Monday, July 29, 2013

Keep Calm and Ponder


I recently watched a lecture by John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) which was delivered in 1991 on the subject of creativity.  I found it challenging and informative.  He had five main points that are necessary for creativity and you can watch it here. Rather than repeating his main points, I want to highlight the information that made the most impact on me.   And I’m paraphrasing here:

  • ·When it comes to creativity, it is easier to focus on the trivial things that are urgent than the more important things that are not urgent  OR the little things we know we can do than to start on the big things we’re not so sure about.
  • ·The first 30 minutes or so is spent in getting into the mood, tuning out the distractions of everyday life and getting into a playful, less purposeful mode.  The purpose is not on problem solving, but experimenting with ideas.  Then you can spend an hour or so in pondering, which is preferable to spending long periods of time (less productive).
  • The most creative people don’t give in to the quickest, easiest solutions.  They can tolerate the tension or discomfort of sticking with it and taking longer to find the most original ideas.

As I watched, I found so much that we can use to seize the year:  brainstorming story ideas, imagining the direction, shape or POV of a story, discovering creative ways to market and promote.  Determining how to unfold the story in the most creative way.  Tossing an obvious plot solution for something more original.   Expanding a small story idea into a bigger one.  We might take time for this at the pre-writing phase and then later at a mid-point where the story dries up or looks up at us fish-eyed and smelly.  We can focus on the big picture, the whole story, or the minute details, as long as we approach the process in a playful, open frame of mind.  No ideas are wrong, they’re just ideas, and this is essential to spontaneity.

He also made a statement that creativity is not a talent but a way of operating and is completely unrelated to I.Q.   We can learn to get into the open mode needed for creativity.  It’s not something you either have or don’t.  Phew on both counts!

Most importantly, I felt he validated our need as writers to spend time away from writing and reading and being connected to social networking in order to feed that place where great stories originate.  

So I’m going to set aside time, create my oasis and ponder the possibilities.  What about you?


Cherry Odelberg said...

Yes. Time at my oasis. Good idea.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I'm trying out another way of increasing creativity by sitting down with a notebook and free-writing in a different genre than I normally write. I have no designs to make it into a manuscript. I'm just letting the story characters speak and jotting it all down. It seems to come easier knowing it can be total junk and no one will ever see/hear/smell it.

Unknown said...

I find great comfort in your statement that creativity is not a matter of IQ but a way of operating. Years ago, I asked God for creativity. He has an unlimited supply. Sometimes, I am aware that He continues to answer that prayer years later, dripping in just a bit here and there to let me know He is working.

I also adore the sentence, "We might take time for this at the pre-writing phase an then later at a mid-point where the story dries up and looks up at us fish-eyed and smelly." I know that look. Thanks for a great little appetizer of writing tips to chew on.

Patti Hill said...

Deb, this is great! I've seen the interview of John Cleese. It's a little unnerving to see him talking so seriously, but once you see how passionate he is about his craft, it's wonderful.

A fun way I've played with journaling is by writing a letter as someone else. I also want to do some 3rd person journaling. You shouldn't go out to recess with the same toys each time.

Love the smelly fish line, too. I'm all excited to get to work.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I watched the 1991 video then the 2013 video on the same subject by the same man. The second is only excerpts and likely the parts he repeats are cut out. But the second does close in on my thought, where does God fit into creativity?
Yes, He has an unlimited supply and gives it liberally when we ask. And, as hinted in the second video, He works when we are not expecting. Our unconscious mind is completely intimate with the One who never sleeps. I believe there is a part of us that keeps ticking while other parts rest, switch off or wander off into never never land to be eaten by alligators who last October swore off mental cogitation.
Ahem. This is why we can go to sleep or leave a manuscript for months and return to it with all sorts of new and exciting plot twists. I find this true with music. If I practice madly for two weeks and then leave the piece completely for one more week, coming back to it I know it better than if I practiced for 3 straight weeks. The brain-consciousness-soul is a marvelous thing!
And I never knew that John Cleese went to Cambridge to study science. Britain's comedians are found in the strangest places (Rowan Atkinson in engineering for example).

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Sometimes I tell myself 'step back from the smelly manuscript.' Only then can you truly get a whiff, and, thankfully, we can return to it with all sorts of plot twists. (thanks Henrietta)

Latayne C Scott said...

Debbie, the way your mind works aways amazes me. What great insights and encouragement.