The fountain of (my) creativity

I don’t pay too much attention to where my writing ideas come from or the methods I use to link them into coherent story ideas. I think, for me at least, it is unhealthy to know too much about that kind of thing.

Are you familiar with Aesop’s fable of the goose that laid golden eggs? That’s kind of how I look on whatever the source of my creativity is. I fear that if I analyze it too much — if I cut it open to see how it works — I will effectively kill it.

I don’t ascribe to any supernatural sources for creative ideas. I may talk about being visited by my Muse, but I’m only speaking metaphorically. I think the only muse I can rely on is heavy doses of caffeine, applied through the medium of iced tea. I certainly seem to get more ideas and write more easily when I have a caffeine buzz going. (And I pay dearly for it too. I get caffeine headaches so bad that they would send me crawling to dark places where I would shut my eyes and try not to feel anything. In order to control them, I limit my tea drinking to the weekends. By mid-week I will have a day or two of relatively mild withdrawal headaches that heavy doses of aspirin can generally tame. Many people suggest a shot or two of tea to pacify the caffeine urge, but I’ve found that this simply postpones the headache one day, and it comes back more fiercely then.)

But back to the fountain of my creativity. When all of the pistons are firing and I’m writing away, the last thing I want is self censoring. I don’t want to think about where the idea is coming from or why the sentence is forming as it is. I simply want to get it down and keep getting it down. On a good day, I might get a couple of hours of this state, and I’m grateful when I do. And on bad days, I don’t think knowing the source of my ideas would help.

I’m not sure I could know either. If I plumbed the shallows of my subconscious mind and thought I identified how I get and develop ideas, could I rely on that understanding? Could I use it as a sort of mechanism to plug in material and wait for the output at the other end? I doubt it. And anyway, I don’t think I could be confident that I would come to an understanding of the whole process. And further anyway, I like the idea of having the unknown before me.

There are quantitative thinkers in the world and there are qualitative thinkers in the world. There are engineers and there are artists. I have no doubt that an engineering approach to novel writing can yield results. I don’t doubt that some part of me does think in this way. Certainly when I’m plotting a story I use this approach in part. (The inspired links between plot ideas come from somewhere else though.) It’s just not the way I think my mind works in most of my creative moments.

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