TEA PARTIES: Letting Ideas Overflow

My daughter loves tea parties. She throws one at most play dates and even has her own tea set. I’ve learned from experience, however, that it’s best to serve tea either outside on a quilt or, if inside, within the confines of a large steep-sided tray. Why, you wonder? Well, when my darling daughter and her dear little friends pour their tea, it inevitably overflows, cascading over cups, filling saucers, soaking napkins, spoons, even cookies and fruit.

I don’t like messes, but I squelch my urge to intervene because I know they love these tea parties just as much as I loved them when I was a girl. Okay, I confess, I substitute water for tea because it’s not sticky and it won’t stain, but I let them pour to their little hearts’ content.

Like tea, poems and stories sometimes pour out of me as well. This outpouring usually occurs at the most inconvenient times -when I’m cooking, or in the middle of the night. But when it does, I grab the nearest paper and pen so I can catch every word and phrase. I don’t worry about getting words down perfectly or using complete sentences. I just write down the idea that’s pouring out as fast as I can. I erase nothing!

It hasn’t always been this way, however. When I first started writing for children, my critical inner voice often interfered. Indeed, it has taken years of conscious self-training not to let my inner editor hijack early-stage writing projects. Letting go of the inner editor during these bursts of creativity is well worth it because it’s much easier to revise and flip and develop a story when you start with a full cup – or tray- of tea.

What about you? Are you sometimes a teapot of creativity, or do ideas come to you in other ways? And what do you do to squelch that inner editor?

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14 thoughts on “TEA PARTIES: Letting Ideas Overflow

  1. Since I’m never more than a foot away from my iPhone, I jot ideas in a list on the phone. As far as my inner editor, I think I’ve killed her. Some of the ideas are useless, ridiculous dead ends, and languish on the list for years….not in a bad way. Who knows what they’ll become eventually. Editing has its place when a piece is finished, but I never kill potential ideas.

  2. Wow, can I ever relate to this post on many levels. I’m definitely a teapot – ideas flow at the most inconvenient times, which I realize are also those moments when my mind is free to wander and create. I write in my head when I’m pushing a swing, doing housework, driving, etc. The inner editor is a constant challenge for me, since I work as both a writer and an editor and the two are nearly inseparable in my creative process. I heard at a writers’ conference last summer that “There are no good writers, just good re-writers.” Do you think that’s true? It’s a liberating thought! Great post, Laura, thanks!

    • I agree with the statement about no good writers, only good re-writers. For me, at least the purpose of that first round of writing is just to get the ideas down, flaws and all. The fun, for me, comes later as I revise and rewrite over and over until the piece shines. I think one mistake new writers make is to think a piece is finished after that first spilling of words.

  3. I think I’m a teapot 🙂 The more ideas I get, the more ideas I get – if that makes sense 🙂 And they do overflow. I also have had to learn not to let the inner critic interfere. I’ve conquered it in the first round – I’ll write anything down – it’s the second round where I have yet to win out. I often write things down and then decide when I go to revise that they’re awful and should never see the light of day!

    • Oh Susanna, I do the same thing! Often I force myself to set something aside for several weeks/months if I’m tempted to let that second-round inner critic determine prematurely that the story is junk. I think we’re teapots of the same stripe!

  4. Love that image of your daughter’s Water Parties…
    I’m a ‘structured’ conjurer, so my cup doesn’t runneth over. It’s more of an everything-falling-into-place process. But finding what works for you and trusting it is key.

  5. I never thought I’d be able to silence my inner editor while drafting, but somehow I did. I tuned out everything but my characters. When I write like that, the words just flow. And the funny thing is, the writing is better so my internal editor is happier in the end. 🙂

  6. I love writing tea parties also. And I don’t stop myself enough times to jot down an inspiration. However, I’m very good at not letting my inner editor interfere when I write – that way, I’m amazed at some of the things that come from my pen! :+)

  7. I love your blog! It’s so cute and creative. 🙂

    What a great analogy too! I am still in the phase of training myself to be a “teapot.” One of the things that definitely helped me was doing NaNoWriMo last year. I had to force my inner editor/critic to be silent for the whole month while I just poured everything out. I do write better that way, but it’s hard to silence the editor sometimes. I hope it’ll keep getting easier as I practice. 🙂

    • For me it has, with practice and time. I think NaNoWriMo is a great concept. I participated a few years ago when I was working on a MG historical novel. More recently, I’ve participated in PiBoIdMo, which also squelches the inner editor.

  8. Pingback: Ode to an Onion | Laura Sassi Tales

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