largely to blogs, I now know better. Once the craving and the fantasy began to subside, I felt so much lighter. This lightness has had a positive impact on my work. I set up my first blog, Alone on a Boreal Stage, in 2005 prior to the publication of my second book. I wanted to increase my visibility with the hope that my books would find more readers. However, I soon found myself worrying about other things. I wanted to entertain the reader of my blog just as I would if they were sitting at my table. I wanted to be a good host. To engage. To play. Play is vital to my creative process. Play means all kinds of things, as the OED points out, but here I'm thinking of play as free and unimpeded movement. In many ways, the blog feels like a canvas that can't be resolved. It keeps calling for another brisk stroke. A bit of light here. A warmer shadow over there.

C: One of the things I'm very interested in is the relationship between word and picture, image and text, and those tensions that occur between them. How do you see this playing out on your blog?

B: Over the years I've become increasingly interested in the appearance of each post and the blog as a(n expanding) whole. I focus on both its content and composition. On the weight of each word and image. On the juxtaposition of the post to the one below and the one that might follow and the overall tone. I treat the blog as I would any work-in-progress and revel in the interactive element and how it feeds the process. I now think of blogging as an emerging art. An art of emergence.

C: Has blogging suggested ideas that you might not otherwise have pursued?

Culvert Installations is one example of a project that I pursued because of blogging. The blog format allows me to go my own way. No exhibition proposals. No deadlines. No acceptances. No rejections. There is great freedom in that. So right now I'm pursuing my thinking with images. I suspect writing will follow. It usually does. Select Hops is another. It's a collaborative linked creative nonfiction project that Gerald Hill proposed last year. A project like this could be done privately by email or letter. However, the public nature of our exchange has a more conversational quality. It's as if we're sitting on coffee row, trading stories and trying to one-up each other. Writing a post for Select Hops usually leads to other writing, so it's a valuable process for me. The comments section on my blog is invaluable. Comments matter, whether playful or serious. Reciprocation matters. Playful banter elevates my mood and that in turn elevates my creativity. Some posts on Alone on a Boreal Stage have received comments with great reading suggestions. I'm grateful to those who have shown such generosity. Other posts have led to vigorous email exchanges. The suggestions and feedback have opened many doors and helped me and my work grow.

C: The blog enriches the creative process in many ways, but would you say that there are any dangers or risks to blogging? Have you ever felt that maybe you revealed too much, or worked with certain elements too early in the creative process?

B: I'm sure a quick google would yield countless articles on the general dangers of blogging and ways to avoid them, but I imagine the risks to the creative process vary a great deal. For me, there's nothing like the joy that accompanies a creative free fall. I've been enjoying that again more often of late. I've also been increasingly protective of my time. I've learned that the creative process needs to be protected as much as possible from outside interference. My blog allows me to both connect and disconnect at the same time. I can put stuff out in the world and walk away if I like. That's incredibly freeing. Normally I don't post new work to my blog unless it was written for blogging purposes. I have posted the odd new poem in the past and once received an email response with excellent editorial suggestions. For the most part, however, I don't post work or discuss my projects in any depth as I prefer to let them sit privately for a long time so they can take on whatever shape they take. And that's not what my blog is about. My blog really is a work-in-progress itself. I want to give it the same space and respect as I would any other project. I want it to grow into whatever it will be. We'll see where it goes.