Interview with Sandy Nelson

Describe your desk.
I find I like to walk about when I write; so, I carry a notebook or paper with me. Often, I write in front of a window that offers a view into nature. But mostly, I love to work in a garden or park setting, any place with living plants. My creative work is very much tied to the natural rhythms of seasonal changes and the weather. I love to explore environments, reading the sensory experiences of a place and asking myself how they affect the people there.

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who knew how the student body would behave based on the weather outside. His predictions were spot-on, and it fascinated me to watch the tension of interaction between people, place, and weather. When I explore my ideas, I try to recreate conditions to expose the emotional expressions of each situation and the people that exist there. I work from questions. For example, I might ask, “How are the people around me reacting to the light rain outside?” I’ve noticed in this type of weather, people seem to be calm. When it thunders, people move closer, and lightning strikes make them edgy and at the sound of a loud crack they will jump. If I’m recreating a scenario where I want to explore the tensions between people I’d ask where it could take place. Who are the people? I could place them in a small building with a raging thunderstorm outside, which would present many opportunities to expose raw emotions.

Back to my desk ─ I have a laptop that I eventually use to knock out the final versions of my writing. My desktop is pretty basic; with a dictionary, thesaurus, note and print paper, pens, pencils, and lots of removable sticky notes. I couldn’t write without them. They help keep my process organized. I consider my desk a serious workspace and not the place I like to explore the dreamy side of creating.
What is your writing process?
I’m not a writer who jumps out of bed and immediately writes about anything that comes to mind. For me, this activity always seemed a silly notion. When I write, I want to have something meaningful to say, and too much brain dumping just for exercise frustrates me. I’m not a great typist, and my own script is very fluid and free. In fact, I’d much rather use a brush to capture my thoughts, because I can make brushstrokes quicker than the shapes or keystrokes required for words. However, the rest of the world reads words better than paintings, so I try to capture my thoughts whenever they arrive and put them down into notebooks.

Until I feel I need to actually get my ideas into a finished form, I don’t carve out a specific time to write. My writing process may appear a bit chaotic, but I know the moods that work for me to explore my ideas a bit deeper. I look for avenues in and out of an idea, probe, and perhaps even exploit what it is I'm trying to say or discover. Then I sit with it for a while, and go back and reread it; and, that can take hours, days, months, or sometimes years. I have a lot of journals full of bits and pieces, the starts and fits of new ideas to explore. Often, when there's a theme that runs through them, they become a much larger project. When I've explored many avenues of the same topic, a book can evolve. I think the most important action is that I capture the little fragments that flow through my mind. I know that at some point, I can weave them together. I can find the actual words and threads of ideas and then put them into something cohesive that has meaning and purpose, and then let that grow. My writing process consists of the continual weaving of my words and ideas until there's a volume of cohesive words to sift, sort through, and organize.
What influences your writing?
All sensory stimulation greatly affects my creative work. I need to have appropriate sound, light, temperature, texture, scent, and even taste as it relates to what I’m creating in the moment.

Sound is very important to me. I enjoy music and have a variety of tunes to choose from. Sometimes, I utilize the soft drone of the TV set, listening to an old movie or favorite re-runs as background noise.

Listening to the quiet sounds of nature is one of my favorite things to do. I need a dose of nature every day. It could simply be watching the birds at my feeder in winter, or hearing their spring songs, or sitting in my garden and feeling them fly by on their way to the birdbath. It doesn't take much nature interaction to stimulate my creative juices and soothe my mind at the same time.

Sipping tea, water, or juice is a must while I write. When I have a major amount of writing to do, I will make a pot of tea and hunker down to work, pouring out cups as I need stimulation.

Besides looking into nature, I can also utilize visual input from my indoor environment. A houseplant, vase of flowers, or pile of books and papers can recreate the patterns I seek to maintain for the character of my work at hand.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The act of creating is a lonely activity. One has to be alone for the creative energy to come through them, so they can personalize this expression in the way they give it life. One of the hardest parts of creating is to be alone and isolated much of the time. We cannot anticipate how our writing will present to our readers, and most often we won’t know. When I have the rare opportunity to watch my readers react while reading my stories, I thoroughly embrace the moment, because it’s an enormous gift to me. It’s especially touching when my words open up something for them. I remember sharing a chapter of my memoir as a part of a writer’s group for an editing, when one of my readers sobbed after reading a section. It became a very deep healing for her. Sometimes we can read a passage that fully awakens something deep inside ourselves that is otherwise untouchable. When I can do this for someone else, it feels magical, and the opportunity to see their response to my creation brings me great joy.
What do you need for pleasure?
A pot of tea, a bone china teacup, cookies, and a friend to spend time with!
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Most of my waking hours are spent recognizing, experiencing, and questioning creative patterning. What I mean by this is that I distinguish the form of things around me through all my senses and integrate these sensorial experiences into cohesive, creative expressions through deep consideration. If I’m not capturing this information in words, I am capturing it through imagery. So, I paint and practice the disciplines of a painter, spending at least half my work time painting.

Gardening and growing things has been a part of my character since I was a child. I grow an award winning garden that wraps around my home. I don’t try to win any trophies. I just love playing in dirt, and those in my neighborhood seem to appreciate my effort.

Cooking and eating have always been a fun thing for me to do. Cooking gives me plenty of opportunity to try new things and experiment. Food is an interesting, creative medium and most of the people I've met can all participate in the cooking or eating process. So, cooking is a leveling and unifying experience between people that I enjoy.

When I paint, I try to find the raw expression of my subject. I can use color, form, light, texture, size, and many other elements to establish a pathway relationship from my art to my viewer. It’s the same process with my writing; however, when I paint, the tools are visual, and the final product recreates the image I want for the viewer, rather than the viewer recreating their own image from my words.
When did you first start writing?
I’ve kept some form of journal all of my life, whether in words or sketching. I never thought of myself as a writer, but rather, an artist. So, most of my early writings are scrawled in sketchbooks, accompanied by my sketches. I wrote my memoir more than twenty years ago. It’s still unpublished. The process of writing it was purely cathartic. I recommend writing about your life because it gets you thinking about and examining what happened to get you where you are. You also notice the repetitive patterns in your actions and then can ask yourself pertinent questions to make changes, recreating the life you want.

About fifteen years ago, I curated a showing of my work. It was a gathering of twenty-five years of paintings, fiber arts, sculptures, quilts, and other works. I needed to unify the art work in some way; and, for the first time, I used my writing. I mounted a number of poems on foam core boards and placed them throughout the exhibit. I honestly never gave much thought to the fact that I had never shared my words publicly before. The comments I received were humbling and awakened me to realize how deep and vulnerable my words can be. Since then, I've considered my words to be another important medium I can create with.
How is actually writing and publishing a book different from coaching someone who is writing a book?
Keeping lots of notes and writing down ideas is a very important part of my writing experience; however, it’s not the only important part. I have to do something with all of those ideas, or nothing creative is finished. If I compare my writing to my painting, I compile lots of paint for the individual colors; each pigment has its own properties and way of being used. I've learned quite a bit about these technical pieces. While I love learning and studying about painting, and then making little color charts and quickly painting thumbnails, at some point there will be no great paintings if I don't gather all of those individual colors together and put them on a canvas. Writing a book is very much like painting that canvas. At some point in time, I need to mix all those colors together and create something new.

One of the greatest skills a creativity coach can offer you while you write a book is to hold the space open where you create. A coach does this by meeting with you and focusing with you on your work and process. “How’s your writing going?” is a common question. It won’t be productive if you don’t actually produce writing. It is very hard work to stay with your thoughts and ideas long enough to actually blend them into a book. Coaches walk alongside and watch the process. Writing is sweaty, confusing, exhausting, and rewarding. Coaches take comfort in helping authors claim their books and stories.

I think the greatest surprise for me as I completed my book was in the editing process. My coach training gave me the experience to know that I could benefit from getting help with editing. Working with my talented editor was a beneficial opportunity for me to grow as an author. I thought I had concrete ideas all worked out and written down in my manuscript. It was in the editing process that I realized that there was a whole new layer of my thoughts to explore. The editing process gave my ideas a clearly defined life so that they could live on in my book.
What is your process for turning your thoughts into stories or books?
My process starts with a series of visions and repetitive thoughts. I work hard to capture as many of them as I can into my note or sketch books. Quotes, photos, other imagery, notes about movies or interviews about interesting people, music, anything that relates the theme for me goes into my books. When I notice I have repetitive themes, I start to organize them into topics, asking myself what delineates these topics and refining my ideas further. It’s much like sorting a pile of puzzle pieces into their respective boxes.

I use a standard size, three ring note and sketch book to keep everything uniform and transportable. And I categorize my books with removable sticky tabs so my ideas can be fluid. Then, I start the process of building my ideas into the form of a book, article, or story.
You’re also a painter and creativity coach. How do these skills influence your writing?
The process of painting and coaching another artist is quite similar to writing. They all require skill, discipline, patience, the ability to innovate, and a tremendous amount of questioning.

My painting has given me the ability to know my meaning of creativity and make the necessary mistakes to achieve completing a creation. My coaching provides me opportunities to experience the effect of my abilities in relation to other people.

I find the fluid nature of painting matches the flow of words on a page, and they both illustrate the interdependence of people as they master the tensions between relationships. My writing has benefited from my interaction in other artistic areas because this wide exposure has provided me with knowing many ways to look at something and many more means to recreate something. If I can’t quite get the painting correct, I can write the expression of it, and many times the words are better than the brushstrokes. The reverse is also true, and some of my story ideas end up in paintings.

Creativity coaching gives me plenty of tools to use in my other creative work. Being coached is different from being the coach. Because I do both, I have a reverence and appreciation for both roles. Being a coach has helped me from time to time when I’m stuck in my own writing, because I can ask myself a coached question. It’s been humbling, too, because sometimes I know what I have to do, but I still need to slog through the emotional blocks as an artist to find my answers.

I think the most remarkable part of being multi-creative is that I have learned that there are no easy answers, but If I Ask Power Questions I’m ninety-percent to my goal.
Published 2015-04-22.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Ask Power Questions: A Practical Guide to Help You Get What You Want in Business, Life, and Friendship
Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 50,480. Language: English. Published: November 14, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Business communication / general, Nonfiction » Self-improvement » Personal Growth / Success
Using creativity is a hallmark of successful people. They know how to ask for what they want. They ask power questions. Questions are the fuel that ignite amazing changes. Now you can learn great coaching secrets. You navigate life through questions. If you want rich meaningful experiences, and profoundly purposeful life work, ask questions that truly matter. Ask Power Questions!