Tag Archives: studies

The Well of Inspiration

Well of Inspiration

Ah, October, the best month in Chicago by far. Why might you ask? Well, that’s easy. Not only does it bring forth the most beautiful of seasons, autumn, and not only is it the month that my wonderful wife and I were married, but for thirty-one days we prepare ourselves for one of the best holidays in the world, Halloween. Every year, just about the time when the scary decorations are put on store shelves, a certain spark erupts in my belly, waking me from my slumber like some revenant crawling out of its grave. Sugared thoughts of frightening costumes, spooky lawn decorations and haunted attractions stir in my mind as I watch ghost shows, drink Octoberfest brews, and reread the classics such as Poe, Stoker and Shelley.

It’s also a peak time for me as an author. It’s as if my fingers are starved to devour the keyboard in order to spin tales that make blood curdle and spines tingle. Countless monsters are born, and even more victims slain across the pages of my works during this wonderful season. Yet, for as much as I could spend countless hours talking about my relationship with the holiday, babbling about the fire that Halloween lights under my cauldron, the excitement of it all also begs another question, one more so related to writing. What is it that makes writers tick?

Some writers are just always on. For them it’s a gift. They have this endless well of ideas and inspiration that allows them to constantly create at anytime, anywhere. For the rest of us however, creativity takes energy, stimulation and motivation. Even the most prolific writers of all time had habits that helped them create their best works. For T.S. Elliot, not only did he sneak away to a quiet porter’s lodge to write, but he also did so while wearing green ghoulish makeup that made him feel like a cadaver. For Faulkner, he wrote his bet works only after a glass or six of whiskey- the good stuff mind you. And as for H.P. Lovecraft, the man of weird fiction could only pen during the darkest hours of night in order to invent his Cthulhu mythos or legends of the Necronomicon.

So what is it that makes you excited to write? Perhaps it’s being somewhere special or reading a book that encouraged you to write in the first place? Being a writer, be it poetry, journalism, fiction, nonfiction, blogging, can be extremely challenging. What takes most people seconds to read may have cost you hours to write, and in those hours, you probably had to drive yourself to stay motivated. Sometimes it’s easy, but often, we must dig down deep and sip from that inspirational well that keeps us excited to create.

Recently, I read an article that had surefire ways to keep a writer motivated. In the column, there were tricks like creating tight deadlines, removing distractions, and forcing yourself to pen even when you were exhausted. While I agreed with what the author was trying to express, their suggestions sounded more like punishment than inspiration. Writers shouldn’t have to physically or mentally abuse themselves in order to create a great story, poem or blog- it’s quite the opposite.

Ultimately, all that we have to do is remember that writing is different for everyone. Simply know yourself, know what keeps you ticking, and use it to your advantage. Anything else is subjective.

So writers, the next time you are having trouble finishing a story, completing a blog or finding that last line of a poem that would really make your work feel complete, remember what makes you want to write. Go back and read your favorite book, visit that place that makes you feel alive, or in my case, listen to Halloween music in the middle of April. I think that you’ll find it truly works. Because so long as you find what makes you tick and continue to feed it, you’ll also find that you’re often writing your best works.

FUN FOR WRITER’S (Contests and Grants)

NEW VISIONS AWARD

https://www.leeandlow.com/writers-illustrators/new-visions-award

NO ENTRY FEE.

STORIES OF RESILIENCE CONTEST

http://ourstoryproject.herokuapp.com/pages/contest

NO ENTRY FEE

THE FEMINIST WIRE GRANT

http://thefeministwire.com/2014/06/feminist-wires-1st-annual-poetry-contest/

$10 ENTRY FEE.
The winner will receive publication in The Feminist Wire and $200. The 1st runner up will receive publication in The Feminist Wire and $100. Deadline October 1, 2014. Submit up to 3 poems (no more than a total of 5 pages).

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Creativity, Nature or Nurture?

Is creativity something that we’re born with or is it something we learn? It’s a question that people in art based fields often ask themselves. Studies by major universities show that people who tend to be more creative have different biological characteristics than those who are not. But not everyone is convinced. Some studies argue that creativity is a renewable resource that can be taught, enhanced and fueled, just like any other skill. So, is it nature or nurture? Let’s use myself as an example to delve into the subject and investigate whether the artistic drive inside of you is a gift of evolution or simple upbringing. 

 

My mother was a very talented artist in the late 60’s and early70’s. She had painted canvases spread across her bedroom, sketch pads stored in stacks throughout our basement and framed photographs of her old art studios inside her office. Even as a boy, I remember asking myself, “will I be like mom (or as we say here in Chicago, ‘ma’)?” As I think back, I don’t recall her ever sitting me down and teaching me how to paint or tell stories, yet as I continued to grow, I learned that I had quite the knack for drawing and writing.  Kids in grammar school use to come to me all the time and ask if I could help them sketch a picture or think of a story idea for a school assignment. To be honest, I never gave it much thought until I decided to pursue my career as an author. Now though, I often wonder, did I teach myself to be creative, using my mom as a guide, or was it something innate that helped me become the fairly creative man I am today?

 

                According to researcher Kenneth Heilman of the Department of Neurology and Neuroscience at Cornell University, I never really had a choice. Kenneth discovered that the brain is divided into two halves that are joined by fibers called the corpus callosum. Writers, artists and musicians tend to have smaller corpus callosums, which allows each side of their brain to communicate better, creating new ideas and associations more easily. Kenneth found that people with this phenomenon benefit through an incubation of ideas that are critical for the divergent-thinking component of creativity. So for Keneth, my brain is just wired that way due to my small corpus callosum (hey, size isn’t everything).

 

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Helsinki conducted a similar study associated to musical creativity. In their extensive assessment, they found that musical creativity is based on one’s natural ability to judge pitch, as well as the coordination of beat and harmony. It’s the brain’s inherent ability to reorganize information that makes one a great musician. This explains why so many musicians like Mozart had successful careers at early ages. It has always been in their DNA.  

 

On the contrary, according to Tina Seelig, the Executive Director of Stanford’s Technology Ventures Program, I, like any other creative person, slowly learned how to be as creative as I am. Through her studies, Tina has learned that creativity is a part of the “Innovation Engine”, a set of skills that can be improved by anyone with the right mindset. In Tina’s eyes, creativity is the process of creating new ideas, something that anyone can do if they just learn to think beyond the obvious. There are hundreds of paths, some easier than others, that can help you sharpen your creative skills. Through her studies, Tina has learned that we are all naturally creative, and like any other ability, some people may have more natural talent. However, it doesn’t mean that others can’t be just as creatively proficient. All they need to learn are techniques that help enhance their capacity. Much like speed reading or rollerblading, it’s a skill to be honed.

 

                So which is it? While I want to believe that artists, much like Jedi or Hogwarts wizards, are biologically chosen to become who they are, I have to say that I have a hard time buying into that mindset. People aren’t just packaged in gift wrap and a bow, creative as they’ll ever be at birth.  No, it seems to be something that slowly develops. Nonetheless, I have to admit that I’ve also met some pretty amazing artists within my day that didn’t do anything different from friends and colleagues when it came to improving their talent, yet they somehow managed to be twice as gifted as others when it came to painting, writing music, or sculpting. Maybe they’re just lucky?

 

                Regardless, for me, it’s hard to agree with any blanket statement which states that creativity only has one explanation like genetics or daily practice. In my eyes, creativity is more than just what scientists can put under a microscope. Yes, it’s a combination of biology and skill, and yet it’s still something more. It’s an orchestra of experience, cleverness, inclination, dreams, love and chance. It’s a desire to make people happy with your work and a satisfaction that comes with conceiving something all your own. That’s something that you just can’t put into one from of scientific rationalization. Does that sound mawkishly sentimental? Perhaps. Still, it’s something I live by.

 

                Through this short blog, we’ve studied what some experts have to say about creativity, using me as an example. But what do you think creativity is? When you examine who you are, can you explain it? Were you born with creativity or is it something that you were taught? Is it understandable or unexplainable? We as readers and writers sometimes forget that we live in a pool of creativity each day. Every blog you post or article you read is someone’s creativity put into motion. Maybe it’s time you take a second to ask yourself how you became the creative wonder that you are.

 

               

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE:

The Guardian, “Are Some People Born Creative”: http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2013/sep/19/born-creative-study-brain-hemingway

Business News Daily, “Who Says Creativity Can’t Be Learned”: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2471-creativity-innovation-learned.html