What fuels your creativity?

Being cre­at­ive can be as chal­len­ging as grabbing a hand­ful of fog. The mind and body may be will­ing, but the muse of­ten chooses its own time to ap­pear. Some people seem to be in a con­stant state of cre­at­ive con­scious­ness, while oth­ers grunt and grind their way along as if push­ing a two-ton rock up a steep hill.

But soon­er or later, most cre­at­ives ex­per­i­ence an “aha!” mo­ment that pro­pels them for­ward on a rush of star-stud­ded euphoria.

So, what flips the switch from mundane to innovative?

Sometimes I can write my way into a cre­at­ive flow by play­ing with a vari­ety of words, scen­ari­os and ran­dom com­bin­a­tions. Or a walk in the woods or along the Salish Sea can trans­form neb­u­lous thoughts into a quirky idea.

And, al­though far less en­joy­able, cre­at­ive thoughts also emerge while do­ing some­thing mind­less like wash­ing dishes or vacuuming.

But even when strug­gling, I’m drawn to the craft of story.

Curiosity is the driv­ing force be­hind my cre­ativ­ity. Even as a child I was al­ways ask­ing ques­tions and si­lently watch­ing what people did and the ways oth­ers re­acted. I want to know why some­thing hap­pens and how people be­come who they are.

Inspiration is usu­ally sparked by an ex­tern­al in­cid­ent: rot­ting fish be­ing con­ver­ted into oo­ligan grease, a cou­gar scream­ing in the green­space be­hind my home or feel­ing un­com­fort­able around the home­less in my community.

I’m in­trigued by the reas­ons people live and act the way they do. And of the dark that lies be­low the sur­face some­times swim­ming to the top to wreak hav­oc. What’s the back­story? How do people change? Or even survive?

In pre­vi­ous books, I’ve ex­amined re­la­tion­ships between people and wild­life, the land­scape, and oth­er cul­tures. Now I’m ex­plor­ing a more in­tim­ate re­la­tion­ship, that of a fam­ily shattered by past events, nev­er ac­know­ledged or spoken about.

Switching from non­fic­tion to fic­tion is a chal­lenge, lead­ing to much thought and con­tem­pla­tion. On his web­site, in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned au­thor Michael Connelly says he re­cently cre­ated a new series, “Because you have to write like a shark. You keep mov­ing or you die creatively.”

Now I’m ex­er­cising my cre­at­ive muscles in dif­fer­ent ways and learn­ing new as­pects of the story-telling jour­ney. Writing like a shark in­volves change and step­ping out­side my com­fort zone.

I nev­er know how each dance with the muse will turn out but that’s part of the charm. Every story is an adventure.