Things I Know About My Creative Process

  • I seem to work better in analog than digital. For brainstorming and first drafts, handwriting > typing. When editing my own work, I’d rather make notes by hand. A tablet could work, but I prefer printed documents. For visual work, I’d rather draw a mock-up by hand than go into digital design software right away.
  • I am a macro-planner. I want to know, at least vaguely, what the entire story is, before I start writing. Even if almost all of it will change in the actual writing process, that initial bird’s-eye view banishes my paralysis so I can actually get something down.
  • My macro-planning often takes visual form. The likelihood is that if you walk into whatever bedroom I call my own at a given time, you will see walls covered with paper, the paper in turn littered with color-coded post-its. For whatever project(s) I’m currently engaged in, I like to have visual, easily changeable maps (hence the super-replaceable post-its) for reference and for tracking my own progress. Seeing those maps every day when I wake up also helps with motivation.
  • Everything always takes longer than I think it will.
  • I consider myself a creative remixer. Take it like this: some people are “original artists.” They get inspired in some (arguably) organic way, and from seemingly nothing at all, a track is born. I, however, am an artist, but not an original one. Like a producer who is entirely unable to work other than with samples, or a DJ who never makes her own music but has a thriving career from remixing other people’s songs. Almost everything worthwhile that I write is actually an adaptation. Sometimes, even for the simplest stories, I do tedious, unreasonable amounts of research—only to break apart whatever I have gathered and reassemble it all in ways that are quite irreverent to the original sources. The idea of my being a creative remixer is the best way I know how to explain why I decided to major in Africana Studies with a concentration in history. It’s where my favorite source material comes from.
  • I thrive in (specific kinds of) collaboration. As ironic as it is, my creative process, executed purely in solitude, is often unfeasible. I need other people’s brains, their intelligence, their different skill sets, to make beautiful things. Most often, what I need from people is conversation. Many a time have I found myself with story problems I can’t solve or stories I can’t even start, and then I call a friend, whine, explain, listen to and argue with them for about two hours. By the time the conversation is over, my story is no longer suffocating me. Talking to people about stories, co-creating them, is energizing. And then there is the fun of manifesting pieces that were once just words—like having a group of friends gathered to record a scripted podcast. 😊 Or having my favorite illustrator create cover art for a story I wrote. 😊 😊
  • I rank pretty high in suggestibility. Suggestibility is that quality that makes you heavily influenced by what you’re exposed to. So, if you ask me to write a verse for you when I’ve been listening to Jayso for the past hour, you’re likely to get something with at least a subtly Jayso-like flow. If I read Rick Riordan right before getting back to work on my short story, I just might end up with my narrator sounding a bit like a teenage demigod. And so on. So, just for the record, if you’re hiring me for something and you want to give me some reference art, think carefully first. Because if you say something you don’t mean, you’re going to get something much closer to what you said than what you meant. Anyway, influences are often overridden by my own voice/vision in the seemingly endless revision process. If I have the necessary grace and time.

2 thoughts on “Things I Know About My Creative Process

  1. Your point about being a creative remixer reminded me of the saying “there’s nothing new under the sun”. I interpret to mean that everything we consider creative now is a remix of older ideas and elements (#inspiration) in varying degrees of complexity. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is I think all creatives are remixers to a certain extent though I often feel like I just move around parts of songs rather than work with samples😅.

    1. You know what? I definitely agree with you.
      Also, the moving around parts of songs method might mean you have a calling as an editor of sorts!

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