Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Do you Love to CRE8?

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” - Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address

In her book, YOUR CREATIVE BRAIN,  Dr. Shelley Carson shares the psychology and neuroscience of creativity. A Harvard psychologist, Dr. Carson defines creativity as something novel or original and useful or adaptive to some portion of the population. She focuses on the distinction between originality and creativity. Carson indicates that many things are original but aren’t particularly creative. She cites the “word salad” speech of a schizophenic as highly original but it does not appear to have a utility, even to the person uttering the words.

Psychologists used to believe the left brain analyzed with an involvement of sequential thinking and the right brain handled creativity. The a movement developed toward the front-back brain division. The front brain became the gatekeeper and controlled the input from the back brain. Now we think it’s more complicated that either model. It depends upon which stage of the creative process you’re in.

Dr. Carson feels contentment is the enemy of creativity because the creative mind constantly hungers for stimulation.

Creativity involves novelty-seeking. Studies of cognitive behavior have shown you can change brain activation states, alter neurotransmitter levels and the receptors for those neurotransmitters and receptors. Dr. Carson believes, “if we have the ability to change our brains with cognitive behavior therapy, why not use that power to become more novelty-seeking and more creative?’

She adds, to increase creativity, “keep learning new things. Take courses, read widely, and learn how to play a new instrument or how to cook Tuscan food. Learn, learn, learn! Second, try not to judge the things you’re learning. Keep an open mind. Everything you learn is a possible element that may make its way into some future creative idea that you can’t even imagine today. And the more open-minded you remain about what you learn, the more likely you are to see how it can be combined with other information to form a novel and original product or idea."

Creative Write:  What could you do to develop a novelty-seeking ability in your writing today? Share an idea.

Your Life Story

Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) felt writing, "The easiest thing in the world. . . I sit up with a pipe in my mouth and a board on my knees and I scribble away."

At 70, he decided to write his autobiography. He had tried before without satisfaction, then decided to dictate his autobiography. Twain felt he could speak with a "whole frank mind."

Moving away from a chronological account of his life, he decided on a structure he described like this: "Start it at no particular time of your life; wander at your free will all over your life; talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment; drop it the moment its interest threatens to pale."

He called it a "complete and purposed jumble" He claimed this autobiography and diary "ranks with the steam engine, the printing press lamp; the electric telegraph." Twain left 5,000 pages of unedited memoir, and did not want it published until he had been dead for 100 years, when he'd be "unaware, and indifferent."

Mark Twain died in 1910 and the first volume of his autobiography was published just this month. It reached the No. 2 spot on the New York Times best-seller list weeks before it was released. There are two more volumes of autobiography, which will be released in the next five years, edited by a team of six scholars at the Mark Twain Archives, housed at the Bancroft Library on the UC Berkeley campus.

Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography:

It was during my first year's apprenticeship in the Courier office that I did a thing which I have been trying to regret for fifty-five years. It was a summer afternoon and just the kind of weather that a boy prizes for river excursions and other frolics, but I was a prisoner. The others were all gone holidaying. I was alone and sad. I had committed a crime of some sort and this was the punishment. I must lose my holiday, and spend the afternoon in solitude besides. I had the printing-office all to myself, there in the third story. I had one comfort, and it was a generous one while it lasted. It was the half of a long and broad watermelon, fresh and red and ripe. I gouged it out with a knife, and I found accommodation for the whole of it in my person — though it did crowd me until the juice ran out of my ears. There remained then the shell, the hollow shell. It was big enough to do duty as a cradle. I didn't want to waste it, and I couldn't think of anything to do with it which could afford entertainment. I was sitting at the open window which looked out upon the sidewalk of the main street three stories below, when it occurred to me to drop it on somebody's head. I doubted the judiciousness of this, and I had some compunctions about it too, because so much of the resulting entertainment would fall to my share and so little to the other person. But I thought I would chance it.I watched out of the window for the right person to come along — the safe person — but he didn't come. Every time there was a candidate he or she turned out to be an unsafe one, and I had to restrain myself. But at last I saw the right one coming. (From Autobiography of Mark Twain, edited by The Mark Twain Project of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, published by UC Press, 2010.)

Creative Write: Begin your life story. Start with a temptation like Mark Twain's above. Share your first lines with us!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Menagerie Stories

The earliest known artists and writers used animals as their first subjects. Images of creatures dominate cave walls of Lascaux and Altamira and tell stories of the prehistoric world.Teaching stories and fables arrived later. They reveal, through actions of animals, ways to show children how to behav...e and the consequences of wrong choices.

What menagerie could you create to tell a story?

Consider two animals who collaborate. An elephant waded into the pond at a Wild Animal Park. With the sound of a trumpet, it tossed water from its trunk onto its back. Ripples from its skin sent droplets over the large frame. A bluebird happened by and noticed this refreshment in the heat of the day.

“Hello,” the bird sang as it flew above the trunk.”How do you do that?”

“Ah, “ the elephant responded. “ Would you like a spray?”

“I have flown from the north and would like a drink and bath,” the bird flapped just above the gray trunk. Soon the water sparkled from its feathers. “What a wonderful mechanism to have.”

“You’re fortunate also to have wings,” smiled the elephant. “I’ve always admired birds in the sky and how they can travel.

“It looks like we have ways to share our experiences,” said the bird, drying one feather at a time with its beak.

“So many animals here have talents to learn about,” said the elephant.

“Aren’t you frightened by the fierce ones?” the bird asked.

“Each has his or her own specialty,” said the elephant and moved deeper into the water.

Ears wriggled from the water as a large head appeared, then the body of a hippo.

Creative Write:  Where would you take this story? Start one of your own!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Write Mind

Do you realize that you possess all you need to activate your Write Life? You do not have to fret or feel concern. It’s all there. If you focus on your resolve and bring to mind the intention and commitment to write, you will achieve your true Write Mind.

A supportive state of mind becomes the best way to commit to a Write Habit. Nourish your resolve and direct your write energy with intention. Change your statements about writing. Instead of indicating that you want to write or you will write, think “Writing is my nature.”

If you permit your subconscious mind to work from a place of perceived inadequacy, the energy that supports your resolve weakens. A positive approach assists your level of contentment even during times of seeming frustration.

Energize into your Write Mind!

Answer these questions from a positive perspective:

1. Do you believe your writing results from talent, hard work or the struggle that moves you beyond rejection and disappointment? Why do you write?

2. Do you write needing praise and attention for your writing?

3. How do you practice writing?

4. Have you quit in frustration only to return with renewed vigor after a break?

5. Do you permit yourself to write for fun?

6. What do you discover when you write?

7. How does writing provide contentment?

8. What do you learn each time you write? About yourself? About process?

9. How do you overcome the fear of publication and its hype?

10. What will you do today to strengthen your writing resolve?

Keep your writing resolve moving with a smile!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hook your reader with your first words.

If the paragraphs don't tease, annoy or astonish the readers in some way, they'll stop reading. You also have to provide a bit of character, mood and setting.

Margaret Atwood in her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood (2009), begins:

"In the early morning Toby climbs up to the rooftop to watch the sunrise. She uses a mop handle for balance: the elevator stopped working some time ago and the back stairs are slick with damp, so if she slips and topples there won't be anyone to pick her up.

As the first heat hits, mist rises from among the swath of trees between her and the derelict city. The air smells faintly of burning, a smell of caramel and tar and rancid barbecues, and the ashy but greasy smell of a garbage-dump fire after it’s been raining."

Creative Write: Look at the photograph above. Create a character based on the above information. Provide a few lines to intrigue!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shine up your Whines!

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”  George Bernard Shaw

Are you a whiner?

Do you worry too much and have serial complaints that take up brain space?
Stop the chatter and take up a pen or go to the keyboard. Write, don't whine.

l. Use awareness to learn about your complaining moods. Who or what sparks your whine tones? What area three ways to eliminate or minimize your exposure to these sparks that set off your flames? Add a humorous line.

2. Gratitude saves the day. Write three things, people or opportunities that make you feel grateful. Don't stop with three!

3. Take a breath before you gripe! When you feel a whine whirring about in your brain, toss a thought in its path. Write about overcoming blame. Keep thoughts handy for the next toss for gripe deflection!

4. Let creativity spark your troubles. Start with positive statements and write a few humorous lines about how to solve problems.

Creative Write:  Share a whine with us today. Turn it around and make it shine!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mood Changing

Consider how a scene can set a mood or reflect a variety of emotions.
Respond to the image above with sounds, scents and textures of emotion. Keep your visual comments to a minimum.

Then, write a response that changes the visual cues. What opposite view will your writing reveal?

Use words to alter the anticipation that these visual cues offer.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Talent and Writing

". . .talent is a dreadfully cheap commodity, cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work and study; a constant process of honing.

"Talent is a dull knife that will cut nothing unless it is wielded with great force – a force so great that the knife is not really cutting at all but bludgeoning and breaking... Discipline and constant work are the whetstones upon which the dull knife of talent is honed until it becomes sharp enough, hopefully, to cut through even the toughest meat and gristle." by Stephen King from DANSE MACABRE

Consider the “talent” you bring to your writing. When did you first discover you had a “way with words”? Did it involve curiosity, a love of word that collided, meshed and made their appearance into sentences, paragraphs and stories?

Did you watch people and tell their stories? Did you pursue ideas with all your senses? Did you feel a force move you in a variety of creative directions? Did anyone recognize your propensity for writing and show you ways to study other writers? With your mentor’s assistance did you work at writing . . . really push past frustrations and dead ends to gather the words that shouted your ideas?

Creative Write: What do you think of King’s assessment of what it takes to hone writing skills? How do you define “discipline,” and “hard work”? Take time to create a metaphor that defines your writing process.