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 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 >

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.