Creativity by the numbers

(Crossposted from Silk And Shadows)

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?

Leave a comment at Silk And Shadows this week for a chance
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