Creativity

I think it would be useful to discuss Creativity. Specifically what it is and what it isn’t.

Some think that creativity happens overnight. Creativity and talent are things that are reserved for a special few and regular people have no hope of achieving anything with their endeavors. They spend many years unable to come up with anything creative, though they want to, but other duties take their time and attention.

Creativity does not happen overnight.

In fact, that is as far from the truth as you could possibly get.

I know you’ve heard the stories about this author or that author kicking out a full manuscript for something absolutely phenomenal in one evening and getting it published the next day. But, the truth of the matter is, that this scenario does NOT happen. (Although my boyfriend said this: Well, there was this one guy I knew who did that, but that was because he’d written it once already, his computer ate it and it was due the next day.) The point is that producing these earth-shattering pieces of work takes time and it must be done at the RIGHT time. Many who are considered creative today, such as Bach, and other painters and composers, were NOT considered creative in their own time. Their works were different, but only upon later reflection was the value of their contribution acknowledged. Mendel’s work with manipulating the expressed traits verses potential traits in plants was considered trivial until much later when scientists really started looking into genetics. Seriously, this dude was playing with peas in his garden and discovered genetics! But, he didn’t go out of his way to discover genetics. This is why I won’t tell you your ideas are stupid. They might just need a little more work.

In short, creativity is only measured AFTER the product is presented. The same goes for brilliance and talent. These are labels that society places upon individuals after it is recognized as being truly unique. This point is not to squash your hopes of being famous. I make this statement to assure you that you do NOT have to be super special to be creative.

Creativity and talent doesn’t happen overnight.

Take me for example. I am not super brilliant. I consider myself talented, but this is because I’ve spent so much time working on developing that attribute to the exclusion of other talents I might have had. In fact, I’m rather stupid in my day-to-day life. I’m inattentive, confused, and forgetful. I frequently mispronounce words, use them wrong in conversation, and trip over my own tongue. Certain topics, such as math and politics, I know nothing about and make myself look like a total buffoon when talking about them. However, when you get me on writing, I can say a lot and am generally intelligible. That is because I have spent a lot of time and attention on writing, rather than minding what’s going on in “the real world.”

This is because the foundation of Creativity is based on attention and what you spend your extra attention on. You cannot study two dissimilar subjects and expect to be an expert on both within a month. Especially not when you add in the amount of time you spend doing daily activities that keep you alive. Such as work, shopping, cleaning house, and sleeping. You can’t multitask some of these activities. Depending on how demanding these tasks are will determine how much extra attention you have left to spend on writing. I feel I need to say this: writing takes a lot of attention. You will need to read books, research topics of interest, write, and write and write and rewrite some more. To become a writer – you will need to know the basics of writing first. You will have to know how to construct sentences – and then how to refine them to be exciting sentences. You will need to practice this. You will need to practice combining these exciting sentences into paragraphs, and those paragraphs into a coherent structure that becomes a plot. These are not skills you learn overnight. These are things I’ve spent the last 15 years working on. Even now, I’m afraid that my book – my little darling I spent so much time on – is actually a piece of trash that I should have kept to myself because I don’t know enough about writing yet. These are things you will have to learn and face as you become a writer. Don’t get discouraged, though. It just takes time. As I mentioned before, I’m self-published because I made a decision when I was 12 that I wanted to be a novelist. Period. End of discussion. Thus, I don’t have many friends, nor do I have many hobbies that aren’t somehow related to writing. That is because writing takes up that much of my mental energies. I simply don’t have the TIME for much of anything else. Even unemployed, most of my time is spent thinking about writing.

Creativity is the act of combining things.

I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life reading and dissecting the books that I enjoyed reading to figure out how they made this or that work. Additionally, I look up things on space and robots and advances in AI programming. I briefly joined the Society for Creative Anachronism because I wanted to learn about sword fighting. I’m in karate in order to improve my knowledge on hand-to-hand fight scenes (and exercise, but my primary goal is to learn). These satellite topics I enjoy learning about show up in the topics I choose to write on. I will likely never be an expert at any of these activities, but I enjoy learning about them, and the more I learn the more I can add into my stories.

In short: I combine my love of adventure novels with my interest in space and technology and get Space Operas.

However, you must know the basic rules, or a good bit about what has gone before you in order to create truly unique work. I won’t lie. This takes years. As I said, I’ve spent 15 years at this before finally deciding I had something worth publishing. It’s commonly said that you have to write a million practice words before the right combination of them finally comes out. Writing is work. It can be fun work, but it is still work that you’ll have to spend a fair amount of time on; thinking, researching, and writing. You will NOT get it right the first time, and that’s fine. Nothing you write is permanent. I’ve rewritten my second book at least 4 times now. It’s okay to make a second or third draft of something. You can experiment with ideas now that later you might pick up again and recombine with something else.

Thus, you need to always seek to expand your knowledge. Surf though Wikipedia. Sure, not all the information is accurate, but it’s a place to start looking for neat topics. All knowledge is good knowledge.

It’s much easier to get writing if you don’t already have some Really Cool Idea that you want to write for your first book. The reason for this is because if it’s your baby, your pet project that you really want to write, you will never be able to write it. You would be too frightened to even start – because you WON’T do it justice the first time through. Instead, pick a concept to work on. Such as smoke/fire, and see what you can combine with it to come up with some interesting topic to explore.

So, go somewhere you’ve not been before and take a pad of paper and pencil with you. Be it a store, or park, anywhere. You don’t have to participate in the activities going on. You don’t have to buy anything. You just need to go there and watch people and write notes. Look at what’s going on and ask yourself “what if?”

You don’t have to come up with an answer to this, but try for an answer. Try to combine what’s going on around you with something unconnected with it. Experiment! Just write stuff down and sort it out later. But the most important part is to get thinking.

This is just a brainstorming session, something to get you out of your rut. Writing isn’t a solitary thing. You NEED outside input in order to be creative. This includes talking to people about their thoughts on stuff, researching random topics, and taking classes.

Don’t get discouraged. You can be creative. It just takes a bit of practice in opening your mind to possibilities.

Lessons to ruminate on:
Creativity does not happen overnight.
Creativity does not happen in a vacuum.
Creativity is the act of combining things in innovative ways.