"The creation of a single world comes from a huge number of fragments and chaos." -- Hayao Miyazaki
I've only just scratched the surface of this succinct quote on world building and storytelling for myself. I ran across it a few weeks ago and it has been quietly humming in my brain since then, picking up and putting down pieces of my stories, re-arranging them, re-organizing, drawing from life and art I've been enjoying, slowly putting together some things that sort of just clicked into place for me last night.
It's an odd feeling, to feel the hum of your subconscious. You don't want to poke it too much for fear it will wake and go about its business, but you can't help staring at it, wanting to touch it, to understand what, exactly, it is. (Mine is awfully like a ship engine, or perhaps a cat)
But it remains a mystery.
I just know when mine's working.
a week or so ago, I'd been stuck on a short film script as well as revisions for my current novel-in-progress. Instead of forcing things to happen, I sat back and took up some knitting. I've found knitting to be remarkably creativity-inducing, like taking a shower (except it's much more convenient and I get to do *two* things at once without wasting water, which makes the economical/productive side of me incredibly happy).
So there I was, working away on a scarf, concentrating on my novel and WHAM -- a flood of ideas. I could barely scribble them down fast enough. Pieces connected, drawing from recently viewed TV episodes, connections beneath the surface between my characters, and bits of scenes and sentences, plus the whole problem with the beginning of my novel. It was mind-blowing.
Then, last night, I watched a few episodes of my current favorite TV show (for its tight writing and internal action, as well as character depth, emotional intensity and acting) and a light came on. I knew what was wrong with my short film script (or at least one of the bigger problems that had been haunting me), I came up with a new title, I got a handle on my characters and one of their backstories, and more material started popping up that pulled the story into a more cohesive bundle.
I'm just realizing how much my subconscious has been working -- overtime! But it's because I've been feeding it constantly, by knitting/crocheting (which can be a meditative state if you've got a repetitive stitch -- you could also cross stitch, doodle, fold laundry or run/walk) and watching and dissecting stories I love (I sit down in front of the TV with a notebook or keep one nearby in case I need to scribble something down during the commercials). Studying the stories I enjoy and giving my brain time to file it all away has proved invaluable.
To sum all of that up, I've learned that a) stories are made up of bits and pieces of our lives, stories we connect with, and anything that inspires us and b) feeding your creativity carefully (healthily?) can lead to all sorts of breakthroughs, better story crafting and imaginative solutions to story problems.
My advice to you?
Give yourself time. Give your subconscious time to put things together. Give yourself time to study, breathe, relax. Don't set a time for your creativity. There's a time to sit down and write without inspiration, but there's also time to digest after imbibing a story. Do a bit of both.
Get specific about what you enjoy in stories. Because that's probably what you're interested in writing. You love high school stories that talk about hard-hitting issues? Time to watch some Freaks and Geeks, The Breakfast Club or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Take notes on what you really like -- this personality trait in a character (I have a very, very specific type of character I gravitate towards in a wide range of TV shows), that issue and how they handled it, or maybe the theme that resonated with you.
Take a few minutes and scribble down the stories you read/watch over and over again and do some analysis. Why do you like these stories? What about them draws you in?
Once you have that figured out, take a look at your work -- does it contain the same themes, character types, issues? If it doesn't, have you been slacking off because it's just not that interesting? If so, time to change something up. Take a walk and concentrate on your story. See if your brain can't make some connections from what you love to what you're writing. You'll be surprised with the results (my brain tends to love a mixture of fairytale and sci-fi, highschool/early 20's identity crises, and dramedy), and it will be more fun to write (with the added bonus of giving you some idea of a direction to go -- you can draw on those stories you love so much!).
I'm not saying that you'll always write true to type -- authors write all sorts of different things, in different voices, about different subjects. However, the author may have developed wider interests because of taking a chance on something outside their comfort zone -- by feeding their creativity with a variety of things in order to keep it alive and growing.
What do you think about Miyazaki's quote? Has this proven true for you in the writing/creating process? Have you got any advice for me about feeding creativity or world building or plotting?
See you on Friday for First Lines.