Tag Archives: Creativity

“You Can Quote Me On That” – The wise ramblings of Stewart Stafford (Slideshow)

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The Segregation of Shock

“Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness” – Pablo Picasso

I have written a fantasy/horror novel about war with vampires called The Vorbing. It is hard to deal with either of those subjects without dealing with bloodshed. Yet, I have discovered, to my great surprise, that there is discrimination by book reviewers against books with “gore” (which they find “tacky” and on the same level as porn) and “extreme violence” (which they find “offensive.” That’s strange as fiction isn’t about real pain or suffering so there’s nothing to be offended by. It’s all make believe). They had better not read The Bible then or anything by Shakespeare.

In Act III, Scene VII of Shakespeare’s King Lear, the elderly Earl of Gloucester has his eyes gouged out by the Duke of Cornwall with the words: “Out, vile jelly! Where is thy lustre now?” Pretty graphic stuff but it perfectly illustrates the upside down nature of Lear’s kingdom once he mistakenly divides it up between his three daughters.

The crucifixion of Jesus in The Bible also has scenes of graphic torture followed by the slow death of Christ that follows. Again, this is deliberate to make the reader or the listener in church live every wound with Christ as he dies for our sins (or so The Bible says, believe or don’t believe what you want, dear readers).

Where did this ludicrous squeamishness appear from suddenly? Why are books being prejudged for their content without being given a fair chance?

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” the old adage goes. Equally, don’t judge a book by its content until you’ve read it. If you dare to write extreme scenes, you are essentially barred from getting not just a fair review but ANY review. This is wrong on all levels. It is holding back writers that want to try new things and push boundaries. You don’t get great art by playing it safe but that is the message being sent out loud and clear by these reviewers. Conform and be unimaginative is their coda.

It is a form of censorship and all that entails (I always get images of Nazi book-burning in my head when I think of censorship) My old acting teacher told me never to censor myself as that’s when all the good stuff happens. She was and is right. I never have censored myself and I never will. Nor will I allow others to censor me either. The glorious freedom of writing is a beautiful thing that must never be stifled.

I am not saying be outrageous or controversial for the sake of it. That is petulant attention-seeking. Some writers are acutely aware that there are two ways to get your message out there – advertising (which costs money) and publicity (which is free). Being cynically controversial is the cheapest and fastest way to sell anything. The media and chattering classes see to that. I am saying take risks because your characters and their world take you there or demand that you do. Even if these lily-livered reviewers want you to water down your work, I say don’t. Why? I’ll give Shakespeare the final word: “To thine own self be true.” Amen.

© Stewart Stafford, 2015. All rights reserved.

One Good Book?

Everyone has one good book in them. So the cliché goes. Well, maybe. We all have ideas passing through our minds; the difference is that writers capture theirs on paper. Some ideas can sustain the epic length of a novel but most do not. Let’s assume that creative lightning has struck; not everyone can express themselves well through language or they may not enjoy the writing process which can be tedious and solitary. Even if they did, have they the drive and/or obsession to take them from a blank page to a finished manuscript? The complete writer is a jigsaw made up of many disparate pieces.

We are all born with certain innate abilities. You either have a good sense of humour or you don’t. You can condition your mind to think certain ways but it is always easiest to go with the natural flow of the skill sets we possess.

There are some groups that refuse to believe that William Shakespeare wrote his phenomenal plays and sonnets. They argue that he did not have a sufficient level of education to come up with his great works. It is an elitist and narrow-minded argument. Education is not creativity. Education is the acquisition and interpretation of the ideas of others. Creativity is the generation of your own concepts, opinions, narratives and characters. Education is the known, creativity is an exploration of the unknown.

Great writers are born not made. We have all met extremely well-educated people who are unable to string a sentence together properly. Their skills may lie in rote learning and having an excellent memory in the exam hall. Someone with a lesser education may have an astonishing natural gift for invention and expression. I believe that is the case with William Shakespeare and that he was the author of his seminal body of work.

Life experience can teach you far more. We learn by doing. There is no exam to measure your life experience level, so it is wrongly discarded as a legitimate source of knowledge.

I meet people with great ideas all the time. When I ask what they are doing about them, their body language immediately changes and the excuses start flowing. “I can’t because of… (x,y,z),” they say. I try to encourage them but, again, they sabotage themselves with their negative inner dialogue. So those ideas in their heads stay there, they never come to fruition as anything tangible or rewarding and that is a great tragedy. The world is a poorer place for it. You can’t live someone else’s life for them. If they refuse to allow themselves permission to go for their dreams, that is their choice. It is hard to believe some people choose failure but human beings are complex creatures with many inherent paradoxes. Not everyone has the confidence to pursue their ambitions to their zenith. Depression and self-esteem issues hinder great swathes of the public daily.

So everyone may have one good book in them but, as you have seen, there are many, many obstacles to getting it out there. Many of those obstacles are the limitations we unnecessarily place on ourselves.

© Stewart Stafford, 2015. All rights reserved.

The Vorbing Cometh…

The provisional publishing dates from my fantasy/horror Vorbing trilogy (a.k.a. The Dubhtayl Saga) are as follows;

The Vorbing Part I – October 2015

The Vorbing Part II – January 2016

The Vorbing Part III – October – December 2016

Today, I reached the 8,000-word mark on The Vorbing Part II. I was being a bit impatient with myself with the new book. I had 18 years to get the first one right but today I really did some terrific writing and surprised myself. I added another layer of complexity to what was already there, I can feel it starting to come together and it’s really exciting.

That is how most writers write though, they get the bare bones finished first and then start slapping more clay on to shape it and layer in the detail

I even found an amazing piece of dialogue for my new vampire scribbled in the back of one of my notebooks. If I hadn’t written that down or lost the notebook, it would’ve been gone forever. It just proves how important it is to note down or voice record ideas because you cannot think of them afterwards. I had a blog post before entitled “Fishing in the Stream of Consciousness” and that’s what ideas are like. They swim past and then they go back to wherever ideas come from never to return. I love the idea of rescuing little nuggets from the numbness of amnesia.

I remember seeing a documentary about The Bee Gees. Barry Gibb recalled waking up in the middle of the night with the idea for their number one hit “You Win Again” in his head but he couldn’t find his tape recorder. He was running around in the dark going “where the bloody hell is it?” while humming the tune over and over again so he didn’t forget it. Luckily, he found the tape recorder. When his brother Robin heard it, he said, “That’s a hit.” He was right.

So remember the five P’s when it comes to ideas – Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. A design for life, to quote another song, if ever I heard one.

© Stewart Stafford, 2015. All rights reserved.

(This blog first appeared on my website on February 16th; http://thevorbing.com/2015/02/the-vorbing-cometh/)

The 20-Year Itch

“Where do you get your ideas from?”

It’s the number one question writers get asked most. You can get ideas from anywhere, dreams can inspire you, memories, other books, radio and television, a conversation you overhear in the street or an online article or YouTube clip you might come across. As long as your mind is open to new ideas, there are infinite possibilities. Primarily, it’s my imagination that is the source of my ideas. You end up repeating that after a while and it gets boring. So now I tell a tall tale of meeting a person of restricted height named Eric in a Dublin alleyway, I slip him a brown envelope of cash and he slips me the ideas. Scarily, some people lean forward, wide-eyed and go: “Really???” That’s the joy of being a writer; you’re preaching to the converted, people want to believe what you’re telling them.

“How did you become a writer?”

That would be the next most-asked question to writers.

“Fleas,” I always reply.

WTF? their expressions say.

It’s true though, I became a writer because of fleas. The summer of 1995 was a real scorcher in Dublin. I got quite badly sunburned, the dark red agonising kind that you can’t get any relief from. The heatwave had an effect on my pets too and they got fleas. So I went to the pet store to get flea spray to destroy the little buggers. On the way home, I decided to stop off at the library to see if there were any good books worth reading, perhaps some on fleas or sunburn which were the pressing issues of my day. That was when I saw a leaflet on a table.

Interested in acting? it said

Yeah, I thought through my dark red pain.

So I applied for the acting course and was accepted. For the next two years I was there and it was a wonderful time in my life. There was a writing module on the course where we’d be given writing topics and meet up once a week to share and critique our ideas. It was then that I began to write seriously for the first time. My book, The Vorbing, began life during the summer break between Year 1 and Year 2 of the course. It was great because I continued to get paid from the course during the summer recess and could devote all my time to writing and I did. I’d finally found what I wanted to do in life and it was and still is very exciting for me. So, yes, I have to thank those fleas that I nuked back in the summer of 1995 for changing the direction of my life. Thanks, fleas. RIP you little bastards. The acting course is still going today long after my departure. The 20th anniversary reunion for all past pupils is at the end of this month. I will be in attendance. Boy George once said: “Unfortunately, with all these reunions you get to a point where you start remembering why you left.” We shall see. I owe that course a lot and I’ll be showing up as my way of saying thanks. Sunburn and fleas are optional.

© Stewart Stafford, 2015. All rights reserved.

I Was Almost A Teenage Vampire or The Road to The Vorbing Part 2

http://thevorbing.com/2014/10/i-was-almost-a-teenage-vampire-or-the-road-to-the-vorbing-part-2/

Excellent article on creativity, originality and genius.

It’s called “Uncommon Genius: Stephen Jay Gould On Why Dot-Connecting Is The Key to Creativity”;
http://www.brainpickings.org/2013/05/23/uncommon-genius-stephen-jay-gould-connections-creativity/?utm_content=bufferbc136&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Crossing The Bridge

The sad demise of Robin Williams has brought the whole creativity/depression issue to the fore once again. The argument goes that if you spend all your time creating and living in fantasy worlds, eventually you lose your grip on reality. For some that may be true.

When you think about it, writers and schizophrenics do similar things. They create fictional worlds and people them with personalities of every type. The difference is that the schizophrenic gets locked up and pumped full of mind-numbing drugs for their trouble while the writer, if lucky, gets fame, critical and fan acclaim and gobs of money. Go figure.

Geniuses certainly don’t think like normal people do (whatever “normal” is), if they did they wouldn’t be geniuses. They don’t seem to behave the way normal people do either. It could be because of the special leeway they are given because of who they are or it could be just that their heads are wired differently. If we knew what made a genius, they’d have a pill to make everyone like that. I’m sure they are working on one right now and will mass-produce them in time.

The writing process is a solitary dream that the writer hopes will become a mass delusion by crossing the success bridge from obscurity to credibility. It’s a crossing we all must make, all the while battling the dragons of self-doubt and the scorn of non-believers. It’s a wonder any of us make it to the other side at all. Michael Caine once said that actors face a level of rejection that most people couldn’t comprehend. Ditto for writers. Good luck with your journey today, my fellow travellers. See you on the other side of the bridge…with or without your genius pill. 

© 2014, Stewart Stafford. All rights reserved.