“How do you come up with your ideas?” asks a friend of mine. “What’s your creative process like?” he continues, staring at me with eager eyes, it’s as if he expects me to have a secret formula of sorts. The truth is, I don’t… I don’t think.
“They just come to me,” I reply, shrugging my shoulders. And his own shoulders deflate, clearly unimpressed by my uninspiring answer.
I face this situation often, and when I meet somebody new, and we talk about my fiction, they ask about my creative process. People seem to think writers have a secret super power, but we don’t. When I consider how Beyond Parallel, TICK to the TOCK, and my other novels yet to be written came about, it’s usually through everyday normality.
Beyond Parallel was inspired by a breakup, TICK to the TOCK sparked to life in the shower, and I’ve come up with ideas during Yoga, walking home from work, and after meeting somebody new, or as I lie in bed unable to sleep.
I never sit down and purposely brainstorm a new book idea. Maybe some people do, but it isn’t part of my creative process, and when I speak to other creative individuals, they don’t, neither. However, I get asked this question a lot, so I figure I should consider my creative process, because maybe there is a secret formula. This, dear reader, is what this post is all about.
WE’RE ALL BORN CREATIVE:
Some people are more creative than others, but I believe everyone has the ability to imagine the unimaginable, and everyone has a story worth sharing. Case and point: think back to when you were six or seven-years-old, and how wonderful and weird you were. The next time you see a young kid in a coffee shop, take a moment to watch them, and beam at how strange and imaginative they are.
WE’RE ALL BORN CREATIVE, but life tends to get in the way after a while. However, if you want to know how people like my good self conjure up new worlds and people and scenarios, it’s simple: we take an interest in life.
People have written entire books about the creative process, so this Blog Post won’t dig too deep. It’s merely an insight into my own creative process, covering key topics I believe YOU can implement TODAY.
I surprise myself, too, because there’s no whisky involved – although this can help speed things up 🙂
1:WATCH PEOPLE LIKE IT’S YOUR DAMN JOB!
If you think I’m creepy because I sit in coffee shops and watch people all day, the hell with you!
There’s a reason this is first on my list, because when you watch strangers do silly everyday things (like order coffee, read a magazine, talk on the phone), you glimpse into a grander world. Give me a compelling character, and I’ll show you someone with quirks and mannerisms. It isn’t the large personality traits that make characters wonderful, it’s the small things.
As a man, it’s difficult to write about a woman, because it’s impossible to see the world from her mind. Watching women do what they do, however… well, it provides my imagination with the ammunition to create.
Watch people like it’s your damn job! This is the best advice I can offer anybody hoping to magic up an idea or two. You’d be amazed at the things you see, the sparks of realisation, and the conversations you hear. Creepy, weird, nosey… say what you will, people watching is a powerful tool, and a must for your creative process.
2:WHY THE HELL DO YOU FEEL HAPPY/SAD/ANGRY RIGHT NOW?
If you want to magic up an idea (writing, art, poetry, music), you need to immerse yourself in your emotions. People associate this with sadness and misery, but it covers a whole realm of possibilities: happiness, excitement, energetic, blessed, etc…
Every single day is an emotional roller coaster, and this is gold dust for your creative process. This is why I believe anybody can magic up ideas, because we’re all at our emotions mercy. The trick is using it to your advantage, bus all you need to do is THINK and ask WHY:
- Why the hell do you feel happy/sad/angry right now?
- What do your insides feel like?
- What thoughts spring to mind, and what memories creep forward?
By observing your feelings, how they happen, why they happen, what it feels like… you release your imagination. Not only can you use this within your own creations (describing how someone feels when they have their heart broken, for instance), but ideas spark to life here, there, and everywhere.
3:OBSESS OVER NEW PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE
Again, this may sound creepy, but when you meet somebody new, analyse the hell out of them.
In the last few years I’ve met several people who have inspired a character within a book, sparked an idea for a plot, or added a new dimension to an existing person. You don’t always have to love this new individual, either. If you meet someone who makes your skin crawl, ask yourself why you find them so repulsive.
I’m a big fan of asking WHY. It makes me think about my own existence, and I try to see the world from different points of view. You see, we live inside our own bubble, and it’s hard to magic up ideas when you’re stuck inside it. As soon as you step outside… you breathe life into your imagination.
Obsess over new people in your life. It may sound creepy, but your the creative process tends to be a tad different. What were you expecting? Magic up genius ideas by acting like everyone else?
4:TALKING TO YOURSELF DOESN’T MAKE YOU CRAZY
I imagine your perception of me has changed by now. I watch strangers in coffee shops, obsess over people I meet, and talk to myself. Wow, Turndog, way to be a sane member of society.
Hey, talking to yourself doesn’t make you crazy. If you do it in public and argue with the voices inside your head, sure, you may need help. Talking to yourself in the shower, on the other hand, is part of the creative process.
Just yesterday I worked on my latest novel, but before I could grasp the ideas swimming inside my head, I spoke to myself for about twenty-minutes. I didn’t use a great deal of it in my writing, but it kickstarted my creative process into gear.
Most writers read dialogue-centric sections out loud, because a conversation is hard to perfect until it becomes real. In fact, the editing process in general remains difficult until you record yourself. In the same way an idea is hard to grasp until you write it down, the haze doesn’t clear until you hear it.
Talking to yourself takes an idea on a journey, and before long your creative process blossoms and gains momentum. Whether it’s for a grander idea, or a scene within a book, I speak to myself often, and I encourage others to follow suit 🙂
5:DO MORE THAN LIVE LIFE
This final point is the most important. I don’t believe there’s a secret to my, or anybody else’s creative process. Everyone can do it, because all it involves is the observation of life. At all times. Every single second of it!
Life throws more inspiration at me than I know what to do with, and it flings it at you, too. The thing is, if you don’t open your eyes, how can you expect to see it?
This is why I find it difficult to explain my creative process, because I don’t do a great deal. I look, and wander, and daydream, and before long something prods me in the arm and says, “This could be a good idea.”
You don’t need to be a thrill seeker or traveller to be creative. Your life right now is more than enough, but you need to do more than live life. You need to observe it, ponder it, and daydream about all the possibilities it holds.
I have no idea if this post is worth 1,500 words. In general, we want a secret formula we can implement. I don’t have one. Sorry.
But in a way, isn’t this better? You already have everything you need to magic up ideas and be a creative little devil. There’s no secret to creating a world of characters. Like I said in the beginning, we’re all born creative. Recapture some of that childhood weirdness today, and watch people in coffee shops, talk to yourself in the shower, and daydream about the people you work with.
It’s not creepy if you write about it (/make music, paint, etc…)