Today I'd like to introduce...Cami Applequist
Is there a particular rhythm you have around your creative work time? If so, what does it look like?
Right now I am working on writing a series of personal narrative essays. I feel like my creative work time is sort of all the time since once I get an idea for an essay, I am constantly making notes and planning paragraphs in my head.
As far as actually sitting down to write an official draft, what happens more often than not is that I get inspired in the evening. I work long days during the week but I am a night owl by nature so I think that even if I were writing full time my creative time would begin when the sun goes down. I sit down and start organizing my thoughts and ideas and before I know it I have ten pages and it’s far past midnight. At this point, I lie in bed and rewrite it in my head until the morning. Once I get started it can be very hard to fall asleep and often when I wake up the first thing I do is an edit or a rewrite while my night thoughts are still floating around in there (and then I have a long day at work! But it’s worth it!)
How many work spaces do you have and how/why do they work for you?
I always have a notebook or my mobile phone handy for ideas and notes so I sort of work all over the place. My official work space is my home. I recently moved into a live/work studio in an artists’ cooperative in downtown St. Paul and that’s where I have my desk and printer set up. This is where a lot of the ‘official’ writing takes place. I often take my computer with me to work and edit when I have a moment of silence or stop at a coffee house for a change of scenery. I mostly work at home at my desk surrounded by doodles of my own and inspirational art or writing from other people (including the kids I watch!)
Do you do any "cross training" (activities that may enhance or spark your creativity)?
I draw and doodle a lot when I am stuck. I try to do it with my non-dominant hand because I feel like the finished product has more character and is less forced. I stick them up on my wall by my desk and if they don’t get me going on an essay they often spark a limerick or a good title or even a story idea (and when they don’t get me writing at least they keep me company).
Where do you seek inspiration for your work?
Most of my writing is based on my own life story so family conversations and interactions with friends and children are often inspirational. I keep a little diary by my bed where I compile little inspirations and highlights from my days. I have recently made it a practice to write something on my blog each day. Looking through these posts helps me see what things are important to me at any given time and I take off from there. This practice also keeps me putting words together at least once a day. When I am feeling completely lost for inspiration, a writing prompt from an outside source or a conversation with a fellow writer or artist can be very helpful. I have been told that I think more with my mouth than my brain so talking about things will usually spark something.
Generally, how long are your work periods?
If I am writing a full draft I usually write for about two hours straight without stopping but that’s about as long as I go without a break. I need to walk away from it and do dishes or talk to someone else or go to bed so the ideas can settle in my head. After an hour or so, I can go back to it for another hour or two.
My daily practice of keeping my diary and writing blog posts usually takes an hour.
When do you know that you need to "take a break" or stop working (for the moment)?
When I start to get bored with myself and what I’m working on. I see that as a sign that all of the ‘good’ words and ideas that I have for that moment are used up and I need to walk away and refill my head.
Do you suffer from perfectionism and if so, what techniques do you use to manage this?
If you don't, what experiences do you feel are responsible for taking you off the hook here?
I don’t really struggle with perfectionism. Sometimes I even like imperfection much better (I much prefer a preschool art show to a trip through the Walker). I think in my past job choices and other life experiences I have struggled with trying to do it all and do it all correctly. Which only led to distress and discomfort – and therapy. Lots of therapy. That would probably be what takes me off the hook. I have learned to see things as they are and be accepting of them and not try to make them what they are supposed to be. Nothing has one way it is supposed to be. If I asked 1000 people how something was supposed to be they’d all have a different answer so in the end I’d always be reaching for an unattainable goal!
Do you have a creative support system? How important is this to your process?
YES! I have a great support system which I have built over the past several years. I became involved in mentoring program for visual artists and became part of a group of fellow protégées that met monthly and I can say for certain that I would not be doing the work I do now and living where I live, or even trusting that I am creatively capable, if it weren’t for them and the mentors in this program. Now I have a similar writing group that I meet through classes at the Loft Literary Center. This group meets twice a month and I know that this keeps me from stalling or even stopping all together.. Before I had people around me giving me a chance to talk about my work and my life I never had the feeling I was “really” an artist or a writer because there was no one who understood what it was like to do what I was trying to do. I never had anyone acknowledge that this was, indeed, work – and hard meaningful work at that! The conversations, the group shows, the struggles, the education, the give and take of honest feedback – all of it is not just important but pure necessity for my process.
More about Cami Applequist
I used to say I was a nanny who made art and wrote on the side. Now after 15 years of that I am finally saying I am an artist, both literary and visual, who is a nanny on the side. I have always done creative work and loved it but the “real world” called me away from taking it seriously until after I finished my graduate program in 2005. I realized that the world I needed to be living in was not the “real world” out there but the one in me. I pondered and searched and finally signed on to be a protégée in 2007/2008 cycle of the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota’s mentorship program. I actively made and showed my work and found a strong community of artists who I felt real with! Throughout the process of sharing my visual art, I began to feel a strong pull to develop and share my literary work that I have been producing throughout my life. I have taken several classes and workshops over the years on the writing at places like the Loft Literary Center and through my graduate program at United Theological Seminary. For the past year and a half I have been concentrating on developing personal narrative essays and hope to create something book length for potential publication.
I received a BA in Communications and Business in 1995 from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD. My graduate work was at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, MN where I received my MA in Religious Leadership in 2005.
My blog can be found at www.ilikechickens.net