Creativity Course

As a writer and a creative person, I recently finished up an online course from Penn State about creativity. (Yes, I know, seems weird, but so am I). I wanted to share with you some of the earth-shatteringly normal things I learned.

Everyone is creative. Everyone, from the mathematical engineer to the Banksy-wanna-be is creative. We are just creative on different levels and in different ways. This is based on everything about us from our experiences and intelligence (skills and talent) to our preferences and abilities. I need more structure in my creativity than someone else who prefers to just innovate with no structure/organization. Motive and opportunity also play a big part in creativity. Before you say, “Well, I never get an opportunity to create my life-size mural of Charlie Chaplin,” let me say opportunity may be that you are given the opportunity to create one on canvas first, and how you respond to creating it on canvas instead of a building is part of creativity. It’s how you respond to opportunity, not just opportunities you are given.

Let me also throw out some key words that also relate to creativity and innovation and you see if you can have your own little aha moment by reading them: Character, Entrepreneurship, owNership, Tenacity, Excellence, Relationship. There… aha! Right?

The More Failure the Better. Don’t think of failure as failure. Think of it as a way to change your idea. As a matter of fact, the faster you fail, the faster you will have a real solution. Have the courage to succeed AND to fail, as they can be one in the same.

Stop. Collaborate & Listen. Collaboration is good. It doesn’t have to be between like-minded people, it can be between those who are your naysayers. Listen to what they have to say and see if it has any validity. Change accordingly if needed but don’t compromise yourself/your idea/your product/service just to appease a constant naysayer. You have to know the difference between those who are there to help and those that want to hurt, and yes, the ones closest to you are sometimes the most hurtful ones. Tread lightly but be open.

Do you have the tools, the time, the knowledge and drum roll, please, the confidence? During this course we had to pick a project to do. My project was to do something musical I always wanted to do. We had to plan how we would achieve the goal and any problems that may occur and how we would handle them. (Jaycees, anyone?) Part of the reason I chose my goal was to also develop creative consistency (You wanna create? You gotta show up and do the work. Pressfield puts it to writers as, “Put your ass where your heart is.” At your desk, writing.) By working towards my goal, I would develop creative consistency in something and whether I would achieve the goal or not, I would still achieve the consistency I desired. If I did achieve the goal, I could build upon my success. Success breeds success for me. So what do you think happened?  I’ll give you a moment to ponder…

Confidence. So, by the second week I had already achieved my goal, so I kept expanding on it. Just like in the Wizard of Oz, it really was within me all along, I just had to believe. Sometimes in creativity the worst naysayer is really our self.

Perfection. Was I perfect? Nope, but I did it.  Creativity means also that you are willing to be imperfect.

I hope this has helped you. It’s not anything you didn’t already know. It’s just putting it into action (which is a whole different ball game).

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On a different note a couple of friends and I are planning to read the United States, based on this information. 

Most famous book set in each state

Want in? However, let me go on record in saying I am disappointed in the choice for Arkansas. True Grit or I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings would have been MUCH better.

 

 

 

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What I Did With My Summer Vacation

This summer I did one million big and little things that go along with raising kids, cats, husbands and families. What I did for my writing this summer, simply, in one word, read.

Or, as I like to think of it: I visited both the east and west coasts and got involved with a cult that loves books and mystery and another “cult” that loves technology in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore; I enjoyed the company of Dorothy Parker’s witty and sarcastic ghost in Farewell, Dorothy Parker; I took the stage with Bruce – Bruuuuuuuuuuuuce!; I felt the pain of class warfare in a small England town in Casual Vacancy; I did all sorts of crazy things just to survive and felt the joy and pain of being a leader/warrior in the Hunger Games trilogy; I revisited the joy and witty banter of a favorite old TV show, and learned a few of the ins and outs of the acting world in Someday, Someday, Maybe; I felt pain of the suburbs and growing up in Where’d You Go Bernadette; I relived a former life full of anxiety and people pleasing (copywriting) in Truth in Advertising; I learned why I do the things I do in War of Art; and right now I am becoming more interesting by being myself in The Interestings. That’s just a few things I did (read).

I read everything. It all started with the back of cereal boxes on the breakfast table before school.  You should read everything, too.

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Off To See The Wizard-Being-Guru

If there were a wizard, a guru, an all-knowing-writer being, I’d walk that yellow brick road to ask him/her a few questions.

For instance:

Dear writer wizard being guru, why is it so hard to start and so hard to get over all those irritating voices that say, ‘oh heck no,’ in your head?

These voices plague me daily. Yes, it is others voicing their thoughts and my own self-doubt, but really, how much doubt CAN one person have about a thing.

Dear writer wizard being guru, how can I find a writer online who’s been there to answer my silly questions about my work, for free, you know like a mentor?

I don’t have time/or access to a group of people who write that I can bounce ideas off. Since we do most things online these days, isn’t there a way for this to happen? Sure you can pay for this, but what writer can actually PAY for this.

Dear wwgb, will the comparing ever stop?

When you have a child, the first thing you hear about development of the child is to not compare his/her development to other children as all develop differently. Then, when the child gets to school the first thing they do is take a test in order to see where the child falls in comparison to others. Yes, you see my point.

However, I’m sure just like Dorothy, any writer wizard being guru, would be sure to let me know I had the power and knowledge inside me all along.

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Man, I Hate It When Life Gives You A Lesson.

A year or so ago, I woke up and told my husband about this vivid dream I had that would make a perfect book. It was not my usual “literary” taste, but it was really cool in my dream and I could just picture it as a book and a movie. I explained to him that it was about zombies and how one ‘human’ girl fell in love with a zombie and all the things they went through to be in love. It had tension, love, humor, supernatural peril, a plot… all the good things. As two people who think vampire fiction should not have vampires sparkling in the sun but burning instead, hubster and I debated this concept. He said, “No, zombies don’t feel, that’s why they are zombies!” I said, “But I have a plausible way of making that not an issue.” “But they can’t have relationships, they are zombies.”  Etc…etc.

About six months after that, I had forgotten about my zombie idea because I’m iffy and cautious about my writing and can be talked out of anything. Hubster called and told me, “I will never, ever say you are wrong about anything ever again.” I thought well those are the words to my heart no matter what it is about. Later, he showed me the movie trailer for “Warm Bodies.” I laughed, “Nooo!!!”

This weekend that movie based on a novel by Issac Marion made $20 million dollars opening weekend.

 Lessons incurred from this experience include, but are not limited to:

  •        There is nothing original under the sun, just make it your own. I have always known this but am reminded of it yet again.
  •         If you believe in it, do it, no matter what anyone else says, even if it is your sweet hubster.
  •         Being “right” doesn’t make you $20 million in one weekend, but writing might. (Technically, that writer won’t see much of that at all but still…)
  •         I know writing and I know me, and really should have some confidence. (Or in redneck terms, I need to grow a pair.)
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I Love/Hate Writing.

I tried to explain to someone how writing is not something I do for enjoyment. I enjoy it, but I also hate it. I detest it. But, I love it. I don’t know if anyone other than a writer or artist could ever understand this.

I love when the words flow and the story and characters take on a life of their own. I love it when I become just the vessel, the person allowed by the heavens to relay that story and those characters to the world for whomever may decide to read it.

I love the puzzle of weighing every word in one single sentence, to make sure it is exactly as it should be; I love it when even the title becomes an integral part of the storytelling process.   

I hate the hem-hawing around stalling because the story or character seems greater than my ability to give it or them the life they should have on paper and in the minds of others.

I detest it when I struggle with each and every word and it seems forced and then you go back and read it and it sounds forced, not natural.

I hate beginning.

I really hate ending.

The middle kind of sucks, too.

But, oh! How I love it!

 

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Books I Haven’t Read In 2012 (Or Any Other Year)

Sometimes I am slow to get on a bandwagon, other times I’m ahead of the game. I’ve read many lists about the best books of 2012, books that have been read in 2012, worst books of 2012, etc. , so I thought I’d do a version. Options for my list included a list of books I used to even out my coffee table this year, or the above decided upon title.

NW – Zadie Smith: I checked it out from the library I had it on my desk. I never got to it. I heard it was great.

Wild-Cheryl Strayed: Except for the hiking alone, the drugs, the stranger-danger intimacy, snakes, bears, divorce, I’ve been through that kind of feeling. Losing a parent is hard.

This Is How You Lose Her-Junot Diaz: I want to read it, I really do. Maybe it will be a good snow day read.

The Hunger Games Trilogy-Suzanne Collins: I want to read them and then watch the movie. I hear they are good. Someday, when I’m hungry, maybe? (Ha! I made a pun-ny.)

The Casual Vacancy-JK Rowling: This book has had a casual vacancy at my library. I guess that means people like it. It sounds like a nice, fun, political subtext read.

Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die-Willie Nelson: I like the title, I like Willie; I think I’ll leave it on that positive note.

Most any popular book that other people are reading: I can’t help it, I’m a rebel. Reading is breathing, thinking and living, but sometimes you just gotta do it your own way.

 

Come back to see a few books I have read in my next blog.

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Thanks A Million

It is holiday time, time to be thankful. I am thankful for so much in my life; experiences, the people in my life, family, opportunities, the joys and even the powerful lessons that come with really crappy life moments. There are days I question how thankful I should be that I am a (word) artist at heart. These questions have no answers.

I’m happy my God-given talent is writing, He gave me the ability to say things in writing that  I can not put into this world any other way except for the written word. (Here comes that word we aren’t supposed to say). But… it sure is difficult choosing the road less travelled. It’s hard to be artist of any kind these days. Sure, I have used my powers for “evil” instead of “good” helping to sell things, ideas and concepts to people. You try to keep your integrity and then that text gets altered by this person or that person until it becomes just a shell of the thing of which you were so proud. You don’t want to lay claim to it, but still at its core you know it was yours.

A different perspective is when you are using your “great power” with “great responsibility” (i.e. in the manner in which you intended, as an artist, not what the corporate world dictates) you have an empty place where your money used to go. That in turn creates an empty place where your inner artist dwells and creates doubts. “Hmmm… Maybe I don’t have what it takes.” “No one likes it/me, everyone hates it/me, think I’ll go eat worms…” because after all your art is a piece of me and if it gets turned down, maybe it’s me they are turning down.

On the other side of the page, there’s nothing else I’d rather do. I do this writing thing pretty well sometimes. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. For that I am thankful.

To sum up my Thanksgiving thanks, I say thank you for the talent. Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for the future that is not yet written, may it be free of red pen marks.

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If the Muse Moves, Catch Her

Writers and artists of all mediums like to consider their artistic endeavors as being inspired or carried out ‘by being moved by the muse.’  

Who is this muse and how can I have her at my full time disposal? Uh, you can’t.

Inspiration comes from many, many different sources: ideas, other artistic works, nature, meditating, not thinking about it, or thinking about it a lot… some like to think alcohol helps them, but if you have ever written anything after having a few you know this is not the case. Whatever inspires you to do your art is not something you can bottle. However, you can hang onto that vision by taking notes, photos, or mentally visualizing your inspiration.

By hanging on to the muse in this manner you have it when you need it. And you will need it.

Inspiration is just the beginning, in order to actually do your art, you must have a specific time and place to write. During this time you will write. It doesn’t matter if you write something your 4 year old could have done, you must write. It is a process. Through this process is where the magic happens.

 

It would be nice to think that a muse was a cause of all the art in the world, and it is possible there is divine intervention, however, the work is your own and if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. Juggling it all to convey your art to the world in the way you intended it…therein lies the magic of art.

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Books for Writers About Writing

In my years of writing and trying to perfect (ha, ha, ha) the writing process and technique, I have read my weight 20 times over in books for writers. Below are my favorites.

The Artists’ Way by Julia Cameron – More motivation than technique, but also helps to develop technique, process and helps to let that artist out no matter who or what inner critic says, “Who do you think you are?”

Writing Down The Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg – Spiritual and classic.

Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott – First time or the 50th time reading it I feel the same, love this, love this, love this. Real world, real life, real writing.

Writer’s Digest Writer’s Encyclopedia – In case you need to quickly know what any element in writing is about or means, from permission rights to 3rd person. It is in a helpful A-Z format, like an Encyclopedia, if you remember those, please say yes or I’ll feel old.

Fiction Writers Workshop by Josip Novakovich – The title is exactly what it is, exercises and all.

The number one best book for a writer is blank notebook filled with your writing.

Reading anything will improve your writing. It is another way you can hear other writer’s voices and discover what makes your own voice unique.

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Writers Do What???

I’m always looking for that one piece of writing genius that will make the muse move straight from my heart to my hand creating magical word worlds onto paper. Deep in my soul I already know what it happens to be, and always have known.

The only way to write is…(drumroll, please) to write.

It’s not hard to figure out, but it does the one thing good advice usually does; it puts it right back into the advice seekers hands. It doesn’t rely on destiny, fate, a perfect time when the planets and stars are in perfect alignment or even the perfect pen, although, I DO love a great pen. In order to write, you (and I) must write.

It’s hard to begin. It’s hard to write the middle. It’s hard to find a satisfying end. Believe me, I understand, but the only way to do it is to just do it. It may be bad  writing at first, but as you write, you’ll learn more about writing, your voice and what works.

This advice, or lack thereof, reminds me of an old joke. “How do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time.” Or even “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice.”

Find a few minutes in your day and write. That’s how writers write.

Don’t forget about NaNoWriMo in November – National Novel Writing Month.

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