Laurel Snyder's books are unique because she not only really and truly understands kids, but has a quality of imagination that is rare anywhere. In her novels, children root out mysteries, find magical treasures, and get entangled in perilous adventures. There is something deliciously old-fashioned about her work as she pulls us back into that beautiful micro-community of childhood and helps us remember the fun, the sadness, and the drama of it all. We are both huge fans of Laurel's books and are honored to have her as our guest blogger.
Laurel Snyder is the author of three novels for kids, Any Which Wall, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, and Penny Dreadful (fall, 2010). Her picture books include Inside the Slidy Diner and Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher. She also writes poems and makes up lots of silly songs, but her best creations so far are Mose (who is four and a half) and Lew (who is three). Laurel lives in Atlanta, and online at laurelsnyder.com
A Spilling Ink Guest Post by, Laurel Snyder
Are you ready? I am going to tell you a BIG secret about creativity…
It isn’t as creative as you think!
Shhh . . . don’t tell anyone else! If everyone knew this, EVERYONE would be writing books all day long, and there wouldn’t be anyone to tear the tickets at the movie theater, or make you grilled cheese sandwiches (though I suppose some very creative people make very wonderful sandwiches).
But really, it’s true—creativity is less creative than a lot of people imagine.
What do I mean by that? I mean that creativity works best when it has limitations. I mean that ideas don’t just zoom through the universe and slam into your head from out of nowhere. Ideas come from the world around you—from memories and experiences, from the things in your room, conversations you overhear, memories . . . I mean that creativity has to begin with something concrete.
Like, if I ask you to stare at a blank sheet of paper and “write something good and creative” what happens? You sit there awhile and scratch your head. Then, eventually, you look around your room, or out the window, or you think back over your day, or maybe books you’ve read, and find yourself a place to start. We all do that!
So for me, the best way to begin being creative is to set very rigid rules for myself. Like, if I want to write a poem I’ll think, “This poem should have 2 animals, a scientist, a kitchen appliance, and a body of water in it.”
Then I write a really sloppy first draft of my poem, and what usually happens is that creativity gets to work in the spaces between those things. Creativity wanders along to connect those things. Creativity is what I find when I see how those things bump up against each other.
Then, creativity happens again in revision. Because once I see that first draft, I might have a clear idea of the best possible version of the poem. I might strip things away. I might take out one of the animals, and swap the kitchen appliance for a garden tool. I might ditch everything but the very best line, and start all over. Because once I see what I’m working with, creativity shows me how far I can take it! Creativity teaches me what I didn’t know I could imagine.
And that’s what writing is for me. That what creativity is . . . having rules and limits that let me go wild in the spaces between.
If you don't believe me, or you’d do believe me, but you'd like an exercise to try, here’s something you might have fun with. Take out that blank piece of paper, and hang it on the wall with a piece of tape. Stare at it for a minute. Then take another piece of paper, and draw a tiny little house in the center of the page. When you're done, hang it up on your wall beside the fist (blank) page. Then walk away from them both.
But each time you pass by the two pieces of paper, I want you to think about them. I want you to imagine what might be on them. And I bet, at the end of a few hours, the blank page will still be pretty blank, but you will know exactly who (or what) lives inside that little house . . .
Thank you, Laurel! For a chance to win a copy of Spilling Ink, please leave a comment below - What are your secrets about getting creative? We'd LOVE to hear! Two winners will be chosen at random on May 9, 2010. Good luck! xo Anne & Ellen