Saturday, December 12, 2009


Yesterday I listened to an episode of PRI's To the Best of Our Knowledge. The show is titled "Channeling Creativity" and I found the first segment to be especially interesting: cartoonist and writer Lynda Barry talks about overthinking and creativity. I was saying "yes, yes" to much of what she said. She spent nine years (I hope I'm remembering correctly) writing a novel because she felt that she needed to know everything that was going to happen to her characters before she wrote it out. After immense frustration she sat down and wrote her novel longhand (no delete key to second guess what comes!) and finished in less than one year.

I too am finding that I enjoy the writing process more when I sit with an open notebook. I am also wary of guessing too much of the story before I actually write it. My first creative writing professor had us do a character exercise in which we listed everything about a character we were working with: favorite color, favorite sandwich, elementary school memories, broken bones, crushes, ambitions, on and on and on until I really hated my character because there was nothing more for me to be surprised by when I wrote. I like the details that reveal themselves only a word or a sentence before their placement, when it suddenly makes perfect sense that Elliot wears an Army surplus jacket or Janet hates the feel of a knife slicing through raw chicken.

In the third segment of the show, Geoffrey Colvin, author of Talent is Overrated talked about late bloomers and how we cannot always predict success based on talent at a young age. This segment reminded me of some ideas in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and also of two articles featured in the same November 2008 issue of Psychology Today, "Confessions of a Late Bloomer" by Scott Barry Kaufman and "Better Late than Never" also by Kaufman but featuring five different late bloomers.

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