Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Welcome, Mary McCall

Bashing Myths that Stifle Creative Flow
Every writer searches for the magic wand that will spring their muse to life. Well, I don’t want to sink anyone’s ship, but there is no magic wand. (I sincerely believe mixed-metaphors are fun as creative tools and to make other writers cringe). But there are ways to generate creativity and control it.
Have you been on the lookout for good material on creativity but not found anything new? There are a few good books by writers where you might stumble into some good information, but the trick is controlling creativity. That’s something often lacking. So skip the writing section and check out the business section in any bookstore or library. Since the 1980’s Corporate America has poured billions of dollars into creativity research. Their word innovation = creativity.
Why do they bother? Creativity pays...bottom line. The newest, most unique, and superior quality can corner a market. So learning to control the creative process means more bucks.
Before you can truly understand what creativity is and how it works, you need to unlearn some of the creative myths that can hold you back from developing your potential.
  • Myth: Only a few people are creative
“In the beginning… God created man to his own image and likeness: to the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” (Genesis: 1:27)
Our Creator endowed us all with creative abilities that we might continue the work He began, shaping and molding the world into Paradise. Romance writers in particular strive for the happily-ever-after ending. We take people living in Purgatory, throw them together in Hell, and make them find Paradise.
Children run around asking why questions until someone tells them, “Don’t bother me!” one too many times. Discovery is part of the creative process. Children sing and hum wherever they go until they learn this is not acceptable behavior. Self-expression is part of the creative process.
Get the idea?
We have learned how not to be creative. Think of the rules most often given to children. Many are stifling lessons that are passed on.
We need to focus on re-learning the behaviors that influence creativity and how we can best utilize them in our writing.
  • Myth: Only people with high IQ’s are creative
Does it really take an Einstein to disprove this one? (Yes, I’m into bad puns too).
Read the biographies of Einstein, Edison, De Venci, or anyone you think of as creative. Most of their greatest inventions were accidents. On the other hand, if you watch a mentally retarded person move a stack of bricks from one side of the room to the other and replace them in the same order, you’ll see true creativity in action.
Some studies do point to higher creative flow in highly intelligent people, but that may be only because they tend to seek out and learn creative capturing techniques that the masses have un-learned. (Another post for another day).
More often than not, we can refer to the adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Most inventions and innovations come about by everyday people who have a problem and need a solution. Example: Once upon a time when computers were only seen in bad sifi films, a secretary grew tired of retyping letters every time she made a typo or her boss decided to change the letter after it was typed. She set to work at home in her kitchen sink, and eureka! White Out was born. She went from being a secretary to a corporate leader overnight.
  • Myth: Only artists are creative
Painters carry sketchbooks. Composers carry manuscript books. Writers carry tape recorders, notebooks/index cards or write on napkins. These are capturing skills. I even keep pen and index cards on my night stand in case my hero and heroine decide to wake me with some bit they want in their story.
Painters learn shading and texturing techniques. Composers learn the art of harmony. Writers learn character development, plot points, etc. These are learnable skills. Creativity is learnable!
  • Myth: Only right-brainers are creative
This one makes me gag almost every time I hear it. The theory arose in the 1960’s based on a report on brain-hemispheric observation done on about 40 patients at a mental institution during surgery. These brains were already abnormal, which is why the surgery was needed.
Fact: NO ONE HAS A SPLIT BRAIN. The two hemispheres are connected by the corpus callosum and are in constant dynamic interaction. If you are a writer with an intact brain, be assured that both sides are working, and both sides are necessary to your creative process.
Have you ever watched NCIS? Yes, it’s all about GibbsJ. One of the lines that comes up half the time they have someone is in interrogation is, “He looked up and to the right. That means he’s accessing a memory (in the left brain sphere), and telling the truth. If he looks up and to the left, he’s accessing his right brain to make up a story. If you can write an entire story without ever accessing your memory, please let me know. For you are a prodigy who needs to be studied and enquiring minds will want to know how you do it.
We’ve all been to workshops and taken the fun right-brain/left-brain/no-brain tests. The traits rendered to right-brain and left-brain are better addressed by temperament and personality theories, which do play a role in creative flow.
  • Myth: Creativity is mysterious
Creativity is a matter of learning processes and techniques and how to best use them with our individual gifts of insight, wisdom, humor, etc. What works for one person may not work for another. We all respond differently to different stimuli. Just because one person does 22 character sketches, plotting charts, etc., doesn’t mean her/his book will be any better than the pantser in the end. Sometimes we have to march to the beat of our own drummer and let others march by in unistep. Our way is best way for us.
We all have creative capacities and valuable gifts waiting to be unleashed. Some of us have already learned capturing techniques. Some of us have never quite figured out how writing a novel can seem so easy for Stephen King, Vicki Henzi, or Nora Roberts while we struggle for each word. Want some new? Those three will be the first to tell you they work to meet deadlines. It’s not a matter of ease. It’s a matter of enjoying the creative process that becomes your work (or play as some might say).
They say every story has been told, but it has never been told through your pen with your voice and your unique finesse.
Don’t let rule-makers and myth-mongrels say, “You can’t.”
Truth: We all can.
Assignment: Go to the children’s section at your favorite bookstore. Pick up and read “The Little Engine that Could.” Put it on your bookshelf with your other most used resources and reread it whenever you feel you’re struggling. It’s one of the best books ever written for tapping internal motivation sources and conjuring positive attitudes.
Leave me a comment on this post. I draw one name for a free adobe copy of Highland Treasure.
Chatting tonight at Night Owl Reviews. Drop by if you get a chance. The chat is at 8 pm Eastern/ 7 pm Central/ 6 pm Mountain/ and 5 pm Pacific. There are always plenty of giveaways.
Happy reading and writing!


Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

very interesting.

Cate Masters said...

Your post made me laugh, Mary. I once bought a book about writers called The Midnight Disease because I thought it would have some insight into why I'm compelled to write. The author's theory was basically that writers are driven to write because we're mentally ill. (That made me laugh too).
I worry about today's kids because their playtime is all about electronics, not imagination. Hopefully parents will recognize the need to let their kids be kids. We need at least some to grow up to be writers!

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