Cultivating Creativity

On today’s Wednesday Words, I’m mostly giving you other people’s words, not my own. I want to share some recent blog posts related to creativity. Enjoy!

First, Roz Morris, in her Nail Your Novel blog, posted her inspiring Writer’s Manifesto for 2017: Take Your Imagination Seriously. We’re writers! Imagination is our main tool and purpose, but we tend to be sheepish about it. This is all just pretend, after all. But no, Morris says – we have to step up and welcome our imagination, fight for it, be proud of it. Amen! So now I’m all fired up to get serious about imagination. But how?

Here’s how: 8 Ways to Improve Creativity, posted by Beth Nelan on the Writer’s Edit blog. She gives a series of specific techniques that can make any of us more creative. They range from the simple action of looking up (and around) to take in more of the world than we usually do, to more involved actions like taking courses or traveling the world. Yes, these are excellent ideas that can give any of us a creativity boost.

Coincidentally, I just discovered a blog aimed at my day job, but with ideas that any of us can use: The Creative Professor. Risa Stein posts frequent messages about creativity in the classroom. I can use them in how I teach, but they are also valuable in my writing as well. Here’s the most recent post as of right now: Crappy Pictures are Awesome. She talks about how fearful we all are that others are judging us, and our failures will be on display for all to see. Better to keep our thoughts to ourselves, stick just to what’s safe and expected, right? This kills creativity. Don’t worry if your pictures, or your ideas, seem crappy. I’m reminded of a frequent exhortation from a choral director I know: “Be right or be wrong, but be bold!”

How do you nurture your creativity? What helps you take it seriously? How can you make sure to do more of that in the weeks and months to come? Pick a creativity-bolstering activity and make a pledge to do more of that.

Me and the 1%

This is not a political or economic post – it’s this week’s Wednesday Words. I’m reblogging something I read today on the 10 Minute Novelist that really resonated with me, about how you can dream big in just 10 minutes a day. I did some math and found that 10 minutes is 1% of a nominal 16-hour waking day. Can’t I manage to devote just 1% of my time to this writing thing I claim to be committed to? You would think so, wouldn’t you?

I’m not one to make new year’s resolutions. Why commit to an important change just because we managed to get through another solstice? But this is something that I really should be able to do, even in the midst of a very busy life. Just 10 minutes a day. That’s not much; but it will be enough.

So here’s my pledge to myself: I’ll schedule at least 10 minutes of my day, every day, to working on my novel, starting today. I pledge to do this for at least three months, after which I’ll review what happened to see whether I want to renew the promise. I’ll post my success or failure to live up to this plan each week as a footnote on the Wednesday Words message. You’ll be my witnesses, which is important because knowing I have witnesses may help me stick with my promise.

Here’s to becoming part of the 1%. What do you think – want to join me there?

Girl Books-Boy Books (reblog)

I want to direct your attention to a recent post by Jo Eberhardt on the Writer (Un)Boxed site about our default idea that characters are male unless specifically specified to be female (and, for most of us in the Western, Euro-centered world, are also White and relatively well-educated and empowered unless there’s a reason for them to be Other). This means we tend to notice those who are different (female, people of color, mobility limited, etc.), and because they capture our attention we overestimate how often they occur. After reading this post I looked back at the 22 books I’ve read so far this year, and find that they break down as follows on gender lines:

  • 10 with male point-of-view characters
  • 7 with female point-of-view characters
  • 3 with a collection of point-of-view characters of mixed genders
  • 2 nonfiction books to which gender categories don’t apply

Thus 32% (7 out of 22) of the books I’ve read so far this year, and 35% (7 out of 20) of the fiction I’ve read this year, is centered on female characters. In this respect I score higher than Ms. Eberhardt, but only because I restricted myself to this year’s books. If I went back through the books I own, which includes whole shelves of works by Larry Niven and Dick Francis as well as by Barbara Hambly and Sue Grafton, I’m sure I would get a much lower percentage. This despite the fact that I, like Ms. Eberhardt, actively seek out books by and about women.

So my challenge to you is this: first, read Ms. Eberhardt’s post (The Problem with Female Protagonists). Then do your own count of your reading, and let us know what you find in the comments.

You might be surprised.

On Fiction Out of Its Time #reblog

Re-blog Each week I try to point my readers to blog deliciousness that appealed to me that week. This week’s reblog is called On fiction out of its time, and comes from the blog Sam Hawke Writes, written by a fellow named – surprise! – Sam Hawke. He raises an interesting and important question about reading well-loved old books to his young children. Should the text be updated to reflect modern mores and sensibilities? Modern language? How much change is needed, if any, and how much is too much? He doesn’t answer these questions (I suspect the answer will be different for each reader), but got me thinking interesting and complex thoughts. If yo care about children’s literature and about how books reflect their world, you’ll enjoy his discussion.