Friday, March 23, 2018

Creativity--Where Does It Come From? by T.K. Thorne



      Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.

To be a writer requires the ability to tap into creativity. It is the sine quo non, the foundation of  being novelist or a poet. This is not to denigrate the years of learning and work that go into the writing craft. But without the essence of story, craft and skill are tools without a job. 

What is creativity?  How does it work? How do we turn it on? 

Photo by Praveesh Palakeel on Unsplash

Let’s start with what it is. According to the dictionary, creativity is originality, progressiveness or imagination, more specifically, the ability to “transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations.” 

Scientists like Dr. George Land, who has spent his career investigating the enhancement of creativity performance, have determined that there are two kinds of thinking. One he calls divergent and the other is convergent. Divergent thinking is when our brain is coming up with new possibilities. Convergent thinking is where the brain is making a judgment, testing, criticizing and evaluating. Although the two sides of our brains (left and right) have specialized areas that contribute to these types of thinking, much more of the whole brain is involved when a person is using their imagination than when using convergent thinking or analyzing. 

Louis R. Mobley says creativity can definitely be taught and the key is asking radically different questions in a non-linear way. He also suggests that self-knowledge, giving yourself permission to be wrong, and hanging around with creative thinkers are important elements or learning to be creative. 

What kind of specific things can writers do to stimulate divergent or creative thinking and get the whole brain engaged? Here’s a partial list:

  • Bubble mapping
  • Creating artwork
  • Maintaining a journal
  • Subject mapping
  • Devoting some time to meditation and thinking
  • Building lists of questions

All these activities can trigger divergent thinking. What works for one person might not for another and vice versa.

Photo by Praveesh Palakeel on Unsplash

For me, oddly, it’s being in a car for extended periods of time, such as driving on the Interstate. I go into a “zone” where my imagination creates scenes, and characters talk to each other. 

Where did that come from?

When I was a patrol officer on the late shift--yes, sometimes all hell would break out--but often there were long, boring hours of patrol. I learned to let part of my brain be observing what I was seeing out the window while the other part was writing a novel.

Those days are long gone, and I don't drive that much anymore.  Can't write a novel based on trips to the grocery store. So I'm trying to create that zone state when I walk, but, like "falling" asleep, it doesn't happen with willpower. You can't "make" yourself fall asleep. You can only create the circumstances that make it more likely and "let go" of activities and thoughts that create an anti-sleep environment. Then sleep happens. 

It's the same with daydreaming or being in a creative state and involves giving the mind permission to wander, a kind of “letting go” that doesn’t put requirements on what I am thinking, just a repetitive nudge in the direction of my current story. Random thoughts can splatter the bubble, but often, if I bring my mind gently back on track--like returning focus to breath in meditation--valuable things happen. 

Do you have a method of getting into the creative zone? I'd love to hear from you.

T.K. has written two award-winning historical novels, NOAH'S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, filling in the untold backstories of extraordinary unnamed women—the wives of Noah and Lot—in two of the world’s most famous sagas. The New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list featured her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE, which details the investigators’ behind-the-scenes stories of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing case. 

Her next project is HOUSE OF ROSE, the first of a trilogy in the paranormal-crime genre. She loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. T.K. writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, Alabama, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap. She blogs about “What Moves Me” on her website,  Join her private newsletter email list and receive a two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.”