Cultivate your curiosity

Me hard at work in the new Canstar office in Brisbane CBD. I took this photo using my new Windows phone.

Me hard at work in the new Canstar office in Brisbane CBD. I took this photo using my new Windows phone.

I’ve been thrashing out the articles for my current contract employer, Canstar Blue. You can view all of my articles at this link, and I’ve compiled a ‘Best Of’ compilation at the bottom of this post…

Have I mentioned lately how amazing it is to be writing for a living? I am thoroughly enjoying every day. And thankfully they like me, too, so I get to stay on for another 6 month contract. So thankful! Praise God.

So here’s two of the things I’ve been thinking about this Friday…

Every morning at 9am we start our day with an editorial team Brainstorm Meeting. Depending on what day it is, 3 to 7 of us get together in one of the meeting rooms and say, “Tomorrow’s product releases are 4WDs and pharmacies. What are some articles we can write today about that?” Then we chat about it and get a list of 5 to 10 ideas, divide them among us, and report on where we’re up to with our other article lists that we’re each responsible for.

I love these meetings because writing is largely a solitary task, but for 15 minutes every day, we’re all part of a team working together. We’re all having our work and our ideas acknowledged and validated. Team managers, take note of the first thing I’ve been realising:

Short, positive team meetings more often make for happier staff.

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Why we should get to play jigsaw puzzles at work

Image source: WHSmith 1000 Piece Jigsaw: ‘Hidden Tigers’ by Steve Read

Image source: WHSmith 1000 Piece Jigsaw: ‘Hidden Tigers’ by Steve Read

So where I work, we share a building with a biology research lab. It sounds cool but I never get to see them apart from a shared “hello” in the hallways. But the best part is that the path to the stockroom takes me near enough to see their staff room… which is filled with jigsaw puzzles!

Every morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea, you can spy them all in there, sitting or standing around a massive boardroom table covered in the latest masterpiece.

Tigers in the jungle.

Castles on the moors.

Uluru at sunset.

I swear I saw a Harry Potter puzzle once.

This is how they incubate their ideas, and I think it’s genius.

“Well, it sounds like we’ve hit a wall. Let’s take a break and come back after morning tea. To the puzzle room!”

But let me tell you, the puzzles have more benefits than just having a nice little break from work.

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Go where you find inspiration: Part 3: The airport and times of transition

Go where you find inspiration, and go there often.

Alain de Botton writing in the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. Image source: Zocalo Public Square

Alain de Botton writing in the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport
Image source: Zocalo Public Square

I’ve driven to the airport too many times recently, saying goodbye to people I love.

But it’s gotten me thinking.

How about visiting an airport to inspire new creativity for a “stuck” story?

Airports have always inspired me, with their excitement and anticipation of new adventures and fond reunions. I love starting new adventures and seeing people saying their “goodbyes” and “welcomes homes”. What does it mean symbolically if a character is at the airport? And where could your character end up?

'A week at the airport' book cover. Image source: Profile Books

Image source: Profile Books

I started thinking about this when I read an article about Alain de Botton, who did a one-week writers residency at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5. You can read about his experience and the book he wrote about it in his book, A Week at the Airport.

For this project, he stayed in the airport and the hotel for 24 hours a day for one week. That was his only venue – and he said the confinement to one setting was great inspiration.

He was inspired by the terminal itself – its technology, the design, and its sheer size and scale. He said he likes airports so much he often longs to be delayed in them.

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The Withers Survey: Studying the presence or use of incubation in the creative process

Everyone has their reasons...

“Why are you creative?” from KKB101 lecture, 2011, QUT

Last year I conducted a survey on creativity, mainly among friends and family, but also with some random people I found in the uni computer labs.  I asked everyone I knew, “Are you creative?  Would you like to talk about that?” and many people said yes.  Consider this thanks and an acknowledgement of those who spent time and effort doing my survey.

As a brief introduction, the Withers Survey studied the presence of or use of an incubation period in the creative process.  The traditional theory of a universal creative process is Wallas’s four-stage creative process (1945), which I have discussed in an earlier post on the topic of incubation.  The four-stage process identifies four stages common to most creative disciplines (Davis, 2004, 121-124; CreativeIntensive, 2007):

  1. Preparation in exploring and clarifying a field or concept;
  2. Incubation, a fringe consciousness or unconscious activity related to the idea;
  3. Illumination or the moment of discovery; and
  4. Verification of the result.

My hypothesis was that most people who consider themselves ‘creative’, or have been labelled ‘creative’ by others, engage in some form of incubation as part of their creative process.  This post will discuss the preliminary results and the survey itself.

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Incubation: Creativity never sleeps… or does it?

Everyone has their own method.

Bill Watterson, “Calvin and Hobbes”

Last year I did a subject that asked us as creators to answer two questions: “Why do we create?” and “How do we create?”   You have to love Creative Industries assessments.

Mocking aside, however, these two questions are vital to understand if you intend to be creative successfully, or be creative for a living… or both.

The reflective waffle which was our first assessment piece answered the first question, and I’ll post that shortly.   Literally.   The short answer after much research and navel-gazing amounts, almost universally, to: “We create because it’s fun.”   Bronowski says that humans do not choose to create unless they enjoy the process (1985, p 245).

However, the second question led into hours of delightful research, culminating in a research essay.   My task was to argue that, although there are differences between the disciplines of art, design, and media, these differences do not affect the fundamental process of creativity, and that this creates links between these disciplines.

What follows is my summary of the parts of my research related to one part of the traditional creative process: the incubation stage.   The full text of the research essay is available on my Full text research essays page.

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What am I doing here?

Hi, my name is Tirzah, and I’m a write-aholic. The last time I wrote was 14 hours ago, and I’m getting withdrawal symptoms already.

So you can understand why I decided to write a blog about the writing process.

I think I’m really a researcher at heart. I enjoy sorting things, finding things out – almost more even than making things. Last year I conducted a survey of all my “creative” friends asking two main questions: “Why do we create?” and “How do we go about creating?”

I’ll be posting the results of said survey shortly, but for now, it’s enough that my intention is out there, in the void of the intertubes. I hope you enjoy the anticipation of what is to come… The suspense may just kill me.

George Orwell quote on "Why I write" Image source: Wonder Pens

George Orwell quote on “Why I write”
Image source: Wonder Pens

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2012. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.