The first part of this series on the lessons I learned while writing the first draft of my first novel in NaNoWriMo 2011 introduced a background on how I approached the planning phase and the resources and guidance that worked for me. At the end of this article you will find a link to that article if you missed it.
The next aspect I wanted to share with you relates to our relationship with our creativity. If you have ever thought “I am not creative” or “I am not creative enough” then read on.
When we browse through the books on the shelf in our local book store, we are seeing the end result of many, many hours of hard labour and sweat to transform a basic story into something of depth and breadth. Some writers re-write their novels many times over in the quest for perfection. When we read these books and judge our own worth against them we are measuring ourselves against an unrealistic target.
The first draft of any novel can be likened to swathes of colour cast upon the canvass across vague areas and in half-formed shapes. The editing process brings in layering, contrast, detailing and balance. The beauty of the NaNoWriMo process if that the time pressure to complete 50,000 words in one month does not afford the editor any space and time. It just cannot be. Instead, the creative self must be unleashed to splash and flick paint onto the structure you created and see what emerges.
It is the letting go of the critic that is essential. Without being able to let go of our attachments as to what our story should be about or should say, we are unable to let the inner Picasso unleash all that is possible. Very often we are limited by our preconditioned beliefs on what creativity really is and how creative we can be. David Kelley in his TED Talk explains it beautifully and I encourage you to take a listen to his view on creative confidence: http://www.ted.com/talks/david_kelley_how_to_build_your_creative_confidence.html.
I quickly realised that the striving to write a novel, or any book for that matter, teaches us about how our own process works. And I find the creative process fascinating. Take a musician for example. Some of them hear a melody in their head, and the words come later. Some hear the words and then the music comes. Some feel the music, and others hear the music as if they have tuned into a special music station where new sounds come from. So is this the case for any creative activity – the exact process differs for everyone. Our task is to discover what that process is for ourselves and then to become a master at it.
So ask yourself the question – “what is my unique creativity?”
For me, I needed the structure. As mentioned in Part 1, the combination of uncovering the fossil, as Stephen King refers to it as, plus the three-act structure provided by Alan Watt, really allowed me to kick-start the journey. I am also quite comfortable with the meditation and visualisation process and was able to access my creativity through my subconscious using these tools. My main character became in a sense his own person engaging with me while in meditation. I saw scenes of the book in my mind – vivid and crystal clear – and I hope I was able to capture them as clearly as I saw them…as clearly as I still see them.
And then there was the music. Like many people, music for me is such a powerful instrument in my creativity. I felt drawn to create a playlist that would mirror the journey in the story. Every section of the structure had a special song that captured the essence of that piece. And most importantly…I had the closing song that epitomised the victory for my hero at the end. In fact as I was frantically writing the closing scene, I realised that the closing song was not playing and rushed to get it on so I could complete the story the way I had imagined. I also used music to stimulate my creativity. When doing other things I would play my iPod on shuffle and when a song seemed to resonate with me powerfully, I would look to link it somewhere in the book. At one point, a song that I least expected to impact me brought up a very powerful image that I included in the story and it took the plot in a direction I had not planned – a much better direction. Perhaps there are higher powers that influence our process in this way, yet all I know is that it worked. And in order for it to work, I had to let it.
I also discovered what kind of music worked me while writing. Although I know many people who like to work in silence, I found it thrilling to observe the positive effect of high-energy house music on my work. From the point I started playing this playlist, the pace picked up beautifully and had much more intensity. This is what I needed, yet I can imagine would not be applicable for every piece and all the time. Part of the excitement of such an experience is the experimentation with what works and what doesn’t.
I also have a wonderful story of synchronicity relating to music to share with you, but I will save that for when I talk about “signs” in a later article.
The last thought I have for you relates to where, or in what place, creativity strikes you. You yourself, or many you know, might find that the best ideas pop into your mind while you are in the shower. I do believe that water is a powerful stimulant to creativity and so this makes sense to me. Nature in general certainly is an aid to creativity- our energy is grounded and we become reconnected into the flow of life and therefore into our ability to create.
For me, I discovered to my absolute surprise, that creativity struck while doing exercise. What horror! As exercise and I are forced friends, it was tough to accept that I had to get moving to keep writing. Every walk brought more and deeper levels of insight into what I was writing and what was possible. And so I kept walking throughout the month of November 2011 and it really worked. I began to realise that the short time away from my story was worth far more than the few words I would write in the same time.
So where are you most creative?
In the next part I will share with you some of my thoughts on the co-creation process that occurs while writing.