I have been reading finished a book called Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg (author of The Power of Habit). If I was shelving it, I’d hover between ‘Business’ and “Self-Help’. The author has all sorts of surprisingly interesting things to say about how businesses are run and how management can empower workers in such a way as to benefit them both, and so forth. Interesting, but not particularly relevant to me, right now.
But he also had a section on creativity. And it was really, really helpful.
Here are a few lessons from the book:
Creativity often emerges by combining old ideas in new ways.
Be sensitive to your own experience. Paying attention to how things make you think and feel is how we distinguish clichés from real insights. Study your own emotional reactions.
Recognise that the stress that emerges amid the creative process isn’t a sign that everything is falling apart. Rather, creative desperation is often critical: Anxiety can be what pushes us to see old ideas in new ways.
Finally, remember that the relief accompanying a creative breakthrough, while sweet, can also blind us to alternatives. By forcing ourselves to critique what we’ve already done, by making ourselves look at it from different perspectives… we retain clear eyes.
These points were useful to me during the writing of my current book because:
- There’s been a lot of anxiety and I’ve thought it was a very bad thing. But it’s a good and normal thing, you need anxiety to write well, perhaps even the anxiety of a deadline.
And I actually know that if I do not make the deadline, the world won’t end – I can ask for an extension. So that particular ‘anxiety’ is a bit of a paper tiger. The anxiety is really around ‘is this book any good?’ That’s a fine and good anxiety. It’s probably essential if I am are going to keep on writing.
- The ‘new things from old things’, is relevant, too. All books are, in a sense, new from old. My current project combines fantasy and Gothic romance and an insanely complex mystery. New ideas and plot directions and tweaks keep pinging up all the time because of the hybrid madness of it. Above all, it’s fun.
- And yes! Yes! Yes! The relief that comes from finding some sort of ‘answer’ to a story problem can blind me to the fact that it isn’t an answer at all, or doesn’t really work or needs major tweaking to work.
All very useful stuff for the writer!