Amy O'Neill Houck: Break That Routine

Amy O’Neill Houck is in the third and final
year of her MFA in Creative Writing at UAA. She is the author of three
books on knitting and crochet designs and technique. Amy writes for various
magazines on food, craft, and creativity, and she blogs at In
Juneau, she’ll be teaching
a 49 Writers workshop “Writing in the Rain” beginning Nov. 3.

I’m in the midst of a very short trip. I’ve flown to Anchorage
to do some research in the UAA library. Even though this trip is less than 48
hours, I already have felt the creative benefits that travel can have for me.
Outside of my routine, my mind can let go of day to day minutia—the space
that’s left is open for observation. I’m more alert to my surroundings because
they are less familiar, and the act of noticing jump starts the creative
process. Ideas—those elusive, burning little thoughts that beg to be put on
paper—start flowing in when I travel. I don’t necessarily write a lot if I’m
caught up in the business of wherever my trip is taking me, but I take lots of
notes which can lead to more writing later.

I was on a specific quest in the UAA library, researching
the critical essay I’m writing as part of my master’s thesis. But when I
entered the library I was giddy with all the potential that was there. It’s
funny, I’ve been in the library for each of the last three summers attending
workshops for my degree, but I’ve never had the time to explore it as it should
be explored—as a huge and varied source of ideas. 

I stayed focused yesterday, mostly. As a reward for my good
behavior, I allowed myself to wander to the back corner of the second floor
where there are rows of file cabinets with uncataloged pieces of crumbling
sheet music from the early 20th century.
I paged through well loved copies of nearly one hundred year old love songs and
wondered to whom they were sung here in 1920s Alaska.
I made some mental notes and told my imagination I would let it wander that
landscape more fully sometime soon.

In November, I’ll be teaching a 49 Writers workshop in Juneau entitled Writing in The Rain. Together, over three Saturday mornings, we’ll
create that break from routine that can inspire us as writers. We’ll hone our
skills of observation with exercises and real-world experiences. We’ll also
talk about the challenges of making space for creativity in our lives that are
mostly not about writing. If you’re in Juneau,
dress for the weather, and join us for this mini-retreat.

1 thought on “Amy O'Neill Houck: Break That Routine”

  1. That sheet music was awesome! What great stories we can find around us–I've found some in great photos and steamship schedules recently. Have fun with the workshops.

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