Thursday, March 7, 2013

Whomping Up the Creative Machine

Before his book got pulled from the stores, Jonah Lehrer had some interesting things to say about Creativity in Imagine: How Creativity Works. (Turned out Lehrer had gotten a little too creative himself and made up a Bob Dylan quote or two, which is too bad because Lehrer has great things to say even through his own mouth, without bothering to put words in other people's mouths. And now I hear they've yanked another favorite of mine, his How We Decide. Crumb.)
In my Goodreads book review, I boiled down the creativity jumpstarts to the following list:

1. Move to a big city where you are compelled to mingle constantly with people you know and don't know;

2. Talk about your problems and blocks and puzzlers with people outside your field;

3. Do some drugs;

4. Practice letting yourself be uncensored;

5. Expose your ideas to criticism and integrate possible solutions;

6. Fail a lot, in order to find success.


How am I, as a writer, doing, according to this checklist?

1. Move to a big city where you are compelled to mingle constantly with people you know and don't know. Bellevue, Washington, has a population of nearly 125,000, but I don't by any means "mingle constantly with people I know and don't know." At least this Saturday I'll be speaking at the Seattle University Search for Meaning Book Festival on "Prayer and Prejudice: the Validity of Faith in Jane Austen," so I'll be forced to mingle with the four perfect strangers who come to my talk, plus the tech guy who'll be advancing my PowerPoint slides. PARTIAL FAIL.

2. Talk about your problems and blocks and puzzlers with people outside your field. I don't think any non-writer wants to hear about my writer's block. In fact, I doubt many writers want to hear about it. Hence my confessional blog posts. FAIL.

3. Do some drugs. Do ibuprofen and a few cough drops count? FAIL.

4. Practice letting yourself be uncensored. That would be called my daily life, though I am having to rein in some snarky comments as my oldest becomes more and more of a teenager. PARTIAL SUCCESS.

5. Expose your ideas to criticism and integrate possible solutions. Anyone who's put anything out there for public comment practices #5. I've gotten some glowing, encouraging responses to my writing and some vicious critiques. I suppose one possible solution is to quit writing, but another is for the dislikers to avoid my books in future. PARTIAL SUCCESS.

6. Fail a lot, in order to find success. One reader (also a writer) told me, "I can't wait to read the book I know you can write." Uh...I think the ones I already put out are going to be kinda par for the course. But if they were failures in her book, I aim to keep trying. PARTIAL SUCCESS.

But Mr. Lehrer's advice aside, I'm happy to report the creative juices are dribbling out again, thanks to two other factors.

1. A reader scheduled a book club for Mourning Becomes Cassandra. I'd spoken at her church's MOPS group last year, and she actually took the time to find my book and read! Hurray! Such a motivator. And,

2. Some accounts I follow on Twitter introduced me to the Pulp-O-Mizer, a fabulous free website that can suck down all kinds of creative time. Check out the pulp fiction cover I made for MBC! I think I love it even more than the original, so of course I had to buy a mug and notebook...

Awesome, am I right?
Not only did I make three pulp fiction book covers (MBC, The Littlest Doubts, and my Work-in-Progress), but making the cover for my WIP made me want to get cracking on it again. I started Chapter 9 today, and I think I've written 3000 words in the past week. Not overly shabby! It could be the freedom to tell myself, as with the classics of pulp fiction, "I write to entertain."

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