Sunday, December 23, 2007

Allowing Creativity

Today's post is from Vitor, who keeps an amazing blog called The Fractal Forest, which showcases his thoughts on reality as well as some incredible fractal art.


Creativity used to be such a mystery for me. It just jumped at me in sudden bursts of inspiration, but I was never able to capture its essence, trying to hold onto it but grabbing only air.

But I've realized something; I have started to see myself as an inherently creative being, with the potential to shape the world I'm living in, even if only in a tiny proportion. How could I possibly not be creative? Whenever I make a fractal image, I am just giving expression to a mathematical phenomena that has always been here, patiently waiting for someone to see it's beauty. And that is the point: I never create anything new, I just give something existing an entirely different meaning.

So, I invite you to take a different look at your creativity; it is not something that ocassionally hits you over the head. Creativity is what you are. It's your ability to change the world around you; to imagine things that are not physically in front of your eyes; to see patterns among chaos.

What you believe, how you define yourself, the way you interact with the world - those are the aspects that shape your existence as a human. Every moment when you fully reach out with your senses; when you entertain a new thought; when you dream up your next piece; you are creative ... with your whole being.

Imagine a story and watch the characters play out their roles in your head. You are their god.

Look at the unremarkable and choose to see something special in it. You are creating art.

See the state of your current life and say: Enough! You are taking the brush to paint something new over that old canvas.

Creativity is something we humans were made for. It's as natural as breathing, and no more difficult. All you have to do is open up, and let it into your life.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Top 10 Blogs for Writers

Over at Writing White Papers, Michael Stelzner has put together a great list of the top 10 blogs for writers. Here's a copy of that list, but please go to his site as well to get some descriptions of each site. Then go to each site and see what there is to learn.


  1. Copyblogger
  2. Freelance Writing Jobs
  3. The Renegade Writer
  4. Web Content Writer Tips
  5. Web Writing Info
  6. The Golden Pencil
  7. Catalystblogger
  8. Freelance Parent
  9. Write from Home
  10. Copywriter Underground

And since Michael can't award his own blog a place on the list of top blogs for writers, I will. Check out Writing White Papers, and check it out often. Michael offers great tips and poses legit questions for writers that stir up a lot of useful discussion.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Coaxing Creativity with Music

Guest post by Vincent Tan of Polymath Programmer.

Creativity is like a breeze: fleeting, invisible and just as hard to catch. Some people relax and let it come to them. Some people work hard to bring it to bear. I’m going to tell you how you can do something enjoyable and effortlessly infuse yourself with creativity.

Listen to music.

First, let me give a bit of background about myself for some relevancy. I am a programmer by profession. I write code for most of my day. Programmers rank in the same category as artists, musicians and poets in terms of creative output. Programmers need to be creative to find ingenious solutions to business requirements and technical issues.

At work, I put on my earphones and listen to music while I crank out code. And it’s not just any particular kind of music. It’s every kind of music. I’ve got new age, instrumental and pop. I’ve got Japanese, Spanish and French vocals. I’ve got music from video games and anime that I’ve played and watched before.

How does this work? By bringing your mind to a “high” place so you can “see” more of everything (part of Getting Things Done). Genius and creative imagination are of high frequencies of vibration (“The mystery of sex transmutation” in Think and Grow Rich). You can think of listening to music to increase your thought frequency, bringing you ever higher to the place where creativity runs freely.

That’s the philosophical and perhaps even spiritual explanation. On the physical side, music charges you up by waking the mind and energising your body. Ever tapped your feet to the beat of a favourite song? Fast paced music gets your heart pumping and every single cell in your body ready to get creative.

Simply relaxing is too passive. Trying hard to force creativity doesn’t work well. Listening to music allows you to actively pursue creativity yet keep a fairly light chase. Once your creativity muse deems you worthy, she’ll come to you.

So what’s the key to selecting music? Variety. You need to have fast paced and slow soothing and everything in between. If you only have fast paced pop/rock songs, your mind will shut down from exhaustion. Intersperse that rapid flow of music with a graceful waltz or relaxing cello solo to give your mind a jig. This prevents your mind from getting stuck into a rut and also provides continuous stimulation. The shuffle function of your favourite music player is your friend here.

You’re encouraged to try incorporating music that evokes strong emotions. I’ve got a few songs which greatly cause sadness, intense lightheartedness, lulling calmness or have touching, awe-inspiring lyrics. I get tears sometimes (and discreetly holding them back of course). I smile uncontrollably sometimes. I believe experiencing the many facets of human emotions is part of coaxing creativity, of tapping creativity.

Another key to music selection is familiarity. You should be familiar with most of the songs such that you can hum the tune and still be able to function (like writing code in my case). It’s of lesser importance than variety, since new songs can act as a source of stimuli too. I don’t know many of the lyrics of my songs, but the tune becomes familiar. It might even be better if you don’t know the lyrics, since the words might clutter your mind, particularly if you’re trying to write.

My personal experience is that usually after about 2 or 3 songs, I get into the mood for action. After about maybe 15 minutes, I get into what some people call The Zone. This is where I rapidly process lots of ideas, thinking up graphical user interface designs, producing working algorithms and fingers flying over the keyboard typing out code. The Zone is where you tune out everything and your muse is talking directly to you. If you’ve ever tapped creativity, you’ll know when you’re in The Zone. Everything just flows naturally.

Ok, disclaimer time; It doesn’t always work. Sometimes, I’m just not in the mood to do anything. Sometimes, a favourite song comes up, and I stop everything to just listen and mouth the words (discreetly of course. I’m still in the office). Sometimes, I don’t even want to listen to any music. It’s ok. I take it as a sign to go do some other stuff, like organising my desk or go wash my face. I’ve never found it effective to force creativity. I’ve enjoyed a high rate of success with this method though.

Listening to a variety of music with differing tempo and evokes emotions can help you coax creativity. Sometimes you need a little help. So why not consciously guide an enjoyable activity like listening to music to get creative?

One of the steady recommendations at Tapping Creativity is to try new things. Visit Polymath Programmer and learn something new today.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Shaking the Creativity Tree


Much like shaking a lemon tree to break loose ripened fruits in order for them to fall to the ground for “easy pickings”; we can also use this same concept our creative minds.

Here are a few simple exercises, suggestions, and reminders that anyone can implement into their own lives right now to help get the creative juices flowing again.

Practice Creativity
You can practice creativity by doing simple, yet creative activities. Such things as drawing, doodling, making music, or even playing board games. These really help stimulate the creative side of the brain.

Try Creativity
One of my favorite creative exercises is playing the Google Image Labeling Game. This is a simple website that assists Google in accurately labeling images stored on their servers. This game is not only stimulating to the creative side of your brain, but it is also addictive. I usually play 5-6 rounds per day. This one a real fun “Creative Tree Shaker”.

Crossword Puzzles help your creative mindset flourish. It’s something about working at recalling answers or being forced outside of your normal vocabulary that really seems to stimulate the brain.

Do something new... anything... blogging, podcasting, basket weaving, scuba diving, whatever. Even if you start something new, and quickly find that you are no good at it, keep going! Strive to improve on that skill.

Reading
Read anything that interests you. This builds your knowledge and stimulates your imagination. And knowledge + imagination = creativity.

Observing
This is a key step in replenishing your creativity. Spend some quiet time outdoors. Take a walk in your own backyard or to the park. If you can’t get outdoors, just stare out a window. Notice the little details of your surroundings. Give attention to the intricacies of life.

Imagine
Allow yourself the freedom to dig deep within your mind and use your imagination. You will benefit from this immensely. Do not dismiss any ideas or concepts that you come up with. There are no silly ideas.

“Imagination is everything; it is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
–Albert Einstein

Thanks for reading,
Jim Moon

This is Jim's second guest post here at Tapping Creativity. If you liked this one (or even if you didn't), check out his other one: What Color is Your Plane? And then go visit his blog, where he reminds you that if you write like you talk, your readers will listen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tapping Creativity in the Stars

Tapping Creativity: ZodiacRegular readers of Tapping Creativity will know I'm a big proponent of turning to outside sources for inspiration, especially when you are experiencing a creative block. By "outside sources," I mean some sort of writing you wouldn't normally engage in. If you are a fiction writer, try some journalism; if academic reading is you bag, try some poetry, etc. Never consider anything off limits.

To illustrate this point, today we're going to use horoscopes as an example.

In college, I thought I'd take an astronomy course. I figured, you know, I like stars 'n stuff. Turns out that astronomy was like physics with a telescope. After three days of vectors, midpoints, and formulas that Sir Isaac Newton would eat for breakfast, I got my drop card signed and snuck into another writing course (go figure).

Still, my fascination with the stars never ceased. So I every now and again, I parlay that into something more creative: horoscopes.

Indulge me.

ARIES (March 21 - April 19): A close friend has something very important to tell you. Use this trust to build a stronger friendship. Discretely record the conversation and hold it over her head. Real friends should be willing to do anything for you, but a little insurance never hurts.

TAURUS (April 20 - May 20): A money-making opportunity is head your way in the near future. Don't let it slip through your hands. Make sure the ransom contains no misspelling and don't write it on the back of your business card ... again.

GEMINI (May 21 - June 20): Family matters become an issue this week. Stay neutral. Uncle Dad may try to pit you against your wife-sister. Neither is right. By holding an unbiased position, you'll escape unscathed.

CANCER (June 21 - July 22): Distractions, distractions, distractions. This week, you need to stay focused. You need take the phone off the hook. You need to get comfortable. You need to make out a check for $500 to: Tapping Creativity...

LEO (July 23 - Aug. 22): Excitement in your love life abounds this week. So dim those lights, break out the bubbly, put on some Miles, and inflate your date. This is your week.

VIRGO (Aug. 23 - Sept. 22): Virgo, sign of the virgin. Lately, however, there is some doubt as to your purity.Do the responsible thing...get you hands on the damned taped before they wind up on the Internet.

LIBRA (Sept. 23 - Oct. 22): A unique travel opportunity present itself this week. If you don't comply with a Taurus, you may find yourself riding around town in the truck of a '78 Chevy Romulus.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23 - Nov. 21): You're in luck! The tests will come back negative.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22 - Dec. 21): You're not as lucky as Scorpio. Your tests will come back positive.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22 - Jan. 19): Take pride in a job well done. It may not be your idea of a dream job, but other's appreciate the effort you put into it. Keep telling yourself, "I'm the best damned worker they have here." If that doesn't work, just... just... I don't know... quit or something.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20 - Feb. 18): Oh, man! You don't even want to know what's in store for you this week. Just put on your helmet and buckle up.

PISCES (Feb. 10 - March 20): You r stressful ordeal is coming to a close this week. You will feel as if you've been reborn. Remember, the doctor said the hormone shouts would work if you just gave them enough time.

Okay, all humor aside, in addition to being a different type of writing, horoscopes are a great exercise as they force you to come up with 12 unique circumstances. When you are having a difficult idea getting one idea "down on paper," having a dozen very short sketches can be a fantastic places to start.

Go ahead, give it a shot. You know you've got the star power.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Last Supper (The Study)

Two days ago, I posted a short story of mine called The Last Supper. I figured it was a timely post, with the new year approaching. I had something else in mind, however. If you haven't read the story yet, please take a few minutes to do so now. What follows will make more sense if you do.

The following in excerpted from my eBook: Tapping Creativity.

They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. It’s also a good way to kickstart a new piece of writing. Each of us has a small handful of writers we admire. Be it the concise journalistic prose of Hemingway or the winding, subconscious, lengthy sentences of Faulkner, delivery of your story hinges very much on technique.

Too often we get stuck in ruts. We use the same words. We use the same sentence lengths. We become predictable with the parenthetical phrases. Before you know it, you’re rhythm is a lullaby and you can barely stand writing it. Imagine a reader trying to endure it. You’re convinced, though, that if F. Scott Fitzgerald were writing the exact same story, it’d be un-put-down-able.

So why not write your story like one of your favorite writers would?
The following is the opening of a story that started as a poem. I had an awful time, for some reason, trying to shape it into prose. So I put it away and picked up one of my favorite authors, James Joyce, and read his story, The Dead. By adopting his sense of rhythm, syntactical freedom, and tone, I got the following:

Finding a parking space was difficult. We were always the last to arrive and the last to leave. It was my first New Year's Eve outside of Detroit, and although it was only Livonia, there is usually less Happy New Year gunfire.

We pulled up along the curb; three houses down. The snowflakes were dipdancing down to the browned grass. It was pretty. Under the circumstances, it seemed really out of place. Walking to the house, I could see where others' prints were already being filled with newfall.

I felt the heaviness as I walked through the door. Uncle Mike and Aunt Maggie owned a sauna/massage parlor that occupied the front part of the house. Aunt Charlotte, with her nose reddened to match her hair, set down her drink rather clumsily—liquor lapping up the side of her glass. Nabbing our jackets, she swayed around the corner to one of the sauna rooms.
I continued this approach through the entire story, so much so that, in a workshop, one student actually said that the writing reminded him of Joyce’s The Dead. Maybe I was a little heavy-handed in the first draft. After a few rounds of revision, however, I made the story a little more “mine”. I may never have gotten to completion had I not first started by first imitating Joyce.

For a better look at the process, let’s take the above passage and try it like another writer might approach it—say, Hemingway. We’ll need to keep the sentences on the shorter side, use adjectives carefully, and pay close attention to natural details. Hemingway I’m not, but being familiar with his style, this is how I think it might read if he gave it a shot:
Parking spaces were few. We made a habit of arriving last. It was my first New Year’s Eve outside of Detroit. It was only Livonia, but there is less gunfire to greet the New Year.

We parked along the curb, three houses down. Snowflakes fell on brown grass. Pretty. It seemed out of place. Walking to the house, I could see the others’ prints were already filling with new snow.

As I walked in the door, the room felt heavy. Uncle Mike and Aunt Maggie ran a sauna and massage parlor from the front of their house. Red haired and red-nosed Aunt Charlotte plopped her drink down. Liquor slid up the side of the glass. She took our jackets and cut a wide path around the corner to one of the sauna rooms.
Shorter. Tighter. More direct. Better? That’s up to the reader. The important part is that the piece is definitely different and I achieved the difference by trying to use someone else’s words to tell my story. In the end, both versions are distinctly mine.

To get started, take a piece you already have and rewrite it as your favorite writer might. This should get the words moving. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, trying rewriting Barbara Kingsolver as Don Delillo might. How would Gordon Lish present a work of John Cheever’s? There are endless combinations and they all force you to examine your words and achieve a tone. Once you get started, though, the hard part is over.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Last Supper (A Short Story)

Finding a parking space was difficult. We were always the last to arrive and the last to leave. It was my first New Year's Eve outside of Detroit, and although it was only Livonia, there is usually less Happy New Year gunfire.

We pulled up along the curb; three houses down. The snowflakes were dipdancing down to the browned grass. It was pretty. Under the circumstances, it seemed really out of place. Walking to the house, I could see where others' prints were already being filled with newfall.

I felt the heaviness as I walked through the door. Uncle Mike and Aunt Maggie owned a sauna/massage parlor that occupied the front part of the house. Aunt Charlotte, with her nose reddened to match her hair, set down her drink rather clumsily—liquor lapping up the side of her glass. Nabbing our jackets, she swayed around the corner to one of the sauna rooms.

The refreshments were being served in the lobby of the massage parlor. Ritz and cheese and relish trays laid out on a massage table. The Faygo was in one of the sauna rooms. The damp cedar smell settled in my senses. Warm. Old. The bulk of the party was back toward the house. Miles away. I poured a Styrofoam cupful and pushed myself toward the gathering.

The house was full. Kids I didn't know rolling Tonkas across the floor, playing video games and plotting schemes that inadvertently lead to small fires. Unfamiliar faces that were there for the same reason I was. And I know I'm a bastard because of it.

I cut through the crowded kitchen and found a spot in the living room with the few relatives I recognized. Most around my age-old enough to drink or almost there. I put myself in the middle of a foam green couch and suffered through the same small talk that surfaces every time. How much snow do you have in Marquette? How can you go to school 500 miles away? When are ya gonna get married? Blah blah blah blah? Et cetera, Et cetera.

The Christmas tree was still up. It was decorated with a medieval motif. Wizards and warriors, sorcerers and swords, crystal balls and castle walls. But Uncle Mike and Aunt Maggie were always that way. Two years prior, they celebrated their 25th anniversary in grand medieval fashion. The whole party in full costume. The cancer was probably just starting then.

My sister and her three-month-old son sat next to me on the couch. She let me hold him. I hugged him to my body and I could feel his heart rumpthumping against mine, its calm easy cadence—rumpthump…rumpthump…rumpthump. Slowly it drowned the sound of a houseful of Catholics motivated to celebration by escaping a sense of impending guilt.

They say Uncle Mike has until March. Rumpthump…Rumpthump. And all of these faces that I've never seen before are dutifully here ringing in the New Year. Rumpthump…Rumpthump. Exchanging phone numbers they know they'll never use. Waiting for Uncle Mike to wake his wearied body and make his grand entrance. Rumpthump…Rumpthump. So they can leave and say they were there. That they loved him.

Finding myself red-faced and swollen-eyed, I hand my nephew off to my sister. I cut through a cloud of cigarette smoke and lies, back to the massage parlor lobby. The Ritz are gone. I need some air. Some quiet.

My shoes chew the new powder lying on the sidewalk. Step, step, broken-back, step, step, broken-back. Ahead of me, a man leaves a party store with a 12-pack in his hand. Twelve lowly, robed apostles with their heads hanging. And he makes thirteen. No, Da Vinci makes thirteen. Everyone who wants to be in the picture, get on this side of the table. Judas took the last Ritz.
I step through door of the party store with a tinkling of the bell overhead. I wander around the store looking for something to buy, not wanting anything. I grab a Baby Ruth and take it to the counter. I slide a five-dollar bill under the bulletproof barrier and it's taken by a small Jewish man who looks afraid of me. He turns to the register. Tapitytapching! I leave without my change. Tinkletinkletink. Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings. The guy outside Wal-Mart has been making angels for two-weeks.

I retrace my reversed treads to the house.

Someone spilled Red Pop on the massage-table cloth. I take it to the sink and rinse the stain out. Its red swirls chase themselves down the drain. I ring it out and put it back on the table. There is quite the ruckus coming from the house. Eleven-thirty and counting.

I slipslide my way through the group of…of…are they relatives? And surprisingly, there is still a space available in the middle of the couch. Some cousins are flipping through a photo album. The picture is worth a thousand words, yet the conversation lives in two dimensions.

The handle to the room in which my Uncle Mike has been sleeping turns and the door creeks open. His deflated frame emerges from behind the door. Everyone gathers for the grand entrance. It's the moment they've been waiting for. So they can go home and not feel guilty.
His black robe hangs from knobby shoulders. Six-foot-three and he can't weigh over one-forty. A few gray hairs wisp around his weathered head. His cheekbones are so big that they bury his dark eyes in their cavernous sockets and his steps are measured and full of effort. He shakes some hands, gives popsiclestick hugs, and finally takes a seat next to me on the couch. My eyes wrap a 1996 banner over his shoulder.

-I'm so glad you could make it, Geoff, he said.
-I wouldn't miss it for anything.
-How long are you down here for?
-A few more days. I have to leave again for school on Friday.
-And today is?
-It's Sunday, Uncle Mike.
-Someday it is? It's been Someday for the last week. That's what happens when you sleep through them.
People are slowly slipping out of the house. I sit here trying to make shallow conversation, being oversensitive to his lack of faculties.

Five minutes until the New Year and someone turns on the TV. Dick Clark is in Times Square and he commands the collective conscience of the room. Somewhere in the house three little boys are chasing a cat they'll never catch catchascatchcan. And outside some gunshots are being fired by people with fast watches.

A few commercials later the clock goes on the screen. Confetti is falling in New York. And at the one-minute mark the ball starts to drop. Tick…Tick…Tick.

Rumpthump…Rumpthump…Rumpthump.

5…4…3…2…1…HAPPY NEW YEAR fills the house in one giant chorus.

People gather together and give each other hollow hugs, being careful not to spill their drinks and in unison they all begin:

“Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Be My Guest


You may have noticed a drop in my posting frequency lately. Things have been quite busy, however. I'm in the process if mixing and mastering my next CD, creating a samples/loops disc for audio production, organizing a fairly sizable compilation release from some outstanding indie musicians, and more. Indeed, the creativity is flowing everywhere at the moment.

Just not here so much.

One man's mayhem, though, is another man's opportunity - so to speak.

That's why I'm opening the invitation to some guest bloggers. I know some of you who read this blog maintain outstanding blogs of your own. I'm calling you out.

This is great for some of you who keep niche blogs, but would like to branch out a little and talk about writing, the creative process, or other ways you find to be creative.

If you are interested, please drop me a line at tappingcreativity@gmail.com. If you have a blog, please link to it so I can check you out. If you don't have a web presence, just tell me a little about yourself and we can roll from there.

C'mon, let's make some things happen!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Good Tangent Can Help Your Creativity

Tapping Creative with Creative TangentsOne of the aims of Tapping Creativity is to not only provide you with ideas to kickstart your own writing, but also help foster habits that keep your creative mind sharp at all times. This is so that when you finally sit down in front of a blank screen, your mind can help put things together with as little pain and agony as possible.

Okay, I might be dramatizing that a little, but when you've got a creative block, not much else seems worse.

In this post, we are going to talk about something I call "Rapid Tangential Thought Process" or RTTP. Like its cousin, the brainstorm, the goal of the RTTP technique is to promotes a stream of ideas mainly related to thought association. The main difference, however, is that a brainstorm follows a flat, horizontal approach that scatters ideas.
brainstorm illustration
In the Rapid Tangential Thought Process, the thought pattern is much more vertical - almost chainlike - so that one thought extends directly from the previous thought, rather than surrounding a common thought with many different thoughts. I try to extend my chain of thought to 10 links. The key in RTTP, however, is not to think too much. Move quickly from one thought to the next, trusting that your mind has a reason for creating the associations it does.

Let's take a look at an example. We'll start with the word "rug."

rug >
Oriental >
Chinese >
laundry >
folding >
cards >
sympathy >
orchestra >
whale >
blubber

Okay, in this example, you can spot the obvious connections in terms like Oriental > Chinese. But how about some of the more interesting ones like sympathy > orchestra. Clearly the word "symphony" was a synaptic cross-over somewhere. The same goes for orchestra > whale, with a subliminal "orca" in there along the way.

This chain of thought type of thinking may be new to some of you. Others whom I have shown it to have told me that is more difficult than they thought it would be at first, but got easier the more they did it. I encourage you to try it several times a day. You can do it anywhere, on paper or in your head.

Hopefully, the next time you get stuck in your creative endeavors, Rapid Tangential Thought Process can help you quickly get to the next idea that keeps your creativity flowing.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Discover Your Spirit Animal

I'm fortunate enough to work right on the Lake Michigan shoreline. One of my favorite things to do is take a break to watch the ducks. I've always had this connection with ducks. I'm envious of their ability to live on land, in water, and in the sky. Yet, they are such humble seeming animals, talented, but never flaunting. I like to think of myself as being similar.

In many Native American cultures, there is a great importance in finding your spirit animal. Native American hunters used to mimic the movements of their prey. If they were wolf hunters, they would be the wolf. Bear hunters would be the bear. In this way, they could predict the animal's movements.

One of the things I talk about in my book, Tapping Creativity, is changing your perspective - stepping outside of yourself and re-interpreting your surroundings, concerns, and motivation from a totally different perspective. In my case, as a duck, I would notice things like the grass being so much closer to my field of vision, I'd be a much better swimmer, and old people on park benches would be my best friends.

I keed. I keed. A little.

So give it a try. Observe an animal for as long as you can, even if it is just your cat. Or go take a quiz to discover your spirit animal, then write a little bit from that perspective. You might be surprised what you waddle upon.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Truth About Myths

In modern society, people often equate the term "myth" with "lie". At the very least, we allow for a myth simply to be a misunderstanding of what should seem like a logical conclusion. In the literary sense, however, the concept of myth means so much more.

In the modern age, Joseph Campbell is perhaps the world's most noted comparative mythologist. Speaking of mythology, he offered:

A whole mythology is an organization of symbolic images and narratives, metaphorical of the possibilities of human experience and the fulfillment of a given culture at a given time.
In this context, the concept of myth and mythology become of much more use to tapping creativity in your writing. Across virtually every continent and every culture, a local mythology has evolved. These mythologies show us the values and taboos of the societies from which they rose. Moreover, they collectively show us the values of humanity as a whole.

Many contemporary writers have used classic mythology to influence their works:

James Joyce: Ulysses (The Odyssey)
Thomas Pynchon: The Crying of Lot 49 (The Narcissus)
Salmon Rushdie: The Ground Beneath Her Feet (Orpheus & Eurydice)

This is just a very small sample. Each of these writers, especially Rushdie, have pulled influence directly from myths originating in the Western and Eastern worlds alike.

In movies, George Lucas has made no secret of the role of mythology in influencing the most successful movie series in history: Star Wars. And the Coen Brothers openly used names and references to The Odyssey in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

But why? Why is it that myths that are thousands of years old can still be as powerful, and exert such an influence, in today's society? Because myths, at their very core, are about humanity. They are about trials and tribulations. They are about moral conflict and transcendence.

Achilles and Arjuna both asked if war was the answer.
Odysseus and Pious Aeneas both persevered until they reached their "home".
Jesus and Buddha transcended the physical boundaries of the Universe.

To use myth in your own writing, pick two different cultures and find a common theme. Almost every mythology has a creation story. You can start there. Read these stories. Compare them. Note differences. More importantly, note similarities. Then put the pen to the page and give it a shot yourself. You don't have to write The Iliad, but grasping the concept of myth as is applies to core human values should help you in your own writing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Freestyle Living

This post is going to be somewhat informal and your writing may not even directly benefit from it. Still, something is telling me it belongs here; so here it goes.

I haven't posted in a couple of weeks, because I recently picked up some music gear. If you've been following this blog for awhile, you'll know I'm a musician in addition to being a writer. So I've been following that muse lately.

In addition, I've celebrated a wedding anniversary, spent some night holding my daughter while she has this really bad throat infection, been in a car accident that nearly totaled my car, and just taken a look at life. And that's what brings me to the heart of today's post.

This Halloween, my wife and I are trying to figure out where to take our daughter trick-or-treating. Last year, on this same date, we were homeless.

As our apartment lease expired in September, we made the decision that, if we were seriously going to move from the metro-Detroit area to somewhere in Michigan's upper peninsula or northern lower peninsula, we couldn't renew the lease. We could've paid month-to-month, but we would still be living in a comfortable environment, reducing our drive to move north.

So we moved all of our stuff into a storage unit, and moved into the Extended Stay in Madison Heights, Michigan. We hit job boards and classifieds hard every night. I drove our minivan back and forth to my job at a Fortune 500 company...with our essential belongings in the back.

We spent all of last October and most of November (essentially) homeless. I wasn't jobless, so that helped, but we rolled the dice and decided that we were going to make it work if we had to. We took our little girl trick-or-treating in our old Rochester Hills neighborhood, drove by our old digs - where someone else was living - and then drove back to the Extended Stay.

At the end of November, I was offered a position with an amazing internet marketing firm. I've never been so happy with a job, either. I can honestly say that I believe completely in the abilities of every single one of my co-workers. I've lived in 4 places since last year at this time, all of them beautiful places along the shores of Lake Michigan. Right now, the Lake Michigan shoreline is about 50 yards out my back door. And my daughter will grow up in a much more beautiful place than I did.

Was it easy? No. Not always.

But I'm soooo much happier now. And I've got new stories I can tell.

So, the moral? Take a chance. Do something that seems a little crazy. Throw caution to the wind. (Insert cliche here). If you win, everybody loves a happy ending. If you lose, people enjoy a story of perseverance even more.

Until next time, go switch up your routine. And listen to my latest masterpiece while your at it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tagging Creativity

It's been said on this blog before that creativity is often a matter of seeing the same things as everyone else, but seeing them differently. It's also been said that necessity is the mother of invention. (Or was that Frank Zappa?) Either way, both of those concepts bring us to today's post on Tagging Creativity.

While written communication is a great tool, it has never really been able to replace face-to-face communication and the non-verbal cues that go with speaking to another person directly. Well, it used to be that way anyway.

Tagging Creativity uses traditional html tags to add additional information to written communications.

Let's look at some examples:
<fingers crossed>Could you give me a ride home after work?</fingers crossed>

<sarcasm>If I do, it will only continue to encourage your pain-in-the-assitude.</sarcasm>

(Yes, you can make up words, too.)

Here's another:
<genuine inquisitiveness>Have you read Geoff's book, Tapping Creativity, yet?</genuine inquisitiveness>

<with guilty regret>Not yet. Is it any good?</with guilty regret>

<barely containing pants-wetting enthusiasm>It's fantastic. There are so many good ideas in there!</barely containing pants-wetting enthusiasm>

<wringing hands>I think that should be my next purchase.</wringing hands>

No need to go on all day. You're a smart cookie; you get the idea. So take it and run. Use it wherever you want to spice up your writing.

Just remember that when your friends ask you where you learned it, send 'em my way.

Toodles.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

That's the Spirit

For as long as humans have been able to contemplate their own existence, there has been a religious movement to explain our existence, social expectations, afterlife, and path to redemption. Hundreds of religions and mythologies exist today, each different (by varying degrees) from the other. One thing they all have in common, however, is their dedication to helping us navigate through this earthly day-to-day and all of the uniquely human trials and tribulations that go with it.

I was introduced to the works of comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell right around the time I was taking a course on world religion. Between the two, I became enthralled (and a little overwhelmed) by the differences, and moreover, the similarities of cultural mythologies. I dove into religious texts. I re-read The Bible, The Koran, The Upanishads, The Dhammapadda, the Tao Te Ching, the Book of Mormon, the Teachings of Confucius and any other text I could find. Never once, however, did I think to keep a log of my reading.

Since that time, I’ve gone back and started re-reading all of the sacred books again; only this time, I’m reading more slowly and taking notes. As I read parables, I write down summaries and try to apply the lessons of parables to my own life. I take the verses from Eastern texts and “translate” them into a contemporary, and sometimes more detailed form, and apply them to my life.

I slowly find some answers, and not from just one source. While this practice may be considered by some as heretical—or at the very least “misguided”—it helps me make it through hard times, find the beauty in all things, be thankful for what I have, and be more forgiving of others. Of all the extended exercises I practice, none of the other helps me on a personal level so much as this one. Some of the thoughts that surface in my journal make it into stories, but more often than not, they help me keep my mind clear of the daily clutter so I can focus my writing. Be it humor, drama, or editorial in nature, the trivial seems to fall out of the work leaving the real issues to be addressed.

I’m currently in the process of writing a novel involving three separate plotlines that revolve around these central questions:

  • What is the nature of love?
  • What circumstance could make one person hurt another in the name of love?
  • Can love ultimately heal all wounds?

The story itself is not what I’d call romantic. It involves dissolving marriages, a character who is not able to have children and wants nothing more that to do just that, and a dying man taking a trip back through his life and reliving his most precious memories while his daughter sits by his deathbed trying to inwardly reconcile her relationship with her father over something that happened years ago.

The work stems directly from my own contemplation of the above-mentioned questions in relation to the accepted notions of love as presented to society by our sacred texts. Without the background reading, I doubt the project would ever have gotten started.

For you to start, I recommend working outside of The Bible at first. Many of us in the Western world are familiar with The Bible and may already have preconceived notions that influence our readings. Try something smaller with shorter passages like the Tao Te Ching. Most passages are anywhere from four to twenty lines long. This makes them small enough to digest and work with, but you’ll see that small on content can be very big on meaning.

Start with one passage a day and focus on that passage. Move on to another one when you are ready. Don’t feel like you need to do one every day. Remember life’s a journey, not a destination. Feel free to make a few stop along the way and enjoy the view; your writing will be stronger because of it.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Mood Music

It's October and Halloween is near. While we normally associate holiday music with the end of December, Halloween certainly brings its own brand of spooktacular sounds. Collectively, these jingles, songs, and sound effects create a distinct mood during this time of year. As a writer, that makes a difference.

If you have been following this blog for any period of time, you know I'm also a musician and I put a lot of stock in the power of music to influence our writing. To that end, I suggest an album called This House Has No Light. It's my debut CD as my alter ego scarecrow. As a soundtrack disc, it is written with story telling in mind. It's a darker CD, perfect for this time of year.

Here is the first single: The Hustle.


For other articles on music and writing, check out: Hyper Balladeers and Write Like the Beatles.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Monkeying Around with Juxtaposition

You've got a story that needs some spicing up. Perhaps you've started with a great idea, then it lost its way. Perhaps you've got a great character, but you don't have situations for her. Plot pitfalls like this happen all the time.

For instance, your character could've had enough at work and told her boss to shove it in a scene that has working women all over shouting, "You go girl!" We're talking about a real glory quit. She heads home to face a future that is very different from the one she woke up to. You, however, have no idea what that is yet.

As she turns the key to her apartment and steps inside, though, she finds this:



That's juxtaposition, baby!

The last thing she expects is a giant silverback gorilla bashing the skins to a Phil Collins song. That's interesting. Why? Because we, as writers, will want to know what happens next. And so will your readers.

Characters are defined by how they react to situations. Readers go through these vicarious experiences with characters. When you use juxtaposition to introduce unlikely elements to a story - be they new characters, new events, or new whatevers - you have the chance to hook readers and let your character grow.

And sometimes, you might even stumble into a story that is more interesting than the one you started with.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

StumbleUpon is a Goldmine for Writers

I’ve always been one to view social media sites with a certain amount of reserve. After all, I’m 32. Myspace sort of feels like someone else’s space, if you know what I mean. Digg has a bit of an elitist attitude. I like Reddit, even though the interface could be more intuitive. And del.icio.us is better as a utility than as a social scene.

StumbleUpon, on the other hand. Well, now we’re talkin’!

Right before Facebook became the social network du jour a month ago, StumbleUpon was getting mad press! Most of it was from bloggers writing posts on how they got about 7 bazillion visits from StumbleUpon within mere minutes of “stumbling” their own post. So, of course, I had to get in on that action. Well, my traffic has gone up a little bit, (10-15 visit a day) since I became active at StumbleUpon. What I got in return, however, has been far more valuable than traffic.

I’ve found StumbleUpon to be a tremendous resource as a writer. Most often, this comes in the form of inspiration and information. Please indulge me and my blatant overuse of italicized text.

StumbleUpon for Inspiration :: The Pictures

One of the most unique features of StumbleUpon is the ability for users to photoblog. Many users focus almost solely on seeking out magnificent and awe-inspiring pictures. If you’ve followed Tapping Creativity for a little while now, you’ll know I’m a big fan of Writing to a Snapshot. Some stumblers have made it an artform, however.

When you are stuck for an idea, check out two of my favorite photostumblers: TeapotFox and Fantm. Their choice is images is, without a doubt, enough to generate something creative. If not, you need to check your pulse. Pick an image from either of their blogs and use it to get started. Some stumblers also write poetry to the images they stumble. And most of it is very good. In some cases, the seeds to a much bigger story have been sewn. All you have to do is start watering it.

StumbleUpon for Inspiration :: The People

More than any blog or tagging system alone can do, StumbleUpon allows you to get a pretty good idea about a person, quickly. This helps not only in finding other cool people, but also in learning how to flesh out characters in your own writing.

For instance, Caile-girl is, what I would consider, an ideal stumbler from whom to learn. Her stumbles shine on their own. They also, however, show the range of a real (and interesting) person who shows lots of moods and sarcasm. And Perko shows a range in his stumbles that encompass a wide variety of interests from the arts and sciences, but show a common thread throughout. Checking out his stumbles is like reading a Don DeLillo book. And I love me some Don DeLillo.

StumbleUpon for Information

You will find experts in every conceivable field on StumbleUpon. I have a special affinity for some subjects, such as social media optimization. Do you? If so, check out Msaleem-stumbl. His stumbles are a veritable encyclopedia on the subject. Looking for a slew of information on socio-political current events? Try Poeticsweetnss. Her stumbles are like the best newspaper you’ll find – provided you lean a little to the left. Of course, you can always find me there, too. I post a lot of stuff about writing (surprise) and music.

Do any of you use social media to find inspiration for your creative inspiration? If so, by all means, drop a comment to share.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What Color is Your Plane?

Today's post is a guest post from Jim Moon of jimmoon.com.

Many people are intimidated by the use of creativity and imagination within their day to day lives.

Their days become bland and existence just becomes commonplace. I learned a while ago that if you try and interject a little creativity and imagination into your day to day activities, life becomes much easier and enjoyable.

It is very disheartening to me when I hear people claim the they are not talented, or creative. How can you not be creative in one way or another?

A few years ago I learned the true meaning of creativity and imagination from the most unlikely place. One rainy day I went to the mall to pick up a few things, and I would have never imagined, that from this trip I would learn the true meaning of imagination and creativity.

When I parked my car, it was raining pretty hard, so I figured I would wait it out for a few minutes. After the rain slowed, I decided to make a run for the doors, without my umbrella.

Once I was at the door, I was greeted by a friend; we talked for a while and then she left. While standing there, I noticed a mother and her small child, probably about four years old. Both of them had umbrellas and were standing in the rain. The mom was protected from the rain under her umbrella, but the girl had her umbrella in front of her with the handle to her belly, and was twirling it.

The girl was pretending to be an airplane, flying around in circles, twirling her umbrella furiously like the propeller of the plane. The whole time she was describing the plane she was flying to her mom, pointing out all the details: the tires, the wings, and the color of the plane. Then she asked her mom:

“What is the color of your plane?”

In my head, it clicked that this the true untainted meaning of imagination, from a 4 year old. I asked myself that same question: “What is the color of my plane?”

I couldn’t answer.

As we grow into adults, we often forget how to imagine, or how to be creative because we don’t allow ourselves that freedom. We tend to believe there is no place in adulthood for story time or make believe. It’s all business.

This is where we are wrong. When we allow ourselves to imagine and be creative, it actually strengthens our ability to create.

Next time you’re in the rain with your umbrella, put the handle to your belly and ask yourself: “What color is my plane?”

Thanks for reading…

Jim Moon

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tapping Creativity by Writing Erotica


Here's a freebie. The following is an excerpt from my book, Tapping Creativity.

Most often creativity comes from stepping outside your normal approach to writing and dabbling in something different. With its dominance in the life of so many adults, it might be beneficial to try your hand at erotica. Although erotica is not the easiest genre to poke around in, the rewards of a well-worked piece will add a new dimension to your writing.

While I don’t claim to be a fine writer of erotica, I’ve sunk enough into it to know it can be hard. The one big advantage of this particular style to writers who’ve never tried penetrating it before is that each time can be a unique experience and, like its real life counterpart, it is only limited my your imagination.

From the writings of the Marquis de Sade to DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, nothing seems to stir the pot of the literary police quite like erotica, be it crude and vulgar or elegant and highbrow. In your own experimenting, feel free to write to whatever level you wish. Maybe you’re a fairly conservative person who would like to challenge yourself by really pushing the limits of your comfort. Perhaps you’re quite outspoken and detail-oriented in your personal life and would like to be more subtle and intriguing on the page.

I try to show examples of my own work as a way to illustrate the possibilities of the exercise. This time I’m going to pull out, though. I want you to also be able to write in this style without the fear of someone looking over your shoulder. Writing free of inhibitions will produce more convincing episodes. So this time, I won’t show you mine and you won’t have to show me—or anybody else—yours, if you so choose.

Something to keep in mind is this: like every other event that happens to your characters, however, adult scenes should be used to further your story rather than gratuitous episodes to simply fill pages. Again, as in real life, intimacy is often affected by other situations. Keep some of these in mind:

• What is the relationship of the persons involved? (e.g., age, married, affair?)

• Where is it happening? (e.g., hotel room, dorm, in car, on a NYC rooftop during the Macy’s parade?)

• What is your perspective? (first-person, omniscient, peeping tom?)

• What happens after?

• How will the answer to the previous question influence the scene?

Whichever highway your pen leads you down, just remember that the ability to write adult scenes appropriate to your story simply puts another tool in your box. And I can’t think of other writing exercises that wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

This final installment of The Lonely Writer series is a short one. After all, if you have put the previous five lessons into place, this sixth one should evolve naturally. I call it: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts.

The previous steps were designed to help you learn how to deal with physical, mental, and chemical habits that can get in the way of writing and be preventive in tapping creativity. As we learn to train ourselves to be comfortable in the solitary act of writing, we are opening a sort of channel into our creative core.

Have you ever been into a story and felt like it was writing itself? Like you were just writing down a story that was unfolding on its own? That is the ultimate state of being for a creative writer. You are in the zone. Your mind and body are not wandering to other tasks, and you need not be talking to yourself to correct those actions. You are one with your creative self and letting the words flow forth.

Many published writers will vow that they treat book writing just like an office job. They set hours. They have special places to write. They get into a routine. This routine helps promote all of the hazards we have discussed in this series, so they don't have to think about anything else. They can sit down, and open up the creativity. They keep working, letting bad writing come out with the good. And when they are done, they do the other things in their lives that need getting done.

I'm curious now. Have any of your been in the zone recently? If so, can you recall how those sessions may have differed from other normal times? Perhaps, together, we can lean on each other and share some ideas to help each other embrace this life - the life of The Lonely Writer.

The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction
The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment
The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity
The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline
The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire

Throughout other posts in this series, we've talked about fighting distractions that take us away from the writing process. Sometimes it's being over-critical of our work. Sometimes it's letting our attention wander to other places (i.e., television, 'net surfing). Sometimes it's letting our bodies wander by trying to do other task at the same time as writing (i.e., laundry, soaking the dishes). This type of wandering is a sort of horizontal movement when we are looking for something vertical. We want to go deeper in our ideas, not spread our concentration over multiple tasks.

That brings us to Part 5 of this series :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire.

Tapping Creativity means changing your perspective. This can take time, as our perspectives are usually cultivated by years of experience. Maintaining focus and writing about a subject, problem, or theme until you've exhausted it will usually get you deeper into it. Still, there are shortcuts that can come from wandering in the world of desire.

Art has a long history of substance abusers. Some were brilliant not in spite of their addiction, but because of them. We'd be naive to believe otherwise. And its easy to see how it could happen. Alcohol does relax the editor on your shoulder and let you write more freely. Drugs will alter your perceptions and perspectives.

For how long, though?

When we are stuck in the creative process, it is easy to wander in the world of desire to find help. That's a dangerous candle to burn, however. As those things can cause a physical addiction, they can also cause a crippling creative dependency. Just as drugs and alcohol can help to get more (and different) writing out, so to can they make you think that if you stop, you won't be able to be creative anymore. And that can put you in a worse spot than you were to begin with.

I would argue that it is more beneficial to sit at the keys and not write a single word for months than to wander in the world of desire with the sole goal of finding help for your creative struggles. Much attention is given to the woes of drugs and alcohol, but I feel this is one area that is overlooked.

Drugs and alcohol are only the most obvious examples. Any time we turn away from ourselves and rely on something that isn't directly related to creativity in the name of promoting creativity, we move further away from our goal, subsequently making it more difficult to take our writing to another level the natural way...with focus, dedication, and practice.

The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction
The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment
The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity
The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline
The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline

This is the fourth part of the series "The Lonely Writer". At this point I would like to recap why this series is called The Lonely Writer, because this installment on complete discipline is directly relevant.

Writers sometime struggle in tapping creativity because the act of writing, unlike many of the things we do in life, is a solitary practice. Nobody does your writing for you; you alone are responsible. And to be completely honest, sometimes that's a tall order...one that can get in the way of your writing.

When we speak of complete discipline, however, it can be easily confused with punishment, parenting, or even pain. The type of discipline we are talking about here, though, has to deal with the ability to focus and follow through. In any solitary event, sometimes the mind can wander. Sometimes the body starts to wander as well. For instance, how many times have you been writing something and, before you knew it, you were watching the television...or surfing the internet...or IMing with someone?

These things happen. Writing is a lonely practice, you don't have someone there to work with you in maintaining focus. That is why complete discipline takes on such an important role in writing and your ability to tap your creativity. When you take your eye off the ball, so to speak, you lose focus and the next thing you know, you end up like Theo Huxtable.



Theo is using the excuse of being normal to make it alright to not be as accomplished as his parents. His father, however, knows that Theo's excuse is bunk and makes it clear to Theo that doing your best leads to success. Making excuses for why it's okay to not stay focused and try harder is unacceptable. Doing your best, and showing complete discipline in what you do is what will lead to success...however you define success.

So how do you exercise complete discipline? After all, that's what this post is all about, right?

Simple.

Whenever you notice your mind start to wander, bring your focus back to the writing. Whenever you find yourself sitting at the keys and looking over your screen at the television, bring your focus back to the writing. Whenever you find yourself getting up to start a load of laundry or setting up the coffee maker, bring your focus back to the writing. It doesn't have to be painful, and you don't have to get down on yourself. It can take practice. Complete discipline is the ability to stay on task and always keep coming back when you wander.

This will get more writing done. And, as you know, writing is like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. It also makes tapping creativity easier.

Related Posts:
The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction
The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment
The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity
The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

Monday, September 17, 2007

Oh no! Not the Blog!

I'm not naive. I know a lot of you who read this blog also hold down day jobs in the corporate world. Indeed, for most writers, it's the most accessible way to pay the bills with your writing.

I try to keep this blog separate from my day job, but I wrote a blog post over there that I think is worth sharing. And rather than re-write the whole thing, I'll just put as link to it: When Not to Blog.

Although it written with the corporate blogger in mind, I think those of you who keep a blog of any kind will also find some useful bits in there.

And by the way, while you are over there, feel free to leave some comments, or stumble it, or digg it, or delicify it, or reddit it, or whatever... I'm just sayin' is all.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Changing your Perspective

Creativity isn't some magic ability that some people have and some people don't. Creativity is simply the ability to look at the same thing everybody else is looking at, but see something a little (or a lot) different. And anybody can do it.

I'll admit, some people are naturally inclined to look at things differently; it's just the way they are wired. It does not mean, however, that those people are more creative than you are. Sometimes the key to seeing something different from what others are seeing is in learning how to look at things differently.

For instance, take notion of perspective. The closer or further you are from something, the more you tend to notice things that others do not. In your own writing, try changing perspective.

Moving from third-person to first person brings a distinct closeness to situations. Moving the other way offers a broader, more objective view. Switching characters presents a different scenario as well. What would the story of The Wizard of Oz be like it was told from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West, or The Cowardly Lion, or even the ruby slippers? Parades look different when you are watching them from the street than they do when you are watching them from a building.

When you get stuck, or if you are thinking up a new way to approach a piece of writing, trying changing perspective and see what happens. It's a good way to start tapping creativity.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity

The Japanese poet, Ryokan wrote, "If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things."

Thank about that for a minute. How many things are you chasing? And I'm not even talk about the abstracts of inner peace or more good hair days. I'm talking about the practical things: housecleaning, shuttling the kids around, home or car maintenance, etc. Sometimes we are just juggling too much, and too many of the wrong things.

Do you keep "to do" lists? I bet you do.

We all do.

And when you are sitting down to write, are you thinking about your "to do" list? I bet you do sometimes, especially when the words aren't coming out as quickly as you would like. So what do we do?

We multi-task!

We think, "Well, I can at least throw in a load of laundry." Then we do it and go sit back down.

Then we think, "I could probably fill the sink and let the dishes soak while I write." Then we do it and go sit back down.

Then we think, "I should probably get the coffee maker set for tomorrow morning before I forget about it." Then we do it and go sit back down.

Then we think, "If I'm saving time with the coffee maker, I should probably lay out my clothes for tomorrow, too." Then we do it and go sit back down.

And how much of this is getting writing done? None of it.

How much of it can wait? Usually, all of it can.

How much writing got done? Exactly.

This is, in general, what our lives have become. We rush from one activity to another. And all of the new gadgets we get make it easier to keep doing it. And they sell it all to us as if it is a good thing. We don't need gadgets to let us do more. What we really need to do is stop, take a breath, and realize which activities are unnecessary, the stop doing those things. For writers, it starts with prioritizing and avoiding activity that is unnecessary while we are writing. If this isn't enough, then you need to look at parts of your life, in comparison to writing, and make some decisions. And you know the decisions, I'm talking about.

This becomes especially important when the writing is slow. Don't ever feel like inactive time at the keyboard is wasted time or time that could be spent doing something else...something unnecessary. Indeed, it is often these times when everything stops, and we are not pre-occupied with doing unnecessary things, that the best ideas start coming to the surface. When that happens, you are at the start of tapping creativity.

Related Posts:
The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction
The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment
The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline
The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Creativity Taps Creativity


Today, over at copyblogger, guest blogger, Michael Stelzner of Writing White Papers asked the question, "Who inspires you to write?"

I responded with a list of my favorite writers (Rushdie, Delillo, Wallace Stevens) and some of my favorite musicians as well. Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know I'm also a musician and draw upon music to influence my own writing often. In fact, I do it here and here.

Today, I want to point out the power of creativity across different forms of media.

I have a very eclectic musical pallet. And among my favorite songs, you'll find selections from Prince and Peter Gabriel. My favorite all-time song, however, is a fairly obscure song called "Skin and Atmosphere" by the band 36 Crazyfists. It poses great dynamics of loud/soft and noisy/quiet. Lyrically, the tale is one of love... to some degree.

I've had the notion to write the story of this song for a few years. While searching for a video to the song on YouTube, I found one made by a film student. His take is different than mine, but now I want to write the story line in his video.

Here's a look.



I tout the power of borrowing from other art forms to help tap your own creativity. This is a prime example of film borrowing from song. And I think it is a better example than an MTV music video, because it was done with attention to the meaning of the song, not just big budgets and flash.

So who inspires me? I'm guess I'm inspired by others who push into new creative territory. It doesn't have to be a particular artist. Creativity taps creativity.

Get tapping.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment

This is the second installment of the Lonely Writer series. Last time we talked about how the desire for resolution (however we define resolution when we sit down) in a piece of writing can sabotage our writing effort. Since writing is a solitary endeavor, we alone control our experience. Less desire when we write is the first step in that process.

The second step is: Contentment.

It's an old adage: When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. This is contentment in a nutshell. People often look at contentment as an overwhelming satisfaction with life. I tend to be on the side of the fence that believes, if you've got nothing to lose, you are actually in a pretty good spot. When you are content - when you have nothing to lose - you are more free to write without reservation and take those chances that allow you to grow as a writer.

How do we fall into the the trap of non-contentment? This usually happens when we sit down to write and our ego comes along. Your ego is also known as that little editor on your shoulder, the one who tells you when something is not right, needs to be rewritten, or is just not as good as you are capable of doing. We've all been there. And as much as I am aware of it in my own writing, it still creeps up.

To achieve contentment in your own writing, you need to allow yourself to "make mistakes". When you do this, you are also giving yourself permission to venture into new territory. Will you turn out some stuff that is ... well ... not great? Absolutely. You will also, by default, be turning out more material, which, in itself, is an improvement over not writing anything because you are afraid you have something to lose by not creating work that you feel meets your own standards. Sometimes, if you are not careful, you may just write something amazing that you wouldn't have written before. I think that's worth the trade-off; don't you?

Next time you write, be content just to write. Check your ego at the door. Let the words come out. And if they need work when you are done, then fix them up later. That's why we have drafts of writing.

Next time, we will talk about how avoiding unnecessary activity can help you keep churning out the words and growing as a writer.

Related Posts:
The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction
The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity
The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline
The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire

In this first installment of The Lonely Writer series, I would like to talk about desire. In particular, I would like to talk about the way desire impacts writers in terms of resolution.

Desire is not something that is unique to writing or writers at all. In general, our main goal for taking action is to achieve a desired resolution. I would say that in most cases, the resolution desired prompts the action in the first place.

Resolution = having the bills paid. Action = going to work.

You get the idea.

The desire for resolution is magnified when we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations. We try to end arguments by leaving or yelling louder. When we get overcharged for an item, we go to customer service or quietly suck it up and let it gnaw at us inside a little.

As it applies to writing, many writers get anxious when they are sitting at the keyboard and the words aren't coming out. Sometimes the anxiety manifests when the words are coming out, but they're the wrong words. In both cases, frustration can ensue because the desired resolution is not being reached.

So what do we do? We go over to check in on our StumbleUpon friends. We start scanning our favorite blogs. We thumb through a magazine.

And none of this gets any writing done. In actuality, it doesn't get much of anything done. And in the end, the desire for resolution has led to no resolution at all. To make it all worse, the willingness to sit at the keyboard and write again can also be diminished.

It's an old adage that the successful writers are the ones who put their asses in seats, and keep them there. This also means approaching writing with less desire for a particular resolution. If you get 4,000 words, that's great. If you get none, that's okay, too. When you approach your writing time with less desire, you give yourself permission to simply exist in the moment for what it is, rather than trying too hard to make it something it is not.

When you can simply approach writing without the desire for a set resolution, you get closer to tapping creativity on a regular basis. Desire for resolution creates a barrier. When you write with less desire, you can get past that barrier. In the end, you are likely to end up achieving better results, and achieving them more frequently.

This doesn't happen overnight, as the desire for resolution has been a lifetime in the building. When you are aware of writing with less desire, however, you are well on your way.

Related Posts :
The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction
The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment
The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity
The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline
The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Lonely Writer :: An Introduction

While writing my recent posts about Fearless Writing, I also realized that sometimes the thing that keeps us from truly tapping creativity and letting it flourish in our writing is the solitary nature of writing. When it gets down business, you have to do it for yourself. That can be a daunting task.

Humans, by nature, are a social lot. Being alone, and projecting the fruits of that loneliness can get in the way of productive writing. After all, how many times have you found yourself with alone time, and planned on getting a lot of writing done, but squandered that time when it arrived? And how many times was it spent doing things that weren't as important or fulfilling to you?

My guess is that some of you are nodding right now.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting a six-part series of posts on the ability to embrace this lonely activity of writing, using this ability to tap your creativity, and perhaps even learn a little more about yourself in the process.

The working titles for these posts are as follows:

The Lonely Writer Part 1 :: Less Desire

The Lonely Writer Part 2 :: Contentment
The Lonely Writer Part 3 :: Avoiding Unnecessary Activity
The Lonely Writer Part 4 :: Complete Discipline
The Lonely Writer Part 5 :: Not Wandering in the World of Desire
The Lonely Writer Part 6 :: Not Seeking Security from Discursive Thoughts

I greatly encourage comments on these posts. This is an idea I've been playing with for a little while, and I'm curious as to whether others will identify with these topics.

Until then, keep the fingers on the keys.