Creativity. A most elusive concept. Where does it originate? I don’t pretend to have an answer that more intelligent minds than mine have failed to adequately address over the eons, but still, the wonderment of creating perplexes me.
What about you? When you’re in the zone and words tumble onto the page (brilliant words, of course), do you ever wonder how? Like us, did Neanderthals marvel at the talents of their tale-tellers and cave wall artists?
I’ve started reading Wired to Create – Ten Things Highly Creative People Do Differently by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire. In the introduction, they cite research claiming creative minds are messy minds. The connections made during the artistic process are complex and fast-firing; they mingle, conflict, and intersect. I identify, possibly too closely, with a messy mind. Do you?
And what about those ideas that lurk in the shadows, just out of sight? You can feel it, smell it, taste it but you can’t name or describe it in words. For me, if I scrutinise the evasive thought too directly, it escapes the folds of my cortex like water in a colander. Acid fills my stomach. Panic clouds my mind. Synapses short circuit and the lights go out. At that point, there’s no use trying to wrangle the concept to the fore. A few minutes or hours later, in the middle of an unrelated activity, it appears complete with friends and relatives. Does that happen to you?
I like the quote by Rudyard Kipling in Wired to Create, ‘When your Daemon is in charge, do not try to think consciously. Drift, wait, and obey.’
Enslaved by inspiration’s rules, we must obey.
I recently overheard two of my grandchildren’s excited voices. The gush of their spontaneous ideas was striking and free of filters.
5-year-old: Let’s make a board game.
4-year-old: Ok. With monsters.
5-year-old: Do you want to make bottle monsters?
4-year-old: Yeah, bottle monsters have green eyes. Most of them. They’re mean.
5-year-old: And we’ll make sky monsters. They’re blue. They’re friends with water monsters. They’re blue too.
They created rules in a newly imagined world and developed characters and relationships. No judgement (editing) just an uninterrupted avalanche of inspiration and possibilities. They drew and coloured monsters, cut them out, and made the game. But they never played it. Fun, via imagination and self-expression, was the intrinsic goal. Sounds familiar.
At the dentist recently, I prepared myself for the ultrasonic cleaning that results in excruciating torture when it hits some areas of my teeth. I was determined to concentrate on something that would distract me from the pain, my current manuscript. I’d had feedback from a Beta reader that one question was left unresolved. I didn’t have an answer that would fit with the twist at the end and had been unsuccessfully pondering the problem for over a week. During my mental escape from agony, Bingo! The answer came to me, and I discovered an interesting insight about my creativity. Though I don’t recommend it as default, pain and its avoidance can be an unsung hero to innovation.
Perhaps inspiration zaps us from the far reaches of the megacosm. Some of my ancestors were writers. My great, grand uncle was Chief Sub-editor of the Sydney Morning Herald for thirty years. Family lore has it that my grandaunt would wake in the middle of the night, sit at her desk, and write beautiful poems and stories in handwriting, not her own. The next morning, she wouldn’t remember what she’d written or having been awake. Another grand aunt wrote an opera that was performed in Europe. Then there’s the pioneering ancestor who, in an intriguing diary of his travels along the Oregon Trail in 1850, wrote of the protection and community created by traveling as a group in covered wagons and the horror of finding the remains of people who had been scalped. Sometimes, I like to think they communicate through me (not the scalping). It allows me to withhold judgment and let the words trip over each other onto the page.
Many years ago, I read that creativity is stifled in children at the age we learn multiplication tables. From that, I surmised it is innate, but stomped on as we grow up. The rigidity of mathematics having only one right answer cramps the urges and surges of our inventive flow. I never did nail multiplication, and rote memory is beyond my capability. Maybe that’s a good thing.
At the best of times, I sit with the scrambled preamble of an idea and allow it to germinate or dissipate. Often, it percolates in the shower and brews in yoga class. Sometimes it stagnates and is discarded. When I sit down to write, the story may be more formed than I’d realised. What I believe is important to the process is a freewheeling mind – relish the adventurous, the serendipitous, and the absurd!
I’d love to know what techniques you employ to generate story ideas and how you lasso fleeting inspiration and make it play nicely.
Where do you think your inspiration comes from? Is it a talent passed down through your DNA or messages from the spirit world? Or are you, simply put, a creative genius?
Cherie Bombell – Bio
Cherie has worked alongside incarcerated youth, people living rough, parents at risk of abusing their
children, and people with disabilities. With a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, she’s
observant of people and fascinated by their behaviour.
A nomad by heart, Cherie’s lived on two continents and visited many cities and countries. Her stories
are inspired by individuals met along life’s pathway.
Cherie’s work has appeared in The Australian, The Aspen Times, and Snowmass Affairs Magazine.
Her short stories won first and third place in Gold Coast Writers’ Association Short Story Contests.
She is currently editing her historical novel inspired by the astonishing true story of a Jewish-
Lithuanian family’s survival during the Holocaust.
If you are interested in information about the incarceration of children, please visit Cherie’s website here.