Spin Creativity Book Club: Behind Closed Doors

I was looking through the keyhole. A tiny passage cut through brass plates on either side of a solid dark oak door, positioned inauspiciously under a sparkling glass door knob. Don’t believe what you see in the movies: the only thing that can be seen through a keyhole is whatever is directly in front of it.

So if you’re trying to spy on your babysitter (who is soon to be fired), you’re not going to learn a thing.

Keyholes have no peripheral vision.

But imagination, through the tiny scope of a keyhole, can see the whole world as through a wide-angled lens.

I saw Margaret, the wayward caregiver, smoke cigarettes with her other teenage friends. I saw her hold Fifi’s gray poodle arms in the air and make her dance on her tiny back legs in little stops and starts, fluffs of fur looking like a ballerina’s tutu. I saw Margaret watch television on my parents’ bed—the warm, comforting bed where I slept off the mumps and ear aches, where she wasn’t supposed to be.

All those things actually happened, I suppose. She wasn’t fired for nothing. Some I saw happen in broad daylight, others I just heard about. But I didn’t see them happen through one wide green eye, with my round child’s face pressed against the tarnished brass back plate of an antique glass door knob. When I looked through the keyhole, I only imagined I could see it all.

Those antique door knobs are hard to come by now. But don’t think for second that that tiny portal under the knob doesn’t still beckon me to crouch down on one knee and take a peek when I see one.

Claire Burge nurses a fascination with blue doors. Well, it started with a blue door. And as these things tend to go, one brightly colored door led to another and soon she was knocking on doors of all sort of colors in Dublin.

They just keep finding me, these blue doors. I think I might just have to knock on one someday. I quite fancy the idea of asking for the person who answers, to tell me a story, anything really, but the story of a life that paints a door blue is one I would like to hear. (p. 127)

Discuss Your Creativity Process with Us

We’re reading Claire Burge’s new release Spin: Taking Your Creativity to the Nth Degree together this month. Are you reading along? Claire shares delightful, tender stories about her childhood and young adulthood, followed with questions and activities about the mysteries we long to unravel, the places we might overlook life, merry-go-rounding and networking, and more.

What activities did you explore? Did you find roots of your own creativity in your childhood experience?

Considering the stories that unfold behind the blue (and green and red and yellow) doors, Claire asks, “What really intrigues you and keeps catching your attention? What holds you back from exploring it?” Share what might be your “blue door” that comes back again and again, and what keeps you from knocking on it.

Review “7 Counter-Intuitive Choices that Have Aided My Creativity” (Chapter 33). You’ll have to turn the book upside down for this one. Tell us about a choice you’ve made that didn’t seem like it would make a difference in your creativity, but has fostered your growth in some way.

What did you do on the pages of Spin to make the book your own? Perhaps you’ll share your thoughts with us in the comments, or link to a post you’ve written at your own site.

Spin-Taking Your Creativity to the Nth Degree

Join us for the full discussion of Spin: Taking Your Creativity to the Nth Degree

November 6: Where Do You Hide? (ch. 1-10)
November 13: Creativity Needs Ritual (ch. 11-20)
November 20: The Dark Room (ch. 21-30)
November 27: Behind Closed Doors 31-39


Cover photo by Claire Burge, used with permission. Illustrations by Brian Dixon. Post by Lyla Willingham Lindquist.


spin creativity book cup

Buy Spin: Taking Your Creativity to the Nth Degree now and join us for our book club discussion

Spin—An Illustrated Print Edition, Journal Sized, $19.95

Spin—An Illustrated PDF Edition, $11.99


  1. says

    1. Activities. The Chicken chapter came into play; but I realized it after the fact. You see, I’ve been pressed tight with things of life and as a result, I literally locked away a rather large writing project because I feel like a loser for not getting it done fast enough. I’ve barely written since then (although you may argue, due to the length of my comments on this book study/discussion). About a month ago we had something sad happen at the ole ranchola and yesterday morning I was finally able to make words of it; then last night I read about Hardy.

    Tenderness is a feather,
    heart to mind.

    2. Intrigue & Holding Back. History, particularly Depression Era, captivates me. If I could whiz-bang back in time to peer through windows into the kitchens of farmhouses and watch the goings-ons down the dirt lanes, I would. I reckon the lack of such a machine is holding me back – but alas! I have books, I know some old-timers, and I have some more books.

    3. Chapter 33. I hold to the same choises as miss Claire – except for the imaginary friend bit. Basically reading this book has made a difference for me. In me. Excuse the term, but I thought it was going to be some “artsy-fartsy” thing; instead what I’ve found is a storybook that encourages, shares, prompts, excites, motivates, and knocks my heart around a bit.

    * Miss Lyla – what a piece you’ve shared today about imagination! I’ve never been accused at suffering from a lack thereof, myself.

    * Miss Claire – that #417 of your journal sketch (ch. 39 of the book) – how much does that come into play? I mean, really? How do you measure it? Those questions you posed about creativity via FB way back when – was that your measurement tool to determine if “people really want what I’m selling?”

    • says

      D, really interesting that what fascinates you is depression era. This has come through in much of what you write and books that you like etc but I had no idea it was the entire era that had your imagination captured.

      Hearing you say that this book has made a difference in you is soul food for me. It was what I hoped for from word 1.

      As for #417. It really does come into play for me. Over the years, I have come to realise that if you aren’t addressing a real need in a creative way, you’re wasting your time. Now having said that, there is a space for just creating as a form of relaxtion. That is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about the stuff we want to build a business or an income from.

      How do I measure it: It’s a somewhat organic, somewhat structured process. I ask a lot of questions. I listen. I test assumptions. I test those assumptions again. I go back with reworked ideas and test all over again. Tweak, test, tweak, test.

      In short, the lean principle is something I ascribe to in most areas of my life.

      Mary Carty is a friend of mine and she speaks and writes extensively on this subject:


    • L. L. Barkat says

      Wanting more poetry from you, Darlene. Of this simple, focused, lyrical type. Hoping you play with us more on that count :)

      Ah, the Hardy chapter. Sniffle.

    • says

      I’m learning this, Darlene, that there isn’t a magic formula for how long something should take to write. Let it take its own time. There’s no losing in that.

      Love the feather poem. :)

  2. says

    Lyla!!!! The more I read your stories, the more I want a book of pictures from you. Seriously. Oh my. The poodle and the tutu image. So vivid.

    What counter-intuitive choices have you made recently? Or is that more like everyday work in your world? 😉

    • says

      Fifi was a little more like a devil in a tutu than a ballerina. But so it goes. :)

      Much of what I do in my work is based on good old gut, so the straight-up intuition serves me best. But away from the investigative work, I will say that just this week I hit the pause button on a writing project, when what makes sense to me is to just keep writing, so you could call that counter-intuitive if you like. :) I need to step away from it and read a bunch of John Keats. Which also seems a bit counter-intuitive to me for almost anything, but at the moment, it’s the thing to do. We’ll see how it works out. 😉

    • says

      n, when i go to your blog, what i love most is the physical space you give there. it is expansive. and i think more people need to give themselves that in their creativity.

      thanks for being part of this journey … and for reading.


  3. says


    You spin, and the whole world turns
    upside down. Roots become growth
    until one someday you have a brass
    plate on an inauspiciously solid door.
    The tarnished keyhole makes you blue.

    You fancy knocking again, like the idea
    of being positioned for things to happen.

    Just look and see! You are where you are
    supposed to be. What is directly in front
    of you is nothing, really, but your choice.

    Don’t think for a second you have to have
    experience. You can tell your story on one
    knee, with one eye pressed against glass,
    whenever you hear it. Make your vision
    wide-angled; imagination becomes the lens.

    You only need broad daylight to consider
    the questions.

  4. says

    In May of 2012, driving home from work around 10:05 one night, I went straight when I normally would have turned right. It was the second time I’d driven home from work that day; the first was to check the oven. I thought maybe I’d left it on. I hadn’t. I drove the same route both times. (The straight route is the one I’d choose in daylight; the turn is the one I choose in darkness. Never thought about that distinction before.) This second time, I was aware of a pickup coming from the right, and aware that it wasn’t stopping.

    He hit my right rear passenger door. The impact spun the car perpendicular to the road. My brakes failed. Luckily, what was ahead was a former pedestrian mall, with low steps. So I drove down the steps, along the mall, around a tree planter, up the next set of steps that was wide enough for my car, and down the street again, until I stopped.

    It was like things are in a dream, when something crazy unusual seems normal. It was also like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney World.

    My car was in the shop for six weeks. My body was in and out of the chiropractor’s and then the physical therapist’s for three or four months. And what I learned from that being-struck-and-spun-around is that I can fit a lot more than I think into the time I have. In the four months after that accident, I dealt with car and body, met an editor, had a book proposal accepted, traveled three times, wrote the book, and met three or four other writing deadlines.

    I don’t recommend it. But in a strange way I’m glad it happened to me. Perhaps the most creative act was the off-road brakeless driving.

  5. says

    Coincidences are my blue door I think. Maybe it’s the late blooming rebel in me, but the more life I live the less I believe that coincidences are all that coincidental. Lately it’s been easier for me to admit that they seem more like evidence of connection than happenstance – I get the sideways glance (not the keyhole glance, but the glance that says someone thinks I’m not quite right in the head). 😉

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