Creativity by the numbers
by Jessa Slade on August 10th, 2009

Currently working on: Avoidance techniques
Mood: Sneaky

You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.
~ Nietzsche

Ever get the sense that Nietzsche said a lot of stuff just so he’d live forever in online quote generators?  First of all, the chaotic people I know aren’t usually creating anything except more chaos, and second of all, a dancing star coming from where

But I admit, a form of controlled chaos, ultimately purposeful chaos not unlike a sun’s fusion core with its resultant light and heat, can get me past a cold, dark spell when I’m not sure where I’m going.


It would be awesome to be a Jackson Pollock of creativity, renting Lear jets to blow geysers of cadmium red at canvases the size of barn doors just to see what happens.  But then there’s reality:

  • Renting a Learjet: $1950-$2400/hour
  • 14×11 canvas: $240
  • 150 ml cadmium red: $58

So I use a poor man’s version of Pollock’s wild spatter: the mind map.

(From Wikipedia mind map entry)

A central conceptual problem surrounded by words and images that lead to yet more words and images that, in theory, open the mind to new solutions.

There’s lots of software available to play with, but a piece of paper and markers (I love the skinny Sharpies in rainbow colors!) work just as well.

In addition to expanding options, the same technique helps me focus.  I use the mind mapping idea to make a collage to remind me of the story I’m trying to tell.  Here’s the collage for SEDUCED BY SHADOWS. (Click for a larger version.)

My greatest creative enemy is perfectionism. 
The gleam of the white, untouched page is nirvana to me.  That perfection is lost with the scrawl of the first word.  Fine then, if my perfectionism demon wants to make me squirm, I can return the favor.

The trick to mind mapping, I think, is to be as wild with ideas as Pollock is with paint.  Toward that end, you might want to try cultivating:

As in quantity and loudness.  I find I have to toss a lot since most of the good ideas hide at the bottom so the more I start with, the more I’ll end up with. 

When I brainstorm, my rule is No Straight Lines!  Whacking is good.  Extra points for glue stick in hair.  Painting outside the lines gets you a gold star on the belly — and the gold star will be crooked and off center. 

Blissful insouciance
Lots of critics hate Jackson Pollock.  Because, well, he throws paint at canvas.  But whatever. 

This is anti-perfectionism.  And it is good.

Okay, time for an unofficial poll.  In comments, tell us, were you a mudpie child or did wearing the tips off crayons make you want to weep?  What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done to unleash your creative genius?

One commenter this week will win a signed copy of Jessica Andersen’s DAWN KEEPERS
so check out the rest of the week’s posts on creativity too!

12 comments to “Creativity by the numbers”

  1. 1

    As an effective cost-savings measure to the Learjet, might I suggest pot of spaghetti sauce + the Demon Lord of Kittty Badness. A Pollock immitator, to be sure, but the mess creation quotient is impressive.

  2. 2

    Hi :)
    Thanks for sharing,
    I hadn’t heard of mind mapping before.
    This was very interesting.
    I was definitely a mud pie type of child.
    Wildest thing I did to unleash my creative forces? …I ran nude through the woods once.
    All the best,

  3. 3

    RKCharron, brave girl! At night under a full moon for full effect, yeah?

    Sharon, I’m thinking you have alternate income stream potential with your Demon Lord of Kitty Badness.

  4. 4

    Mudpies and sandcastles! Always thought coloring in the lines was for wussies. I mean, why let someone tell you what and where to draw? Anything that challenges your comfort zone is good for creativity.

    Just thought I’d check up on you girls, make sure you’re still shaking things up, lol. Jessa, I love your collage. Might give that a try for my new WIP.

  5. 5

    Sharpened crayons and pencils, writing and rewriting my work until no mistake could be found … that’s my life and was my life. Order in all matters.
    I just can’t color outside the lines or make a list that isn’t perfectly aligned – mind mapping is not for me, unless it is very symetrical.
    But I’ve gone skinny dipping (many times), I break the speed limit, I leave a mess on the kitchen counter and I dance to piped in music in stores … I just can’t wear mismatched clothing, I straighten the mess on the counter into piles and I try to teach my child and my husband the CORRECT words to the piped in songs.

  6. 6

    Hi, Allison! Since you went off to challenge your own comfort zones, I shall bow to your most excellent expertise and try some sandcastles too.

    Robin, I’m interested that you seem to split your personality into mudpie girl and crayon-sharpener. I wonder if it’s because your writing is so important to you that the perfectionism kicks in?

  7. 7

    [...] a comment at Silk And Shadows this week for a chance to win a signed copy of Jessica Andersen’s DAWN [...]

  8. 8

    Don’t you wish you could SEE what Jackson Pollock sees? I love creativity in whatever form it takes. Even the pieces I don’t ‘get’ I try to imagine what the artist/writer was aiming for.

    I’m a color-inside-the-lines girl all the way.

    On the other hand, I’ve hiked up the side of a volcano, snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef, eaten smoked eel, and ridden a camel. Even us quiet types need to push the boundaries sometimes.

  9. 9

    wow..thats cool

  10. 10

    Just the phrase “ridden a camel” inspires story ideas. With a sexy sheik, of course.

  11. 11

    I have never tried mind mapping or collaging. Maybe I should try! :roll:

  12. 12

    All of my pencils have to be sharpened to a perfect point or I refuse to use them… on the other hand I love creating abstract paintings. I won’t do realistic because it will never be as perfect as a photograph. Speaking of photographs, I love photography as well. LOL How’s that for stream-of-consciousness?!

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