On Writing, On Creativity

No, this isn’t a bit of writing that tells you how its done.  Nor am I going to tell you how to be creative.  On the other hand I may be able to make both processes clearer in your mind.  For you see, writing and creativity are both ways of expression.  We all have the need to express ourselves and we tend to use the most familiar means to do so.  Writing is really talking in a more formal and contrived manner.  Most of us can talk far faster than we can scribble words on a piece of paper or type on a keyboard.  Rather strange how that sentence evokes a couple of memories for me.  As a child learning to print and then learning to write cursive I never really liked either activity.  I hated having to write book reports and all the other activities teachers put you through.  High school English classes were the worst for it was always the case that my mind thought faster than I could write and thus my poor grades in those classes were due mostly to run-on sentences and misspellings.  We didn’t have personal computers and spell check then.

But the funny thing was that I thought it would be really cool to be a writer.  If I had gone to college right after high school I would have taken courses in technical drawing, illustration, and technical writing.  Of course I did not know that the English department would have required a great deal more English courses such as basic writing and grammar.  Well ignorance is bliss.  I did take two years of mechanical drawing in high school and a year of typing.  Mother had an old Underwood typewriter that sat on the desk in the living room and I seldom saw anyone use it.  Then we moved up north and I assume she gave it away.  It was replaced by a Hermes portable typewriter but the action on that machine made it hard to use.  In typing class we had Royals and Underwoods, and a couple of IBM Selectrics, the machines used in the course of business for the times.  This mechanical writing was faster than neat cursive but I never was one to put thought to words back then.  Well, the service came after high school and college would have to wait.  Letter writing to family and girl friends was kind of a pain.  I mean, after all, what did I have to say?  The work I did in the service was boring, most of the people I met were boring, and the life I was allowed to lead was boring.

My first college English class was an awakening for me.  The instructor was a senior editor for a major publishing house and had a masters in English Literature.  The man was a marvel for he had that wonderful sardonic sense of humor that could kick your rear end and yet lift your spirits to new heights.  I learned the most basic requirements of writing, I learned how to craft a sentence.  And I learned the most basic craft in composition, how to use the different types of sentences.  Not that I had suddenly become a full fledged writer but that I was aware of the writing process.  What had been dull and boring and repetitious in public education now started to take shape.  As for creativity, that had always been a large part of my being.  I just didn’t realize how to guide it.  As a child I was a day dreamer, the one the teachers call lazy and now are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, which, if properly understood means you are different from the average child and must be made to conform.  I became something of a rebel.

In forth grade one of the boys I sat next to was very proficient in drawing for his age.  The kid could draw using perspective and he passed on his limited knowledge.  We would each buy a large sheet of stiff manila paper and keep them rolled up in our seats.  Then in a free moment or two we would pull them out and draw on the paper.  I liked military themes much to the displeasure and disapproval of my teacher and later my mother.  I would draw men in the rubble of buildings and fighter aircraft attacking or sit and design what I though a jet fighter should look like.  At the age of ten my jet fighters looked very much like the F-4 Phantom of Viet Nam fame and when my father saw them became very serious for he was an aircraft engineer and designer.  I loved to design things.  Houses were fun things to do.  Why not an old antebellum mansion with at least eight columns?  And sports cars, now there’s another fun idea.  Do the cut away drawings showing engine and transmission.  I loved model railroading, the construction of models and a bit of design for steam locomotives.  I would do the design for layouts of particular sizes.  And the art class I took in my senior year, my what fun that was.  I explored figure drawing, oils and pastels, and clay.  I spent hours throwing pots and trying to master that process.  Sitting at the wheel gave me time to think while freeing my hands to feel the clay and mold and shape it.

As I went through community college in the off hours I was compelled to write theme and term papers, answer essay questions, and otherwise express my thoughts in that formal method called writing.  One class in communications required me to keep a journal with daily entries.  A sort of dear diary with a more adult tone.  It was an exercise in writing down one’s thoughts rather than events of the day.  Of course there was the expectation that I was suppose to provide deep thoughts for the instructors approval, I look back and see that most of them wouldn’t have filled the shallow end of a swimming pool.  But the real break through came when I complained at work one day that there was no guide to a particular set of operations and that somehow we were expected to traced the troubles and fix them.  My supervisor suggested that I write it.  That took a lot of learning on my part because I had to dig all the information out of hiding and then set down the processes into logical steps.  The little bit of writing filled half a dozen pages complete with schematics and was used until that system was superseded.  From there came other endeavors such as starting our own competing company rag.  I wrote the editorial and most of the articles (I was in a life or death struggle with second level and third level manages bent on firing me…I won) and the in that most creative way, mailed copies to other work sites all around the state.

Another break through came when I read a copy of The Artist’s Way, for the writer advocated writing at least two full pages of thoughts each morning as a way to keep writer”s block at bay.  It is a good system and that process forces one to do a little creative thinking.  I remember one morning writing: I’m bored, I’m bored, I’ bored….filling in half a page.  I became rather tired of that and started to think and put thought to word.  I think the process works better if one is using pencil and paper since the hand-eye connection is much stronger.  For a while I dabbled in poetry, a most worthy study of writing and creativity.  Not that I am any good at it.  Yes, we all believe that we are the next coming of (fill in the blank) but it rarely works out that way and most amateur poetry I have read sucks or is at best mediocre.  What can be considered good is two steps from great and really not worth the time investment of reading.  But poetry is always intensely personal with a very close emotional involvement.  It is as close to raw ego as one may get.

Creativity comes in a great many forms.  We tend to discount a great deal of creative efforts as not creative enough.  Problem solving is a creative process.  Ordinary processes such as making pies from scratch can involve a bit of creativity.  Grandma Moses was in her sixties when she started doing the primitive art that made her famous.  Yet she had always practiced that thing called creativity.  Make a pie and instead of simple knife sliced for vent holes, create cut out figures instead.  Add in a few decorative strips of dough or make the lattice strips like chains or twists.  Creativity can be an everyday occurrence.  It is how we turn the dull and boring into an active and positive expression in our lives.  And it’s not static like home decor, do it once and live with it type of thing.  Keeping a journal allows one to express a bit of creativeness.  I write to keep my mind alive and keep my creativity alive.

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