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?