I’ll bet you’ve met them, the enlightened souls who sit in coffee shops swilling espresso as they pen beat-poetry epics or thousand-page novels in the second person about the experience of the migrant worker. Ask them to define creativity, and you’ll probably get intentionally obscure metaphors or wandering monologues that leave you scratching your head. This is to be expected, of course, for you aren’t one of them -- especially if you have to ask.
Fortunately, there are folks like mystery writer Timothy Hallinan who take a decidedly populist view of the creative arts. He has started a regular series about creativity on his blog, inviting writers, musicians, reporters and others to opine on their craft. My favorites include Christopher West’s skewering of "the Romantic notion of the 'genius,'" Jonathan Carroll’s suggestions on what to do when the flow of ideas stops, and Angela Woodall’s thoughts about how to wed passion with discipline. (Woodall's essay starts with a kicker of a quote from a 1938 writing manual: "Menial work at the expense of all true, ardent, creative work is a sin against the Holy Ghost.") No vague, self-serving reminiscences here, just nuts-and-bolts counsel on how to make nothing into something.
(Picture: CC 2008 by Jim Blob Blann; Hat Tip: Detectives Beyond Borders)