Thoughts On Creativity Or, "How I Ended Up Writing A Children's Book"
I struggled with what the format and content of this blog should be and eventually settled on the fact that it would just have to be representative of my overall creative life, totally scattered and made up of a lot of things. I don't want to get too autobiographical because I really want to keep this about general creativity, but to really shed some light on my process I guess I kind of have to do it.
After winding down a fifteen year run as a singer-songwriter of original music and leader of three bands (actually twelve years of that and three of resetting myself from cynicism and despondency), I had an epiphany about the essence of who I am that people who know me (ask my wife) would find odd given the excruciating introspection I give to everything I experience. I started looking back at my whole life and realized that even though I hadn't become a rock star or even an indie artist making a decent living, that music was only part of who I was. I am a creator. And when I am doing that I am happy. The thing I create most is stories.
I was doing it back when I played with action figures or legos, constructing narratives based on other material, yes(G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Lost In Space, The Chronicles of Narnia), but I made up new stories as yet untold. I got into video games, my favorites being Role Playing Games with compelling story lines, table top gaming such as D&D where every campaign was something new and I had some control over where the story went. I would even make up stories on the fly to entertain my younger sisters and brother. My mother said I was too good at lying. I'd like to think that it wasn't just being devious, but that I just loved creating fiction, even if it was primarily to get me out of trouble.
When I wasn't making up stories I was reading or watching them: First Dr. Suess and Shel Silverstein, then Roald Dahl, eventually J.R.R. Tolkein, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, etc. If you're sensing a trend, I have always gravitated to surreal children's books, science fiction and fantasy, I guess because those are the least grounded to a constrained reality and leave the imagination unbound.
Music and songs go hand in hand, instrumental melodies are a kind of stories told with notes. Song lyrics, even when autobiographical, almost always contain something contrived to better make a point or draw in the listener.
While pursuing my music career I started a web site with some like-minded friends and we created serial science fiction stories, each writing a consecutive chapter based on someone's initial idea. From that, I started a fantasy novel. Embarrassingly, it has stalled out but I still have plans to finish it.
During stints with various day jobs, inevitably parties or send-offs or meetings would arise that needed skits or songs or whatnot and I would always find myself involved. I realize now that I treated those "throw away" seemingly superfluous diversions more seriously and had more passion for them than my actual job.
Recently, I have become part of a kids' rock band. Some long time friends and fellow musicians that each had some level of the "burn out" I experienced decided it would be fun to create and perform songs for a crowd that has none of the jadedness or pretense of teens and adults and inherently just wants to have fun. And boy is it.
Somewhat concurrently with climbing out of my dark place, beginning to play instruments again and joining the kids' band, I had the afore mentioned epiphany. It got me thinking of things I wanted to create.
I had gotten the idea to write a children's book going back to a cat named Pippin I lived with eight years before. Notice I didn't say "owned," one doesn't own a cat. He was like a dog. He would come running from the treeline when I called him from the yard, sprinting like a mini-cheetah to land breathless and sweaty and purring at my feet. He wanted to go out when it rained (lightly), he loved playing in the snow. He would sleep next to me. He seemed to know when I was sick. I loved that cat. I knew the writing was on the wall, however, as several times he came home with injuries from other animals, a couple requiring serious veterinarian care. I would talk to him like my child. "Pippers, you can't be running around out there and think you can get away every time just because you're really fast." And he was fast. He just looked at me like a child that thought, no knew, he was invincible. We had coyotes in the area. We had BIG carrion birds. One day he just didn't come home.
I had it in my mind to write him as a seven year old anthropomorphized cat. He has parents that wear clothes and jobs, he has a house, bedroom, friends and a school. But he is always rushing into things or being led by a feeling or making a conclusion without thinking it through. I thought it the perfect ground to tell imaginative stories and teach a little at the same time. The first story I pitched I thought was most easily accessible because of how it would translate to illustrations. The colorful items and the fact that kids everywhere have a fascination with getting dirty as well as, some, not taking baths. I think I was right. Pippin No Lickin' of course, is about a kitty who won't take a bath. Some hilarious things happen and he ultimately learns a good lesson. I have three more manuscripts of Pippin stories and ideas for more.
Getting back to general creativity, the reason my Facebook and website just say "author" is that I don't just write kids' books. I am actively writing and submitting science fiction, fantasy and literature as well as poetry to online and other publications. I may include it on the site at some point.
All this to say, creativity doesn't just have to be writing or something in the arts as is my case. To throw this back to you for your own introspection, whatever you do with passion and interest that makes you lose track of time (one of my big criteria) and the end result is something that benefits you or others or hopefully both, chances are, that's your creative essence. That could be starting a business, playing a sport, cleaning an office, crafting beer, cooking. Whatever it is, you can find your you. I did and I can't believe it took me this long. Thanks for coming along, I hope you enjoy what I create.