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Wednesday March 23rd

March 23, 2011

It is again a Wednesday, named after Woden the Anglo-Saxon version of the Norse, Odin. What has that got to do with anything? Well, Odin sacrificed one eye to gain true sight. I, on the other hand, have both my eyes and little true sight on this day of Woden. In that way, it is arbitrary irony.

What I’m trying to, confusingly, say is that there was little inspiration today. I only finished the prologue of Part 2 of Glint yesterday and it has left me with a world (an imaginary world) of possibilities. So, what did I do? You may have noticed I have added some more to that story “The Time Traveller”. I wrote some more today, as well, and I have some new interesting ideas on directions it can take.

And to help along my creative process I read a chapter from the ever useful anthology of essays, “The Psychology of Creative Writing.” The chapter I read was “Creative Cognition in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing” by Thomas B. Ward and E. Thomas Lawson. It had some interesting points on how we generate ideas and develop them. I believe this information is applicable to any creative application. I will list a brief few notes and hopefully it might inspire or help someone.

Firstly Creative Cognition is understanding and fostering creativity focusing on our basic cognitive processes (Retrieval, conceptual conditioning, analogical mapping). I.e. Which ideas, concepts, words, theories we are primed to access and the processes behind this. The “Geneplor Model” they mention explains the creative cycle in 2 steps. Generating ideas and Exploring these ideas. There are truly not just two steps, but these interplay in a cycle that repeats itself over and over to come to (hopefully) a novel creative product.

I will not go into the technicalities of their discussion as they do carry on, but lets look at a few things to help creativity if you are, like me today, a little blocked.

Generally, people take the path-of-least-resistance approach to knowledge. Say, in a story a writer wants to describe a man going from one side of the room to the other. You would probably say, “The man walked across the room.” This would be the POLR approach and it can lead to some pretty dreary narration.

How can we escape it?

You could look at the abstract properties of something. As Plato once said (I think it was Plato and this is just the gist of his words), “Everything we know comes from Earth and anything original we believe we create is just an amalgamation of several Earth things.”  So, let’s say you are creating an Earth creature. They mostly share properties such as bilateral symmetry, cephalization (google that one. I had to!), sensory organs, blah blah blah. Look at these things and ask if they are really necessary. This is really simple, yet effective, and could be used in any creative industry.

To flip this idea on its head, you could also imagine a new world. What would the creature evolve like in this environment?

You could also take a look at the craziest and most unknown organisms on Earth (instead of, say a kitty or a horsie) and adapt from these.

What I think is the most effective is to combine 2 or more totally different concepts. Let’s simply look at random adjective and verb combinations. “Fearful kiss”, “loving high kick”, “psychotic jumping.” Ok, these are just some random ones I pulled from the air, but you see my point. Each is pretty weird, all evoke a unique image and this may generate an idea for you to explore.

This example is only for words, but can and should be used in many other areas. The example they use is, happily for me, a series I’ve read. Stephen Donaldson’s “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.” The two things he combines are that of “leprosy” and “unbelief.” How can he do that and succeed in creating one of the most successful fantasy series in history? Well, read the books! How he did it is not important, there is no formula. This is creativity, people, find your own way.

The best advice given is to have both broad abstract knowledge and specific knowledge of the topic and manage these effectively so you don’t confuse the layman (who is new to what you are trying to express) or bore the expert (who is a jerk who thinks he knows everything and wants you to cut to the chase!) .

This is a lot more than I had hoped to post, but I hope it is informative and useful.

AJG

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