Writing a full-length novel turns out to be hard. 🤷🏻♂️
Even if you know the story you want to tell, there are myriad challenges such as finding your voice, getting into the creative mood, and consistently finding the time to focus.
My latest challenge is pretty basic – figuring out what level of detail to use in the story. I want to make the story is engaging and specific, rather than just sweeping over things with the wave of a hand. 👋
But too much detail quickly turns into sounding like Uncle Colm from Derry Girls.
So if I ever find myself adding unnecessary detail and de-emphasizing the main story line, then I need to watch Uncle Colm as a little kick in the butt.
Or soon enough, people will be saying, “Alright, Colm, let’s pack it up. You’re tied to the radiator…” 🤦🏻♂️
John Cleese gave this speech back in the 1990’s about creativity. Apparently he was a bit of a student of the topic. 🤷🏻♂️
His main point was that creativity is not something that you have or don’t have. And it is not related to traditional intelligence.
Creativity is a mood – an open, curious, and playful way of operating. He calls this playful, creative state “open mode”, whereas we normally go through life in “closed mode”, basically trying to get stuff done.
To be fully effective, a creative person needs to juggle both modes well. After all, you’ve got to find the creative flow and keep your projects on track to actually get sh*t done.
This creative “open mode” is subconscious and requires de-focusing in a way. In other words, you can’t force creative breakthroughs. It is in this relaxed open mode where the creative magic happens. You just need to allow yourself the time and other factors to let yourself be creative.
This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.
One reason I liked improv class was that it forces you into this open, playful mode (even when you are terrified).
With really interesting problems, you usually don’t need to think harder. You need to relax and let you mind do its thing while you sleep or do errands. That is when genius strikes. ⚡️
Creativity is all about making interesting connections. Albert Einstein called it “combination play.”
In my experience, this unconscious combo play is important for figuring out what do to and not so much how to do it. Once the what is clear in your mind, it can be followed by all the conscious thinking and hard work to get it done. Unfortunately, that part does not happen in your sleep. 😉
As a side note, there is also a beautiful space when your mind is so immediate and present that is simply doesn’t have time to think. This is what I like about improv. And also baseball.
Ethan Hawke gives an inspiring talk on creativity and how it forces you know yourself, lets you empathize with others, and gives you room to be a happy fool.
In singing our song, in telling our story, in inviting you to say, “Hey, listen to me, and I’ll listen to you,” we’re starting a dialogue. And when you do that, this healing happens, and we come out of our corners, and we start to witness each other’s common humanity. We start to assert it. And when we do that, really good things happen.
If you want to help your community, if you want to help your family, if you want to help your friends, you have to express yourself. And to express yourself, you have to know yourself.
Basically it says that you need take good care of yourself before you can aspire to your “ultimate self-actualization”. I guess that’s super obvious, but still it makes for a cool idea and a good visual. 😆
A few months ago, I took an improv class. You might think I did it to learn to be funnier. I mean, it did help a little. But mostly it helped my attitude, just being open and ridiculous. I do still have a stockpile of ready-made dad jokes, though.
Improv is not only about laughs. It’s about facing uncharted territory with curiosity, enthusiasm, and fearlessness.
The post below perfectly captures the real reason that I took improv, which is mainly dealing with fears and ambiguity when you can’t sit and think about it for more than, say, two seconds. I’m naturally a sit-and-think-about-it kind of person, so I needed some help on that. 🤷🏻♂️
Helping people build out their ideas even if you don’t agree with or understand them
Learning how to make decisions on a shoestring
Fearlessness, bravery and getting comfortable with mistakes
By the way, Merlin Works, the same place where I took my improv class, is now offering online Zoom improv classes for the pandemic. If this thing drags on long enough, I might do improv 201 online. 🤷🏻♂️
You want to build something that belongs to you, you want to pour your heart into it, and frankly, you’d like to find some success doing it. “It’s time,” you proclaim boldly, “for me to build an app.”
The post does spend a lot of time talking about social media stress and imposter syndrome, which doesn’t bother me too much. Personally, I have long let go of any dream of having a big, important Twitter or Instagram account. Or even making any money off of an app. I just want to make my own apps.
A big part of you still feels that, as someone who can competently design and build software, you are uniquely positioned to create your own life’s work… Wouldn’t it be a shame not to try? You’re tired of deferring your dreams to your future self; it’s time to act!
My own situation is further complicated by my additional dreams of writing a book and making some songs. I’ve actually made some progress on those dreams already. Can I really fit another dream into the rotation?
Stay tuned and see. Give me like a year. Baby, I want everything!
In a creative writing class I’m taking, our teacher pointed us to this great piece called “Shitty First Drafts”. It basically says what we all know but tend to forget: nobody ever just sits down and writes a great story on the first try.
This approach frees you up to have fun with it (another topic from the class).
The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.
Anne Lamott from Bird by Bird
As a side note, this “shitty first draft” approach applies just as well to other creative endeavors such as making music or software. The key is to not actually ship the shitty first draft (although the occasional great album seems to be an exception to this rule).
Disclaimer: this blog consists entirely of shitty first drafts. 🤷🏻♂️