Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ideas: Creativity

Technique Tuesday
A question commonly asked of writers is, "How do you get your ideas?"

There are many answers (including facetious ones, like, "I buy them wholesale from the idea distributors,"). This post is the first in a series exploring techniques for collecting and assembling ideas.

The people who want to know where writers get their ideas assume writers enjoy a generous endowment of creativity. Creativity is defined as, "the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas."

Many people treat that ability as something innate and quasi-mystical. The problem with believing that ideas spring forth from a fount of creativity is that if you don't have a great idea handy then you must assume the well has run dry and you're stuck until something happens to get your creativity flowing again.

John Brown fell into this trap for a number of years before he discovered the secret to the creative process and went on to write Servant of a Dark God.

Here's John's mystic secret to the creative process:
Creativity is asking questions and coming up with answers.
A bit anti-climactic?

Perhaps I should clarify: a creative person doesn't settle for one answer to each question. If you stop after the first answer, you've done nothing more than identify the "traditional idea." Before you choose an answer, you want to come up with as many varied solutions as you can, particularly unexpected solutions. Given a large enough pool of candidate ideas, it's much easier to find "meaningful new ideas."

So how do you prime the creative pump?

Pay attention.

Notice things, particularly the things that strike you as interesting or intriguing. John says you should collect things that give you a little, "zing," when you hear or read about them.

If you'd like another perspective, spend ten minutes to hear what John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) has to say about Creativity.


Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net