Saturday, February 4, 2012

Creativity: Spontaneous or Process

In one of my recent classes we were asked whether or not we thought there was a process to that great "idea" or is it something that creeps us on us without warning. I had to admit that I felt it was a little bit of both. While we may find that our backgrounds, experiences, mental and emotional strengths will influence our creative base there is really no question that there is somewhat of a process we all take to get there. For some of us it may be taking a walk in nature and for others it may be playing a game of chess in order to get our creative juices going. However, James Webb Young, author of A Technique for Producing Ideas, provides us with a five step process that most creatives follow in order to reach that ultimate "aha" moment.
  1. Immersion: this pretty much means that at one point or another, and we should all know this to be true in order to be held as credible writers, is to do research. It doesn't matter what it is. Go visit the person, place, thing you plan on writing about.
  2. Digestion: how many of you have recieved one of those emails of a painting of some kind and  you are asked by the sender, "what do you see?" only to discover that the original portrait if looked at from another angle looks like something complete different. We suddenly see the different dimensions of this one portrait. Do that! Try to see how many angles and dimensions you can make out of the research you just found...what can you turn it into? What else can it signify? Let your mind just run wild.
  3. Incubation: Okay, now that you have let your mind run wild....walk away. Don't look at it again...give you mind the opportunity to rest. Go visit some friends...go catch the latest movie. Grab your phone and seep into hours of aggravating fun playing Angry Birds...whatever!
  4. Illumination: Now what I am about to tell you is extremely important. CARRY SOMETHING TO WRITE ON AND WITH AT ALL TIMES. You have no idea when and at at what point that "aha" moment will strike but its best to be safe than sorry. How many times haven't you had a great thought and in a blink of an eye, "poof" that idea vanishes from your mind and memory never to resurface again. I finally was at the point where I keep a small notebook and pencil under my pillow, my ipad in the kitchen and the handy dandy note feature on my cell phone everywhere else. Relying on my memory to store all my great ideas is a waste of time. I can barely remember where I put my keys five minutes ago!
  5. Reality Testing: Let's face it, not all ideas that we think up in our minds look as good on paper. It's a harsh reality but it's reality none-the-less. Write them down...the one great idea or the many very good ideas and put them your desk. As you think of more ideas keep adding them to that one folder. Take your much time as you can at create that great idea rather than the mediocre one. Once you have created that one great idea or those few really good ideas its time to get feedback. What's that saying? Four eyes are better than two. In this case you may want to even go for eight or even ten. However, be sure to ask all the important questions: does it fit? Is the idea too common or cliche'? Does it have a niche? Is it interesting to me but boring to others? Does size matter?
In reviewing Young's processes I realized that, to some degree, I was already following these patterns. Did I realize it? No, I did not. Yet, I can definitely see the benefit. You may be asking, what's wrong with the spontaneous ideas? Absolutely nothing. However, what if those really good spontaneous ideas only had the time to be nurtured and developed so that they could be really great? Would you be willing to change up your habits? I would think so. In reading some of my short stories I can honestly tell you that I did not think these through...I wrote off the cuff, so to speak. I now realize that had I taken more thoughtful steps they could have turned into so much more. I guess that's the great part about writing...there's always editing and re-editing...and editing some more...and...well you get the

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  1. When I happened across your blog, I thought it was about the GAME, not about WRITING. How ironic and appropriate for me. As an easily distracted writer, Words With Friends seems a more appropriate time-waster than, say, television. Bottom line, my blog has more word game posts than thoughtful entries, and my manuscript untouched in recent weeks. Preoccupied by WWF and TV, I guess. And I can justify my TV time as long as I can tie it back to wordplay. Blame my love of Scrabble, WWF and TV trivia for me creating my blog and the anagrams I invent. Still, all these distractions keep me from writing.

    1. Leona, you are not alone. It's quite easy and common with creative people to lose their train of thought and become distracted. To actually sit down and write should never feel like a chore...when you're ready and inspired it will come. Thank you for stopping by and please feel free to tell others with similar interest about this site. Take care!