Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Where Does Creativity Come From?

Nathan Bransford has a fantastic blog and many talented writers visit his forum. I recently discovered a fascinating discussion on his forum about whether authors are conscious creators of their stories or they give in to some kind of inner inspiration.

The person who started the thread defined it like this: Some writers think of themselves as... a channel through which a muse or a perfect platonic form expresses itself. It is common to hear this type of writer refer to the way the story wants to be written...other writers consider themselves the creators of the story.”

I highly recommend reading this discussion. Here’s my two-cents:

I tried the everything-goes, let-it-flow process with a book I wrote in high school, Black Tears, and what I ended up with was kind of weird. It evolved into a metaphor for my life experiences instead of focusing on the purpose of the story. Parts of the plot didn’t make sense for the story but made sense as the metaphor, and because the metaphor was so meaningful to me, I couldn’t bring myself to change it.

I was firmly and completely on the side of Conscious Creator while I wrote Sacred Fire. It was planned in meticulous detail, which I think is essential for historical fiction because the history tells the story just as much as I do. Writing deliberately worked well, so I decided that was my style.

One day I was at the gym on the treadmill. I was thinking about Toni Morrison’s Beloved and how much I hate vampires at the same time, when suddenly a book idea just popped into my head, fully formed. I could almost hear a pop! sound. This became my Nano novel.

I was in the habit of writing consciously when I started my Inspired Idea, and I realized half-way through that I was getting in my own way. The best stuff in that book happened when I wasn’t thinking.

Where does this sudden inspiration come from? I believe it’s solely based on the intricate nature of our brains. While we aren’t consciously thinking, our subconscious is actively working on any number of things. The more you write, the more active and assertive your subconscious becomes.

The key to writing books fast is logic. Your mind can make its own connections. If you set up a relationship and then put the characters in a situation, the dialogue naturally develops because your mind knows the logical conclusion of the situation. You might come up with the ending of your novel that’s unexpected because your mind knows how it has to end before you know how you want it to end.

I’ve decided that my creative process depends on my genre. Historical fiction naturally requires conscious thought in order to be authentic. Pure fiction, on the other hand, sometimes happens on its own.
Teralyn Rose Pilgrim Teralyn Pilgrim


  1. This is a really awesome question. I think that I'm so Type A that I would expect myself to totally plan out a book, but actually I'm having so much fun sitting down every day and typing what comes to mind, or what I just thought of in the shower, or what I manage to tap out on my Droid into Evernote while I'm working out. I think if I were to meticulously plan, it would suck a lot of the joy out of it for me. (And since I don't really expect to ever sell my book, that's what it's all about.)

    J.K. Rowling did rough outlines for her books. Stephenie Meyer wrote Twilight based on a dream she had. I dream of being like Stephenie, and that's definitely an example of the inner workings of our brains coming through for us. :)

  2. I usually get my story ideas when I'm not fully awake. My first original story came to me when I was eleven or twelve. My county was having severe thunderstorms and I woke up and went to my window when the sirens went off. To this day I swear I saw a tornado. I ran through the house yelling that there was a tornado and we all gathered in the basement to watch the news.... There was no tornado. Maybe I was still a little asleep at the time.
    But that's when I started wondering about how our eyes trick us into seeing things that really aren't there. I think it's our subconscious telling us that there is something in the world that we're not taking for granted, that really is there even if we can't see it.


  3. Inspiration is a really strange thing. It comes randomly in the oddest of places. The novel I'm writing has some action scenes in it and there was a time when my inspiration dried up. But then one day, I went to the museum and saw all these cool Asian war weapons and Inspiration striked me at that moment. It's weird but it works :D
    Awesome article, btw.

    1. That's an awesome story. I've always thought the best way to kick your creative juices in gear is to get away from the computer and do interesting-but-relevant things. BTW, it's really cool to know people are still reading some of my old posts!


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