What is the creative process?

I have done many creative things in my life; painting, writing novels, woodworking, digital art, and of course accounting.  Accounting?  Some of those sales forecasts were pretty creative!

Painting and writing share a lot of attributes.  To be creative you first have to start.  Starting is hard.  When I was painting a lot, I would often find myself in front of a blank canvas wondering what to paint.  For some reason there were times when nothing would pop into my brain.  I had no ideas.  I would sketch some things, but it just wasn’t working.  Why?  Other days I had what seemed like hundreds of ideas on what I wanted to paint.  It was like everything I saw looked like something I wanted to paint.  Once again why?

Writing is even more dependent on an idea.  If I had no idea on what to paint, I could always spread around some color and call it abstract art; depicting the beginning of mankind.  Brilliant!  Not so with writing.  I suppose you could just write your life history over and over, but the book sales would not be good.  To write you have to have a fairly well developed idea that begins on page one.  I write mysteries, so in most cases I need to have a good idea how the story is going to go before I start.  There is a structure to mystery stories.  There is an event, action or something that prompts someone to want to uncover what happen, where something is located or hidden, and who did it and why.  So to begin the book you have to have an idea on how it ends.  Now, there is no question that as I write, the story changes.  I began The Bootlegger’s Legacy as a different story than the one I ended with; but that is mostly about false starts and starting over—I’ve definitely done that.

It would be hard to write a book and not have some idea of what the book is about.  But more than just a story line, you need developed characters and a detailed plot.  So where does this stuff come from? 

Inspiration is defined as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”  That is inspiration, but where does it come from.  During my working life I was the guy with ideas.  Other people seemed not to have ideas.  Is there an idea “talent,” sort of like playing the violin?  It sure seems like some people are creative and others not at all.  I have bumped into that non-creative mind set.  There are people who actually seem to take pride in being a non-idea person; like that is a good quality.  “Don’t ask me about that stuff I’m not an idea guy!”  Maybe that is just a way to avoid having your ideas laughed at.  I’ve sure experienced that.  Being creative means taking a risk; because quite often some of those creations are real monsters.

If you’re a religious person you probably adhere to the “God-given” talent aspect in almost all things.  So creative people have been born with a creative trait that comes from God.  That’s a little too mystical for me, but it’s hard to argue with the sentiment.

In our society we have some very “talented” people who play sports.  These people are honored and paid huge sums of money for what would also appear to be “God-given” talents.  While physical skills are often inherited, the people who are really good at sports have taken those talents to entirely new levels by enhancing their inherited abilities with training, exercise and working day and night through repetition to reach the highest levels of sports.

Maybe creative is something similar, sure you’re born with certain creative traits, but most people ignore those skills and never really develop what might be call pro creative talents.  So maybe rather than lift weights, you develop creative skills by studying creative people.  Reading or viewing art could be to the creative mind the same as running around a track to the athlete.

I know much of my love of reading occurred from one source, Classics Illustrated comic books.  I loved the art with strong bold colors and I loved the stories.  My brother had a stash of the comics but was not really interested in them (he was seven years older than me and had discovered girls –he was never the same); for reasons that escape me, I began reading his collection.  It was wonderful.  I couldn’t wait to begin the next comic in the stack.  Obviously I was a troubled child—but I was quiet.

My parents would probably have preferred that I was out running track or thinking about baseball; but there I was in my room reading and reading and reading.  Rather than trying to alter my behaviors they went with the flow and bought me an increased supply of the wonderful (and cheap) comic books.  I believe the first comic I read was The Three Musketeers.  It was a story of adventure, friendship; all taking place in another world—it was absolutely great.  Not sure how many of those comic books I read and then re-read, but it had to be hundreds.

Now today, I have buried in my old brain hundreds of stories and great memories from classic books.  What a resource to stimulate the creative process.  Now a more cynical person would say most of those great memories were destroyed by hours of television; but I think Classics Illustrated comic books gave me the brain muscle memory to be a creative person.

Being creative is not magic but probably based on much of the same process as athletes honing their skills, you have to work at it; practice.

To be creative, you must try to be creative.  This may result in failure, most likely a lot of failure; but with practice you learn to polish those creative energies into something unique and hopefully amazing.  Write, design, paint, sculpt, sing, compose, sew, dance, act, build and maybe even develop that sales forecast and become the best creative person you can be.

New Mexico inspired digital art

Thanks for being a creative reader!