Aug 15, 2012

Creativity in Childhood: Maggie Ethridge of Flux Capacitor

Clockwise from top: Maggie and daughter Ever, Maggie with her husband and four children, Maggie with her mother and sister, Maggie when she was a child. 

As the perfect ending to my Creativity in Childhood summer series I am beyond delighted to have published writer and poet, Maggie May Ethridge of the personal and literary blog Flux Capacitor. Maggie is a brilliant composer of words and writes with unapologetic honesty. She's a true writer's writer and has found her way deep into the hearts of  her blog readers and beyond.  She can be found many places sharing her writing online including The Huffington Post. 

It's my honor to have Maggie with us today sharing her creative experiences in childhood. 

1. What childhood experiences influenced your creativity?

My creativity was largely inspired by two things: nature, and my deep sadness and anxiety. I was an anxious child, anxious from as far back as I can remember, and then my father amplified that anxiety with his unaddressed issues that spilled onto his daughters. I was creative to escape and more-so, to create an alternate world where I felt safe and interested and whole. ( The same reasons I was so passionate about reading. ) I was often horribly bored at school, and allowed to read in class when my assignments were done ahead of time, so the amount of reading that I did between home and school inspired my own creativity. Anxiety also inspired me to deeper understand the people around me, to empathize with them, to see things from their point of view,
and then to express that in the stories I wrote. I found it liberating, engrossing and challenging to create characters.Nature inspired me to write with a fullness of the human experience, because even during the worst of times,I felt comforted and exalted by a river, the feel of grass and mud on my feet, the sky, fields of tangled grasses, flowers,and trees- especially trees. Nature inspired me to find more depth to my characters, for even the most finicky or faulty of people have secret vulnerabilities and comforts, deep dreams and hopes, fears of death and moments of amazement at the miracle of their own life. I would also say that my parents surrounding us with books, including books of art, and music and movies was completely inspiring, and something I am deeply grateful for.

2. Can you remember the specifics of something creative/something you did as a child? 

I wrote my first piece at the age of five, a play called The Sun and The Moon. I remember almost nothing about that year, but I do remember proudly pulling out this play and it's cover to show my mom and dad. They read it
and smiled and told me how good it was. I felt overjoyed. The play was about how the moon was jealous of
the sun because it was only a reflection of the sun's light, something I had just learned about. I think my mom still has it. I began keeping a diary that year, a Hello Kitty diary, and kept a diary in some form or another for the rest of my life until the last five years or so. I loved collages and made them on and off throughout my childhood, with magazines mostly, but also fabric, flowers, pictures, scraps of paper, some mixed media. Many of those collages directly reflect my life at that moment- who my friends were, sayings we had, my beliefs, my fears. I don't remember when I started writing poetry but I believe it was in elementary school. My Nana had given me a book of prayers for very young children, and they were written in what seemed like to me, poetry form. I loved that book. I began writing poems in a mimicry of Shel Silverstein, and went on to mimic different musician's lyrical style and poets I read until my own voice finally really began blooming at the very end of high school. I wrote a tremendous amount of horrible poetry in middle school and high school, and it wasn't until I hit about 20 that a few poems began emerging ... it's hard to explain, but emerging correctly expressing the feeling and images and perception of the voice inside of me.

What I got from writing hundreds and thousands of poems that were not correctly expressing
my internal voice was a terrific fury at being unable to do so, that drove me to never give up, and also to be
determined not to cheat myself into thinking I was good because I simply could not tolerate not being good.
For years and years I would erase every metaphor I wrote and rewrite it until I could come up with something
that I did not remember hearing before, something that clearly expressed the feeling I was trying to convey.
For me, poetry is almost always about expressing a state of consciousness or emotion, not an idea. It is about saying 'this is what it feels like right now, when this happens'. I love using every single part of writing to perfectly convey the feeling I'm getting at- the line breaks, the punctuation, the space, and most of all, each perfect word.

During middle school I started writing short stories and absolutely LOVED that for years, until poetry took over
the larger portion of my writing for a while.

3. What inspires you creatively today? Are there objects in your home, places in your area, or are there any books 
you find yourself referencing when you need inspiration?

I absolutely have authors who inspire me, endlessly. John Updike's writing absolutely fascinates, engrosses, excites and moves me. Every time I pick up Portnoy's Complaint or the Rabbit series I get a knot in my stomach ( I'm getting one just thinking about Rabbit, Run ) of excitement and feel my pulse rise. To me, his work is the definition of 'intellectually stimulating'. Something about the way he uses words just makes my brain go gaga. It challenges me to write smarter, more densely, passionately and uniquely. Sylvia Plath is a touchstone for me. I hold Ariel in the highest. For me, nothing else touches it. Each f'n word is absolutely a gem sharpened to it's highest capacity for brilliance. It astonishes me how she can create such a personal, swift and beautifully executed impact in mere lines. Some of her poems are so beautiful I read them out loud to myself just to hear the words stand together in the room.Oh and Lolita...what can I say. Perhaps the most perfect novel I have ever read. I am also inspired by Anne Sexton, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, John Irving, Saul Bellow, Alice Munro, Dave Eggers, Adrienne Rich, Hemingway, Nabokov.

For me, inspiration comes on a regular basis but the real issue is: can I stop what I'm doing and write this thing
out? Is the baby crying, am I driving, are the teenage boys shouting for me to come outside, am I due to drive
the kids somewhere, do I have to choose sleep because if I stay awake any longer I'm going to be a B of a mother tomorrow?

Love and what it means in action is my deepest inspiration. The reality of love- not just the feeling. Endlessly fascinating. Also inspiring: churches, lakes, rivers, ocean, hiking, drawing, music, film, alcohol, sex, hot baths, dancing, crying,laughing, confusion, doubt, misery, joy, my children, a call for action, heroes, hearing the truth spoken or written,bravery, biographies, friendship, devotion, duty, animals, the wide wide world. ( 'world wide' as my 1 year old, Ever calls it )

4. If you could be a kid again for a day, what would you do?

Honestly, I would never ever want to be a kid again. I know that is sad. 'It is what it is'- a phrase my husband and I both hate but sheepishly admit is entirely useful.

5. What advice would you give to a parent hoping to encourage a creative child?

Let them know from the moment they are born that everything unique about them- the slant of their knobby nose,
the hitch in their speech, the huge pinkie toe, the refusal to watch musicals, the shyness or the boisterous
physicality- is something precious, to be fiercely guarded and loved, and what will make their art more sublime
and resonant. Teach them that diversity in all things is a cornucopia of material from which to draw. Show them
to not just look, but to see. To see people, think about why they do what they do, the world, how it interacts,
nature, themselves. Expose them to a generous amount of literature, art, travel, music and film. Keep them
in touch with Nature, for peace and for inspiration. Have them read biographies of other creatives. Visit
museums, libraries, bookstores, lakes and broken down roads. Give them many tools: books, art pads, ink,
pen, brush, blank paper, colored paper, sparkly gizmos and flat colored doodads.

Deeply creative people often feel intensely lonely inside and need, perhaps, more regular affirmation that you love them.  There is nothing more encouraging than love.
Pin It!


Anonymous said...

Love this: "There is nothing more encouraging than love." And I love Maggie--everything she writes sings.

Caroline said...

Leslie, I agree! It was beyond cool to have her here, especially after being a reader of her blog for so many years!

Rebecca said...

Maggie is a wonderful writer~

Take it easy~

Melanie said...

This was such a great series, Caroline. I love Maggie's writing too. Thank you both for sharing this interview. xo

Susan Anderson said...

Fascinating interview. Of course, I especially loved reading about her poetry...


Unknown said...

Wow! What a great interview. I had a less than ideal childhood and it felt liberating to hear such honesty here. I love the thought of loving and guarding your child's uniqueness. Thank you!

Paloma said...

Great interview! Really enjoyed it! :) Thank you!!! Have a great weekend Caroline! :)