I want to take a step back from screenwriting and discuss a more basic principle—
Personally, I try to put a little creativity in everything I do. In fact, I have a quiet little motto that goes:
In everything you do, add a teaspoon of aesthetics.
I don’t care if I’m cleaning dog poop off my shoe, I do it with as much creativity as I can.
And this is just as true for writing.
Creativity is the being, doing or making of anything. No one said something has to be good to be creative, it only has to be brought into existence.
But there is a special element of creativity that really amounts to BEAUTY. And that, to a greater or lesser degree, turns creativity into ART.
But let’s get out of the clouds and into the mundane world of reality. How does creativity relate to screenwriting?
Well, the creative part of writing starts with getting ideas.
Interestingly, the most common question I’m asked is, “Where do you get all your ideas?” My first response is usually the line I gave to Gonzo in the “Romancing the Weirdo” episode of Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies:
Seriously, I get my ideas from the same places everyone does: life experiences, movies, TV, books, newspapers, past lives, etc., etc.
The real question is: How do you find those few sparkling gems in the mountain of dull ore?
Well, the first thing you have to do is start digging. What I mean by this is that you have to get the flow of ideas going.
THE #1 ENEMY OF GETTING IDEAS IS SELF-INVALIDATION!
That little voice inside your head that says, I’ll never think of a good idea, or Writing is so hard, or This idea sucks, is the killer of creativity.
We all know we create with our minds, and that they’re much like computers. But did you know that by thinking a simple thought like “My ideas stink” you’ve just programmed your mental computer with a piece of software that is going to affect all of your writing?
You create and write with thought, and if you think you’re a lousy writer, allow me to be the first one to make you right: YOU ARE!
Fortunately, the flip side is also true. If you think thoughts like, I can get lots of ideas and they’re going to be good, you’ve just programmed yourself to do exactly that.
Sound too easy? It’s worked non-stop for me for decades, and I’ve never had a shortage of good ideas yet.
Let me give you a practical drill that will not only demonstrate that there are an infinity of ideas, but will help open up your creative flows anytime they’re stuck.
Wherever you happen to be, look around and find an object. Make up an idea about it. Doesn’t matter whether the idea is good or bad. We’re just looking for ideas. And we want to keep them coming as fast as possible. Now look at another part of that same object and get another idea. Do this over and over until you’ve realized that you could keep doing it indefinitely.
I’ll give you an example. There’s a telephone on my desk. Idea #1: I discover my phone is magically connected to heaven. #2: The man who made the buttons on the phone has secretly made one of them out of C-4 explosive. #3: There’s a gremlin inside the phone who secretly adds expletives to my conversations. #4: The serial number on my phone is a winning Lotto ticket number.
Are you getting the idea? I could do this forever.
The purpose of this drill is to teach you that getting ideas is really the easiest thing in the world.
The trick is getting funny ones, or brilliant ones, or ones you can sell. But in order to find these you’ve got to get the brakes off your idea machine.
By the way, if you ever have "writer's block" or "blank page syndrome" don’t bother going to a psychiatrist (even though they’ve probably already classified them as mental disorders and are prescribing Prozac). You can get the flow going by simply starting to write anything. Then go back and improve it as necessary. What you must avoid at all costs are those sneaky little self-invalidating-bio-software ideas like, God, what do I write now?
Just write! Trust me, it will come. But you’ve got to START. Otherwise you just sit there in WAIT MODE.
This brings up another very important point about creativity: YOU ARE THE PRIMAL CAUSE OF YOUR CREATIVITY. If you think ideas come from somewhere else—like your brain!—you’re going to wait forever for them to come. But if you realize that you are the master of your ideas you will begin to control them better and they will eventually jump through hoops for you like a well-trained dog.
What do you think would happen if you told a child that the painting they just made is terrible? They’d stop painting for a month. But tell them it’s terrific and they’ll shower you with artwork. The point here is that you’re just like a kid under that aging skin of yours and your creative imagination works the same way.
So, start validating yourself and validating your thought process and you’ll turn that trickle of ideas into a raging river of creativity.
©Jeffrey Scott, All Rights Reserved
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