Method Writing SF
August 27, 2013

coffee in paradise
Creative Alchemy.
Making Something Out of Nothing.

Creating new art involves taking a leap of faith. I read somewhere that a head full of fear will not be able to think of new ideas.


When you are making something new, whether you are building a story or creating drawing, you don't know what will happen yet. Maybe nothing...but maybe something, too. This is the liminal space to keep your mind in when you set out to create. It's a fine balance between not caring if what you write is scribble and opening yourself up to the creative moment to see what comes.


Sometimes taking a leap of faith involves suspending your disbelief. Suspending your need to know what something will become in art is what you must do in order to let your mind become loose so you can relax enough to create something new.


It's from this perspective that your own personal obsessions will have a particular reaction with a setting in a particular time and place and react precisely with the place you are sitting at the moment of writing. In this very moment, when you begin to write, when you are sitting at your favorite caf� or park bench, or watching the sunset, you are inspired. The ancient Greeks described this same state as being visited by the muse. In this way, complex ideas develop. You open your mind like opening a journal to a blank page and really think. It's like dreaming. Maybe you write a bit in your journal from a particular impression, feeling or mood and in this moment you find the voice for what you want to say. But, how should you sustain that voice and build on it to create a longer piece? That comes with time. Longer pieces of writing are built on many impressions.


When working on something long, after your initial writing and discovery of what you are doing through the journal, you now need to look at the big picture. Tell yourself over and over again until it figures itself out, until the contours of it start to seem real. I do this when I work on fiction.


I tell myself my story over and over again in my head and each time I do this, I add certain elements. I watch the story in my mind like a movie. When I'm in this phase, I daydream a lot. I do not tell my story to other people at this phase (though, I do, eventually, to a few trusted souls) but not all at once. Instead, I let it simmer in my brain and I keep stirring it--adding ingredients. I enjoy the story.


I've learned that we writers have a tremendous amount of anxiety about our art. We worry we will never be able to create something totally new. We think we are already too old, our foreheads too creased with worry lines to get our ideas off the ground. I don't know if this is exactly how your inner critic sounds, but sometimes when my inner critic acts up, that's what she whispers to me.


So with this kind of inner critic in operation, we sometimes treat our creative mind and our story like a stupid donkey that we have to beat so it will move up the hill. We are cruelest to ourselves. We put blocks in our mind. We yell at ourselves. We tell ourselves things like: I've got to think of a story that will sell tens of thousands of copies, but I can't think of anything. Our true creativity retreats like a sentient and noble beast during these pogroms of self-loathing that can plague all artists. Great works of art cannot be born under inner torment of the mind and spirit.


But, if you have done this to yourself, as we all have, don't worry, your true creative inner artist can be coaxed out of hiding and this can be done by focusing on the journal entry, or the meditative slow practice of "process," of taking a walk, of looking at a sunset, of staring at a vine of bougainvillea growing up a wall, or by watering your basil plant. Slow down. Unplug. Make marks on the page and begin again.


Don't wait for anything, but if you keep practicing--stay in process--when the muse descends, you will be ready to capture her for a little while.


In this open state of waiting, of appreciating the contours of the coffee cup at the edge of your kitchen table or the particular way your tea-kettle whistles, you are bound to come up with something new.


With every new exercise you learn, you are training yourself to write and to hold a longer story in your imagination. You are an athlete of the mind in that regard.  


Now, back to the story you most want to tell. What are the contours of that particular longing? How will you shape it? Where shall you begin?


Learn more





Knossos Goddess
From "Medusa" 
by Caitlin Fischer, 
member of the Jack Grapes Method Writing San Francisco Workshop 

Here, I am the woman with the snake brain. Snake-brained woman. In my home, I have many names, but here I am too much of both sides for them to take. I am too much. I can't control myself, my snakes, my head opens at the top and shines brightly. 


My mother tried to tell me it was a gift. She thought that my brightness would attract others, that people who shine are loved. She was wrong, I think. She had forgotten already how her shining had been snuffed out a long time ago. Now she has a glowing coal, an ember inside that needs to be stoked. It will never go out entirely, but it will also never light up again.

Sometimes peoples' light is too much for them even, and they kill themselves. They start by snuffing their own light, slowly, over years or months. Their bodies change shape - they shrink or pudge out, or both - their eyes start to hide in dark holes, their cheeks shriek pale colors and somber angles. Sometimes their skin gets ruddy, their laughs get sharp, their families start to get haunted and everyone's walk changes. Limp is the word. The children get quiet, the houses settle into the ground, the rot seeps in, the drugs get louder, the insects feast more, the people eat less, the food goes bad faster and faster until no one wants to eat it. It's like a forever night fog.


People stop seeing each other, everyone is afraid, everyone is mean. But if you stop for a second and get quiet, like the children, you see what they see. At the center of it all is someone whose light has become too much for them to take, too much for them to carry around. Someone whose light is so bright.


My uncle Jim was like that. He was a music man. He had a painted guitar, snakes and vines. He played bass in a famous quartet. He was brooding. He killed himself, shoving too much homesick into his veins. He followed his wife into the night fog


My friend's mother Dinah was like that. She was a pile, a mountain, red wine in plastic soda bottles, holding her bipolar and schizoaffective son with her eyes, always, always. She jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. That's what she always said she would do. 


These are the people my light attracts. People who kill their own light can't love you in that moment, they can't, no, they can't, not really, because they can't see. It's a strange world, though, because I can't see my light without these people. I feed off them, they feed off me. It's a strange kind of synchronicity, and strange kind of balance (what's that word?).


My snakes are my endless companions. I tire, but they don't. I don't know if I find these people, or the snakes do. The snakes move always, just like lightning and wind. I think they seek out companions to teach me, I think they push and pull me. The snakes are always. The snakes make noise, slithering and sneaking. I can't sleep because of them, they move too much and keep me making thoughts and pictures. They shape things, like my pillow, they eat it and leave green light in my room that pierces through my eyelids. They come to me still through my pills.  


I need jobs where I can hide because sometimes people love my snakes too much. They don't understand them, they just like to stare, like charmers. The snakes are the charmers, not the people. My mother doesn't want to see it, they are the ones with the light, the snakes, not me.


They are a gift from my ancestors," I think. These are my inheritance. And mine are splendid, resplendent, glittered, gilded. With their help, I become invisible in crowds and living rooms, even close quarters. I sink into couches and walls, I revel in words, I fly and shine and scare the bullies away. They are my cloak, my always cloak. They are my cape, my super-always cape.


Their poison takes forever to sink in. Their bite is mild at first, then always smarting, always stronger, always stronger than you think, always stronger than you. All they need are eyes and teeth, and the seething muscle of their cores. They slink behind my skull, and then slide out one by one, they meet and hiss and co-habitate, they whisper to each other and to me, they move so fast and slow and thick and mean and they string the corners of my mouth along with them. I warn you about the snakes; they can jump like beans, jackrabbits, scorpions, spiders, great white sharks, their jaws can snap like bear bait traps, their eyes flash in mine when I am angry or in love.


When they bite you, you are branded, and you want more. 
There's all this and more in the workshop



I am pleased to announce that the Fall 2013 Jack Grapes METHOD WRITING Program will be offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at a new location at the Emerald Tablet in North Beach. Each class is limited to 12 people.  


After one year of classes at the San Francisco's Writers' Grotto, we have outgrown our location. Come find us at our new location in North Beach at the Emerald Tablet Creativity Salon. Located in the heart of San Francisco's most historic literary neighborhood, right across from the iconic Caf� Trieste and around the corner from the ever charming City Lights Bookstore, the Emerald Tablet has great shows by many local artists and live music, literary events, and films almost every night of the week.


Dates & Times:


Class 1: Tuesdays Sept 17-November 12 (We skip the week of Oct 15 for Litquake) 

4 seats available.


Class 2: Wednesdays Sept 18-November 13  (We skip the week of Oct 16 for Litquake) 


4 seats available.


Course Fees:

Tuition is still $395. Classes are held with a $100 deposit that goes toward tuition.


New Location of Classes:

The Emerald Tablet  

80 Fresno Street 

San Francisco, CA  94133



New Mailing Address:


Method Writing SF

25 Taylor Street

San Francisco, CA 94102


Sign up today! 

Local Literary Events
Check out these upcoming Bay Area Literary Events


  • Mon. Sept 2: Quiet Lightning* San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers* 100 John F Kennedy Drive, Golden Gate Park* 7:30pm
  • Do you know about Litseen? Check it out to view more events. 

Alexandra Kostoulas

To unpathed waters, undreamed shores.  ~William Shakespeare


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