|An Artist's Creative Forum: Feature Fridays|
Today’s Feature is Randy Ingermanson, publisher of Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine. Randy earned a Ph.D. in physics at U.C. Berkeley, which is a wretchedly lame excuse for people to call him " America's Mad Professor of Fiction Writing," but life isn't always fair. He is the award-winning author of six novels and one non-fiction book. His website address is http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com Check it out and join his blog if you like it.
And now, today’s Feature article >>>
YOUR CREATIVE SUPERPOWERS:
If you're a human being, then you're creative.
If you're a novelist, then you're very creative.
There are actually a number of different ways to be
creative. Most novelists excel at some of them. Most
novelists are weak in others. I like to think of the
various modes of creativity as "creative superpowers".
I suspect that your total creative ability isn't just
the sum of your creative superpowers. I suspect
that your total creative ability is more like
the multiplication of your creative superpowers.
The reason is because when you want to create something
new, you typically need to work through a whole chain
of creative tasks, each using a different creative
superpower. The more creative each link in the chain,
the more creative the final result.
The bad news is that creativity is hard to outsource.
The good news is that you can learn to be more
To do that, you need to understand what the various
creative superpowers are and then exercise your
creative muscles to develop those superpowers.
I've been reading a book lately on creativity, YOUR
CREATIVE BRAIN, by Shelley Carson, Ph.D.
Dr. Carson identifies seven different creative
superpowers (she calls them "brainsets" in analogy to
the word "mindset", but my inner geek responds better
to the phrase "creative superpower" so that's what I'll
YOUR CREATIVE BRAIN helps you figure out which creative
superpowers you're naturally good at. More important,
it has exercises to help you develop your strength in
each of them.
What are those creative superpowers? Here's a rough
description of each one:
* The "Absorb" superpower is the one you use when you
see the world around you in a creative way. You are
absorbing apparently useless information and finding an
unexpected use for it.
Alexander Fleming was doing experiments on bacteria and
found that they weren't growing well in a lab dish that
had been contaminated with a certain kind of mold. He
realized that this could be useful and invented
George de Mestral was brushing burrs out of his dog's
fur and realized that the annoying little things would
make an amazing fastener. That led him to invent
* The "Envision" superpower is the one you use to
imagine "being there," complete with the sights,
sounds, smells, and feelings of whatever "there" is.
It's also the superpower a mechanic uses to mentally
rearrange the parts on a car. When you read a novel and
"see" the story, you're using your Envision superpower.
I remember helping friends move into their house. When
I carried some boxes upstairs, I found that two guys
had spent about twenty minutes trying to manhandle a
desk through a narrow doorway, but it just wouldn't go.
They were arguing about whether to take the desk apart
to get it through.
I immediately saw in my head a sequence of steps that I
thought might work. It took me five minutes to convince
them to let me try it. Two minutes later, the desk was
* The "Connect" superpower lets you solve problems that
are ill-posed and don't have a unique answer. To use
this superpower, your brain makes connections between
things that don't have any obvious relationship.
I used to interview potential software engineers for my
company and my final question was always, "Name as many
ways as you can to kill your manager with a doorknob."
I was looking for engineers who could improvise. What I
usually got was a disbelieving stare. Very few job
candidates could come up with a single innovative
murder method. (Most novelists can easily think of a
I never identified any specially creative engineers
using this question. But I did find quite a number of
applicants who were incredibly eager to work on my
team. Strangely, my CEO always seemed a bit nervous
* The "Reason" superpower is the ability to use logic
to solve problems.
Those pesky software engineers excel at using Reason.
Novelists, not so much. When you read a story with an
inconsistent plot, the author fell down on using his
* The "Evaluate" superpower is the one you use when
you're editing your story. You make judgments on what's
good and what's bad. Your job is to keep the good and
replace the bad.
This superpower is easier to use on other people than
on yourself. It's obvious what the other guy is doing
right -- and doing wrong. But many novelists are too
easy on themselves -- or too hard.
* The "Transform" superpower is the one you use when
you turn your horrible life experiences into a great
story. There's an old saying that nothing bad ever
happens to a novelist because, in the end, it's all
This superpower seems to be strongest in artists of all
types -- writers, painters, musicians. It lets us turn
our ashes into diamonds.
* The "Stream" superpower is the one you use when
you're writing a first draft and you move into that
zone where the words fly onto the page and time passes
without you noticing.
Some writers never enter that zone. Others do it every
time. Guess who enjoys the writing more?
Now here's the important point. You're strong in some
of these creative superpowers and weak in others.
That's the way you are.
But it's not the way you always have to be. There are
exercises you can do to increase your creative superpowers.
The book YOUR CREATIVE BRAIN has a number of exercises
to help you boost each of your superpowers. And if
you're creative, you can easily think up new exercises,
once you understand the principles.
My goal in the coming year is to build up all seven of
my creative superpowers.
Want to join me? Check out Dr. Carson's web site here:
You may never look at a doorknob the same way again.
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the
Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced
Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 32,000 readers.
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