Kay: Stimulating Creativity

sunflowersThe Eight Ladies spend a fair amount of time talking about creativity—having it, losing it, stimulating it, harnessing it. I, for one, am often concerned that I have so few ideas. I get one at a time. And that’s it. I have to beat it to death, because who knows when I’ll get the next one? I’ve heard people say, “I have so many ideas, I don’t know when I’ll find the time to write all the books bouncing around in my head!” Yeah, that’s not me.

So I’m open to any ideas for how to stimulate creativity. The more, the better.

Recent research published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that the more you know about yourself, the more creative you are. (Needless to say, this concept has me more than a little worried, since I thought I knew myself fairly well.)

The study concludes that thinking about your multiple identities—spouse, parent, employee, sports fan, political partisan, whatever—can lead to more creative insights.

“A more versatile, integrated, or flexible self-view … may offer a simple way to boost creativity,” writes a research team led by University of Chicago psychologist Sarah Gaither.

Participants first were given one of two assignments: to write one paragraph about their average day, or to write a paragraph about their identities, including social identities, gender, race, family identities, group identities, and how these identities overlapped or what they meant to that person. Participants were then tested for creativity, including word associations and—my favorite—making up new names for pasta. (Points were added for names that did not end with “i.”)

The participants who wrote about their identities scored higher on all creativity tests.

How will this information affect—and, I hope, improve—creativity? The researchers don’t know, but they’re optimistic: “[G]iven that everyone has multiple social identities,” they write, “the present findings suggest highly promising steps for increasing creativity in the general population by reframing views of the self.”

So the next time when I’m stuck, am I going to waste spend any time thinking about my multiple social roles to boost my creativity? Heck, no. I’m running straight to the Eight Ladies. These researchers should be so lucky.

10 thoughts on “Kay: Stimulating Creativity

  1. I think creativity happens when two (or three) ideas bounce together and kind of . . . implode. I like story prompts for that reason. I’d never have thought to mix cheetahs and the other stuff in Jilly’s first story challenge. But as I doodled around on the internet, doing research, I found a photographer named Bunny Yeager. And she had shot Bettie Page in a cheetah suit, I think, so it was BINGO! I didn’t like the time period because all the Yeager’s photos are still under copyright, I think (she hadn’t died yet when the story prompts were posted), so I looked for women photographers in older and older eras, and hit a jackpot with a woman named Gertrude Kasebier. And that just led to loads of other women photographers, and Nellie Bly as well.

    So, as a person with many social roles, you are bouncing around, talking to many different people from many different walks of life, and listening to their stories and complaints. And suddenly, BOOM. Implosion of ideas.

    (-: And it’s another reason why it’s so great to have a group of creatives as buddies. Because they bring all their ideas and friendships to the circle, and there are even MORE ideas bouncing around. Hoorah for the Eight Ladies!

    I do note, I have to be looking for ideas before I start catching them. And I often have to have time to write them down or mull them over before they develop into anything.

    LOL, I got lots of ideas. What I don’t have is a book ready to send to publishers. That’s my next step.

  2. I wonder about that exercise, Kay. My immediate thought is that one group of participants was asked to record the familiar (zzzz), the other was given a stimulating creative challenge. I bet it was more about what Michaeline describes above – two or three ideas colliding, or an unexpected take on something familiar – than it was about self-identity.

    For me, creativity is about allowing my subconscious to play – to speculate (probably inappropriately) about people I see, or take what if? questions to ridiculous lengths (what if there really was a guy trapped inside Kat’s sat-nav? what if there’s a whole community in there? how did they get in there? could they get out? etc etc). Like Michaeline, I got lots of ideas. The challenge is to pick one good one from all the noise and grow it into a book. That’s hard.

    It’s nice to have a head full of ideas, but really, all you need is one at a time. And (bonus!) you have a track record of hatching yours into real live books. Perhaps your process is just super-efficient 😉 .

    • I think Jilly’s hit the nail on the head here, Kay. It really is distracting to have too many ideas. You know, because you’ve done it before, that something will turn up when you need it. All the ideas are just percolating away in your subconscious, getting ready to pop out at just the right time 🙂

      Just in case you really stuck, the two things I find most useful are: 1. Constant reading (not much of a hardship). I think that generates lots of ideas (eg when an author has an idea/set up/just something that piques my interest and I start thinking about how I would have done the story differently).

      2. Having a writing notebook (I know you’ve talked about these before on 8LW). In mine, I write all sorts of random things about my WIP (eg from the practical – what’s going to happen in the next scene – to the more grandiose – what am I trying to say here), but also any other stray thought that occurs to me about writing.

      • Having a notebook, or taking notes about what you’re doing is a huge help for me. I do take notes about any random thoughts I have about a work in progress, usually in my outline document. This is a mess, full of bullets and yellow highlights. But every thought I’ve ever had about that WIP is in there. And eventually, I either develop those thoughts, or discard them, so as I go along, the outline gets neater and neater. Plus, you’re right—the subconscious is a great way to develop ideas you might not even know are in there.

        I like reading the movie descriptions that are published in the newspaper: how “Gone with the Wind” becomes “Civil War saga of mismatched couple and the woman’s attempt to recover her lost plantation.” And that’s a four-hour movie. As they say, the devil’s in the details!

    • I have to say, that although I think the idea of trying to measure creativity is interesting, I thought that research was nuts. How do you measure Jackson Pollack or Margaret Atwood? But the idea of Tom being trapped in Kat’s sat-nav is great. He was so often wrong, and so often pig-headed about it. It’s like the male equivalent of the movie “She,” in which the guy falls in love with his operating system. Well Scarlett Johansson. So not our Tom, he of the sat-nav deficiencies!

      • LOL, I would love to read the “He” version. Guy trapped in a sat-nav, LOL. Miserable, lost and unable to admit it. What would the heroine do? Save him, or turn him off? She’d like to throw him out the window, but it’s not ladylike, and he cost so much money . . . .

  3. Or maybe their test just shows that people who are super-self-involved and like to spend a lot of time thinking about themselves are good at creating pasta names. Like Michaeline, I get lots of ideas, but they wind up being more of a distraction than a help. Right now I’m trying to decide between which of 3 projects I want to work on next. It would be a lot more useful to be able to focus on one instead of constantly being distracted by the glitter of another idea.

    • I had the same thought – how does naming pasta = creativity? There could be more to it than that – it’s hard to tell without reading the full study and approach – but I’m going to take comfort in the fact that while I haven’t named any pasta dishes this week, I have found creative solutions for some big plot holes.

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