Where Does Creativity Dwell?
I started today void of an idea of what, if anything, I was going to write about. Writer’s block wasn’t it. Call it a creative hurdle I needed a long run-up to jump over. It took me until much later in the day to think of something. So where did the idea, my inspiration to write on this topic come from? It was in a blog about freestyle writing by Elise Wellborn Martin on how writing about everyday things helps her be creative. It made me think of how I get my ideas (I will give an example soon) and why I write freestyle.
The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone…
This was a straightforward connection. I read something that sparked an interest because it ran parallel to my own experience. Those Aha moments tend to stick with you long after the words are lost to new pages. After all, whether through our own eyes, or someone else’s, we are products of experiences (we see ourselves projected in the experience) that fence a story. And it’s limiting to a large extent. Musicians and painters probably express it better, through sight and sound when they stray from convention. You only need look at 1960’s sci-fi of what the year 2000 was going to be like—or should have; silver clothing; flying saucers; robots running around on swivel casters, and for some strange reason vacuum tubing for human transportation, the kind Augustus Gloop
got stuck in, in Willy Wonka’s factory while swimming in a chocolate river, to get my point. (Though not designed to transport people. You can see the 1964 book might have inspired others; The Jetsons were a 1960’s cartoon featuring said swivel caster robot). This was no electric guitar moment for the genre. Only a handful of authors broke through the cliché.
I’m more interested in strange connections.
It wasn’t in anyone’s scope to think of smart phones except for Star Trek, but come on, those Tricorders pale by today’s smart-phone standards (strictly tongue in geek, those guys nailed it when it came to predicting future technologies). They could only scan geo-, meteoro- and bio-logical stuff – boring! (no Pokémon Go for planet jumping).
Some obscure reference to the Quantum world of virtual particles.
So it would stand to reason more complex stories are just a series of accumulated moments of inspiration, stacked together in chapters that make a book. But it isn’t, exactly, at least for me. Often I’ll wake in bed with a strong desire to write down an idea. Or I could be reading a book and spot a word. I turn on my phone and write it down. I may or may not know what it means at the time. That’s left for tomorrow when I’ll take a look at, usually over a coffee. And it happens driving too. In that case I’ll pull over as soon as I can. For some reason—as it is for virtual particles that pop in and out of existence. The higher the energy state the quicker they annihilate themselves—the more important or complete the idea, the quicker it wants to leave me.
At the start of a book, when I’m cranking through ideas, I tend to have vivid dreams of strange and messed up stuff. I’m not going to make public what swims around up there, only to say I’m glad it’s just neurons exploding, and nothing too real.
I can trace my idea (for a novel) back to one event (example promised). Occasionally I play online games. Now if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it isn’t important, other than to say I was playing with, and against real people over the Internet. I was on a team where my team mates were talking amongst themselves, oblivious to my presence. I didn’t know them, and I can’t recall the conversation, but what stuck was the fact that people talk to each other while playing online games. A genesis of an idea was born.
What if national security agencies don’t monitor online computer game chatter? The Internet is monitored. That genie came out of the bottle during the Bush administration. PRISM is the wiretapping of all Internet traffic to mainland US (not some, all. The sum total of EVERYTHING.) Funny enough an AT&T tech found a device attached to the cable (being simplistic here) in a Californian building that splices the data (fiber optic cable transmits light and if you can reflect and split the light, you have an exact copy). But what about talking through games? The data might get dismissed as garbage? But that’s another story (my story).
So a natural extension was to conclude terrorists might transmit data and conspire acts of terrorism without detection. Now if it was that simple, I could stop. I have my story—terrorists plot an attack communicating through online games etc. But I have to introduce the other part of my inspiration team, the subconscious, to complete how this strange thing works for me.
I believe my subconscious has tasked itself with coming up with plot twists and ideas while I’m sleeping, and to a lesser extent when I’m writing. Now this is different to my piece about the Muse. This is the engine room of ideas. (The Dream Factory. Sound familiar?) Often I’ll be writing and ideas just flow. It might be stinted and not my best writing. But the ideas are there. They’re flowing freely and I haven’t the faintest idea where they’re coming from. And this is where the freestyle writing comes to play. You can’t plan, or in my case, I’m not in the position to dictate to my subconscious how things are going to pan out. And why would I? It sounds strange, but I think letting go to a part of myself that is telling me things is a great way to boost creativity; he (or she? It is called the subconscious for a reason) seems a hell of a lot better at it than I am.
I take it as a compliment that I might be a bit in the head. I think I’m a lot in my head.
Also published on Medium.