Digging Deep To Find The Gems
PRESENTED TO GCWA 18 JUNE 2016
During recent months I have had a lot of manuscripts coming across my desk that haven’t reached deep into the author’s characters’ minds. Usually this lack of depth is what’s causing many unpublished authors to remain unpublished. Writing is a craft that must be worked at, going deep into the self to find the new and interesting ways of expressing ourselves. Essentially an author’s commitment needs to be pointed toward improving the writing craft and honing the creative skills.
Every author is unique. He or she approaches life and the world from his or her own experiences of a life lived. Writers are observers of life and it is through this observance they have the passion to record what they see. The observations are filed away deep in the heart and the mind. Some painful experiences may be locked away in a dark iron vault deep inside of us, padlocked and never to be opened again. Yes, those experiences are painful and we don’t want them to see the light of day again, but those experiences are the rich resources of our writing. Each visit brings with it an amount of healing from those experiences which unlocks our creative process. As we accept and heal from the experiences, the negative energy is released allowing space for positive energy to flow that increases your awareness to be receptive to new and innovative ideas.
Harbouring regret, anger, hatred and many other negative emotions, prevents positive thoughts from flowing freely. Where is there room for new thoughts when we are focussed on the problems we had at work with Bill today? We come home and rant and rave about him and his actions. Yes, it’s good to get our resentment out of our system, but don’t dwell on the event or spend energy trying to work out a way to get revenge. Bill probably isn’t caring about you at that time, so let it go and put your energy into your creative endeavours. Remember, the moment you let problems go, your mind makes room for more positive and creative thoughts.
Have you ever thought about your personal creative self/identity? What does your creative personality look like? This is an exercise worth doing to understand yourself as you enter your creative world. Answer the questions below to understand who you are as a creative person.
In this handout there are also tips on boosting your creativity and also further exercises you might like to try. By understanding who you are as a creative person, you gain insight into whether the medium you may be using to express yourself creatively is the medium you really want to work in.
Here is a list of notes, quotes, exercises and further reading you might find useful on your creative journey. I have cited the following from various resources and all have been labelled accordingly. I have taken the liberty to place my personal touch on some of the exercises. These creators have ignited my creativity and I give special thanks to them for showing me the way.
- Twyla Tharp in her book, The Creative Habit, states it’s important to get a handle on our creative identity. She offers the following questionnaire to help you understand who you are as a creator. Take the time to answer these questions openly and honestly. I have changed some of the words to reflect creativity generally rather than be styled to one medium.
Your creative autobiography/identity
- What is the first creative moment you remember?
- Was anyone there to witness or appreciate it?
- What is the best idea you’ve ever had?
- What made it great in your mind?
- What is the dumbest idea?
- What made it stupid?
- Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea?
- What is your creative ambition?
- What are the obstacles to this ambition?
- What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition?
- How do you begin your day?
- What are you habits? What patterns do you repeat?
- Describe your first successful creative act.
- Describe your second successful creative act.
- Compare them.
- What are you attitudes toward: money, power, praise, rivals, work, play?
- What creators do you admire most?
- Why are they your role models?
- What do you and your role models have in common?
- Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?
- Who is your muse?
- Define muse.
- When confronted with superior intelligence or talent, how do you respond?
- When faced with stupidity, hostility, intransigence, laziness, or indifference in others, how do you respond?
- When faced with impending success or the threat of failure, how do you respond?
- When you work, do you love the process or the result?
- At what moments do you feel your reach exceeds your grasp?
- What is your ideal creative activity?
- What is your greatest fear?
- What is the likelihood of either of the answers to the previous two questions happening?
- Which of your answers would you most like to change?
- What is your idea of mastery?
- What is your greatest dream?
- The following notes have been taken from California State University website and are listed here to help you understand the creative personality. These are general statements and in no way am I supposing that you must be/have these qualities in order to be creative. The purpose of this workshop is to encourage you, to help you understand yourself as a creator, and to tap into your creativity, not to find out if you are creative. This is meant to be a fun exercise to identify some of these traits in yourself However, your personality may or may not contain some of these qualities:
- Creative individuals have a great deal of energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest.
- Creative individuals tend to be smart, yet also naive at the same time.
- Creative individuals have a combination of playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.
- Creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy at one end, and rooted sense of reality at the other.
- Creative people seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between extroversion and introversion.
- Creative individuals are also remarkably humble and proud at the same time.
- Creative individuals to a certain extent escape rigid gender role stereotyping and have a tendency toward androgyny.
- Generally, creative people are thought to be rebellious and independent.
- Most creative persons are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.
- The openness and sensitivity of creative individuals often exposes them to suffering pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment.
- 20 tips From Psychology for Boosting Creativity: About.com Psychology
Note: I have changed the wording of some of these tips for clarity or to add my own thoughts to the list.
- Commit yourself to developing your creativity.
- Become an expert in the field of your interest.
- Reward your curiosity.
- Realise that creativity is sometimes its own reward.
- Be willing to take risks.
- Build your confidence.
- Make time for your creativity.
- Overcome negative attitudes that block creativity.
- Fight your fear of failure.
- Activate your muse to inspire new ideas.
- Realise that most problems have multiple solutions.
- Keep a creativity journal.
- Create a mind map. I call this my discovery chart.
- Challenge your thinking.
- In problem solving try the “Six Hats” Technique.
The ‘six hats’ technique involves looking at a problem from six differing perspectives and differentiating each one by a colour. By doing this, you can produce more ideas than you might have had you only looked at the situation from one or two points of view.
- Red: Look at the situation emotionally. What do your feelings tell you?
- White: Look at the situation objectively. What are the facts?
- Yellow: Use a positive perspective. Which elements of the solution will work?
- Black: Use a negative perspective. Which elements of the solution won’t work?
- Green: Think creatively. What are some alternative ideas?
- Blue: Think broadly. What is the overall solution?
- Look for sources of inspiration.
- Create opportunities for creativity.
- Consider alternative scenarios.
- Create a flow chart.
- Try the Snowball Technique.
- Weed out the negative thoughts that stifle your creativity. Negative thoughts are like weeds that choke a garden. In this exercise, be honest with yourself and don’t censure your thoughts. There is no need to show the results of this exercise to anyone. However, now is the time to take a long hard look at those results. You may have carried them around for many years. Take note of them; recognise them for what they are: thoughts. This is the time for you to let them go because those negative thoughts are not worth the time you may think about them every day. Destroying your list by burning or tearing it up may make it easier to let them go. After you’ve destroyed your list, how do you feel? Do you feel light and free? Now you have space for new creative thoughts that may filter into your mind. Fill the space with these and make a note of them in your ideas book. If you’re having difficulty with this exercise, you might like to read “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris. He also has videos on YouTube that explains mindfulness and how to use it effectively to let go of negative and unhelpful thoughts.
- Using the above exercise think of ways you can make more room for your creativity? What things sap your energy? Have you taken on too much in the community? Take activities that don’t give you satisfaction out of your life. Do you need someone in your family to takeover some of your household responsibilities? Simplify your life to fit your creativity in.
- Change the way you do life. If you go walking in the morning, change it to the evening. If you usually do your creative activity at night after your day job, whether that be outside or caring for your family, try making time for it early in the morning before the distractions start. Change the type of beverage you drink, or perhaps substitute another drink for coffee or tea for several weeks. Instead of walking for exercise try swimming. These changes shake you out of your normal routine and can ignite your creativity in new and interesting ways.
- Set a schedule for your creativity and stick to it. Let your family know this is the time you want to tap into your creativity. When they see you are happy because you have this dedicated time set aside and they see your productive results, they will come to respect that is your time and leave you alone when you’re in your creative world.
- Take a full day by yourself to refill your creative well. Go out into the world. For example, the bush, the beach, a shopping centre or a place where you have never been. If you see something interesting, buy it, photograph it, pick it up and take it home with you and place it in your creative box. Do this activity by yourself using all of your senses as you move through the environment so that you can absorb the atmosphere deep into yourself. Be aware of shape and colour, temperature, smell and hearing as you are in this space.
(e) QUOTES to ponder:
Sternberg & Lubart, Defying the Crowd:
A product is creative when it is (a) novel and (b) appropriate. A novel product is original not predictable. The bigger the concept, and the more the product stimulates further work and ideas, the more the product is creative.
Creativity: Envisioning what isn’t, and figuring out how to bring it to pass.
Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blue prints of your ultimate achievements.
Creativity comes from looking for the unexpected and stepping outside your own experience.
For me, creativity is manifesting ideas into reality i.e. it’s more execution than inspiration.
(f) Further reading:
The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity – Julia Cameron, Penguin Putnam Inc. 1992.
Cultivating Your Creative Life – Alena Hennessy, Quarry Books, 2012.
Wild Mind – Living the Writer’s Life – Natalie Goldberg, Bantam Books, 1990.
The Writing Life – Annie Dillard, Harper Collins, 1989.