Creativity. Those who don’t have it (who talk on cellphones or watch TV in the evenings) don’t get it. But we, the people who walk silently with eyes on the invisible or who do more than doodle during tedious office meetings, we have it. Creativity.
An example was yesterday – slow day at work with an unexpected extension we didn’t need. Not much to do. Fine. But for fun, I’ve been working on a computer game at home, an excel takeoff of “Time Tripper”, a time-travel/combat game from 1980 that I loved to play. The game itself was clever (I’m creative enough to recognize creativity outside my own skull) and there were two areas, the past and the future. The past was loaded with all sorts of interesting battles to intercede in – Zama, Troy, Shiloh, a cave-man buffalo hunt. Really fun. And the future? It was like suddenly they ran out of ideas and had to just get it done before COB. Vampires. Space troopers. Nothing special – no concept that history continued in a unified path. My version, I decided on the bike ride in, would have this. I would write my own future.
Think of the fun of it – outlining the way the world will continue.
In the office shower, my creativity churned out some ground rules…
1) The future had to be limited – I only had 36 scenarios. So I decided global warming was going to happen and be the death of us.
2) The future had to be low tech – I figure that the real future will be computer controlled weapons, self-guided gyrojet rounds and such, that will make combat pretty deadly. “A Motie fired, a Motie died” sort of thing. So for game-purposes, in fifty years, things will start falling apart. Simpler technologies. Back to bows. Back to swords.
With this, images came to my head. While toweling off, I considered the “Second American Civil War” – no, strike that, the “Uncivil War”, where all our political/religious outlooks finally result in a tearing apart of this nation, and a replacement with something very bad. As I locked my locker, I visualized a cocaine-using American Pope ground-detonating our entire nuclear stocks to bring about the Armageddon fundamentalists dream of. Riding to my floor on the elevator, I saw the other end of time, with greenhousing making the equators uninhabitable, the blossoming of Siberia and the final Kingdom of Man, a Neo-Mongol city on a flat plain and sluggish river. Of sword-thrust towers and limp pendants. Of bold horsemen, once dashing and barbaric themselves, now decadent and flabby. Come the final wave of outriding hordes. Come the final fall…
I opened up a spreadsheet and started filling out these ideas, thirty-six rows for the thirty-six mini-games. As I did, more and more ideas came, interesting ways to combine my existing rules with additions that would make each game a little different and unique. At lunch, I transferred the entire thing to my netbook and sat outside, banging out the ideas that seemed to burst from my head. A nanotech disaster. The fall of Africa. Llama-riders. Wow.
That’s creativity. Embrace it. Capture it.
When it comes to writing, we need to recognize that these moments don’t come often and we must be prepared for it. Keep a notebook handy – one never knows when an idea, a phrase, a concept will pop into one’s head. Once, a single word – DOWNSHAFTING – opened up the image of a frightening future corporate world. Suddenly it was just there. I jotted it down. That night I started to write Oath to Carthage.
Recognize the moments when they come. Often our subconscious works while we are asleep. I’ve woken to find a beautiful word, a plot twist, a character (once, a delightful murder) hanging in my thoughts like smoke. If you wait to take your shower, to have breakfast, to get your clothing, to deal with the day’s minutia, you’ll lose it. Write it down, then and there.
Archimedes knew the moment when he stepped into his bath and realized he’d solved an incalculable method of determining volume. So excited was he that he ran naked down the streets of Syracuse, screaming “Eureka!” I’m not saying you should do that. But when creativity strikes, recognize it, note it, capture it.
Savor the blessing.