I’ve been thinking lately about what it takes to create compelling stories, about the processes of generating ideas, outlining, writing, rewriting, more rewriting, polishing. My tendency, and I suspect many writers fall into this pattern, is to try to figure it all out using logical left-brain processes to make an idea fit into a three-act structure. My intellect wants writing (not the story) to be predictable and manageable, and it wants to take credit for its ability to compare and contrast, analyze and critique, order and arrange.
While there is definitely a need for all these intellectual capabilities in the writing process, none of them are that mysterious thing I call “creating.” They are about working with ideas that have already been created—concepts that blossomed because of some life experience that intrigued, inspired, and compelled me. These ideas need structuring and development by left-brain processes, but without that original right-brain flash of inspiration, the intellect is useless. It is that enigmatic right brain that generates new material that seizes me passionately, and generates emotionally charged ideas.
So what part of us does create, and more importantly, how can I supercharge that process? Mozart once said: "When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer - it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best, and most abundantly. Whence and how they come, I know not, nor can I force them... " I often experience the same phenomenon, where the best ideas come when I’m chatting with friends or swimming laps or while meditating. I often carry a notepad with me to jot down ideas as they come, and I always keep a pad and pencil at my bedside to record dreams. To my way of thinking, developing stories have two components: 1. Receiving inspiration and ideas, and 2. Organizing and recording those ideas (which is what we call writing).
I believe that downloading thoughts from wherever the hell they come from is the creative process, and the most important part of writing. Every day, and mostly when I’m not at my computer, inspirations arise to me about plot, characters, scenes, or lines of dialogue. I believe that my most important task in creating is to be a conduit for those flashes of insight that feel right, inspire, and clarify or enhance ideas that have come before.
I still spend a great deal of my time trying to improve my craft, with this left-brain writing, but I want to keep my intellect in its rightful position, as a secondary tool that massages the ideas that come to me from a different plane. That, I believe, is true creativity.