Prerequisites of Creativity

For me they are:

1. A thing to write on/with

2. Water

3. Reasonable level of cleanliness and organization around me/in front of my face

4. Completion of urgent basic life chores (groceries, laundry, dog walking)

5. Overall general feeling of health and wellness (accomplished with eating decent, getting up and moving around sometimes, and otherwise taking care of myself)

6. Enough time to finish a thought

That’s it. There is no magical time, no ritual I perform to call down a muse from the heavens. Muses are silly. Inspiration is silly. Basic personal upkeep and happiness works better and makes more sense to me. If I manage that much, then I can write.

People Who Inspire You

If you want to be a creative person, surround yourself with people who inspire you.

Despite being a devoted introvert and homebody, I went to Kina Grannis‘s concert last Wednesday at Billboard Live in Tokyo.

Kina was beyond amazing. She was so sweet and gracious and genuine, and a real pleasure to hear live. I’ve been a fan of her music since Angry Asian Man tipped me off about her Elements album release, and I find myself more in love with her music and creativity and skill every day.

One of the best things about the concert was hearing Kina talk about her inspiration. Songs that I was familiar with not only gained a face but a context. This creative expression that I had enjoyed in a vacuum, ascribing my own meaning and importance to songs, became more real and grounded in the person and the mind and the life they had emerged from.

It didn’t diminish the meaning the songs personally had for me, but it broadened and deepened the meaning the songs had overall. It also reinforced that inspiration is not a magical thing, that even for this talented artist songs didn’t come fully formed out of the ether. They came from a place and a way of thinking and hard work.

Knowing all that gave me more to think about. And when you’re trying to be a creative person who makes art, thinking is a thing you need to do a lot of and be good at.

Find people whose own creativity makes you think.

A Sense of Ongoing Failure

Comic creator Lucy Bellwood‘s interview on The New Disruptors podcast is an excellent listen for any creative people about passion, success, and working your butt off.  My takeaways:

1) Being creative is a thing you learn continuously

2) Success is a brief break from ongoing failure

3) Nobody has it figured out (and resist the intoxication if people act like you do)

4) Don’t run a Kickstarter while also completing your senior year of college

5) Seek out collaborative communities to inform and improve your work


Spacing Out

I went blueberry picking with my friend and her niece and nephew in Tsukuba last weekend, about an hour east of Tokyo, and completely spaced out. Part of it was the heat for sure – the blueberry bushes were under this black kind of netting which had some supernatural power to amplify the already hellish heat and humidity. Part of it was maybe the quaint rural setting, though that’s never really been a thing that makes me all contemplative in and of itself. Most of it is that I’m just prone to totally checking out, my brain going somewhere else.

We’ve got this cultural narrative in the West where people who daydream, or space out, or stare off wistfully into the distance fall somewhere between silly and unreliable. Types like us get a movie now and then about how we have BIG DREAMS that NO ONE BELIEVES IN but then WE SHOW THEM. So I guess it balances out. All that said though, there’s a lack of appreciation for just checking out. If you’re not really going anywhere good in your head, I guess that’s a mark against it – but I tend to drift off into thinking about the story I’m working on, or a story I could work on, or any number of fantastical creative things that I write down as soon as I snap out of it.

Being a space cadet has some real benefits for creative types, if you do it right. Just make sure to bring something back with you when you return from where ever it is you went.

Mindless Tasks

Are good for creative thinking. My personal mindless task is running. Have I written about running on this blog before? Good question… but I don’t remember, so you probably don’t remember, so let’s move right along.

I run regularly, at least four times a week for six miles. It takes me about an hour to an hour and fifteen. I usually do it in the morning, especially with summer good and here and the sun coming up at 4:15 am. But if I don’t have enough energy/wake up too late – which, lately, is as early as 7am, when it’s already in the high 70s and humid – I’ll hit the pavement in the evening.

Whenever I run I have a few essential supplies: running belt with water bottles; iPhone (charged plz) with Runkeeper, workout playlists, and podcasts; and stuff I gotta sort out. That “stuff” is usually of the creative idea variety. I want to accomplish X in a scene, so how do I get there? I got this cool idea for futuristic surveillance technology, is it something I can incorporate in a meaningful way or do I toss it? What’s Y’s motivation in this arc, and where is that going to bring her? Things like that. I also come up with new ideas on my runs, flesh out things that weren’t much more detailed than prompts, and forget about life for an hour.

I run the same route every day, so my feet are automatic. The most I have to pay attention is crossing the street, running across intersections, or dodging groups of people. My body can move and my brain can crunch through these mental tasks. It helps to be moving, to be doing something rhythmic (and away from the internet) while listening to music.

Six miles probably isn’t for most people. Or running in general. But you probably have to do the dishes, or walk the dog, or vacuum, or something where you don’t need your brain. So use that time and occupy your mind with sorting something out. The worst thing that will happen is that you get some chore done that you needed to do anyway.

Where Creativity Comes From

Well, when a Mommy and Daddy idea love each other very much…

Okay, no. But there were two good posts on the nature of creativity and the origin of ideas on The 99% recently:

Tony Fadell: On Setting Constraints, Ignoring Experts & Embracing Self-Doubt

Why Sharing Your Work, Setbacks & Struggles Breaks Creative Blocks

I absolutely agree with the Creative Blocks post. I make the most progress on my fiction when I’m regularly talking about my ideas with other people. Just having to put the concepts into words that I want another person to understand helps me see the good and the bad, and often leads to new ideas and permutations that hadn’t thought of me when things were just rattling around inside my head. Not to mention the great feedback you can get, whether an idea is in its infancy or is a final draft.