For the Creative Brain: Work Doesn’t Work
Creativity is a shy and unknowable animal
Dear writing friends. I hope you are doing well. I have had very good news, my story “Pounds Across America” from Wigleaf Magazine will be appearing in a new Norton Anthology of Flash Fiction, “Flash Fiction America”, edited by James Thomas, Sherrie Flick, and John Dufresne, forthcoming in 2023!
This has been a happy news week for me.
Along with that, I have been doing some thinking about the creative process. I have also been thinking about how my stories have come about, over the last 12 years.
Here is what it often comes down to for me:
The creative part of my brain doesn’t want to be told to ‘work’ in certain ways.
For example, if I’m being told to write about an emotionally charged moment in my life, I’m probably going to avoid writing at all.
That’s because thinking about emotional times feels like work, and I’m not often up to approaching stuff, for example my previous marriage, or the death of my mother, or the pain syndrome that took over my life in the mid 2000s.
Even if the direction is to focus on ‘just a moment’, (for example the first time I saw my handsome young husband with a beard, or my mother’s flower pot) in theory it should help… but my brain thinks.. hm. I’d rather do something else!
Instead, I respond to being ‘misdirected’, that is, given something to do. For example, if prompted to write about finding a spider in the bathroom at 2AM, or the sound of an alligator’s mating call, or the peculiar young girl holding a frog, I will accidentally access that difficult emotion I’m always hoping to write about.
Emotional memory is always lurking inside, waiting to feel safe enough to make itself known. Creativity is a shy and unknowable animal.
With my flash fiction writing career over the last 12 years, it’s been about using purposeful misdirection.
You may want to check out Pokrass Prompts, my Substack newsletter (with a free option) to help other writers find their stories through creative misdirection. I have been enjoying coming up with the unusual/weird prompts as much as I have enjoy writing from them myself.
Take care, and happy misdirection!
"Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;—they are the life, the soul of reading!—take them out of this book, for instance,—you might as well take the book along with them." ("Tristram Shandy", Laurence Sterne) and "Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment." (Robert Benchley)...come to mind when thinking about your post. Congratulations on all your success. Meg!
Meg--I love what you have to say here. I discovered you through my friend and former student, Marlea Evans. Happy Thanksgiving! Jamie