The ‘Chicken and the Egg’ Guide for Creatives?

It is a common catchphrase – which came first, the chicken or the egg? – which appears to have a simple answer, either way, until you come to justify it.

Apparently, it was Plutarch which first posed the question in the 1st Century AD, addressing the problems of origin and first cause. Aristotle, writing four centturies earlier wouldn’t even have considered the question as he believed there was no true origin.

By the close of the Sixteenth Century the Christian world didn’t even consider the dilema as God made, or created, everything. By the Twentieth Century Evolutionary Biologists decided the answer had to be the ‘Egg’ as they calculated that the first hard shelled egg – not laid in water – couldn’t have happened until about 312 Million years ago.

So what has 2000-312,000,000 year old debate have to do with creativity?

To answer the much more pressing question of whether I am procrastinating or not!

If the egg = researching for searching for the creative impulse and chicken = actually doing the creative thing, then you are looking at the problem as I am.

I am new to art and, although I have always loved looking at art and watched lots of documentaries on art movements and artists, I am acutely aware of the lack of reference points and natural triggers I possess when I come to do the creative action.

So I research. A lot.

The it struck me, this morning as I glanced at my still empty sketchbook pages for the day, that most of the time I had for the action of creativity was in fact being taken up by the research to obtain the creative triggers, to then be creative.

So which comes first?

Creative Action?

Or Creative Thought?

Ironically, as a writer I would definitely tick the box of Creative Action. I usually start with the thinnest sliver of a starting point – maybe a few words or a person walking or entering a building – then I write. As I write the Creative Thought occurs and I get the next scene or chapter developing in my head.

As an artist the process is definitely the reverse.

Perhaps it is because there are more elements to taking action? What type of surface, what type of meduim, brushes or palette knives, sketch an outline or simply apply the paint?

In general though, how does your creativity arrive?

If you are a person of faith, or an evolutionary biologist, then you maybe decisively fall on one side or the other of the debate. Or perhaps you give the answer of certitude ‘well, it depends . . . ‘

I appear to have a foot in both camps.

My faith make me certain that the chicken came first, and if it turns out the egg was created before the chicken, then the whole creation thing happened anyway, so the principle is still proven.

I beleive that creativity comes from the Creator.

So my creative thinking process is, as I have begun to suspect, an elaborate means of procrastination.

But taking time to think and research has definitely furnished me with many creative ideas and actions!

However, if I fill in the time sheet of thought versus action, then the beginning of the Bible would go like this:

In the beginning, God took five and a half days to do research then realised it was almost the Day of Rest, so he decided to do a final bit of research and then wrote in his planner to definitely create something first thing on Sunday!

(Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath – just in case you were wondering.)

So, maybe you are like me and you are certain you’re pretty sure you know which comes first?!

Then again both options are creative, so what does it matter?

Or maybe this brings us onto another age old debate?

If a tree falls in a wood with no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Or, are you only being creative if there is an end product to prove it?

Go and be creatively thoughtful or creatively creative, and I will join you.

Daily Verse – Gladness and Singing.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Psalms 100:2 NIVUK

The Hebrew word translated here as ‘worship’ – ‘iḇ·ḏū – is more correctly ‘to serve’ – to be linked together in a close bond.

We are to be bonded to serve God with gladness – bə·śim·ḥāh – with pleasure, rejoicing, joyfulness.

King David was a singer and musician, so it is natural that he wrote that we should sing – bir·nā·nāh a joyful voice – to the Lord but I think we can bring to God any of our gifts.

All of our creativity can be offered in joy and service.

When you paint, when you write, when you dance or, like David, when you sing and create music, think of it all as praise and service to God.

Whatever we bring to the Lord let us do it with gladness.

Creative Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the new mantra covering a lot of areas from simple meditation to a mental health checklist.

Some meditation and mindfulness techniques exhort you to think of ‘nothing’.

Hit the eco-setting, dim the screen, go to a blank screen rather than screensaver.

If you are a creative then this is probably impossible.

If you have managed it, I would argue that it may not benefit you.

Being creative is who you are and not a menu-setting.

Imagine asking a dancer not to move their body whilst you play a piece of music – they would probably cause you of being cruel.

Whether you are a writer, musician, or artist, you are tuned to be creative.

It is how you respond to your environment. It is how you communicate. It is you.

So, rather than emptying your mind, sit for a short period and reflect upon your creativity.

What are you happy about in your output? What are you finding difficult? What are you being drawn to which is new?

Afterwards, write down the strongest thought which came to you.

Pursue it.

Be creative with it.

Create.

Words Fail Me.

I’ve been trying to write an update of where I currently am creatively for over a week.

Literally, the words have failed me.

I’ve struggled to even write a handful of words.

I’ve reflected upon the reasons for my sudden wordly-mutism.

The closest reason I can come to is that it is like having another language. If you stop using it, you are going to struggle to find the right words when you need it.

Recently all my creative attention has been on art – painting, drawing, looking at, watching, learning.

My words are sulking in a corner, like a dog when you arrive back home after leaving them behind.

Maybe I am not bi-lingual and this will always be a problem for me?

Or perhaps I need to balance my focus and attention between the art and writing?

What if I wrote about art or paint words?

This is undoubtedly a very creative period for me but also a little confusing as I haven’t developed a clear path through it all yet.

The pathway will become apparent.

I am reading Welsh poet Gillian Clarke’s new book Roots Home. The Welsh words catching my attention and reminding me of years spent in the vale and mountains.

My wife mentioned living in Wales again, and the next day an artist on Instagram posted a photo of the hills behind our old house. Maybe it is a sign.

I’m struggling to juggle art and words, adding Welsh into the mix could be entertaining.

But then, Dylan Thomas didn’t write in Welsh, although he undoubtedly understood it.

Roots Home.

Creative roots.

Art came before the Words.

The Art was stopped and the Words sustained me.

Art – Roots. Words – Home.

Writing A Character Series.

Check out this excellent Guardian newspaper article interviewing a host of essential authors writing in the detective genre.

Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, Val McDermaid, Ann Cleeves, and others talk about how they came to write their series and the impact of doing so.

www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jun/27/me-and-my-detective-by-lee-child-attica-locke-sara-paretsky-jo-nesb-and-more

The 12 Stages of the Screenwriter’s Journey – ScreenCraft

Applying the twelve stages of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey to The Screenwriter’s Journey.

Source: The 12 Stages of the Screenwriter’s Journey – ScreenCraft

This a great article from Ken Miyamoto – no attempt to summarise this – you have to read the whole thing for yourselves.

I hope you get as much from it as me – remember ‘screen writer’ can be shortened to simply ‘writer’!

Embracing the Void.

Photo by Tania Malréchauffé on Unsplash

This is another post from the Archive. I’ve hit a point in my current working project where I’ve had to take stock of what is there and what isn’t there in the story so far. This post came to mind as a guide for me as I am reviewing the almost 80,000 words I’ve already written.

I’ve just read a great article by Gwenna Laithland advising writers to use ‘white noise’.

Basically, white noise is the void – the bits you leave out which the reader then projects their own thoughts and imagination onto.

Laithland uses the example of a Harry Potter stage show casting Hermione Grainger with a black actress. J.K. Rowling admits that she never specified her heroine’s skin colour.

I often get caught up in feeling the need to give more detail in description and narration – partly because I write dialogue much more easily and my pages can quickly resemble a play script.

I like writers at both ends of the spectrum. The very precise and detailed, and the void.

So which is best?

I suppose the answer is write with detail when you need to manouveur the reader into a specific place and embrace the void where it really doesn’t matter.

I am still working on this.

I’ve come to realise that the Void can also be used in the plotting of a story also.

What you need to reveal to the reader and what they can deduce for themselves.

The trick seems to be letting go of your own imagined, or fixed, view of the story and allowing the reader the space to become properly involved themselves.

The void allows them to bring their imagination to the story, even if you plot line turns out not to be what they imagined – Jack Reacher creator Lee Child is very good at this, giving you lots of room to try and work out what the ‘bad guys’ are really up to.

So good luck with Embracing the Void!

A Tale of Two Writers – Michael Connelly and John Grisham

To begin at the beginning, this is not an exhaustive comparison of Connelly and Grisham. There will be plenty of writers/journalists out there who have already done this better than I can.

These are my thoughts and notes from a great interview with the two authors by the bookseller Waterstones, earlier this evening.

Connelly and Grisham have been writing for a similar length of time, around the thirty year mark. Both are bestseller authors.

Connelly writes novels with a number of repeating characters. Detective Harry Bosch is his mainstay, but then there is the Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Haller, journalist James McAvoy, and his latest detective Renee Ballard.

The majority of Grisham’s novels are stand alone, with only the recent ‘Camino’ stories being based on the same protagonist.

So, should you write serial characters as a new writer, or have a constantly refreshed cast? The success of both authors would seem to suggest its a tie on that score.

Connelly and Grisham both have work schedules which begin on January 1st.

They are both full-time writers and their writing habits reflect this.

Newer writers may have to work their writing in around other jobs, but there is a key point which is be disciplined. Whether you have all the time to write or practically no time, you have to sit down and write.

Connelly and Grisham both write in areas that they are very familiar with.

Connelly’s stories are very much based in Los Angeles and his previous career as a journalist covering crime clearly still has an influence on his work.

Grisham was a lawyer and most of his books are legal thrillers, with his latest ‘Camino’ books straying from that to a roguish bookseller.

I’m not a fan of the old adage ‘write what you know’, but both authors very much are of the opinion that you should write in areas which you are knowledgable.

What you know the best might not be your current career area. Your interest in sports or politics, cars or mental health, may be what you know best?

Whatever your key area of interest, make sure you keep up to date, read and watch everything you can find and look out for those story ideas.

Ploter or Pantser?

Connelly and Grisham both know what the end scenes are before they begin writing the first scene.

Grisham tends to be more heavily plotted than Connelly.

For you as a writer, plot or pants, but make sure you know where the end is before you start at the beginning.

Connelly and Grisham generally stay within their ‘genre’. Success probably has a part to play here, but they know the lay of the land and they find plenty of stories there.

Grisham has written non-fiction and sport-based stories.

As a writer you can jump around the genres but you will probably find more success in those areas of your knowledge and expertise.

Connelly and Grisham are both fans of Ian Rankin.

Connelly has had his Bosch stories made into a very successful Amazon TV series and a movie made of The Lincoln Lawyer.

Grisham has had a number of his books made into big movies, such as The Pelican Brief, A Time to Kill, and The Firm.

Both writers still see themselves as novelists and TV/Film are interesting side-tracks.

Writers write!

So what’s keeping you – get writing!

Connelly and Grisham could do with some competition!

To Know Your Story or To Not Know Your Story – That Is My Question?

Screenshot 2020-05-18 23.15.09
https://thescriptlab.com/features/screenwriting-101/9700-10-simple-steps-to-writing-a-final-draft-in-10-days/

Usually I would advise you to read this article before you continue with my thoughts, but not today. There is enough in Ken Miyamoto’s excellent article to keep you going for days!

I’ve been researching movie/play scripts for a little while now.

There are many ways in which novels and movies differ, but what I do appreciate that the later has to have a really tight hand on moving the story on and getting the audience to care about their characters.

Plot and character, the cornerstones of any story.

You are not going to write a novel in ten days – although there might be a challenge! – but one of the points Miyamoto makes early on is that you should have visualised at least 75% of your story before you sit down to write.

I think I’ve plotted every which way you can, as I am sure you probably have.

I seem to need the excitement of letting the story unfold and the characters lead me, but I acknowledge that sometimes I am not plotting as tightly as I probably should.

I suppose there has to be a purpose for the editing process, other than to spotting typos!

I find that if I plot too much then I know the story and getting the story down is like wading through deep mud. Putting the words in becomes the hard work, rather than working out where I am going next.

How about you? Strong plotters or the adventure of discovery?

Perhaps stronger discipline in plotting will produce a stronger story from the first draft?

I don’t know.

Visualising 75% of the story first means that both plot and characters should be fully developed.

The writing then becomes the how do I show this to the reader?

Much like a director framing the story from the page to the screen.

Maybe on my next book, I will try it . . .

Writer’s Routine – Recommended!

 

Screenshot 2020-05-11 22.35.06
Writer’s Routine with Dan Simpson.

 

This is a recommendation.

Dan doesn’t know me and I’m not getting any kickbacks.

This is just a really great podcast and you should check it out.

This is the first thing I listen to on a Saturday morning when I’m fixing breakfast.

The format quickly becomes familiar and I defy you not to shout out ‘I do that’ at a similarity in routine, like you would shouting out ‘snap’ in the card game.

He starts by getting the writer to describe their writing place surroundings and then ask for clues about their current projects.

– standing desk, books, posters/paintings, pantser so all plotting in my head, notebook, music, and a timer . . .

This is followed up, generally, by a revealing of their working day.

– lots of promises of a better routine but generally write during the evening, use of a timer, minimum word count, lots of dog interruptions . . .

Plotting, characterisation, ideas, and all sorts of other nuggets – like the business of writing – come out of their conversation.

– pantser so often the characters know before the plot before me . . .ideas will be a character  or piece of dialogue or a mood from a piece of music . . .

There is quite a back catalogue of episodes now, so plenty to get yourself into.

I don’t believe that copying another writer’s routine will ‘channel’ their success, but I definitely come away from these episodes with a sense of ‘maybe I’m not doing too badly after all’.

When you share a number of habits with writer’s you admire, or even have never heard of before, you gain that sense of community which often is missing in what is, on the whole, still a fairly solitary profession. Especially, if you aren’t even published yet.