Writing Tips
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Writing like Chopsticks: 3 Tidbits to Help Improve Your Creative Flow

*Note: This post is an updated version from one I created in 2014. Nevertheless, eat up!…I mean, who doesn’t like leftovers?

Writer's TableIt amazes me how something as simple as Chopsticks can actually hold very profound power. After all, basic chopsticks are fashioned from two pieces of wood.

They are nothing more than sticks, but to use them, to be able to feed yourself with them takes practice and elegant form.

When thinking further about the analogy I made between Chopsticks and Time management, I realized the same holds true with creativity as a whole. To that end, I am to give you 3 tidbits to help you along your creative path.

Your art is a living, organic thing. Allow it to grow in its own way.”~ Crystal Robinson Clark

Years ago, I was having a conversation with my eldest sister, Crystal, about my art not doing what I wanted it to do and certainly not doing it within the window of time that I had set for it.

Crystal’s response was that “Your art is a living organic thing. Allow it to grow in its own way.” Referencing chopsticks made me think of this . Ruminating on the connection gave birth to the image below. (It’s more a diagram really)

Vector Drawing by Candice Coates

A few years ago, while having lunch with some of my friends who are Korean, I learned that a person who holds the smallest amount of their chopsticks happens to be very proficient. In other words, the person who takes up the LEAST of controlled space, actually has the MOST power and control.

An employer who is able to have friendly relationships with his/her employees but still receives the utmost respect and honor from them is a person who takes up the Least but has the Most.

This comes from confidence. You can hold the reins with a lighter hand when you are confident in your position.

When it comes to time management, writing, creating visual art, I, like many others, have strained to make things happen in the exact way that I envisioned because of some type or form of fear. I was working out of a place of low creative confidence.

I shook those shackles off of my writing years ago and I am so glad that I did. My fiction has grown much stronger because of it. There is nothing more exhilarating than to be in the midst of typing and your main character suddenly makes a shocking decision that makes you gasp because you didn’t even see it coming.

I remember the first time this happened and me, shaking my head saying “Octavia! Why did you do that?! You are so stupid!” This is true organic creativity in action or writing with chopsticks.

I always have a “recipe” for my plot lines but I do not marry myself to them…I hold my writing chopsticks covering as little space as possible, leaving the rest to organic growth.

Some might be thinking, “Well, Candice, what do you do with ideas that pop in your head about a particular storyline you are working on?” Simple, I write those ideas down and keep them in a separate file.

Chopsticks_(PSF)I very rarely trash an idea altogether. Even if in the present moment it doesn’t seem to have a place, that doesn’t mean it won’t have a place in the future.

I like to think of these files as my “literary spice cabinet.” (I’ve mentioned this several times before.) When I come to a place in my manuscript that needs a little something special, I open up my file and I find the right plot twist, add it to my story and see if it works. I am guiding my creativity this way, not controlling it.

The same holds true for visual arts. I was taught in undergrad over a decade ago, that ratio of time for drawing is 30 to 70. I am to spend 30% of my time looking at my canvas or paper and 70% of the time looking at the form that I am capturing. This way I “draw what I see and not what I think I see.”

This is only relevant if you are creating from life, the 30 to 70, but it speaks again to being confident in your skill. Control says look at your paper more than the object you are recreating, while organic process says just flow.

In closing I want to encourage with the 3 tidbits I had woven in this posting:

1. Be free with your process: Remember what Crystal said, art is organic, so let your art grow in its own way…even if you have to trim the hedges later.

2. Hold your reins with an easy but steady hand:  Only cover or control what is absolutely necessary to guide your art but allow it to become what it is meant to be.

Art is after all a lot like children. Children raised with overbearing, overprotective, controlling hands, never really grow up to become confident, able adults. Their potential gets stifled. They are birds with fragile wings or trees that never reach the sun.

Which leads us to our last tidbit…

3. Be confident in your ability: You’ve been given a gift so use it. Raise your creativity/child with confidence!

Children guided with a hand of confident authority typically end up being well-rounded adults, given just the right balance of boundary and freedom to become what they were meant to be.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!


  1. phoenixgrey85 says

    I like your idea of putting ideas away in a folder, then diving in when you need something like a plot twist. It’s a good idea. One I might borrow, if that’s all right. 🙂

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