Boost Your Creativity: Introduction

Vector version of Image:Color icon purple.png
Vector version of Image:Color icon purple.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So how do I see creativity? What do I think is creativity? And how can the answers to this help you become more creative?

Creativity isn’t really making something out of nothing. It has a foundation of known subjects. “I ate the purple apple” is a creative idea but I didn’t create either the idea of “purple” or “apple”, only combined them unexpectedly. And it works because you already know that “purple” is a color and that an “apple” has a color — you just didn’t expect that color to be purple!  I think that when people say “how creative!” what they are really saying is “how unexpected!”

But wait! Suppose I instead wrote “I ate the octopus apple”. This sentence doesn’t make sense because even though the idea is creative, it lacks logic. It is creative nonsense — fun, but probably useless without a lot of backstory, world-building, or some other type of explanation.

This is why I think creativity is “the use of logic in unexpected ways”. This principle can be expanded to characters and settings, but also (maybe especially) to plot points.

How can you use this definition to increase your creativity? Let’s look at just three ways: studying, scheming, and using starters (prompts). There is a lot to each of these so I will take three days to cover each with you. The first day offers you some basic techniques. The second day helps you apply what you have learned to the larger scope of your work in progress. The third day is for random thoughts and examples. But feel free to leave comments and questions along the way! Okay, here’s the line-up:

– study your real world

–  study your fiction world

– studying to improve creativity (reflections)

– brainstorm ideas

– experiment with ideas

– scheming to improve creativity (reflections)

– use starters

– create starters

– using starters to improve creativity (reflections)

4 thoughts on “Boost Your Creativity: Introduction

  1. Interestingly enough, “I ate the octopus apple” instantly reminded me of the Beatles song “Octopus’ Garden”, so it kind of suggested its own backstory. Then thinking of an apple in an aquatic garden got me thinking of C S Lewis’ “Peralandra”, and my mind was off and running.

    I do a lot of linking seemingly unrelated concepts to create my work. Much of the initial idea behind “Catskinner’s Book” came from a deliberate mashup of William Burroughs and Edger Rice Burroughs. I have characters who came to mind by mixing Clive Barker and Jim Henson, one that started by stealing the name of a builder’s hardware manufacturer that I particularly like, another than came from combining the characters of Candyfloss and Homer Sapiens from Penthouse’s “O, Wicked Wanda” comic strip.

    I think that writers have to be willing to embrace the absurd in order to create. All of the ideas that I mention above have gone through extensive rebuilding to arrive at their current shape, to the point that I doubt most readers would be able to trace their antecedents.

    However, if I were to simply dismiss ridiculous ideas instead of following them to see where they end up I would miss out on most of my good ideas.


    1. Absolutely! I think readers love seemingly ridiculous ideas that work. Maybe “octopus apple” was not a good example. I did say it could work if effort was put into it! What do you think would be a good example of something illogical that would jar a reader out of the book? Maybe a scenario? Then again, what works creatively within a book might just depend on the book, the author, and the reader. What do you think?


      1. I don’t think it’s what you tell the reader so much as how. Honestly, I can’t think of a single sentence (or a single scene) that in itself would be jarring–it’s all the context. At one point in my current novel my protagonist announces, “Some guy is shooting electrified frogs at me!” Out of the blue, that sentence makes no sense, but in context it does.

        Setting up the context is very important, and more difficult than it looks. That, I think, is one reason why so many authors base their worlds on familiar works.

        A writer thinks, “If I make a world with elves and dwarves and gnomes, I don’t have to explain them to the reader, because everybody knows what they are. If I populate my story with ooolanders and furvalags I’ll have to take time to explain what they are, and how they relate to each other, and I’ll have all this boring exposition before I can get to the good stuff.”

        I think that’s a trap. It’s giving up an important part of your autonomy as an artist right out of the gate, and I think that’s why so many fantasy works seem so similar. In contrast, look at China Mievelle’s “New Crobuzon” novels–he introduces entirely new types of characters–I mean, seriously, cactus-men?–new magic and technology, thousands of years of history. Yes, it took him a lot of work, both in creating the world and writing the background into the story, but when he was done, he owned it. It was like nothing else out there, and no one else could tell him what to do there.


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