Monday Musings: Inclusiveness, the Lifeblood of Creativity

Right, so the 2015 Hugos happened.  I was considering writing an article in greater specificity about what happened there, but there are far better sources of information out there than I.  Still the whole kerfluffle set my mind to musing which led to this article that wot is here now.

Variety is the spice of life, right?  It’s a hackneyed phrase, but it really is true.  If we continue in a rut or move through a continual unchanging cycle, life gets boring.  I don’t think that’s really something that can be debated, at least seriously.  The same thing connects into art and creativity.

Yes, you can create the same things continuously, using the same ideas you always have, but there are only so many configurations you can put those blocks into.  You might think this statement conflicts with some of my other articles about the core conflicts and the total number of plot lines out there and the like, but, as I also said in those articles, the way to innovate those core conflicts and plots is with new twists and new interpretations.  In other words, new ideas.  Variety.

How do we find this variety in thought and experience?  We include.  We welcome new points of view, new people, and new cultures.  This really heralds back to the terrors of the echo chamber.  Our creativity stagnates if all we listen to, all we read, all we experience comes from those with our same backgrounds and our same ideas.  To expand our creative bounds means stepping outside of our cultural bounds, to seek to understand the ‘other’.

So, if you don’t include others, don’t try to grasp the important of understanding, and never step outside of your comfort zone, expect your creativity to stifle and your writing to wilt.  We won’t even talk about the social and emotional complications.  The world is moving forward, slowly and lurchingly, to a state of equality and understanding.  I’d reserve yourself a ticket if you haven’t already.

Monday Musings: Everyone Should Roleplay!

Do you know what’s fun and surprisingly insightful?  Roleplaying!  More specifically roleplaying games, but honestly my points about RPGs count for lots of other roleplaying venues.  Of course, some of you may be asking exactly what I’m talking about, so …

Roleplaying in general is when people take other personas or personalities.  In this case, I’m talking about roleplaying terms of entertainment, like in actual pen-and-paper roleplaying games.  But if you think about it, most people have done roleplaying since they were children.  What else would you call make-believe, after all?  That, really, is what makes roleplaying games as an adult such a good thing.

Primarily, it’s a chance for adults to keep their imaginations strong.  Imagination is the source of creativity and it helps us all enjoy books, movies, and other creative works better.  It’s fun, it helps us get more fun from other things, and it keeps our minds and our wits sharp.

There’s another thing that RPGs are good for: it enhances our ability to relate to others.  It may not be possible to literally walk a mile in another man’s (or woman’s) shoes, but you can at least you can try to put your mind into the personality of one.  RPGs not only let our imaginations loose, they also let us experience new things, work out emotions, and learn about other people and other kinds of personalities.  Roleplaying at its best is the finest form of interactive group storytelling, and that’s a mighty good thing.

Stay tuned, friends, for this week’s Writing Is A Bad Habit on Wednesday and our Starving Review on Friday!  Until then, good luck, good reading, and good writing!

Monday Musings: Caught in a Creative Cyclone a.k.a. An Overly Creative Mind

There is such a thing as too much creativity or, perhaps it would be better said, too little constraint for creativity.  Yes, good readers, it’s true!  Unconstrained, rampant creativity can lead to the exact opposite of creativity’s intention (to create), leading to a perpetual state of whirling ideas and useless pontification.  Worse, sometimes unconstrained creativity leads to a giant mess of a creation, so wrapped up in its wild, disparate parts that it scarce resembles anything cohesive.

I suppose I’ve always known this, but I received a lesson on this yesterday.  I am an avid pen-and-paper gamer, good old school roleplayer for decades now (a subject that will come up sometime soon, be assured!), and I was tasked with coming up with a new character for a small Pathfinder game.

“Okay,” I told the gamemaster (the person referring the game and telling the story for the uninitiated), “what are my parameters?”

“Whatever you’d like to play, as long as it works with the other player,” he replied.

“Wow, cool, this is a great chance to try out some of the more unusual things out there!  Thanks!”

So I went out into the world with a blank check.  Couple that with a fellow player with few quibbles with what I wanted to play and I could do almost anything.  Any kind of character could be my creation.  Therein lied the problem.

Unconstrained, my creative mind ran wild.  I had hundreds of ideas, intriguing notions I had stored up from years of gaming, and they all flooded in at once.  That led to hours of consternation, trying to sort so many rapidly evolving ideas and notions, half-baked character concepts all tangling up into a messy ball of unrecognizable dough.  I was being tripped up by my own creativity, having set no bounds for myself or having none set for me.

You can see this same effect in other creative ventures.  A writer with no editors or beta readers can spit out lurching masses of pages, tangled up with too many characters, subplots, and half-baked ideas to form a solid narrative.  A renowned filmmaker, in much the same way, might be let go creatively with no studio or editorial oversight and steer a beloved cinematic universe down an erratic and incomprehensible path (NO I’M NOT STILL MAD ABOUT PHANTOM MENACE, THANK YOU FOR ASKING!).  All creative people need filters, be they self-imposed or, better yet, imposed by others outside of the direct creative process, lest our imaginations all run off the rails.

Until next time, good luck, good reading, and good writing!