Where and How Do I Best Create?
I decided tonight to participate in a writing prompt that appeared on this site, the Daily Post:
This was the specific prompt I am responding to:
“Where do you produce your best writing — at your desk, on your phone, at a noisy café? Tell us how the environment affects your creativity.”
I altered the name of the prompt a little bit from, “Where do you produce your best writing?” to “Where and How Do I Best Create?”
Although I am a writer, I am also an inventor, and a game designer, and a businessman, and I’m aware of how I create best in all of those disciplines.
Some real amount of creativity is required for all of the functions I listed and with me I have particular environments or actions that are most conducive to creativity in each particular sphere of activity, but the environments or triggers for each of those activities tend to vary. For sentence the triggers for my creativity when I am inventing tend to be different from those when I am writing. Individual triggers may overlap but different fields usually produce different methods for me.
First of all a bit of background regarding creativity as I see it – and to me where you create is directly linked to both what and how and how well you create. I have studied creativity (the subject in general) and my own creative habits and tendencies for decades and have gotten pretty good at knowing what best stimulates creativity in me.
Secondly I live in the country and pretty far away from any city, or even town. I purposely choose to live out in the country and would never choose to work in a city at any creative function. I lived in a city for a brief period of time when my wife and I first married and found that particular environment anti-creative.
I would and do visit cities to work cases (criminal cases that I still assist on occasionally), to meet clients or investors, to see a film, attend a concert, visit a library, go to an airport, or just to see the sights. I would however never work in a city. So for me almost all creative undertakings are done in the country and most of those near my home where there is plenty of land to wander and wildlife to study, track, and watch. But noise, pollution, congestion, distraction, all of that is the very opposite of a creative environment to me.
Third, I tend to create first in my mind, working out most of the aspects and details of what I am creating in my head, then go over and over the subject again, committing it to memory, then later I write it out in sketch books or on notepads or notecards, and finally I transfer it to my desktop computer. I have tried other methods, and other technological aids, but most don’t seem to work for me very well, if at all. So that’s my normal pattern. Construct first in my mind, work out most of the details, commit to memory, then write out my notes, and finally commit it to my computer where I can edit and revise.
As for how I commit whatever I am working on to memory see this post: https://wyrdwend.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/the-memory-palace-matteo-ricci-and-the-city-of-agapolis/
So, all of that being said by way of introduction here are the places I best create and the circumstances that tend to spur on creativity in my case.
1. Business or Investment – if I am working on a business or investment project either for myself or for a client I tend to do best by simply driving around town in my car looking at businesses or by stopping at a public place (like a mall) and people-watching and observing commerce. This is the one exception to my No-City Creativity Rule. In this case I like to make close observations on how people are interacting and how and in what directions commerce and human activity tends to flow. I try to look at it from an objective point of view, as if I were a disinterested observer. Then I commit to memory what I saw or occasionally I will make notes, make a comment into my digital recorder, or I will ask my wife and children to make notes on something I or we have observed. Every Friday that it is possible I/we have what I call an Idea Sabbath. The wife, the kids, and I will take that day off for nothing but Idea Generation. These are the occasions I use for business and capital creativity. Sometimes I will also use these outings to make close observations of people (people watch) so that I can later use what I have observed for fictional character development.
2. Game Design – if I am working at game design or development I do best by imaging the game in my mind and then trying to play out various scenarios in my imagination to the logical conclusions. This is where the City of Agapolis comes in very handy. I often design best by lying in bed in the dark and the quiet, by meditating, by lying in a hot bath, or in the sun. Sometimes I do quite well at design by listening to music, mostly Art Music. For the most part though I design best in quiet and peaceful environments. I have done some really good design work at night in the yard while stargazing through my telescope or by simply sitting in the dark in my yard at night listening to the night wildlife and birds.
3. Invention – I usually do my very best inventing while walking in the woods or riding my bicycle in the country. Either activity allows me to clear my mind completely and to make close order observations of everything around me. Most of my inventions are spurred on by making observations of Nature anyway, or by having conversations with God while I walk or bike or hike, and on those occasions God will often point out to me something I had previously failed to notice. This almost invariably leads to a good invention idea.
4. Poetry – I often write my very best poetry after reading, often after reading history. I also do extremely well at writing poetry after I am physically exhausted. So, often I will run or train or work out heavily, then go take a hot bath (followed by a cold bath) and while I lay in the tub I will commit to memory whatever poem I am writing in my head (poetry is extremely easy to memorize because, well, it’s poetic), then after I get out I’ll write it down. Sex with the wife also often leads to good poetry, and sometimes good songs. Point is my best poetic compositions are usually related to states of extreme physical exhaustion and or states of extreme physical relaxation.
5. Songwriting – songwriting for me is usually spurred on by listening to music, by becoming distracted by something, by play, or by athletic activities, or even by driving in the countryside. Though sometimes it can occur in my dreams or come out of almost nowhere. (Or it seems that way to me anyway, see: https://wyrdwend.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/everyone/) It also seems to often occur just before and just after sleep. Songwriting often hits me a couple of days or weeks after carefully listening to a song by someone else and closely examining and then thinking about the lyrical structure of the song I listened to. Like with poetry I can go days, sometimes weeks, without writing a single song and then I will write six or seven or even more in just a few days.
6. Writing Fiction – writing fiction for me is almost always connected with Work and the Land. I write my very best novel material and short stories and things like that while working the land. If I am chopping wood with my axe, if I am cutting grass, or hauling dirt, or clearing brush, or using my slingblade, or working outdoors then I will write well. Usually the entire time I am working outside a story or novel is running through my head and I can either write out entire scenes or develop whole plotlines as I work. Physical work is fully conducive to my best fictional work and I can write far more easily while my body is at work than I can by sitting still at my desk (which I tend to hate anyway). So as I work I also write out the piece (or to be more accurate I usually imagine the characters and scenes) in my head, commit it to memory, then when I finish I will come in and write it all down. If the story becomes so involved I fear I can’t remember it all correctly or I start producing particularly good character dialogue I’m afraid I’ll forget then I come inside immediately and write that down. But it all begins with physical labor and working outdoors.
Those are the environments and situations and techniques regarding how I tend to create, and create best. I could mention a couple of other efforts, such as when I’m working on a scientific project or paper (and my best scientific work tends to be a sort of combination of how I best Invent and Write – Nos. 3 and 6), or how I might still work a case, which tends to be a combination of Business creativity (such as revisiting the crime scene) coupled with Design creativity but overall the techniques and environments I listed above pretty much sum up my methods of creativity depending on what form of creativity I’m pursuing.
Overall I almost never associate creativity of any kind, or even a specific creative pursuit like writing, with being sedentary, or with something like sitting in a café. To me creativity is an active function, whether that activity is physical, mental, or psychological.
Mostly I associate activity and motion and movement and work (actually making things physically happen) with creativity. But to me being sedentary and inactive seems the very antithesis of real creativity. So just sitting my butt in a chair is one technique I find hard to stomach. I guess it’s the way I’m built but I detest the standard conception of the sit-around creator, or the sit all day drinking coffee writer.
I’m sure that there are writers who do very well that way or in that type of environment, but me, I prefer an axe in my hand or some land to wander while I write.