I'm probably more left brained then right brained, and I suspect that shows in this blog. When you see discussions of structure, rules of thumb, organization, and analysis, that's my left brain talking. Nonetheless, I'm a big believer in respecting and nurturing intuition. Most of my posts that include a lot of questions are attempts to explore and get emotionally involved with the elements of story, especially the characters.
Robin Williams said, "You're only given one little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it.”
Whether it’s madness or spontaneity or creative magic, I believe real value in art only comes when you have an active, unfettered imagination. One of the reasons why I espouse writing fast is it's a way to outpace the internal editor and release more unconventional thinking. This may include ideas that are weird, impolite, incorrect, or forbidden. What others discard may be a treasure for an artist, or for society as a whole. In classical mythology, Mercury was a portal god who is liable to allow something from the garbage heap to find an honored place.
Above, I mentioned nurturing. With that in mind, here are some suggestions aimed at keeping creative magic alive in yourself and bearing its gifts, no matter how odd, to society.
- Celebrate eccentricity. Explore society’s misfits. Collect odd historical facts. Treasure the moments when you're surprised or you're unable to make sense of something.
- Respect your dreams. That includes daydreams. Make notes on images, musical phrases, odd juxtapositions, and transformations. And, as you do so, pay attention to how the surreal world you experience affect you emotionally. The more intense the emotions, the more likely that magic is involved.
- Listen more than you talk. Hear the subtext. Watch the body language. Pay attention to the music of the words and the feelings apparent in others and yourself. Do all this in the spirit of connection rather than dissection. Scoring points in a discussion is about hierarchy, and that's not where creativity blossoms.
- Play. It's healthy. It's honorable. It shakes off the rust of rules and presents fresh viewpoints. You might need to spend a lot of time with children to get the full value of this suggestion. Let them be your instructors.
- Make mistakes. If you don't allow yourself to make a mess, you'll have too many fences around your imagination and will be closed off from valuable insights.
- Welcome discomfort. Comfortable journeys only occur on well trod roads. People who blaze new trails face more misery… And more wonder.
- Embrace uncertainty. Most of the interesting questions in life do not have clear and definite answers.
- Enter as an alien. I've taught a world building course with a focus on worlds that are familiar. If you can force yourself to see what you never recognized in your town, neighborhood, and home, you can build a habit of being amazed by life.
- Ask naïve, and even rude, questions. Cultivating humility and curiosity builds a strong foundation for someone who wants to be more creative. a major barrier to opening up the world is thinking you already have the answers. Likewise, though inviting people to tell you their stories could lead to trouble, it's more likely to put you in the glorious, unsafe space of truly understanding and empathizing with people who seem to different to connect with.
- Let your mind wander. If you tend to over schedule, this may mean providing open spaces on your calendar to just be yourself without any tasks or prompts or tensions. Relax and enjoy the moment. Don't take notes.
If you're counting, that's ten suggestions. (And I also sneaked in writing fast and exploring questions.)
I've long advocated valuing fun as a component of writing well. I think it leads to stories that entertain inspire more often. My suspicion is that any works that delight me came from artists who were delighted. It doesn't mean that only joyful stories matter. Tragedies can delight. The best tragedies do because they embrace being human while being a part of nature.