Explosive Creativity

Posted: July 2, 2012 in Creativity

Dear Diary,

A lot has been going on in this chaotic jumble of a mess that could theoretically be referred to as my brain. Of late, I’ve been going through a period of what could only be called “Explosive Creativity”. Random thoughts meet partially formed ideas and get doused with a spattering of inspiration: Boom… on come the lights and the words start to flow. It’s a great place to be.

However, struggling through a block in the flow can be a real stressor for any creative type. It can also cause explosions of a different kind. Our spouses, mates, children, other significant others in our lives…they catch the blowback from those explosions, unintentional as it may be. It’ not easy being the loved one in close proximity to a creative mind. Only when we are unleashed are we at our best, when reigned in and unable to create unimpeded, we are more likely to be unhinged. It’s far better to take a page from explosive experts and set properly placed directional charges—keep our explosions going in the direction of our choice.

But how do we get those explosions to occur? My latest explosion happened after spending time with an author friend (Armand Rosamilia) on the phone, talking about everything under the sun, and even a few things buried in the back yard. That caused a few minor explosions that led into a bigger one, and away we go!10k words and a magazine layout later, and I’m not even winded.

There are a gazillion suggestions out there (no..seriously…look them up) to set off an explosion of creativity. Like any other mentally and/or emotionally infused aspect of our being, the answer is going to be different for each and every one of us. But how we do we determine which way is best to set our explosions in the direction we want them to go? Look to yourself for your answer.

When you’re not writing…

Do you enjoy personal interaction with others? i.e. Talking on the phone, going out for a beer and a hang out session with your friends, Skyping snipes back and forth with your friends while a game of World of Warcraft hangs out in front of you? That’s me. I’m a people person. One phone call turned on the switch and set off the explosion.

Do you enjoy chatting back and forth with more than one person at a time? Social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) might be one route to charge yourself, but it can also get you caught up in marketing or making new friends… and the next thing you know, it’s time for bed, or work, or school, or whatever and you’ve just used up all you’re creative time. But if you do enjoy interacting with online persons, or multiple persons at a time, maybe joining a writers’ group (online or in person), forum, or a chatroom might be a good way to get back into your flow.

Are you the voyeuristic type who gains creativity by watching others around you? Take your next lunch break in a busy area… food court at the mall, a busy park or boardwalk, sitting by the fountain entrance of your corporate building.

Does reading stimulate your creative juices? Pick up a book (I prefer to stay away from whatever genre I’m writing in at the moment so as not meld the thoughts in my mind with the creative output of another), but better yet, browse through some of the blogs out there that draw your interest, give you a look at something from a different perspective, or is just for pure knowledge or enjoyment.

Whatever media you connect to the best for other daily or recreational pursuits, those are the things you should be using to stir the chemistry of your next explosion. You not only make it a pleasurable experience as opposed to seemingly never-ending agony, but you may turn your small bursts of creativity into the grand finale explosion of a Fourth of July fireworks display.

Dear Diary,

A quote by Anne Lamott that I read this morning got me to thinking:

“We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.”

…and we all know what happens when I start thinking. I think that I do not want to consider a career as a sheep lice…err…louse…err… well, yeah. I don’t want to be a louse either.

Understanding yourself is a major step in the creative process for several reasons:

  1. If you don’t understand yourself and what you’re putting into your writing, how can you expect others to have a clue what you’re trying to say? The reverse side is that an unleashed mind may believe they actually have a clue, but people just shake their heads sadly.
  1. It’ll help you connect with those who get it… which means they’ll get you, and maybe even want to hear what you have to say.
  1. It helps to keep better control of the silly little unimportant things… like writer’s block. Come on… we all know that at the very least our characters are like our own children. If you don’t know who you are, how can you expect to guide them to discovery of who they are? For that matter, each of these characters hold a little piece of ourselves and/or our insights. By understanding ourselves, we better understand them and which way they’re likely to jump… or not.

I’ve been told by several masters of prose, that you don’t truly start to define and refine yourself as a writer until you have written over 350k words. That’s a whole lot of ramble… and a whole lot of insight into who you are, reflected on the pages for the world to see. Or not… it might be better in many cases just to let those early words go into a dark box in the back of your closet to only pull out into the light when you need a little boost to remind yourself how far you’ve come. Several years after publishing, I took a look at some of those earlier words, only to find myself amazed that I’d ever considered it good writing.

Which just goes to show how little we know and understand ourselves when we’re younger… even though we think we know it all!

It may be where some of the writer’s block comes from, when you stop to think of things from that perspective. Sometimes we get caught up in trying to find the “perfect” word, or the “perfect” scene. Okay. I get it. Is it because we are afraid to just let things flow without a filter, because it might dredge up something scary from within? Are we afraid to put what we really think on paper because we’re’re bearing a part of ourselves in writing that many often mistake (even unknowingly) of personal rejection? Get over it! No writer is unleashed enough to send out a first draft for publication. Perfection is what editing is for—and not even the big boys catch all of their blemishes.

Don’t think—write! Unleash your mind and let the words fall out unfiltered. I think you might find it like your own personal shrink… and without your permission for release, ain’t no one going to see it. You might be surprised to discover who you really are.


Posted: June 21, 2012 in Creativity

Dear Diary,

The creative process can be so confusing, frustrating, and yet exhilarating… each in their own separate moments, and yet can be all at the same time. I read a quote today, pasted to Facebook:

“I know the voices aren’t real… but man, do they ever come up with some great ideas!”

So… how real are the voices? Is it a piece of my unleashed mind, or are they separate entities infiltrating my subconscious? Do they work for my benefit, or for their own agenda? I think that all of the above might hold grains of truth. But I’d never come clean to that on a psyche exam.

In a February 1976 Writer’s Digest Interview by Robert Jacobs with Ray Bradbury (R.I.P) :

“You have to live in a cloud of emotions. You rev yourself up. Give yourself time in the middle of the afternoon, or when you’re waking up early in the morning, when you’re in that kind of wonderful, euphoric state in-between, on the verge of dreams when you get a kind of nuclear bombardment of all kinds of fragments of ideas jumping around inside your head and hitting each other. They begin to fuse and detonate each other. It’s a very hard thing to describe. You don’t have any control over your mind at a time like that, and you don’t want it, see? Let it run wild! Then watch it remotely at the bottom of your skull. Look up at all those things running around wild, then jump up and run over to the typewriter and feed them in!”

I’ve always said that my best writing is in the morning when I first wake up, before/during that first cup of coffee while my brain is still in that semi-sleep state (and trust me… I’m not even fit to get behind the wheel before that 1st a.m. caffeine bump). I really don’t have control over my mind at that time. The words tumble out of my pen faster than my thoughts can process. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit the end of my steam for the morning and go back to read what I’ve written… only to have it surprise me… characters appearing where I never planned, dialog and actions taking a different direction. The voices in my head taking over.

The sad thing is that the voices are usually right. I’ve read characters popping up where they hadn’t been planned to make an appearance, and thought… “Cool. Wish I would have thought of that.” I’ve even written entire chapters and gone back through, examining what the characters were doing and told them: “Oh no… that’s not right… you guys can’t do that. It doesn’t fit the story.” That particular manuscript I put away for a year and a half before I could pick it up again. I re-read what was written, and the light bulb went off in my head. I could see what the voices were trying to tell me, and couldn’t argue with the direction they had chosen. My editor told me it was the best thing I had written (at that point).  I took the kudos, because if I explained where t had really come from… huh… is it plagiarism if the voices do the writing for you?

Let go and let yourself write… create… whatever the process is that you are trying to accomplish. We have a tendency to think ourselves out of our own innate creativity. Shut up for a while and let the voices take over…


Posted: October 31, 2011 in Creativity

“To measure eccentricity [the attributed “mark of the creative mind], researchers often use scales that assess schizotypal personality.” (ScientificAmerica

Dear Diary,

A moment of reflection guides me today. In my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to meet some pretty incredible people. From the rich and famous to the solitary and obscure, from the loud and obnoxious to the quiet and unassuming. Angry people, happy people, sad people, loving people, phony people, and very real people…they have all crossed my proverbial path from one extreme to another and everything in-between. Each and every one of them provides me with fuel for my creative fires. No matter what flavor of person they are, inspiration is there to be found.

I am a people person. Even more, I am a people watcher. I am fascinated by each and every aspect of the human experience, and especially with their interactions with those around them, or the world around them. I once had a friend who sat with me while I made commentary on various observations I had on those I watched around me. His perplexed comment to me in return was that he couldn’t figure out what attracted my attention to each of the individuals in question. That each was different, that none had anything whatsoever in common with the other.

But they did. I was looking beyond the physical at the passion they displayed for their involvement in whatever it was that they were doing at the time. In the creative circles of science fiction and fantasy that I often find myself in, that passion is as varied as each individual themselves. But it is their passion, and the “presence” they exude that becomes a wonderful cross-section of the human experience for those perceptive enough to watch for it.

There are many things that I learn about myself on this journey of discovery that could either be called life, or the short road to insanity (and on any given day that can change!). Like I said, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some interesting people. Each one with whom I have had any form of exchange with has helped me to refine, to varying degrees, what I look for in life and how I use what they teach me in the pursuit of my written words and characters. It has also taught me just how malleable I am, willing to adapt and go with the flow.

One of my discoveries is that “presence” is an amazing aspect of the human experience. I mean, I’ve always recognized it to some extent. All of us have it, but presence is that indefinable “something” that actually defines us to others with a simple glance. It is something far beyond the physical, yet wraps our physical form, sometimes even overpowering it, not in a mask or disguise, but rather, strips away the masks and disguises that people attempt to wear. But only if you take the time to look—to really see—beyond the physical.

A couple of years back, I sat chatting with several people at an event. Movement caught from the corner of my eye made me turn my head. A woman strode across the room with such incredible, truly amazing presence that it left me in awe. This was from almost 30 feet away.

Now let me say this—I am really not attracted to women in a physical way. But I am confident enough and secure enough in who I am to appreciate beauty and grace in any form, male or female. And beauty for me goes far beyond physical attraction, just as presence does.

Was this woman beautiful? Absolutely…and in an exotic way. But far beyond the physical, it was her presence that drew my attention…captivated me to the point where I couldn’t look away. I almost felt a pang of disappointment and loss when her breezy, self-confident stride carried her into the next room and beyond my sight.

I have since had the opportunity to get to know this woman. Ironically, although we hadn’t met before that night, our life’s circles connected us in other areas not too long after that. Even through life’s adversities, her presence is always there, lingering and hovering around her even when she doesn’t feel in that space herself. True presence.

I recall one night, a while back, when I sat between two pretty amazing men. Both of them were well-known in their particular circles—even beyond the local level. Both were men with such incredible “presence” that I felt honored, not just to be sitting there with them, but also that they counted me within their circle of friends.

As I sat between those two men that night, I often found myself staring, not meaning to, but just absorbed in the sheer presence they exuded. There were differences, to be certain. But they were both unmistakably strong individuals. Both were very masculine, and yet, from within that core of masculinity came through a softer, caring, emotional aspect. Make no mistake, when I say soft, caring, emotional…I do not mean that their presence holds any feel of “feminine”…but more a feel of depth of true caring and understanding.

To me, they possessed a presence, like the woman I spoke of before, that draws beyond the physical senses. It is not just a presence that encases the place they physically fill in the immediate moment. It is an aura of “being” that naturally envelops the space around them as well.

It is such a space where I love to be taken to with the creative word, sound, visual place of being… This is the space to which I strive to be in with my own sharing of words, to take others into such a space. It is the place of “presence” that I think all creative types should strive to achieve, to capture the hearts and minds of others, if even for a short moment of time… It is a high bar to place on one’s self, and yet, for the creative mind, how can we not strive for such perfection of “presence”… a sharing of the passion within our souls…?

A high bar, indeed.

Hello world!

Posted: April 16, 2011 in Creativity

“To measure eccentricity [the attributed “mark of the creative mind], researchers often use scales that assess schizotypal personality.” (ScientificAmerica

April 27, 2011

Dear Diary,

After reading the article in Scientific America where in essence an unleashed mind = eccentricity = creativity, I decided to document some of my own thought processes. Schizotypal personality…what does that mean? Apparently, I am lacking certain filters for my brain. Okay. I’ll buy that. I guess I haven’t been recognized by my nieces and nephews as the “eccentric aunt” without reason. I figured maybe I’d get a better handle on those thought filters and tell you the way my brain works in secret instead of letting it all spill out so the rest of the world knows I’m crazy.

I am not paranoid or delusional. They say Dickens had the paranoid belief that characters from his books followed him around. That’s just crazy talk. Okay…so there was that episode where I read back over what I’d written in one of my manuscripts and found that my characters had unknowingly taken a totally different direction than what I had painstakingly plotted.

But hey…After my outburst of “No…no…NO! You guys are sooo not doing this to me…,” I put the manuscript away for a year. I think that showed a strong measure of control. When I pulled it back out a year later and re-read it…Okay so does it make me crazy or them, if I admit that I finally got it and they were right, I was wrong?

Now I’ve learned to just “go with the flow.” See? I’m not paranoid. I actually trust my characters to do right by me, and now even follow their lead. A fine demonstration of adaptability if you ask me.



A Note on Creative Flow:

Regardless of whether the world views you as “crazy” or “eccentric”, the process of creative production can be as easy or as difficult as you allow it to be. If you are the typical uber-creative type, you generally have a bazillion ideas floating around your mind in various bits and pieces. Do what works for you to get them out—no two minds work identically, and what works for someone else may not work for you.

I tend to let pieces infiltrate my brain from a myriad of different sources. Eventually I hit that “eureka” or “aha” moment where pieces that may have been floating around my brain for years finally fit together to jumpstart a new project or idea. Once that happens, I just can’t seem to get it out fast enough. I wrote my young adult novel of 100k words in just under 3 months. I wrote the first Broken Wings novel of 80k words in about 6 weeks.

One thing that seems to be almost universal is that once you stop the flow, it creates blocks—writer’s block, missing muse, lack of vision, etc. I came out of a two year block to currently finishing up two separate novels, starting a screenplay for my first young adult book, planning a video shoot, in the middle of recording a song, and…well, you get the idea. It was like having gotten a dose of Exlax for the creative flow.

Two years is a long time to be stymied in the creative process. For me, the unleashed mind is just that…it needs to be free to flow or it can have a negative effect on your whole psyche! So my advice is to do whatever it takes to keep those creative fires banked and burning steady. Here are some ideas that either I use, or have heard from other creative types, and seem very common:

  • Record any and all thoughts that come to mind.

Some people carry notebooks, index cards, digital recorders…or even call their voice mail/answering machines in order to hold that thought!

  • Write, write, write.

(or play, play, play as a musician; snap, snap snap as a photographer, shoot, shoot, shoot that video…you get the idea). It doesn’t matter if you think it’s crap. You may never use it, or it may evolve into a different idea, plot, melody, whatever, somewhere down the road. The first novel I ever wrote…25+ years ago…(total crap is what I thought when I looked at it a few years later) actually had a good storyline that I’m fully rewriting as the second book in a series, where it fits beautifully. You just never know.

  • Join a Group.

In your area of creativity, whether locally, online, etc. Bounce ideas back and forth with other creative types in your medium. Realize in this case that taste is subjective and take what you need from it. Be very attuned to the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. Creative support groups are another avenue. Sometimes it helps when you feel a little less alone in your frustration and insanity.

There are many varied ways to get the creative flow moving. Find what works for you. Get going…what are you waiting for?