The Creative Process

Pulling Back the Curtain

Have you ever wondered how artists and songwriters come up with their ideas? How does an author turn a spark of inspiration into a runaway bestseller? What process do movie directors use to transform a screenplay into a box office smash? Just how does the creative process work? I’m not sure how it works for everyone else, but I do know how it works for me. Whenever I am struck with a story idea, I jot down a quick note.

Recently, I saw a documentary about the classic rock album Machine Head by Deep Purple. This epic record came out in March 1972, when I was still in elementary school. However, by the time I reached junior high, everyone was humming the opening bars of Smoke on the Water. How did lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore come up with such an iconic song? Turns out he was inspired by Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, and as he said, “I owe him a lot of money.” 

It seems like songwriters, and writers in general, are constantly being struck by inspiration. How do they keep track of all of these little brainstorms? Some keep song or story journals. In my case, I use Simplenote. Since it’s available on the web, I can write down quick story ideas on my PC, iPad, or phone. It might be a couple of words, or maybe a paragraph or two. Just something to get the ball rolling, when I’m ready to sit down and write the article. Although sometimes, I’ll look at a phrase and wonder, “What the heck is this supposed to mean?”

Just to be clear, I don’t consider myself a writer per se. I’m more of a thought collector. However, I do share a similar process with every author from William Shakespeare to Stephen King. Being able to access that vast warehouse of story ideas is an amazing and humbling experience. Receiving a spark of inspiration, and turning it into something worth reading, is very satisfying indeed.

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