I’m just in from the garden doing a little weeding and a lot of shucking sweet corn. This may sound strange, but that got me thinking about latent creativity. I’ve been contemplating the subject for a while now. Sometimes my most creative insights come when I’m not doing anything that has to do with writing. The best story and novel ideas seldom come from me sitting around trying to think of great plots. They come to me when I’m doing something totally different. They come to me when I least expect it.
That’s why I call it latent creativity. Some of the best plot solutions, story twists, character actions, some of the most exciting story elements come to me when I’m doing something totally different. That’s when the creative force finds an unexpected opening and ploughs its way full blown into my imagination. I’m convinced that there are some activities in which there is a whole lot more latent creativity than others, and it’s different for every writer. But I do believe that those activities are most often either creative or meditative in their own right.
As you can probably guess if you’ve been keeping track of what’s going on in my life, and if you’ve read much of my writing, veg gardening is a great way to stimulate my latent creativity. I love the whole process – even the weeding. But I’m especially fond of picking green beans. There’s just something meditative and wonderful about rummaging through the foliage for hidden treasure. Plus green beans are one of my favorite veggies. I have been known, from time to time, to be inspired enough to write a little veggie porn.
You don’t have to know me very long before you know I love walking. In fact I love it so much I walked all across England a few years ago. I can’t even count the number of times long walks have inspired that latent creativity that leads to a story or a novel. Walking is probably the most direct form of latent creativity for me. Because I’ve often walked to solve plot problems or work out blocks in a story, I consider walking more writing-on-the-hoof.
Along similar lines, but perhaps a little more latent source of creativity is any kind of working out. I love kettle bells, Pilates, I am enjoying the hell out of learning pole dance, and I love creating my own workouts at home. Unlike walking, there’s no time to really engage the brain on any level but the physical act in which I’m involved. Sometimes, however, that means afterwards my mind is clear enough of the detritus that I’m ready for a good hard shot of inspiration.
Okay, ironing is not one of my favourite activities, but strangely enough, it really is a source of latent creativity. For some strange reason I find myself quite often able to solve plot problems or coming up with new story ideas while I’m sweating over a hot iron. Who’da thunk it? Makes me wish there was a bit more latent creativity in housework, but sadly, for me there isn’t, so less of that happens than probably should. A writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do, after all.
Finally reading a good book is a great source of latent creativity for me. A lot of people ask if I find that if I read, I inadvertently pull ideas from the book I’m reading at the time. No, I don’t. I consider a good book to be one that takes my mind completely off whatever it is that I’m writing at the time. I read for the shear pleasure of it. In a lot of ways reading a good book works the same magic on my creative process as working out does. If the author whose novel I’m reading has done her job, then I won’t have any room in my head to engage in anything else but the romp said author has created for me. The result being that I go back to my own work refreshed and inspired.
There are lots of other places where I find latent creativity from time to time, and that’s always a wonderful surprise. But the above are consistent and treasured (well okay the ironing maybe not so treasured) sources of inspiration for me. I’m sure for every writer the list is different. I’m also sure that every person has his or her own sources of latent creativity. Writers haven’t cornered the market. Everyone is creative in one way or another. That being the case, I would suggest we would all be happier and more satisfied in our lives if we took time to cultivate that latent creativity and see where the experience leads us.