Tag Archives: creativity

Do authors need to be lonely?

Noticed on Twitter recently, courtesy of @parisreview:

“I need the pain of loneliness to make my imagination work.” – Orhan Pamuk

To all the wordsmiths out there – is this true?

In my experience, I don’t need the pain of loneliness. Pain-free works better for me. That said, a stint in solitary confinement can be a good thing. Email, Internet and phone silence can be truly golden.

I do find my imagination fires up more frequently when I have a clear head, empty timetable and clean, quiet workspace. Clutter is the sworn enemy of my creativity.

Holidays help too. Fresh faces and places trigger new ideas and are the catalyst for curiosity. In the past fortnight I’ve had ideas for a picture book, junior fiction book and short story. Finding time to work on and finish them is the tough bit…

Gobbling up goshness

Click on this link for a sweet piece from acclaimed poet and author Cate Kennedy on the oddities and inconsistencies of language through the eyes of a child.

Cate’s point is well made. By stiffly following convention we stifle creativity. We miss out on unexpected and fresh combinations of words-ideas-sounds-images that have the power of new. I’ve never forgotten a poem from a fellow second year creative writing student (way back when) who wrote of the “goshness” of a kitten exploring its world. It’s not a word you’ll find in a dictionary but we all know what it means.

Delivering goshness is one reason I admire Markus Zusak’s work so much. It’s why I will sit through a car review from Jeremy Clarkson knowing I’ll never drive the vehicle he describes but I can still savour the language he employs to explain his motoring experience.

A few years back John Marsden wrote an article arguing that we shouldn’t tell children that cows moo, ducks quack and so on. Why? Because we might be implanting conventions when a child might find its own altogether better way to depict those sounds. A new way of describing something isn’t a wrong way.

As Cate says, it’s a parenting conundrum. We want to equip our children for the world they live in. But sometimes it’s better if they colour outside the lines.

Energised by passionate people

You’ve got to love people who are passionate about their professions. I reckon folks who exude enthusiasm about the next project, the next challenge, the next chance to change a patient/student/life are the people that recharge our batteries and invigorate us for the day ahead.

This morning I met with a friend who wanted to run some ideas for television programs by me – namely a doco and an animation for children. His pitches sounded like winners to me. That fired me up to go try and kick some goals too.

Last week I met some publishing industry professionals and we discussed my current manuscript, which has the working title of Five Parts Dead. I explained that I’d tried to write a book that 15-year-old reluctant readers would power through from start to finish. The chapters are short. The paragraphs are too. There’s very little padding. It’s a manuscript intended for people more familiar with text messaging, Twittering and micro-blogging than ploughing through acres of verbiage.

One of the publishers responded that, and I paraphrase, ‘We live in an era of constant distraction. Books are a respite from the distraction and that’s why we have to make them the best we possibly can.’

There’s passion in that philosophy. And truth.

Stamp out the distractions and get passionate about a book today.

Creativity, characters & cheap plastic toys

There’s an article in The Age today about a pending Pixar film called Up. Apparently toy makers and other merchandising folk are steering clear of this flick because the central character is a cantankerous old man and therefore unappealing to kids.

I’ve got mixed feelings about that. The film looks like great fun to me. And let’s face it, how often do Pixar put out a dud? Even their less than best work (I’ll be howled down for suggesting Wall-E was worthy but dull and Cars was too predictable) is way better than most other film offerings for kids. (I still love The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc. despite repeated viewings at my place.)

Anyway, when we play with a toy I reckon we at least partly imagine ourselves as that character. And sure, my son would never play a game where he took on the role of a crotchety retiree. On the other hand, my daughter adores having elderly figures to play the grandparent roles in her doll house. Indeed, she was playing at being a grandmother, without props, as recently as yesterday.

Besides, if you watch the Up trailer you’d have to say the talking dog and tech-savvy boy scout surely present good opportunities for toy makers.

Incidentally, I took the kids to see Monsters vs Aliens during the Easter Break and we all enjoyed it. And which critter has been the absolute fave with all kids? The dopey, gelatinous blob, B.O.B., hands down.

But let’s turn to books. A good story will be a winner with kids because it hooks them in, irrespective of who the central character is.

This is what scriptwriters, authors and even merchandising folk need to remember. Story is king. If you’re just trying to create a character that looks good on a lunch box – and then joining the dots to make a story – you’re way off the mark. Your characters have to engage kids because of who they are and what they do (like B.O.B.), not because they will sell more toys than Buzz Lightyear.

Thankfully, Pixar and their owners at Disney are acutely aware of this. Disney chief executive Robert Iger is quoted as follows: “A check-the-boxes approach to creativity is more likely to result in blandness and failure.”

So true. So think big. Think different. And vive the feisty and adventurous senior citizens of the world.