It’s the question writers are asked over and over again. You know the one.
“Where do you get your ideas?”
I think the reason this question grates is because the underlying suggestion is that some people are creative and some people aren’t. Creative people must have a secret that other people don’t know, or there’s a direct line to the Muse, if you could only find the phone number…
The truth is, creativity is a bit of a mystery. Different aspects are being studied, findings analyzed, and conclusions updated all the time. No one is certain how the brain works, but by studying the most original, highly creative people, we know:
Creativity can be encouraged
. As an educator, this idea is endlessly interesting to me. Traditional schooling can often be stifling to the most creatively gifted children. How can I, as classroom supervisor, provide an environment that allows for concentration and focus, yet doesn’t restrict creativity? A lot of smart people have a lot of strong opinions about it, but what has worked for me is to allow wide open swaths of time for creative brainstorming and activity. I schedule it, and I push older students to explore ideas even when they’re, like, so not into it today, Ms. Smith. Which ties in to the next point:
Creativity can become a habit
. Did you know that to be a writer, all you have to do is write? If I think about grammar, syntax, subplotting, and theme every time I sit down to the keyboard, I’ll be too overwhelmed to start. Instead, I show up each morning and ask my protagonist what’s happening today. All the technical stuff can come later. If I start each day with a conversation with my imaginary friends, soon I’ve got a daily creativity habit. Once the habit is established, you’ll be amazed at the little surprises you’ll discover. Does writer’s block still strike? Well, yes and no. If I spin my wheels in my WIP, I’ve got a couple of short projects handy that I can use to make quick, productive detours into when I need them. Then I return to the tangle in my WIP with fresh energy and momentum. The habit doesn’t let me down.
Creativity is more important than ever
. We live in a society that wants to lovingly solve problems for kids so they don’t have to deal with them. As a result, we are seeing a generation with less experience in problem solving. Yet, there’s speculation that with the speed of technological advancement, more problems are going to be coming at us faster than ever before, so the need for creativity and problem-solving will increase dramatically. What an exciting and scary time to be alive! In the past, only the very wealthy could afford to spend time in creative pursuits for their own sake. Now, we have an opportunity to influence our families and communities for the good. Who can your creativity help today?
“Where do you get your ideas?”
The question used to irk me; now I feel humbled. Truthfully, we don’t know where the ideas come from. The subconscious burps them up like cold, clear water from a hidden spring. But I can tell you this: if you show up, the ideas will, too.
When did you last get an idea out of thin air?