Kat: Amping Up Creativity

Amp Up!

One of the tactics I’m using to re-energize my writing is to take ten or fifteen minutes to re-read a scene or two at the beginning of a writing session. Usually, I read the scene just prior to the one in progress to jumpstart my writing, but I’ve also skipped back to scenes that were written a while ago (usually looking for some bit of information). Almost invariably, I’ll come across a chunk of narrative or a line of dialogue that takes me by surprise. Did I write that, I think. It’s happen more than once and it never fails to amaze me. It’s like reading someone else’s words.

An idea which may have a grain of truth.

How many times have you had a really awesome writing session when the words seem to flow from nowhere? When lines of dialogue or narrative fly off the tips of your fingers and onto the page like magic? I’m fairly certain most of us have had that experience at some point. Here at eight ladies, we chalk it up to the “girls” but to me that’s really a code word for creativity. To best selling author, Amy Tan, it’s something else. To her it’s:

“Thinking about luck & fate, coincidences & accidents, God’s will, the synchrony of mysterious forces.”

Holy moly, what does that mean?! She explains in her smart, funny, thought-provoking Ted Talk, “Where Does Creativity Hide“. In fact, she asks the same question many of us have.  “How do I create something out of nothing?”

When I began watching this presentation, I had pen poised all ready to take down bullet points that would serve as a road map to enhancing my own creativity. First I stir in a little imagination, then whip in a dollop of experience, shake, and voila, the creative juices will begin to flow like magic.

Amy’s formula makes more sense:

How We Create (the mathematical formula by Amy Tan): If we=w, and you=u, and me=I, then the magical formula for finding your own creativity is: W=(I, -U)

Get it? Still confused? Okay. Here come the bullet points and my translation of Amy Tan’s thoughts on creativity (be sure to watch and form your own thoughts and assumptions because that is key to developing your own creativity):

  • Creativity comes from the inability to repress associations or anything else in life.
    To me this means pay attention & make connections.
  • Question Everything. Why do things happen? How do things happen? How do I make things happen? And then accept that there are no absolute truths, there are only specifics in the story and in the story past.
    This one is simple and complex at the same time. I see it as keeping an open mind, letting go of old assumptions and beliefs (easier said then done), and question what you’ve been told by others–question what you think you know.
  • Don’t simply focus on the “about” of the story — if you do, you won’t discover anything new (and writing the story is all about discovery).
    Write the story and all will become known to you (or as Jenny C so wisely said, “Listen to the Girls First”).
  • Notice disturbing hints from the universe (my personal favorite). In Amy’s view once you have a focus you will notice that things magically seem to come to you. Help (call it luck, chance, serendipity) will come to you from the universe. She has some not-to-be missed examples from her own writing life, and I realize those unrecognizable passages I spoke of earlier are one example of my own.
  • Find personal meaning in your story by:
    • Imagining. Put yourself in the story until there is a transparency between you and the story. Become your story.
    • Never stop evolving. Let go of the knowledge and assumptions others have handed to you.
    • Think about your role in the universe, and then decide what to think, do, feel.

As I look over the bullet points, I realize this particular Ted Talk cannot be adequately summarized. It has to be experienced, and (in Amy’s words), while you won’t find the absolute truth or the complete truth, you will find a “particle of truth”.

Hopefuly your own personal truth.

So what do you think? Can we develop creativity? Nurture it? And if so, how?

9 thoughts on “Kat: Amping Up Creativity

  1. I think everybody has some kind of creativity, some kind of talent, to some extent. And that creativity can be nourished by practicing it. So writers write and painters paint, and musicians play and compose, but even plumbers plumb and teachers teach. I just recently read an interview with Joss Whedon, and one thing that really struck me is how busy he always is and how much he gets done. As everybody knows, he filmed Much Ado About Nothing in 12 days, rather than go on vacation. And he’s written lots of stuff that hasn’t been produced. He acknowledges that he’s a workaholic, and I don’t recommend that as a lifestyle, but I think one reason creative people are creative is because they create. Everything builds on everything; everything you do nourishes the creative spark.

    • Yes, exactly, Kay. I think I’ll paint that on my office wall as a border: Everything builds on everything — everything we do nourishes the creative spark, but as Amy says, we have to pay attention. Maybe that’s what the people we consider creative do: they pay attention.

  2. LOVE Amy Tan, and yes, I have had the feeling of not knowing who has written what’s down in my document.

    I think a lot of creativity has to do with random connections — things half-forgotten by the conscious mind get thrown up by The Girls (subconscious) and bump into something that is happening now. I think we can nurture creativity by feeding the subconscious stuff (new reports, good books, interesting TV or movies), and then making the time and space available to get those collisions down on paper.

    Writing can be so mysterious sometimes . . . .

    • Sometimes scary (in a good way) too.

      Last April I had an odd experience while in AZ attending Desert Dreams. Justine and I met up with a friend of hers (and her mother who is native American) so that I could do a bit of reseach on the family structure of the Navajo. As we talked to this beautiful woman she began sharing bits of her own life story–which was so similiar to Cheyenne’s story that I almost fell off my chair.

      I got alot of help from the “universe” that day. At the time I chalked up to coincidence, but as I watched the presentation by Amy Tan and heard her own examples, a shiver went down my spine.

  3. I really enjoyed Amy Tan’s talk, Kat, thank you for the link. My favorite bit is also the idea of ‘Disturbing Hints from the Universe’. I love your story about the Navajo lady and Cheyenne.

    I got a small DH a couple of weeks ago. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was painting my toenails so I could go out wearing sandals, maybe for the last time till the spring. I used an old copy of a glossy magazine to rest my feet on in case I spilled nail varnish. I turned it over to use the back cover, because it would have felt wrong to use the front; the back is just an ad, so that’s okay. As I was applying the varnish, I noticed the ad under my feet (it was for an expensive brand of watches) and it set off a chain reaction in my brain – it was huge – about the as-yet-unwritten Derbyshire Steampunk story. I yelled my head off, my husband thought I’d hurt myself, and I abandoned my pedicure to quiz him and google a whole load of information. I had no doubt it was the key to my story. I’m ridiculously excited about it right now. Definitely a Disturbing Hint. Thanks, Universe!

    • Haha, I had one last night. I was going through Facebook yesterday, just looking at different things, people, etc., not really paying attention, when I came across the post of a very casual friend, who has a new daughter named Payton. Cute kid.

      Later, as I was doing the dishes, I thought about the name…Payton. What sort of girl would be named Payton? Then WHAM! New story idea — for the Scottish branch of the Humphries (yes, there’s a Scottish branch!). I abandoned the dishes and ran into my office to jot it all down, lest I forget it (I still remember Jude Deveraux telling us at RWA ’13 about her great story idea, which she thought was so great, she wouldn’t forget it, and she did…now I write everything down!).

      • A good story always seems to start with a question and that one, while simple, has enormous story possibilities. I’m already picturing her–a scottish Maureen O’Hare–a scrapper if ever there was one(not many actresses could hold their own and then some with John Wayne!).

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