Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Creativity is making connections

I have been reading a  book by Jonah Lehrer entitled Imagine How Creativity Works. (Canongate, 2012). It, as you can see by the title, explores creativity and some of the processes. It is about 'the ability to imagine what never existed.' I have since found out that it has been discredited as a book. Even so, one point that resonated with me was the idea that just before inspiration arrives we can have a crisis or hit a brick wall. It is at this stage, when we are giving up, that the solution will appear. The example that is used to explain this idea relates to Bob Dylan and his experience leading up to writing 'Like A Rolling Stone' (See below to listen to it). He had given up music because he felt burnt out and was planning on writing a novel, but the song took over and just had to be written. What a success it proved to be too! This may or may not be true but was an interesting example.

It is an intriguing story and one that I could empathise with on a basic level. I often see it happen with my students, particularly when working on their dissertations. On a personal basis though, in the summer when I was trying to rewrite Trafficking I had a real crisis. I couldn't work out how my story was going to end - what was the denouement? I got so frustrated and angry I was ready to throw my lap top across the room. Instead I decided my laptop needed to be saved so I 'walked away,' I decided to read a good book for a bit of escapism. It wasn't even a piece of young adult fiction. It was everything my story was not. But it was whilst reading this unrelated book that the answer came to me  in the form of a 'what if' question that answered all my problems.

I know I am not the only one to experience this and I am sure I have spoken about similar ideas in the past. I could probably fill several pages of examples and I am sure you can all recognise these moments in yourself. I actually believe it goes beyond this. You can have these answer moments but you have to be able to make the connections. Creativity is as much about connections as it is about inspiration. It is about making the links which allows the narrative to flow and to keep the readers' attention. These connections need to move from your brain to the page and then to the reader. They need to be able to understand what you are saying. Adam Phillips, the psychologist, believed that stories are all about making the connections and that these connections can help you understand the world. As a writer, therefore, you need to get them write [sic]. Happy writing everyone.

Here is Bob Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone.'


  1. You might want to read this, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonah_Lehrer
    It doesn't entirely discredit the basic understanding though.

  2. Oh joys, don't you just love people who do that! Thank you for highlighting it. But I still stand by the basic ideas and my own experiences.

    1. Quite so - his poor investigation skills/ plagiarism does not invalidate the truth of *your* experience!