I Can See Creatively Now

I am somewhat infamous among authors for using the analogy that you can’t make a baby in one month with nine women as a way to refer to creative productivity. If you’re a 2000-word-a-day author, sometimes all the free time and congenial circumstances in the world can’t bump that word count up to 2250 a day.

But I have occasionally been a 5000-word-a-day author, and once I wrote a 7000-word short story in a day. I love those days when I’m writing hot, the story pouring onto the screen, the characters so real to me I expect to hear them ride up to my kitchen door. My limiting factor most often is the flow of story ideas, and the clarity with which I envision a story line.

So I bethought me to read the book, “Iconoclast,” which is about people who do what others regard as “impossible.” Turns out that our brains for the sake of efficiency, tend to operate on the “hum a few bars” premise. We perceive something generally–has wheels, about six feet by twelve feet, white, rumbles, smells like fossil fuel–and the brain leaps to, “That’s your Prius, dummy.”

Or, “That’s your kid/boss/house…” But we’ve ALL had the experience of walking up to a car in the parking that is indeed the make and model of ours, but it’s not our car. The brain missed the ding in the door, the out of state plates, the bobblehead doll in the window.

For the sake of our survival, we don’t want our minds dithering, over and over, about whether that’s OUR Prius or just A Prius, so the mental tendency to leap to conclusions is very strong. It’s also very costly, in terms of innovation, insight, creativity, and problem solving, because the brain loves a perceptual rut.

As an author, I need to see new ideas, come up with insights, and turn assumptions upside down, or I’ll be writing the same book twenty times. Fortunately for me, there’s an easy way to jolt the imagination out of the path of least effort: Court novelty.
Go new places, meet new people, try on new ideas, learn new skills. Watch a new television show, even. Just give the old noggin some new nosh.

Novelty is scary though, so most of us avoid it. We order the same thing on the menu, we drive the same commute, we sit in the same seats, and we’re happy–but we’re not very imaginative.

I cherish imagination. The big problems I face as an aging female and as a creative professional will take courage and imagination to solve. The big problems we face as a society will also take courage and imagination.

All of which tells me that a few vacations, or some small adventures, are really our obligations as citizens concerned for the future of society. What new experience would you like to have, what new place would you like to see? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed ARC of My One and Only Duke. (Wheeeee!)

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32 comments on “I Can See Creatively Now

  1. I’d like to take the tour of Regency, England, put on by Tours International. I’ve spent 4 wonderful days in London with a friend & loved it, (Pimms’ Lemonade anyone?), but wasn’t so into the Regency era. Now I’d like to go for a whole different perspective, do some research before I go & relive some of your stories while I’m there.

    • The UK is a guilty pleasure for me. I love time spent there for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes I want to walk up to every Brit I see and yell, “I have castle envy!” Or henge-envy, regional-accent envy… there’s so much to enjoy about Merry Olde.

  2. Ooo, two more books to read. The rut is also a dastardly enemy with chronic illness. We lose the activities we enjoy, fewer novel encounters (big goal is to not have novel medical encounters) and eventually we’re down a deep rut wondering if we can get of it for even a bit.
    Thanks for the reminder ruts are a human thing.

    New place? Australia or New Zealand. Other end of the world!

    • I’ve been invited to speak at the romance writer’s conferences in both New Zealand and Australia this summer. Your comment reminds me that what I’m regarding with some trepidation is also a dream come true and gift horse. I will think of you when I’m there, eating Tam-Tams and enjoying all the wonderful scenery.

  3. When your body aches with every step you take, it can suck the joy right out of any adventure – new or otherwise. It is even hard to do the normal things you once enjoyed.

    So, as much as I curse the internet, I bless it too, because it allows me to go places and see things that I will never be able to do again physically. It is fun to go down rabbit holes checking out bits and pieces of history. And I bless authors like you that allow me to get lost in the wonderful adventures you create. Thank you.

    • You are welcome! And thank you for providing me a livelihood that I love. When the thyroid disease/Lyme Disease/anemia/pernicious anemia/bursitis/whatever are ganging up on me, I’m endlessly grateful to have a job that I can do just sitting in a chair, typing. Can’t get much more accessible than that, and there have been times when that was about all I could do.

      And wasn’t it Thoreau who came up with, “I have traveled much in Concord.”

  4. Currently, I’d like to visit Hay-on-Wye for the book festival. I’d like to go with out daughter to Bath at the end of the summer. I’d like to spend a summer in Ireland.

    The same book can be printed, but I don’t think it can be written… You will be a different person when you write it.

  5. For a book I’ve just started, I have a trip planned to an unfamiliar city and an appointment to meet with someone for research I feel COMPLETELY out of my league talking to. My imagination has given me the bare-bones outline for the story, but it’s going to take courage to familiarize myself with the environment in order to give my story its authenticity. I’m scared to pieces, but somehow I’m going to convince myself to pull it off. Of course, a trip to Hay-on-Wye would be wonderful, too!

    • As an exercise, when you travel to that distant city, notice all of your first impressions–the sounds, the way the air feels, the scents, the quality of the light… And the expert is probably flattered to be interviewed, so you will both enjoy the encounter (oh my… book premise!).

  6. Many’s the time I feel out of my league. Many’s the time I just do something because I DON’T think I’m out of my league but, perhaps because I’m a Lady of a Certain Age, I don’t care if I am.

    I want to go to Scotland. I have Scottish ancestors and plan to do a bit of research before so I can get to their places. Not new places, I suppose, but new-to-me places which are part of my history.

    • I think you’ll find much to enjoy about Scotland, not the least of which is Scottish traditional music. I love the natural beauty, the tremendous depth of history, and the humor. And tablet. I’m a fool for tablet.

  7. I have my bucket list book which I started last year.While I am still in reasonably good health I am able to achieve.Already I have visited Scotland,Wales the Isle of Wight,Cornwall,Tenerife and done various day trips to places I’ve wanted to see.These have all been planned and enjoyed but today I experienced something that I don’t usually do and that is eat something I don’t like the look of.It was bright yellow and had green spots all over and was a cake the cafe girl assured me was delicious it was a lime and vegetable cake.So I gave it a go!! Wow it was fantastic I’ve never tasted any thing like it before.So sometimes going for something out of your usual remit pays off and surprises one.Just a little event like that can bring delight.It was a reminder to me that I can step outside my comfort zone and enjoy a new experience now and then.I did forget about the calories though! Naughty girl.

    • Oh, good on ya! Your comment is a reminder that novelty is often right under our noses, no travel budget required. This is part of the reason I read much outside the romance genre, and love to study maps. There’s a big wonderful world out there, but a big wonderful world right here too!

  8. I went to the beach in May. I am currently listening to Shawn Mendes in my car, which I like. I am going to Indianapolis this month and Baltimore next month. I have not been to either city. I am looking forward to it. I am about to start a new exercise program. i like to stretch myself and try new things. Oh, always reading new books and new authors.

    • I don’t know Indianapolis, except to get stuck on their beltway at rush hour (never fails). Baltimore is exceedingly cool, has tons of history, and great crab cakes… if that’s your thing. Have a great time, but be prepared for heat and humidity.

  9. I once saw a dramatic presentation by one man of The Book of John (from the Bible). From time to time I have toyed with the idea of doing The Book of Ruth. With my last child starting college this Fall, I wonder if the time for starting working on the memorization of the scripture involved is about here – before my memory starts going!

    • I saw the Gospel of Mark done in a dramatic rendition. It worked well as drama, and was presented in a church, which worked well as a theater (don’t tell my Mennonite buddies I said so). I’d like to hear the Book of Ruth, and you might be the first only person to do it. Blaze that trail!

  10. I’d like to visit the Dales someday as I loved reading James Herriot’s work growing up. And I’d also love to go visit Patagonia or Hawaii as well.

  11. I want to learn ASL. Whether or not I can remember enough to ever converse in it with my middle aged brain, is a pretty big limiting factor, but I like learning and the deaf cultural contribution is fascinating.

    I’d like to spend a couple of leisurely weeks in Iceland. I’ve traveled quite a bit in certain regions but haven’t spent time in South America, I’d love to mosey around for a year if I had the financial and physical stamina to do so.

    • My sister lived in Brazil for three years, and while she was there, I took my nine-year-old daughter to visit. Daughter LOVED it. People had donkeys on their porches. Why couldn’t WE keep a donkey on our porch? Chickens in most yards. Why couldn’t WE have chickens? Geesh. Very friendly, informal, warm-hearted culture, not like what she was used to here in the North East of the USA.
      It was a good trip, and I hope you get to nibble away at your list of ambitions.

  12. I am ALWAYS awaiting one of your new books, Grace. I love your style and he overly ladies and gentlemen you introduce me to. I’ve been reading your books for about 2 years, but just tonight learned you live in the same state as I! However, probably as far away from each other as possible, as I live on the lovely Eastern Shore in Oxford.

    I would love to meet you some day, but know that you are very busy. I hope you send me a new book one day, too!

    • Susan, we are pretty far apart. I’m out in the Western end, and it’s probably a day’s drive between us. If you’re ever on my side of the Bay, let me know and we’ll go duke hunting together.

  13. Last week, my husband and I heard about the Lincoln Highway. I starts in New York and ends in San Fransisco. We would love to make the trip.

    • I live just off Lincoln Highway in the south suburbs of Chicago…wonderful idea for a trip. If you do go, I’ll meet you for lunch! 🙂

    • I’ve touched on parts of that Route, mostly because I’ve taken I-80 from one coast to the other. Very different journey now than it was a century ago. I hope you get to do it, because I’m sure it’s an educational and enjoyable adventure.

  14. I would like to visit the Harry Potter Museum and that the set tour in London, then on to Paris and the usual sites. We got to drive through Paris a couple of years ago, but did not get to stop and see the sites since we were on our way to Normandy at the time.

    • Paris!!! I have tentatively committed to attending a romance book festival there next May. I have about trois words of French–Avez-vous du pain et fromage? Ou est le chocolate?–but Paris in springtime and all that. I have never seen Waterloo battlefield, and I’d love to add that to my itinerary.

  15. Grace, I have missed “fundament” for several volumes, now. But I will accept”doddypoll” as a replacement. Just finished “My Own True Duchess,” and loved it. Great characters, plus a new word. Thank you.