Creativity for Writing and How to Cultivate It

What motivate and drives our creativity? Wikipedia defines creativity as “the process of producing something that is both original and worthwhile” and states that creativity “involves the production of novel, useful products.” The English word creativity is derived from the Latin term creo “to create, make”.

When Plato was asked: “Will we say, of a painter, that he makes something?” he answered, “Certainly not, he merely imitates.” The way I understand it is that the painter imitates what he sees in nature. I venture a step further to describe creativity not only as imitation, but the re-imagining of something new from the inspiration.

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Plato, The School of Athens (detail). Fresco, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. Raphael 1509

It is difficult to be creative with our writing when our minds are constantly occupied with making a living and fulfilling our responsibilities. How can we release bursts of creativity when we’re operating in a rote daily pattern? How do we nourish our creativity?

And how do we fight the writer’s block? I say the best way to fight a writer’s block is to spread Crazy Glue on your chair—then you will see your fingers flying over the keyboard! Seriously, the best way to fight a cramped mind is to try to catch every passing thought we have and every thing that happens around us.

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Newton’s Principia © CC BY-SA 2.0

“Isaac Newton’s law of gravity is popularly attributed to a creative leap he experienced when observing a falling apple.” ~ Wikipedia

Here are some examples to consider:
• Voice a thought: We go through the day by asking questions. The brain will pursue these thoughts by expanding and researching ways to advance the concepts. So ask yourself many questions.
• Create a world you aspire to: We reveal our passion for living by being indignant about people suffering. Look around you at injustices committed on the planet.
• Correct an injustice in your mind: When I came up with the theme for my trilogy, I asked myself why did Spaniard Jews have to suffer at the hand of the Inquisition? How did they evade the Inquisition or how did they fight back? Did they have choices?
• Visualize a different life or mentally escape from your own life: Most readers of books and viewers of film escape from their present lives into a realm of fantasy or imaginary world for an hour or two.
• Leverage childhood experiences: How we can take a negative or positive event from our childhood and turn it into a story? Look into yourself and bring out a pleasant or traumatic event, then flesh it out with fictitious characters.

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Photo credit by “made by Freepik.com”

Throughout the day we have fleeting thoughts. How do encourage creative expression to germinate into stories? One useful habit is to carry a small notebook for when the muse strikes. We can use everything happening in our lives and put it to work creatively. Many times during the day we get those passing thoughts that are connected or unconnected to our everyday life. If one idea in particular strikes our fancy, then we pull out the notebook and write it down.

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Photo credit by DreamstimeYou

You can jot down these thoughts and ideas by noting the following:
• Time—When did it take place?
• Environment—Where did it happen?
• Daydreams—One of the things that got me in trouble in school was day-dreaming, but it kept my mind limber. Use your day dreaming to your advantage. Imagine you want to travel to the Caribbean. Use a traumatic experience you may have had and set it somewhere in Jamaica for example. So let’s say a couple travels to the island with their eleven-year-old son where he disappears.
• Passions—Put in the story your love of tropical islands with all the colors and lush scenery.
• Recurring ideas—A thought that persists and won’t leave your alone. A strong belief in something you want to fight and redress. A belief that makes you red in the face and the carotid artery bulge in your neck.
• Whom would it help?—The people you’re fighting for: bullied children, the downtrodden, the destitute, and the persecuted.

Creativity is fifty percent daydreaming and fifty percent catching it!

Another way to stimulate creativity is to change from your everyday routine by adding something different each day. For example, instead of turning on the TV when you come home from work on Monday, try reading a page or two from a favorite book. On Tuesday try stretching for twenty minutes. And so on for each day of the week, then switch them around.

If your creativity is still blocked, using movement will dislodge those precious nuggets to come into your consciousness.

• Take a walk and admire your surroundings or think about improving it. Example: Imagine yourself in a warm and lush forest with fruit trees and singing birds when suddenly everything becomes dark and cold.
• Lie on the floor and stretch your limbs. You’ll be surprised how your brain goes into overdrive and the many thoughts that will flood your thinking. Example: A murder occurs in a gym in plain sight. How could the murderer have accomplished the dark deed without anyone seeing him or her?
• Go down to the nearest coffee shop with a good book and read for an hour. You’ll be surprised how a certain section or chapter in the book will motivate you to write something you’ll be content with. Example: Observe the people going in and out of the coffee shop and speculate about their destination. Will they find a peaceful day at work, or will something dreadful happen to them?
• Work the soil in your garden or prune the plants or trees. That devotional attention to detail will stimulate your thoughts, and you’ll be surprised to find ideas flowing freely. Example: Imagine a gardener digging the soil when his spade hits metal in the ground. He discovers a chest with letters from a different time.

Keep in mind these techniques and cultivate them to stimulate your innate, creative output.

Now go and write, and let your creativity soar!

Photo credit by Google

Photo credit by Google

Posted in Lilian Gafni

Hate: The Greatest Enemy

I remember growing up as a child in Cairo, Egypt, with the same childhood as any other child in the world: playing with dolls, reading many books, dealing with sibling rivalry and school, but also with a shadow in the background.

My mother had bought me a Jewish star pendant on a golden necklace. She warned me not show it to anyone at school. I didn’t understand why I should keep that a secret, let alone why should a Jewish star be hidden. But some children cannot keep a secret, and I was one of them. I told my friend at school, that I had a secret. She then begged me to show her. In the schoolyard one day, I let her see the Jewish star hidden under the collar of my school uniform.

“You must be Jewish!” She cupped her hands over her mouth.

For a moment I was taken aback at her reaction when fear overtook me. “Please . . . don’t tell anyone.”

When I left school that day, I felt guilty that I had disobeyed my mother, and I still couldn’t understand what I’d done wrong. That day I kept from my mother that I told a friend.

I was educated in a non-denominational, French Catholic school that accepted girls from all religions. We were Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic and Jewish students. We studied side by side in the classroom and got along fairly well.

My grades were mixed, with math being on the low end of the scale and French and composition on the high end. The Catholic nuns taught classes with the help of Arab teachers. While the nuns were compassionate, some of the teachers were not. I had a conflict with my teacher who failed me on tests I excelled in. It didn’t matter that dictation and composition were my best subjects; she would fail me nonetheless.

At that time I voraciously read any books that came my way. I borrowed ten short books from the school library per week and read them like devouring candy—one after the other. I also borrowed books without permission from my brother’s small collection, such as the adventures of Fantômas, The Saint series, and many other mysteries. So as a young girl I was exposed to the great criminal Fantômas who killed his victims with relish.

One grading period, my grades were so poor that my parents were summoned to school. My book quota from the library was cut down, and my brother forbade me to touch his books. I was heartbroken. No more books to read.

In addition to my academic problems, I learned from my childhood that being Jewish is to be hidden and that teachers were to be avoided. World War II had ended, but Jews and many foreigners were persecuted in Egypt. Some Jews had been killed, while others were leaving Egypt by the thousands. One day both my brother and I were walking back from school when a group of Arab children surrounded us.  My brother, who happened to be as blond as a German, was targeted. The Arab boys shouted, “Here is a Nazi!”  This ironic remark was lost on us that day, but we fought them back, my brother with his fists, and me with my school bag.

The State of Israel was already in its sixth year, and rumbles were still heard following the 1948 Israel-Arab wars. Riots took place one evening while my parents were visiting their friends. My grandmother was watching over us at the time, including my older brother Joseph and younger brother Aaron. My parents left their friends’ house with great hurry to go through the dark streets, and were stopped by a band of roving Arabs.

“Here are Jews, let’s kill them!”

My mother was mute with terror, and my father trembling with fear at the knife on his throat, shouted, “I’m not a Jew, I’m a Greek Orthodox!” This was partly true, because my father came from a Jewish-Greek family and they spoke fluent Greek. My parents survived thanks to my father’s quick thinking. That night, while rioters threw rocks at our windows, my parents made the decision to leave Egypt forever.

Later, as a young adult, I asked myself many times why were we hated so much. What had we done to be hounded, persecuted and killed throughout history? We were good citizens, who contributed to the countries that sheltered us. We come with cherished family traditions. We celebrated holidays and happy events as any other religious, or nonreligious family in the world did. What was it that troubled and drove other religious groups in the Arab sphere to hate Jews?

We were told in many ways through persecution, pogroms and Holocausts that we are to be shunned, hated and killed. Yet, on the other hand, many non-Jews had come forth and became honored gentiles for saving Jews in countless instances throughout history.

As an adult, I learned to recognize that hate is universal. Hate can target any religion or any group that the aggressor fears. Hate that is bred from fear is the evil that needs to be recognized for what it is—born from ignorance and the dehumanizing of the “other”: If they’re not like me, they’re to be shunned and eradicated.

Instead, we should celebrate our diversities and our commonalities, because deep down we’re all human, no matter our differences. That is the legacy left for us to instruct, enlighten, and open the eyes of ignorance.

Posted in Lilian Gafni

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