Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Comparison as Development

Oh Monday, why are you so persistent?

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When I read a book, whether it’s in my genre or not, I constantly think about what I would have done differently. I don’t mean that in a critical way. I mean that I wonder whether I would have included certain details, whether I would have expanded some sections, what my own word choice would have been. It’s not a criticism of the author, it’s an exploration of myself. I wonder how different the book would be if I’d written it, what differentiates me from the author I’m reading.

Exploring differences is just as important as exploring similarities, only differences define you more clearly. They draw a line, whether a thin one or a thick one, between you and thousands of others in your genre. Thinking about what a book would have been if someone else had written it, or what a movie would have become if someone else had acted in it or directed it, is all part of expanding your creativity and your artistry. The more you can say, “I would have done it this way,” the clearer your own style becomes. And the more you can say that and still see why the author chose to do it the way they did – well, the broader your view, the more distinctive your own voice becomes.

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Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Creativity is a Drug

Alright, Monday, let’s do this.

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I think all creative people can relate to this quote from the incredible producer/director/writer/editor (etc.) Cecil B. DeMille. I find that even if my anxiety about writing returns, once I get going, I can’t stop, and then I can’t wait until the next time I can write, whether it’s in the next hour or the next week. I practically count down the hours until I can create again. That’s also the reason I take notes throughout the day on all my works, including current works in progress and ones far down the line. When I’m away from my computer, I take notes in notebooks, my phone, and voice recordings – whichever is most convenient. If I put off my ideas for too long, either they stop coming or I get into a really nasty mood that you don’t want to see.

Creativity is one addiction I will never let go. If I did, not only would I be permanently miserable, but I would have no direction to my life. It sounds extreme, but without the outlet of creativity, without imagination driving me, my sense of purpose would also disappear. Such is the life of a writer.

 

Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Ditching Clichés

Aaaaand we’re back from the weekend. Happy Monday!

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I think this quote is true of success in general, but creativity in particular blooms from original thoughts about the same old thing. In particular, think about descriptions.

There are so many clichés out there, so many overused phrases that we accept in every single book. It’s really special when I read a description of someone frowning, or a gesture, or even a color in a way I’ve never read before.

As a writer, sometimes I think, “Well, how else am I supposed to describe a frown?” Really there is an uncountable number of ways, but we tend to automatically feel cornered into clichés like “brows knitted together” or “eyebrows drawn into a V” because they’re what we’re used to – pre-approved and always understood. Creativity is looking at simple things like that and turning them into something that works off the ambiance of the scene, the situation, or the personality of the character: “She didn’t frown – it was too harsh an expression for her, too base and unattractive. Instead, her face remained an unreadable stone, even blank where natural creases should have been.” Here we learn something about the character’s personality (self-righteous and cold), what she thinks of others who frown (vulgar), what she thinks of herself for not frowning (attractive and well bred), and her looks (wrinkle-free skin).

Creativity is thinking outside the box – way outside the box – so that everything comes alive in 3D ways you can practically reach out and touch.