Many people have asked me over the years what my “secrets” are as a writer. They want to know how I’ve come to write so much day after day while dreaming up with crazy-original ideas. I’m not going to give away my entire creative process here because we all have trade secrets and I wouldn’t expect other creative professionals to tell the whole world exactly how they do it. However, there are some things I’m willing to disclose, like how I work in what I term “creative chaos.”
When I’ve used this term with people in the past, they think I must have a chaotic, disorganized workspace. Actually, my writer’s desk is extremely well-organized. In fact, some might even think it’s a little too organized. I’m actually an orderly person, though I’m not an obsessive “neat freak.” While I have things on my desk which can act as inspiration, it’s not the space where the real work happens.
The true creative process takes place in my head. Sure, I’ll jot down thoughts in notebooks and someone once stole a whole stack of notebooks from me to be vindictive, but what that person doesn’t realize is my best ideas are always the most recent in my head. Many of those are seared into my memory because they’re so crazy I can’t forget them even if I wanted to. Plus, they evolve in my head over time, unlike what I’ve penned in ink. That’s where the creative chaos comes in, since that chaos lives in my head.
By their very nature, truly creative forces can’t be fully ordered because too much order doesn’t allow for deviation from otherwise strict boundaries and guidelines. If I were writing training manuals or instructions to assemble an engine there would be little room for creative chaos. But when I’m crafting a story it’s an essential element to make things interesting, inventive, engaging, and unique.
I’ve developed the ability to flip the creative chaos switch on and off in my head, something many young writers seem to struggle with immensely. You can’t wait to feel inspired to start writing or you’ll starve if it’s your full-time job. Over the years I’ve developed several ways to spark that creative chaos at will.
I’ve found music to be one of the most effective methods, but what music does it for me literally changes by the hour. As a result I have an extensive, eclectic music library which includes artists from around the globe and stretches back at least a century in time.
Partaking of other creative arts from paintings to movies, plays to live music helps to feed my imagination banks so I can get that creative chaos going when necessary. In fact, I find the greater the variety of creative works from others I take in the better. It’s like chopping wood and stacking it up so when it’s needed you can always start a fire with ease.
Creative chaos oftentimes involves me “coloring outside the lines” and disregarding all kinds of rules. When I go back and do edits, I have a more organized and analytical approach. The strict rules and boundaries are very much present in my mind, unlike when I’m first telling a story. My rough drafts are always interesting, sometimes they’re random, and they’re always anything but a polished piece.
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