creativity

The tides of change are flowing

Things are changing around the dusty corners of this creative mind.  I can feel this change beginning to happen and it’s exciting to be aware of it from such an early stage.  Normally, we don’t get to know about these changes until we’re (apparently all of a sudden) hit with the urge to create, and we tend to think that this urge has just hit us out of nowhere.  Now I know this isn’t so, that the conduit through which the creative urge flows, takes time to be built.  Not much time, but time nonetheless

In the past, I have ‘suddenly’ got an idea for a story.  I then write down this basic thought in a notebook and keep it for when the time is right to actually write it.  When that time arrives, I ‘just know’ that it’s now time to write this story, and I get on with it.  I  have had no awareness of anything going on during these intervals of time, or during the time leading up to the initial ‘idea hit’.

Now things are different, and I’m being made aware of the very first seeds of creation being sown, and I know that one day, the result will be a story, a book, and that book will be the culmination of the changes that are just now beginning.  I have yet to experience the ‘idea hit’, that is yet to come, but when it does, I will know and think, “ahh, this is because of…………………”

Maybe it’s the muse taking pity on me and deciding to let me in on the bit he normally does on his own, I don’t know but it’s exciting.

My mind is being ‘called’ to take notice of things I have never taken much interest in before.  I’m feeling compelled to watch certain movies, and I know it’s because they contain things that will help me develop a future story.  The first two of these are 2001 and 2010, both classic space operas.  I had some difficulty getting hold of 2001, but thanks to a great friend Paul (thanks buddy) I was able to watch it and I know why I had to watch it.  Today I watched 2010 and although I’m not totally sure what nugget of gold this one has for me, I do know it’s not the same one that 2001 has.  All will become clear in the fullness of time.  I also know I have to watch Doom, probably several times over, and again, I do know why and what I’m looking for.  I have this movie on DVD and luckily, it’s one of my favourites, so I won’t mind at all.

All I know at this moment, is that it will be a classic space opera and will take place entirely in a space ship.  The protagonists will be a unit of soldiers, and a highly sophisticated computer will star alongside them.  I even know the main protagonist’s name,  that was one that came to me ages ago, which is written in my ‘little purple book’ of ideas.  I’ve no idea whether this will be a stand alone or a series, although my educated guess is a stand alone.  I have no title as yet, but I do know that it will come while I’m writing it.

Writing has always been an intuitive process for me, but I’ve never before been party to the build up that lays the foundations for the story.  This is a first for me, and it’s wonderful to be a part of.  I’ve no idea why my muse is letting me in on this initial foundation laying process, but I’m very happy that he is.  Maybe it’s a new muse taking over, one who likes to do things differently.

There have been other changes here too lately.  I wrote some time ago that I decided to do another anthology of short stores, only this one would be paranormal rather than horror.  I have a couple of them done, and I started another, which I planned to be around 4k words.  Well that story is now at 12k and has no intention of finishing yet, so I’m now writing a paranormal novel that I never planned to write. Who’da thunk?

One week ago, on Ash Wednesday actually, I gave up smoking.  I’m getting pangs of course, but my new best friend is my nicorette inhalator and it’s helping me stay on the wagon so far.  Maybe without the poison of smoking, my creative mind can now see further, and maybe my muse can now reach me more easily, I don’t know.

Change is happening, and change is good.

Ideas and Inspiration – How do you find them?

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That moment when a fantastic idea for a plot line drops into your head is one of the most wonderful moments in a writer’s life.  On a par with that moment when you write “The End” or when you notice you’ve made another sale, when inspiration comes knocking, your mind explodes like a firework display.  Time stands still, everything around fades to mist, and your imagination suddenly takes off at near light speed as you see this initial idea suddenly grow and blossom inside your head.  I may be over dramatising it but that’s what it’s like for me.

As time goes on and I write more, these mind blowing moments happen more often and more easily.  I’m at the point now, where I can almost make them happen simply by looking at something with a certain questioning  attitude at the forefront of my mind.  For instance, just now I saw a commercial on TV that showed three women singing, (it was for insurance).  I decided to find out if I could come up with a plot idea, so I watched the advert and mentally asked myself, “what could I make out of this?”  Immediately, I realised that I could base a story around a woman (or man), who comes from a planet where their voices have a much larger vocal range than humanoids from earth.  This person could have developed their voice so that when they sing at the certain wavelength, the sound has a strange effect upon anyone listening, rendering them into a state much like that of light trance.  He/she could then either commit some crime and disappear, or commit a  crime and then continue singing on a different wavelength so that listeners would have no memory of him/her doing anything other than singing a song, thereby getting away with murder or some other crime.

That whole process took me less than ten seconds, and you can do it too, with a little practice.

TV commercials are great sources of plot ideas, because they are already little stories in themselves.  Next time you see a commercial, pay full attention to it and ask yourself a question – “what is the first thing about it that grabs my attention?”  In my case, it was the singing, but it could be the landscape, the way a person looks, what they’re doing, anything.  Whatever it is, remember it and then ask another question – how could I use that landscape/appearance/action etc,  in a story?  Of course, you will have to think in terms of your own genre, and maybe it’s easier for me as a science fiction writer.  I can invent stuff and allow some things that would not fit into, say, historical romance for instance, but the principle is the same.  Pay attention to what you’re seeing and hearing and ask yourself the questions.  This will teach your subconscious mind to practice being imaginative with less stimulus.

You can do this anywhere and in any situation.  I like listening to people’s conversations, and quite often I will hear something in the supermarket that gives me an idea.  Again, ask yourself  “how can that statement be used in a plot?”

Just to prove that this works for any genre, I’ve just watched a commercial for a supermarket chain.  It showed two very famous celebrities going shopping in a market, talking to the stallholders and admiring the produce (meat, vegetables, fruit, bread etc).  I asked myself “how can this be used for a romance story?”   Immediately I see two strangers, a man and a woman, going shopping on a rainy day.  The woman is stressed and is rushing to the market to find something for dinner.  The man is happy and is wandering around trying to find something for his dinner.  The man has just moved into the area and has great plans for his life, whereas the woman has a job she hates and is bored with her life.  They both arrive at a stall selling meat, to find the stallholder has just one fresh chicken left.  Both want the chicken, and the man, noticing how stressed the woman is, lets her buy it and goes elsewhere.  Later, the woman arrives home to her apartment to find the same man has just moved into the apartment next door.  They get talking and, well you can take the story from there.

I don’t write romance, I don’t like romance, but I have just come up with a perfectly serviceable romance plot from a TV commercial.  If I can do it, anyone can do it.  All it needs is a slight alteration in the way you observe everything, and a willingness to mentally interact with what you’re observing.

Trust your subconscious, let it work for you.  You have the ability to be creative, all you need to do is access that ability.

Where is the creativity?

Now that self publishing has become the norm, everybody and their uncle are writing books.  It’s wonderful that the book we were always told was inside every one  of us can now be brought into being so easily and that everyone has an equal chance of leaving a creative legacy to the universal consciousness long after they’ve gone.  All those unrealised geniuses of the written word now have a means with which to let their talent blossom.

The problem is that not everyone is a genius wordsmith and many who really shouldn’t be writing, are writing and publishing books.  I’ve noticed more and more in recent months those little signs that give away the absence of real creativity and it bothers me.  For instance, I’ve seen quite a few examples of books containing characters who have been named after other, already famous fictional characters without even the lamest of attempts at changing the name or trying to disguise it.  Just the other day this chick on facebook posted about her book that contained a pair of protagonists named after an extremely famous TV crime duo from the not too distant past.

I know there’s no copyright on names but come on, stealing names of already famous characters is not just lazy and uncool but also smacks of a huge lack of creative ability.  If you can’t even come up with a unique name for your protagonist, then what’s your story line going to be like?  Maybe it’s just me being a perfectionist but every time I see this happening, I cringe.

Another thing I’ve noticed more than once is books that have obviously been based on another famous book or movie and in some cases the story line is almost an exact copy with only the names, locations and peripheral action changed.  Then there are the multi genre books.  You know the thing I mean; the “it’s a vampire/zombie war set in a steampunk environment with an erotic romance between two aliens from different planets who are forbidden to be together by the fairy queen until the ancient dragons have been found/killed.”  The authors of these books don’t have a connection with a specific genre that pulls them and inspires their creativity, so because they can’t decide which to plump for, they shove them all into the pot together and come up with a joke.

Maybe I’m being too harsh but I truly believe that a writer doesn’t ‘want’ to write a book; they write a book because they can’t not write a book.  A writer will always know which genre they ‘must’ write in, without even thinking about it.  It won’t be a conscious choice, it’s hard wired into them.

Where’s the creativity?  Know your limitations and if you have to nick things from the creative work of others, then maybe you should look for another hobby.