…But Creativity Doesn’t Come
When it comes to writing, some people are plotters(they plan what they’re going to write) and some people are pantsers(they fly by the seat of their pants). I’ve always been a plotter, but after attending superstar writing teacher Brian Henry‘s How to Build Your Story workshop, I think I’m ready to switch sides.
Brian had us do an exercise that forced me – a pre-develop-every-detail-before-writing plotter - to write on the fly. I was surprised - not just by what I wrote, but by the free flow of ideas that came with it. Suddenly pantsing didn’t seem so bad.
So when the guest speaker, Lynda Simmons, author of Island Girl and a committed pantser, explained that pantsing still requires setting up each scene, I listened. And when she said, “if you can’t surprise yourself you won’t have a chance of surprising your reader,” I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that. And when she told us about her friend who’s been stuck on the same story because she’s been trapped in a cycle of plotting and replotting for 10 years I blushed and dropped my head into my chest to hide my guilt.
And as Lynda spoke I realized something important: I was staring down at my own cleavage with flushed cheeks. So I got over the wasted years of plotting in circles, lifted my head and focused on learning how I could do things differently.
Giving Creativity Time
At a different workshop a few years ago the teacher told us that in developing her stories she’d sit at her desk for days twiddling her thumbs. When her husband came by and asked what she was doing, she’d say, “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m working.”
I laughed but I didn’t realize how seriously important it is to waste time.
According to the March 2013 edition of The Economist, even businesses are moving in that direction to foster creativity. In the article The Roots of Creativity they note the trend of businesses like 3M and Google in encouraging their employees to engage in fun activities and take regular breaks. The hope is that relaxing the mind will allow for subconscious connections to take place.
Giving Creativity Space
Lehrer’s book also addresses how 3M spends a whopping almost 8% of their gross revenue on research, and encourages its employees to spend about 15% of their time just trying out new ideas, while accepting that most of those efforts will fail. What they understand is that inspiration can come from anywhere. And what they’re looking for is the rare idea that is truly innovative.
Back at the How to Build Your Story workshop, another idea began forming in my mind. And for the first time in four years it was for a new story – wait that’s not true. I’ve had inklings of other stories, but I pushed them away because they weren’t what I was supposed to be working on.
The new idea, of all things, is for a romantic comedy and quite possibly inspired by my cleavage (good work girls!). Not what I’d seen myself writing, but it’s what came and I like it, so I’m giving myself the space to go for it.
Hoping Creativity Will Put Out
So now I’ve got a new story idea that I’m going to give myself the time to develop and the space to take risks. And I’ve decided that this time around, I’m going to be doing less of this:
and more of this:
What about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? And would you consider switching to get yourself going?