Monday, November 25, 2013

On Creativity

On the professional networking web site, LinkedinI made a post myself on a thread on creativity. Yes, yet another post on the never ending stream of online threads about creativity. To paraphrase, I said that putting creativity "on the back burner" as someone had said, is the gestation period, which is different for everyone. I need to take in the information necessary to create a piece, then simply create it; typically, to write it.

Maybe it's just calling it different things but I don't see that as creativity, per se. Synthesis more likely. Once I have the info I need and start to write, the creativity comes from choosing the obvious next step. With each scene, the description, narrative or dialog that I write builds upon itself. Much of the "creativity" involved is in the "seeing" or imagining of what should come next and then, how it should develop. As many people say, at some point it starts to write itself. And it should, if you can see the logical options available. 

I've heard writers say that readers (or viewers in film) should almost be able to mouth the words a character is going to say next, as it should make that much sense to the readers (or viewers) that they might know what is coming. When I'm writing I take that to mean that I need to try to hear what should come next in my own mind, then try to find a way to twist that so that what comes out will leave the readers/viewers to think, "yeah, sure, I see that, but oh, well now, that's interesting and not quite what I had expected."

We serve up to them an interesting, intriguing situation. Then lead them down a common path, twist it, and play it off of what they expect to hear, making it fresh and intriguing. 

Therein for me anyway, lay the creativity. Give people what they expect, then please them with what they don't see coming, giving it some relevance to them. The more the better.

Most of this talk on creativity is simply about what should come next. Of course picking a good starting point helps but it's not necessary. It's the same in outlining ahead of time. You have a situation/scenario, how should it develop? Where should it go? I find many times that I start a story in the middle and end up adding to the beginning and ending. Still, I always have the intent to end up with the beginning as far as possible toward the middle as I can work it.

If I start with an ending in mind, do I backtrack from there? O do I start at a random beginning and fill it in to make it work? There's certainly different ways to do all this. But in the breakdown I see the creativity as a small thing in. Or maybe I just try to see it that way so as not to overload myself? Like tricking myself into thinking it's really not all so hard to do (it is pretty much, but if you see where I'm going here, don't let that stop you). The point is, it really shouldn't be so intimidating. Don't let it become that. It just looks big from an outsider's point of view. Many times that outsider is a new writer being intimidated by themselves until finally, they have writer's block. Or give up altogether.

My editor, Ilene Giambastiani had this to say about that:

"I think every writer has a unique process. Some like to know every step of the story ahead of time, and so they outline like crazy. Some are content to let the story unfold in a more organic fashion. I think it is up to each writer to keep working on the honing of one's craft, and trying new ways to stimulate the creative process. IMHO, being too comfortable with one's process is not a good idea. Nothing like a bit of sheer terror to spark the creative process!"

Good advice. My response was:

"I agree. But to me this relates to several issues writers have problems with. Like "writer's block" and the definition of "creativity". In fact when I got my degree in Psych I took the opportunity by designing my own independent study class to research what Creativity is. What does it mean to be creative?"

I continued:

"I once shot a phenomenology video about creativity for two Phenomenology Psych Professors of mine at WWU. I had to turn it in at the end of the quarter, along with a journal detailing what I did and, a paper about the experience. 

On a side note, one of those Professors showed it to all of his classes and I ended up with a kind of celebrity status on campus for a while, which was not only uncomfortable but somewhat annoying. Not half of the trouble of the notoriety was constantly getting stopped between classes and trying not to be late. The discussions were all interesting but after a while it got old. Also, I had a few technical issues with the equipment that forced my end product into something I simply hadn't intended. Those technical difficulties were something that plagued me later on while being a Producer on public access cable in Seattle in the early 90s.

In the end, I learned what creative is. To be brief here, it is to create. Pretty simple, right? Create, creative. Many of us think it is about some unattainable process, some undefined genius where the end product that results from it has been born of some magical ability. That does exist or seems to, but is really an altogether different thing. 

The other issue that keeps cropping up with this thing about being creative has to do with what is called, "Writer's Block". Which I almost want to call, "Writers' Block". A subtle distinction. So, never mind....

I think that with both issues, one need only to look at the smallest particle of what those things are. If you do that, as I stated in the initial post, life just ain't so tough in being a writer. One step in front of the other and eventually you have crossed a continent. What seems at first impossible is in the end workable with time and effort.

Where it can get tough sometimes is in pleasing others, in selling a work, or in becoming popular in the Industry, Craft, Art, or media. Those are also separate issues. We just choose typically not to see it that way. 

To do "Art", to be a "Writer", requires doing it, learning it, practicing it. It requires showing your work to others, taking their "constructive" comments and discarding the rest and then, doing it all again and again. It is not letting our fears hold us back because we're not, "good enough". You're as good as you want to be. True or not, that is the thought to hold on to if you ever want to get anywhere. Have you ever noticed some artists seem to get somewhere, but aren't really that good, yet their attitude is such that people simply seem to buy into it? We all need a little of that to achieve success, but the effort also needs to be there, and the quality. 

The point of all this really is this, do not get caught up in the romanticism and elitism of what "creativity" is or what others think it should be. it is what you need it to be. But to be accepted, you have to convince others and make them see what you see. If you can't do that, then the creativity is all yours, and yours alone. Only you can decide whether that is good enough for you. Most of us however, want others to see and believe in what we have created.

The important part here is to just do it, learn from it, and do it again. 

It is when you find after some time and effort that you are not progressing, that then is the time move on and go to something less "creative" and find another venue to be productive in. If that is even possible. Because to create is to be creative. The issue there is in being accepted as being a "creative" in a "creative" field, like the Arts. 

Sometimes our "bliss" is not what we want it to be. Recognize that. 

If your bliss is not in being a "creative type", then find what it is and find your passion for it. Or find somewhere that the two can compromise within you to allow you to be something that gives your life meaning. Meaning above and beyond. It certainly beats being miserable all your life just because your capabilities and talents aren't what you imagined or wished them to be. If and when those two things match up in life, it truly is a wonderful thing and yes, then it's easier to get into that productive, creative "zone" that people talk about. But not everyone has that perfect "zone". You see those types (but not always) in places like the Olympics, as famous artists or authors, even Doctors, or Space Engineers, or whatever. But you may know them by name. 

Still in the end it's your choice. It has to be. 

The wonderful thing about being a human being is that you can decide your destiny. It's not typically easy. Not for most of us. Good hard work pays off. But also luck, making your own luck, being in the right places at the right times, knowing the right people for your need and, in never giving up on a dream that is reasonable for you to attain. Even if it is unreasonable, you can still attain it (within reason). There are two meanings for "reason" here. One is if it is improbable or worse, impossible. The other is if it can happen but cannot happen within all known realms of information. Many great things have been done when someone did what all others assumed to be the impossible. On the other end of the spectrum, some have wasted entire lives and never gotten anywhere and what they achieved was never of any use to anyone, anywhere at any time. Just do your best not to fit into that last category.

You'll never fly simply by flapping your arms, but it doesn't mean you can't invent a way for you to fly.

Whether you are born into being someone creative or not, whether it's genetic or environmental or both, work with what you have and make it be what you need. Don't let your need be something you cannot attain, but don't let yourself think you can never attain the unattainable. Sometimes our reasoning changes on things and what once was unreasonable can quickly becomes reasonable, and mundane. Consider the cell phone and what it was like in the 1960s to contact others. Think about the personal computer, iPads, Smart phones and so on. These were all things that were unreasonable and yet, someone made them reasonable. 

You can become who you want to be. 

Just make educated, well informed decisions on your desires, have a little imagination (or a lot) and push the envelope. Most importantly, just start to make something where there once was nothing. 

And then creativity can be yours, too.

#creative #writer #author

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