28 January 2010

Magic Action: Abbracadabbling = Creativity

Creativity, especially as it pertains to creative writing as well as comics creation, has been one of (the many) subjects we've always wanted to weave into the magical mesh that is abbracadabbling. We'd like to think we exhibit our creativity every day (blogging is creative, don't ya know -- not to mention hard but ever-so-rewarding work), but we'll admit we haven't addressed the matter head on.  

Truth be told, it's a tough topic to tackle.  For folks who aren't so inclined, being 'creative,' however one wants to define the word, might seem glamorous and magical. Surely, the lives lead by many creative people -- from movie stars to comic book writers -- can certainly appear that way. Down deep, no matter how creative we are, we understand that there's work involved somewhere, but exactly what kind of work - and how much -- are questions that tend to go unanswered or be dismissed. 

Even those of us who do consider ourselves to be creative may have a problem shaking its mystical aura.  We were dumbfounded when we discovered that more than one of our college professors subscribed to the belief that creative writing can't be taught; students either have 'it,' or they don't have 'it.' Back in the day, it was hard - and frustrating  - to prove them wrong, too. Eventually, we did. Talent can't be taught, but writing most certainly can.  The teachers who knew this -- and did this -- were the same ones who knew talent must be nurtured, formed, shaped, and structured, like a well-crafted story.  Those teachers were in the minority, and of all our college profs, they were the real creators. They knew creative work is work; it requires discipline, routine, and a nitpicky attention to detail. But work doesn't diminish creativity's magic in the least; it summons and augments it.

Mark McGuinness  is one of the best creative advisers we've come across, and his R.S.S. Systems Creativity Chart really nails the creative process for what it is -- a series of interlocking processes rather than a mystical 'One'. And, he points out, the magic happens at the point where creativity's three core processes, all of which we creative folks need to coordinate to do our best work,  intersect.  They are:

(1) ROUTINES:  The Dabbler's been a Capricorn all his life, and loyal to his sign, he's a creature of routine. McGuiness stands behind routine, which he says is the key that unlocks creative inspiration.Routines allow for familiar activities or objects  - like having a cup of coffee - to become associative triggers for creative states of mind.  Horror and now Vertigo Comics writer Stephen King has this to say about his:

McGuiness' Takeaway is this: Notice what time(s) of day you are most alert and creative. Dedicate that time to focused creative work. Use the same tools, in the same surroundings, even the same background music, so that they become triggers for your “creative zone.”

(2)  SYSTEMS: Though they sound similar, a system  -- one's personal productivity work flow -- is different than a routine; where major events can play havoc with routine, a system isn't dependent on circumstances. Instead, they act as a safety net. McGuiness suggests that we creative folks take a step back to assess exactly what our workflow is, as well as to study tools and methods to improve or streamline it.  

The Action Method is just one of many workflow systems, and it comes with McGuiness' recommendation. Dedicated dabblers will find it HERE.

(3) SPONTANEITY: This is the 'A-Ha!' factor, or more accurately, what opens us up to have our A-Ha Moment. Real creativity, McGuiness says, involves spontaneity and surprise, and contrary to what many folks think, the harder you work at routines and systems, the more likely you are to experience that bolt from the blue.  On the other hand, McGuiness isn't advocating grindstone and grunt work, either. Taking breaks and having fun are just as essential.  Be open to new experiences, he advises, live, and welcome the thoughts that come.

We thoroughly recommend every creative dabbler out there to check out Mark McGuiness' website, Lateral Action, for  more of his insights on creativity. You'll find it HERE. Stephen King's insights on his creative process came to us courtesy of Daily Routines -- HERE. And our source site, HERE.

1 comment:

Mark McGuinness said...

Thanks! Great write-up, love the way you've built on my ideas.