Creativity Project, part 3


Continuing my examination of my own creative process through an examination of this article: Twelve Things You Were Not Taught in School About Creative Thinking, I’ll touch on points 4-6 here and get to the halfway point.

4. Your brain is not a computer.

This is probably the most confusing part of the article. It’s starts with the truism above then starts talking about imagining things and synthesizing experience?

The first thing I’ll say is that comparing a brain to a computer is not a very interesting way to think about this. No, your brain is not a computer. Other things your brain is not: a loaf of bread, a set of dishes, an FBI file on a U.S. peace activist, a package of Alka-Seltzer.

A good rule for brains and computers both is Garbage In, Garbage Out, but I covered that in my last post. But let me address the little point that the article writer covers: Our brains can create false experiences and treat them as real.

To which I say: yes, that is the whole point of writing a novel. You create a false experience in the mind of the reader. The entire art and craft of creating a novel involves a) imagining this experience yourself and b) recording it effectively through text.

But it’s important not to make the experience solely a visual/auditory one. Personally (and these posts are about my own processes, remember) I do imagine scenes visually but there isn’t a lot of detail in them. I certainly don’t see faces as such. If you’ve ever read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, (and you should) you’ll know what I mean when I say that the faces are “iconic.”

But I also experience the story in a different way that’s hard to describe. I also experience the character’s feelings as though they were tidal forces, pulling me one way or another. If there’s one thing that slows down my productivity, it’s translating those feelings into text without using cliche.

And it has nothing to do with my brain being a computer.

5. There is no one right answer

This one’s sort of important. You can make bad choices, creatively speaking. You can choose cliches, or story beats that ruin the tone, or that don’t make sense for the characters, or that open the story setting to questions/implications you aren’t ready or willing to address.

But there can also be numerous “correct” choices that will work within the story on one level or another. The important thing is to look at them and judge their effect on the story’s tone, the questions it raises about the setting, etc etc.

So, while you can have several correct choices, each should still be evaluated in terms of the effect it will have.

(I’m ignoring the article for this point for fear of annoying people with lay-physicist woo woo about creativity.

6. Never stop with your first good idea.

The temptation to do this is powerful–really really powerful, especially if you’ve been struggling with a particular question for a while–but don’t do it. If you do, you miss out on the chance to do the evaluations I talked about in number 5 above.

More in part four, including allowing other people to influence you in a negative way.