Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Feeding the Creative Crucible

Creativity and writers ... People used to ask Harlan Ellison where he got his ideas from. He'd say from a little post office in Poughkeepsie (I'm paraphrasing because I read the quote 25 years ago and I have no idea how to spell the place).

But seriously, where do writers get their ideas from? The short answer is everywhere. Ideas aren't the problem. It's finding time to write. And it is finding time to let the ideas percolate in that creative crucible.

I googled creativity and found lots of sites to help generate creativity in the workplace, which is a little different from what we writers do. Here's a site with a post by Jeffrey Baumgartner on 10 steps to boost creativity. I liked numbers 9 & 10.

Stimulate your mind by reading as many books as possible. I'm sure every writer would agree with that one. And exercise your brain. One of his tips on how to exercise your brain was to argue with people. I'm sure he meant debate. I find if I don't get enough brain exercise I start getting edgy and go out looking for mental stimulation.

As a parent of six children, who are all teenagers and early twenty-somethings and who all live at home, I've spent the last 25 years on the run from one thing to another hosing down bush fires.

A lot of people talk about what music they like to listen to while writing. For me the greatest luxury is quiet 'alone' time. That's why I chose the image above. It doesn't have to be a beautiful place, although that helps. It doesn't have to be a seat on the beach, or even a walk along the beach. It just has to be time I spend alone in my head without constant interruptions. Mowing the yard is good. While the mower is going, it's too noisy for my kids to talk to me. And the repetition of walking up and down lets my mind slide away into the realms of free association, which is where I think writers find their creativity.

Where and how do you tap into your creativity?


Cat Sparks said...

Stuff pops into my head when I least expect it. I got an entire novel idea a few weeks back simply by glancing up at Thirroul's escarpment after work one afternoon and wondering about the light I could see bleeding up behind the dark rocks.

Six grown children living at home... it's a wonder you can hear yourself think!

Anonymous said...

Abrupt changes in unrelated reading matter work for me: I switched from a very unliterary autobiography of a flying nurse to the very literary autobiography of a doctor-turned-author and the sudden recompression has inspired me to write a werewolf-missing-heir-pastiche. Should I have been prepared for this?

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Cat, I find visuals prompt ideas, too. Yet most people seem to be musically inspired.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I love your idea of switching from one source to another unrelated source to trigger ideas.

Now that you mention it, this happens to me, too.

Anonymous said...

I used to find a lot of ideas in dreams. Lately it's more a conscious decision to address a percieved lack in current trends. But these are only the germinating ideas. What grows from them does not always keep these ideas as the central plot point.

Music is a must for me. It's weird, but the music sort of distracts my conscious thoughts and let's my subconscious mind get lost in the story. Otherwise I'd never get anything done for 'thinking' about it. ;)

Cheers, Lisa.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


That's the best description of how music helps writers write,that I've ever come across.

And I get a lot of mood inspiration from dreams, too.

Astrid Cooper said...

My story ideas come from dreams, from the state between sleep and awake, when the brain's rhytyms are winding down; also when I'm vacuuming, also when listening to opera -- I never used to until my latest book and one of the characters said he sang opera ... and I heard this piece of music that sent shivers through me. Now, when I listen to opera, I 'see' the scenes and characters - the ones already written and the ones yet to be. I need absolute quiet to write, but creativity comes from any source - even doing the most mundane chores (like cleaning out litter trays) I guess it's the brain's way of coping with the boring - to switch to something more interesting. Cheers. Astrid Cooper.

Astrid Cooper said...

Also, forgot to add -- chocolate - the greatest brain food! Astrid.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

LOL, Astrid.

Where would we be without chocolate.

Music and specifically opera must be distilled emotion. It bypasses all your logical brain centres and goes straight to where you feel.

Rita de Heer said...

Often a phrase I hear in isolation sounds so like a story title it just begs for a story to be hung onto it.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Go for it, Rita.