The Care and Feeding of the Creative Mind

The Care and Feeding of the Creative Mind


If you could rewrite any character that you have read, who would it be, why would you, and how? Danielle Moen

Aaron: Another good question. This reminds me of Jeremiah Peters’ question about which classic we’d rewrite, but with the caveat of it being a single character. The first character that comes to mind is Eragon from the Eragon series. The reason is that he had such promise to become a powerful, mature character, but I never felt he evolved. He never solved his own problems, and he remains immature throughout the course of the four book series. I’d have him grow into his role, gain confidence and capability.

Al: I had to think about this for a bit. The one character that keeps coming to mind is Dirk Pitt who is the protag in many of Clive Cussler books. I hesitate to use him to answer this question because I fear this will sound like criticism. It’s not. It’s development and it only applies to a few of Cussler’s earliest books. Dirk Pitt is an adventurer–James Bond underwater kinda guy. The earliest books of him and his team saving the day. The odd thing–to me–is that Pitt seemed to lack depth. He had everything else a great protag should have, but it’s not until later books that we see the human side of Dirk. Subordinate characters had more dimensions. Still, I loved the books and Cussler made a mark in popular literature.

MJ: I’ve been wracking my brain on this one, and unfortunately, I have to admit I haven’t come up with any. Whether it’s because I haven’t read much in the last few years, or I’m satisfied with the characters as they are, I can’t say. Reaching back to a decade ago when I used to speed read, I was reading non fiction. There are books I remember feeling disappointed in a character’s actions or lack of growth, but that was intended by the author. So it’s not really something I would change.

The Care and Feeding of the Creative Mind

Al: Let’s define what we mean by “The Care and Feeding of the Creative Mind.”

  • Creativity can be taxing. Especially long term creative acts such writing which spans months and even years.
  • Creativity is like a muscle and can therefore be fatigued if care isn’t taken. This especially true if you’re behind on a deadline.
  • Creativity requires courage and a willingness to have work rejected and critiqued. This is why some writers are reclusive.
  • To undertake a long project like a novel requires a sustained creativity and that, in turn, requires self-encouragement.
  • All of this means the author must take responsibility for caring and feeding the creative mind.

Some general principles:

  • Determine at the start that your project is worth finishing. (So make sure it’s your best idea and has market value.)
  • Determine that thinking is more important in decision making that emotion. We all travel with emotions but emotions are blind. Don’t let them take the steering wheel. (Yep, another one of Al’s Axioms.)
  • No two people are wired the same. What works for us might not work for you, so you must blaze your own trail of creativity.
  • Creativity is a blend of natural inclination and inspiration from other creatives. To be creative, hang out in creative venues. For me that includes:
    • Movies
    • Good television
    • Bookstores (if you can find one)
    • Writers conferences (one of my biggest thrills as a budding writer was meeting a “real” writer.)
  • The creative mind is always on. Always. You don’t want to turn it off and I doubt a true creative could turn it off.
  • Creativity is a muscle it must be exercised. Most people get that. What they don’t get is that it must also be rested–just as in physical exercise. If you’re not resting then you’re not improving.
  • Cut down on distractions (my problem). The problem with being a creative is there are many creative things to pirate our attention.
  • Have fun with many ideas, but focus on one project at a time.
  • Practice the two questions of fiction: “What if?” followed by “Then what?”

How Aaron keeps the creative juices flowing: Massive doses of art

  • HDR Photography
  • Poetry
    • Marianne Moore
    • Sylvia Plath
    • Robert Frost
    • Elizabeth Bishop
    • Aimme Nez
  • Books
    • Cormac McCarthy
    • Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
    • Flannery O’Connor
    • Tim O’Brien
  • Art
    • CGI fantasy landscapes
    • Art museums
  • Television and movies


  • Food –
    • I’m mentally healthiest when I’m creating, and when I’m not writing, I’m in the kitchen. I love taking standard recipes and changing them up with my characters or settings in mind. How would Josie, a California girl, react to her first Hurricane drink? How does Rain, a chef, take ordinary shrimp and make something spectacular out of it?
    • I also use food to gather writers together so we can share our ideas and encourage each other.
    • Because my current WIP is NOLA, the last two years I’ve had an affinity for Jambalaya, Gumbo, sweet tea, and beignets. (By the way, thanks for the text photo, Al!)
  • Music
    • I create playlists that inspire me, set the mood
    • Jazz and St. James Infirmary on Pandora
    • I build playlists based on my character’s’ preferences
    • “30 Second Dance Party”
  • Home Decor
    • I surround my living room with a lot of Mardi Gras and Fleur de Lis decor
  • Inspirational Quotes
    • Write them on Stickee Notes, print them out, put them all over your house, share them on FB, text them to friends
  • People
    • Find one or two people you can be really crazy with. The ones you can call or write or text and vent and explain your next chapter and why it works or doesn’t work; share your real life with; let loose with. You have to be able to let go of your everyday life in order to make room for the creativity to flow
  • Games
    • Playing games on the computer helps me relax and offers a distraction. I find solutions to scene difficulties and character issues when I focus on something else.
    • Playing games with others offers company, social interaction. Word games like Scrabble, or problem solving/strategy games like MTG

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *