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Creativity fascinates us as writers.
We seek it and study it, and yet it often appears when we just stop and are silent with our thoughts. As authors we strive to turn our creativity into a finished product that will surprise and delight readers, but it all starts with an idea. In today's podcast, I talk to the author of the Creative Genius Program, Phil South, about how we can improve our creativity.
In the intro, I talk about my holiday in the Languedoc, south of France and my big aha moment. I also discuss what I learned from the book Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer.
Phil South is a British writer, film-maker and coach. His new Creative Genius Program (CGP) helps people develop the creative side of their brains and generate more ideas, as well as stimulate productivity and the craft of writing . You can find the course at WritingFit.com and Phil's blog at Going Down Writing.
- Phil has been a writer for over 30 years with a career spanning gaming magazines, music journalism and creative uses for technology. He became an expert in creative software which led him to make multimedia CD-ROMs, as well as an animator with the Disney channel. After a traumatic period in his life which ended with divorce and being a single parent Dad, he became fascinated by how the creative process worked. This sparked his own journey into how the brain works and how to stimulate creativity within people as well as the mystical side of things. Basically, his search for the seeds of creativity started with trauma.
“The brains of bestselling authors and creatives are different.”
- Creative people become like this because they develop their brains in a certain way, even though that development might be accidental. Repetition helps develop these pathways in the brain. Writing regularly helps the process. The practice is critical – it's not just about theory.
- There is also a brain state that people who are creative get into. The alpha state helps generate creativity and there are ways we can access this state. Scientists have done experiments on this using functional MRI with improvisation. See Charles Limb TED talk for more info. People turn off their conscious mind to a certain degree. This explains the good ideas in the shower or the treadmill when we separate from actual ‘doing'. Practice at this will encourage the generation of creative ideas. But always approach this in a non-judgmental way and without expectation of specific results.
- If you use the creative muscle it will improve. I found this in my own life. I used to believe that I wasn't creative but as I expressed creativity in my life, the ideas increased. See my article – From affirmation to reality. Physical processes are supply and demand, so if you demand stamina, you get it. If you demand more ideas, you get them. Once you use those parts of your brain, it becomes a lot easier over time.
- Some ideas just need to be expressed in order to free up other ideas that may be more productive. Don't get stuck on the first idea. Focus on being non-judgmental. Understanding creative flow as a plant growing in a garden. Plant the seed and water it and let nature take its course. You can't force the growth. It takes time. You can't graft on other ideas immediately in order to bulk it up. The impulse is to force the issue but give it time and let it grow. Personally, a lot of my ideas come from non-fiction research from places, so you also need some fertile soil. So fill yourself up in order to create.
- But you still need perseverance and discipline. Stephen King calls it ‘bum glue'. Don't wait for the muse. Sit down and do your work and the muse will come in time. Phil suggests there is a distinction between writing and typing. Sometimes you will find yourself in a flow state with many ideas but sometimes you do need the discipline. I admit that I have a lot of ideas but getting that into words on the page is the hard part.
How to become more creative
- (1) Get rid of the noise and input. Reduce media consumption, e.g. don't turn the TV on when you have nothing to do. [I got rid of the TV 4 years ago and my creativity definitely improved.] Don't always be listening to music or reading the scary news. Everything can wait. Give yourself space and time to think.
- (2) Meditation can help. Clear your mind of junk. Your thoughts and ideas are easier to hear when the world is quieter. There are iPhone apps for this if you are struggling with the actual practice!
- (3) Learn stuff. Fill your mind with the things you are fascinated with and this will come through into your work. Phil recommends language learning which freshens the areas of your mind that you haven't used for a while.
You can find all the details of the Creative Genius Program at WritingFit.com.
You can also find Phil at his writing blog, Going Down Writing and on twitter @Phil_South