By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."
In case any of you wonder how I write this column each week, I will write a bit about the creative process. See this process applies to just about anything, which a human is attempting to do the first time.
I always like to quote Earnest Hemmingway who said, simply, “You just sit down, open up a vein and write.”
Now being creative is not just limited to writing. Say you want to learn how to skydive. Other than perhaps wondering why on earth one would want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, there is plenty of opportunity to getting creative about the activity.
Our oldest son did a tandem jump a few years ago. That’s where an instructor binds you to them self typically using Velcro straps. Then both leap out of the drop plane. The idea is that by having a professional strapped to you, it is unlikely that they will forget to pull the ripcord.
So where is the creativity? Just take a look at this skydiving video. Note that you can have many jumpers at once, and they “link up” in mid-flight – sort of doing an aerial ballet. To me, that is very creative. Note that when you jump from the plane, you accelerate to approximately 120 mph (that’s where gravity pulling you down vs. wind resistance pushing back against you is called “terminal velocity,” sounds very ominous!) As you free-fall at this high speed, your arms and legs become ailerons with which you can steer, slow down, speed up and thereby “link up” as the video shows you. The creative process occurs because as you “learn” various maneuvers you essentially put your life on the line. You just want to apply your creative instincts to a. accomplish the stunt but b. survive.
Next I’ll look at painting. As it happens, my wife is a very accomplished painter. Our home is full of her original work. (She tells me that the style is a bit copied from a French painter named George Braque.) You can see some of his work on this URL. He, along with Picasso, was instrumental in developing the “cubism” painting technique. I find fine art painting simply way beyond my ability. I recall once (at approximately 21 years old) being asked to draw something – for evaluation by a psychologist. When I was done, the observer asked me if I was on any heavy anti-psychotic medication. That was my last “creative attempt at painting.”
Many famous painters had an affliction or two. Some went mad as they aged, others did self-harmful things. Van Gogh cut off his own ear. Here’s why. Now I would argue that you don’t have to self-mutilate in order to express your creative abilities.
The common denominator to the creative process is “passion.” I argue that you must have an intense interest in something to actually be good at it. One certainly can’t argue that both Braque and Picasso had tremendous passion for what they did. Otherwise, why would someone pay $179 million for one of Picasso’s paintings? That’s a whole lot of passion. Funny thing is that many of these “geniuses” at the creative process never made serious money while they were alive. Many were starving and only survived when a benefactor provided food and shelter to the artist.
Now back to writing. It is one thing to write fiction (this column is based on fact, but as the writer recalls it happening – so there is an element of fiction). It is quite another to write non-fiction. Non-fiction writers do an incredible amount of research before they sit down to write the work. Fiction writers (such as myself) mostly take you where one’s mind takes you.
Famous writers (James Patterson comes to mind) are often asked how they go about writing their work. Most respond like this: “I don’t know where and what each character is going to do or how the plot unfolds until it pops into my brain.” Very well accomplished writers like Patterson, have developed a formula for their books. The author will sketch out in general terms what will happen. But they all admit that until writing begins the specific actions and deeds evolve from the writer’s brain as it occurs to them. (Patterson has a net worth north of $500 million so however he writes it seems to work well).
In summary, being creative requires a bit of whimsy, a lot of passion, and some talent. I think it is impossible to bottle creativity. In the movie “Throw Momma from the Train,” Billy Crystal is a teacher of creative writing. He says it succinctly: “A writer writes – always.”