“You have to do stuff that average people don’t understand because those are the only good things.”
– Andy Warhol
In Fanning the Flames Pt 1, I talked about how our conscious and subconscious minds process information to form new ideas.
In a nutshell, our brains are not unlike a computer: we have so much mental capacity, like RAM, that allows us to process information at a certain pace consciously. But our subconscious minds are like supercomputers, able to process information literally faster than we can think it.
So we know in general how our brains work. But how do we translate that to action?
The first phase of my creative process is information gathering. This can start long before I even know I’m going to write something, because it comes down to a habit of consumption: of books, movies, music, television, podcasts, anything. This means to be creative, I need to be inputting information into my brain as much, or more, than I output. It doesn’t even matter the subject, just that it’s a variety of content that I find fascinating. One of my favorites, oddly, have been science podcasts.
When I have a project, this bevy of creative fuel comes in handy in a process that is my absolute favorite technique: remixing. Essentially, taking two disparate things or concepts and mixing them together for something new.
For example, my short novella Daylight Chasers is essentially the trope of a road trip filled with ridiculous location-specific activities, combined with quasi time travel. For Reset, a short story you can find a podcast version of here, I combined the trope of the end of the world with the very human wish to start our lives over, or ‘reset’ everything. Once you add in the emotional aspect that is the foundation for the story, you have an idea you can work with.
But I only have that vat of knowledge of known story tropes, emotional concepts, and bits and bobs of curious turns of phrase because I’ve consumed enough that the whole thing mixes like a stew in my brain. (Not my best metaphor, but you get the idea.) This is why input is so important, and why often if you hit a block, experiencing something new can often unblock you.
My process seems a bit unconventional, but it works for me. It’s taken trial and error, and I’m still learning some ins and out of my process as it applies to writing, as much of my knowledge relates to my original love, art.
Besides, who decides what’s a conventional way to be creative? It’s a bit of an oxymoron. My way may not be the solution for you, but I hope some insights into my own process help you feel willing to experiment with what makes you creatively tick.