Peggy Bechko: Six Tips to Creativity for Writers, Artists and Readers

xx Creativity Tips

by Peggy Bechko

A writer writes – right?

And what could be more important to writing than creativity.

So, here are just six tips to being more creative.

1. Keep a journal. Don’t think this is ‘written in stone’. Some people love them, some people hate them, even writers. If it’s something that works for you, jot things down. Doesn’t have to be all the time, every day, every hour. Any time is good. Not at all works as well if you’re the ‘hate it’ kind who’d rather simply be writing a story, an article, a screenplay and not bothering with a journal.

2.  Write everything down. Don’t trust your memory when you have a good idea, especially at night. I don’t care who you are, you’re gonna forget. Yes, you are. This kind of follows the journal keeping but it’s different. This is making note of your ideas. You don’t have to get all touchy-feely, just for God’s sakes write it down.

3. Go hang out in nature and allow it to wash simile ideas over you like a wave on a sun-kissed shore. Okay, okay, you get it. Nature is a great resource when you’re looking for ideas to get your idea across. Open your eyes and ears, smell the air and think about the feel of the breeze on your skin. We’ve all heard “slow as a snail”; stale, yes. However there are millions of possibilities out there. Come up with something new and fresh and you’ll suck those readers in. Yes, you need it for your scriptwriting as well. By virtue of it’s very tautness a script must be engaging in order to attract what’s needed to actually produce it.

4. Look, if you’re writing or creating anything, if you’re in the flow, if everything is clicking along for you, then keep at it. Keep writing. Keep painting. Keep clicking the camera. Keep creating. I will add one thing for writers. Many times it’s best to pause at a peak when break time comes along so you can dive right in when you begin again instead of finding yourself in a valley from which you must crawl upward.

5. Ever try to convey an emotion in a story or for that matter to paint it on a canvas or draw it and you just can’t seem to get a hold of what you need? Can’t quite make it happen. Try listening to music that stirs that emotion within you. Let it flow through you and absorb. If you actually feel the emotion you’re trying to put across odds are it will come through in your creative work. New words and idas will sprout. Trust me on this.

6. Doodle. Haven’t you heard this before? Amazing what doodling can do. The brain seems to take a little vacation, but not a non-productive one. Doodling can accomplish a lot. Don’t believe me? Check out doodling and learn how amazing it can really be.   Oh, and you can try writing with your non-dominant hand. The sheer awkwardness of trying this, the difficulty you’ll experience in writing words, then sentences with that hand give you more room to think and spurs those thoughts to flow. It slows you down too which can be a good thing!

That’s it. Six suggestions. Try them out and let me know how they work for you when skipping down the creative path.


 

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.

From TV Comedy Writer to Street Artist

Uh, wait. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

kaleurselfby Jennifer Swan

Like many Angelenos, Carlos Herrera spends a lot of time in his car. His iPhone email signature even taunts, “Sent while driving.” When we speak by phone one afternoon, he’s driving to an art supply store on Fairfax to pick up spray paint for his next project. But 27-year-old Herrera, who once described himself in an Instragram photo as “Zac Efron without the hair,” is not an artist. 

If you’ve spent any time driving the streets of Hollywood, Echo Park and Fairfax, you’ve no doubt seen his work. A comedy writer by trade (though he’s currently unemployed), Herrera recently took to the streets to make fun of the industry that’s constantly rejecting him. 

In one of his more self-deprecating pieces of graffiti, spray painted on a temporary construction wall outside a new clothing boutique on Beverly Blvd., Herrera wrote the purposefully-misspelled “Just Looking 4 a righting JOB.” Next to that, he put an x next to each of the words “SNL” and “Conan,” both TV shows for which he had been turned down for writing gigs. 

Lately, he’s found other ways to get his writing seen: short, witty phrases painted on discarded mattresses (“Rest Coast” reads one on a Hollywood Blvd. sidewalk; “I want celebrities to sleep on me” reads another outside Paramount Pictures) and scribbled across the ubiquitous white wooden fences that shroud construction sites all over the city. (“I miss Mad Men” is written on Beverly Boulevard.) 

“Imagine you have this wall on Beverly Boulevard to write anything you want, and a million people are going to drive by it like three hours later, what would you do?” he asks, in a rare moment of artistic reflection. “I want to make fun of people.” 

One of his graffiti pieces, for example, makes fun of an unnamed comedian whom he’s got beef with. “She’s really into yoga but she does a lot of drugs, and she tweeted or instagrammed her vision board one day,” he says, forgetting where he had first seen the inspirational collage. “So I wrote down ‘vision bored.’” 

Read it all

Admission: We here at TVWriter™ love this idea, and we really hope Herrera scores big.

Peer Production: THE FUTURE STARTS HERE

Tiffany Shlain, creator of the Webby Awards, tells us all the mistakes she made with her own film making so that we can avoid them. And, since we all want to do things right, we’re all going to watch this, right? And tell our friends? And family? But not our enemies or rivals, oh no, not them. Cuz this advice is spot on:

YouTube Preview Image

We Really Do Make Our Own Luck

Looking for fame and fortune in Hollywood or its various annexes in, say NYC, or Sheboygan? Well, good news, fellow creatives. Turns out that even if showbiz success is all luck, we’re still in control. Cuz, as this article points out being lucking is “an easy skill to learn.”

Yeppers, it had us at the word “easy” too. (Is that so wrong?)

by Richard Wiseman

A decade ago, I set out to investigate luck. I wanted to examine the impact on people’s lives of chance opportunities, lucky breaks and being in the right place at the right time. After many experiments, I believe that I now understand why some people are luckier than others and that it is possible to become luckier.

To launch my study, I placed advertisements in national newspapers and magazines, asking for people who felt consistently lucky or unlucky to contact me. Over the years, 400 extraordinary men and women volunteered for my research from all walks of life: the youngest is an 18-year-old student, the oldest an 84-year-old retired accountant.

Jessica, a 42-year-old forensic scientist, is typical of the lucky group. As she explained: “I have my dream job, two wonderful children and a great guy whom I love very much. It’s amazing; when I look back at my life, I realise I have been lucky in just about every area.”

In contrast, Carolyn, a 34-year-old care assistant, is typical of the unlucky group. She is accident-prone. In one week, she twisted her ankle in a pothole, injured her back in another fall and reversed her car into a tree during a driving lesson. She was also unlucky in love and felt she was always in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Over the years, I interviewed these volunteers, asked them to complete diaries, questionnaires and intelligence tests, and invited them to participate in experiments. The findings have revealed that although unlucky people have almost no insight into the real causes of their good and bad luck, their thoughts and behaviour are responsible for much of their fortune.

Take the case of chance opportunities. Lucky people consistently encounter such opportunities, whereas unlucky people do not. I carried out a simple experiment to discover whether this was due to differences in their ability to spot such opportunities.

I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs, whereas the lucky people took just seconds. Why? Because the second page of the newspaper contained the message: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than 2in high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.

For fun, I placed a second large message halfway through the newspaper: “Stop counting. Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250.” Again, the unlucky people missed the opportunity because they were still too busy looking for photographs.

Personality tests revealed that unlucky people are generally much more tense than lucky people, and research has shown that anxiety disrupts people’s ability to notice the unexpected. In one experiment, people were asked to watch a moving dot in the centre of a computer screen. Without warning, large dots would occasionally be flashed at the edges of the screen. Nearly all participants noticed these large dots.

The experiment was then repeated with a second group of people, who were offered a large financial reward for accurately watching the centre dot, creating more anxiety. They became focused on the centre dot and more than a third of them missed the large dots when they appeared on the screen. The harder they looked, the less they saw.

And so it is with luck – unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else.

Read it all

What’s That? Geniuses are all Psychos? No Kidding?!

We have to admit that we’re out of the loop when it comes to the traits of genuine geniuses. The only genius types we here at TVWriter™ deal with are showbiz geniuses, and, erm, they’re a whole different breed. (Quick, what’s the difference between Albert Einstein and Kanye? Huh? Huh?

god_is_crazy_by_fiskefyren-d6g1sovby Ilyana Romanovsky M.A. MFT.

Following the recent and popular article on the “Secrets of the Creative Brain” in The Atlantic magazine issue for the month of July, there has been an increased amount of discussion on where genius comes from and why it is often accompanied by mental illness. The age-old view that genius and madness are linked has its roots in classical Greece. Aristotle believed that, “those who have become eminent in philosophy, politics, poetry, and the arts have all had tendencies toward melancholia.” Seneca stated that, “no great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.” And Socrates said that the poet has “no invention in him until he has been inspired and out of his senses.” Around the 19th century, the notion of madness and genius had become all but dogma, and many eminent psychiatrists devoted their lives to studying the pathological traits of genius.

The advent of psychoanalysis reinforced the espoused idea that madness and genius are linked. Sigmund Freud saw creative genius as a sign of neurosis. (1) Indeed, almost any outstanding achievement was suspect to some sort of psychopathology. Leonardo da Vinci, Mary Baker Eddy, Dostoevsky, and Woodrow Wilson were all sick and suffering souls in the eyes of psychoanalysts. The most recent discussion of genius came by way of Nancy Andreasen, chair of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, commenting on mild mania enhancing creativity, and that many of the eminent people in various fields had been manic-depressives. (2) In fact, Martin Luther King’s role in history was due in part to his manic and depressive episodes, with Andreasen concluding that “a variety of artists, writers, statesmen, philosophers and scientists have suffered from disorders of the mood.”

Despite popular endorsement of the link between genius and madness, the emergence of humanistic psychology in the 1960s saw creativity as a form of mental health. Rather than viewing a genius as a sick and damaged soul, he was one that was most sane. In fact, Abraham Maslow’s pyramid to self-actualization looks dramatically different from the perspective that held true for centuries prior. Maslow contended that the most basic physiological needs such as adequate food, water, and sleep must be addressed before someone can have a basic sense of safety. Further on up the pyramid, one cannot have a sense of positive esteem — which includes self-esteem, confidence, achievement, and respect for and by others — without first feeling a sense of love and belonging, including friendship, family, and a sense of intimacy. (3) So who is right? Should we reject the historic perspective of genius as madman and embrace the humanistic image of genius as the pinnacle of sanity, or is there some middle ground in the two extremes?

The resolution of this argument can be made by looking through historical records and identifying all the notable figures of time with known mental disorders. Such studies have been conducted, illuminating high percentages of diagnoses in persons considered to be gifted. These percentages may be high enough to cast doubt on the humanistic position. If we are to take these historical diagnoses at face value, we seem to resolve the debate. However, no one should be convinced about the matter according to historical figures alone. Rather than relying on subjective judgements of psychiatrists from years past, there is another way that might corroborate the notion that genius yields madness.

The work at the Berkeley’s Institute for Personality Assessment and Research offers one such way. In the past, many notable names have traveled to the institute to take a barrage of personality tests, mainly the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), which contains scales for assessment of personality structure and mental disorders. The results were striking. For example, the pathology of creative writers scored higher on the depression, mania, schizophrenia, paranoia, and health anxiety. Another pattern emerged when creative personalities took the EPQ or the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, scoring higher on the scale for psychosis. (4)

Under close investigation, it does not seem too baffling that creative people would score higher on the psychosis continuum. Many of the traits required for creativity and innovation must defy tradition and accepted norm. The creative cannot be contained by wisdom of the old and persistently overcome many obstacles to reach greatness. Their ideas are often diffuse and lack a coherent sense of connection. For instance, for anyone who is familiar with some of Mozart’s correspondences, his letters lack sense and contain a touch of the bizarre.

Read it all

How to Have Your Eureka Moment

Time now to investigate the concept of “creativity.” Cuz, well, cuz it’s Sunday and we’ve got nothing more creative to do:

waiting-for-eurekaby Maria Konnikova

A man in a town married twenty women. There have been no divorces or annulments, and everyone in question is still alive and well. The man is not a bigamist, and he has broken no laws. How is this possible?

This is the so-called marrying-man problem, which psychologists often use to study creative insight: the process by which we suddenly figure out the answer to something that had previously stumped us. A problem makes no sense at first. But then we turn it around in our minds and, presto, the answer comes. So, naturally, Mark Beeman, a cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern University, who studies insight and creativity, likes to pose questions like this one to applicants who want to work in his lab. (The answer to this particular conundrum is that the man is a priest.)

Beeman studies insight because it’s a key component in how creativity works—the main subject of his research. Creativity is the whole process of how we come up with new ideas; insight is just a step along the way, albeit an important one. A composer who writes a new, beautiful song has done something creative; the moment when she realized that she could end it on a minor chord was insight. In general, creativity seems to come when insight is combined with the hard work of analytical processing. A person can’t discover the theory of general relativity in a dream if he isn’t a physicist who’s done some heavy thinking about the subject beforehand.

In the field of psychology, there’s long been a certain haziness surrounding the definition of creativity, an I-know-it-when-I-see it attitude that has eluded a precise formulation. During our conversation, Beeman told me that he used to be reluctant to tell people what his area of study was, for fear of being dismissed or misunderstood. What, for instance, crosses your mind when you think of creativity? Well, we know that someone is creative if he produces new things or has new ideas. A choreographer, an artist, a writer, a scientist, or a mathematician with a novel discovery—these are the creatives, the people who bring something new into the world. And yet, as John Kounios, a psychologist at Drexel University who collaborates frequently with Beeman, points out, that view is wrong, or at least not entirely right. “Creativity is the process, not the product,” he says.

Read it all