The Creative Spark

I’m all excited by This Idea I have. See, I know I’m not the only one who is completely, utterly, not-to-say-“obsessively” fascinated by the creative processes of other people. As in, how ideas come to them. What it feels like. What they do, physically, when they’re in the middle of discovering a brand-new idea. Am I the only one who begins humming “The Wabash Cannonball”? And, by the way, how do I even *know* that song in the first place? Where did THAT come from? (Just a note: sitting here right now, I have no idea what that tune is. I couldn’t hum it for you. It’s not a tune that’s familiar to me EXCEPT when my brain goes into that certain mode. Then the tune starts up, and I somehow recognize it. Very odd. Maybe I only *think* it’s “The Wabash Cannonball.” Maybe I should worry.)

In fact, I can often tell what’s going on in the creative part of my brain by the soundtrack that’s playing there. I work in silence, if you don’t count the fans and the glass windchimes. No tv, no videos, no music. So when I begin to hear the theme song to “The Flintstones” or “I Dream of Jeanie” or “My Three Sons”–or that cannonball song–I know something’s perking. Because these are songs from my childhood, it could be that my brain is accessing the part from childhood. I can see a whole line of research there, but I don’t really think that’s it. Because sometimes, if I’m around other people when I get an idea, I hum out loud, tunelessly, and have realized the whole music-in-my-head-thing is just a way to set up a resonance in there to help block out distractions. I meditate best, in fact, while wearing ear plugs and listening to the sound of my own breath.

Since my husband has retired and sometimes sits out here and reads the newspaper while I’m working, I’m become aware of other things I do, things that I wouldn’t have paid attention to without someone pointing them out to me. When I’m writing, I periodically stare out the window and freeze, my fingers poised over the keyboard, my lips moving as I continue writing in my head. I know this must look odd because, at first, my husband would look at me and ask, with some alarm, “What’s wrong?” Now he doesn’t; he just keeps on reading. I like to believe it’s *not* because I kept yelling, “NOTHING! I’M WORKING HERE!”

So we’re going to explore this, what happens when ideas come. I’ve invited some fabulous artists to tell about their own experiences, and I can’t wait to share those. But waiting is required, since these are busy people who are going to need some time to answer my rather-exhaustive questions. I’d thought to start now and post three a week for a couple of weeks, but that’s unrealistic, given people’s summer schedules. So I’ll tell some of my own experiences and then, as others start to come in, I’ll post those.

Post comments and share your own experiences, please. Especially if the inside of your head is periodically filled with the sounds of “The Wabash Cannonball.” It would be good to know I’m not alone there. . . .

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9 Responses to The Creative Spark

  1. cdamm says:

    Sometimes I hear an old Linda Ronstadt song– “Hasten Down the Wind”– playing in my head,But usually an idea is from a visual cue, something that I noticed while driving in the car, or in a magazine that has nothing to do with my artwork or while looking at fabric online. I, too, do the “point and freeze” somewhat like a hunting dog and my husband usually says, “Have an idea?” I do keep a sketchbook of my current ideas and sometimes I scan through them and if I keep noticing an idea showing up in slightly different forms again and again, then I know it’s a keeper and I work on it.

  2. DycheDesigns says:

    It’s funny because I do the whole ‘freeze’ thing and stare off into the distance when I write too and my husband also asks what’s wrong.

    • Rice Freeman-Zachery says:

      Maybe the partners/spouses need a support group to help them interpret the signals when they first hook up with one of us. It’s got to be confusing–we stop in mid-sentence, stare into space, get up and walk away muttering to ourselves. Yikes.

  3. PennyA says:

    LOVE this post — Love even more it is bound for series-dom 😉 I wish I could help you with the “Wabash Cannonball” thing; but the internal workings of my skull are like my own ‘memory radio’ — it takes very little to kick-start the soundtrack of a memory… Music seems to be how my mind catalogs various experiences — and hearing a song, virtually ANY song, is much like tripping through a card catalogue (oooh, they don’t have those any more, do they?)

    Lucky for me, Wonder Hubby writes computer code — so there is nothing odd about either of us developing the ‘100 yard stare,’ and falling out of conversation to pursue the end of a sentence or the necessary command to complete a routine. I have long maintained that I have more ideas than the time in which to execute them; so I will patiently await the no-doubt stellar line up of creatives who will share their methods for riding down the ideas into their physical manifestations! It’s always nice to have something interesting to look forward to — THANKS!

    • Rice Freeman-Zachery says:

      It will take a while–everyone needs time to think, I think. But that’s OK–it’s worth the wait.

  4. AndreaR says:

    I freeze and stare, too. Sometimes my right hand starts moving as if I am sketching, or maybe directing, my thoughts in an effort to make them visible….I don’t know…it just starts moving.
    I also find myself holding my breath, which I discover when I get light-headed (okay, MORE light-headed) and have to gasp for air.
    As far as the songs in my head go…they are there, but they vary. Most often it’s an instrumental version of “In the Mood,” which is interesting, now that I think of it.

    • Rice Freeman-Zachery says:

      Thank you, AndreaR, for that nice little earworm: now I’m sure I, too, will hear “In the Mood.” I hope it’s a *good* instrumental version and not the one I hear in the chiropractor’s exam room. Yikes.

  5. Great topic, Rice!

    I have found my creativity waning lately (it’s the middle of winter in Australia, so that never helps) but recently I was quite sick and as I lay, waiting for sleep and wishing my head would stop pounding and my sore throat would go away, I was struck with a fantastic idea / image of a painting; it was SO detailed that I could see the colours and textures.

    And then – POW! – another idea hit, then another for a journal layout. I was so amazed! I just had to get out of bed and find my art journal to sketch out the basics of my ideas before they faded away. It seems like as soon as half of my brain was switched off, the creative side sprang into action!

    *smiles* Michelle