first, second and n-th level creativity


2014-3-30

"Stick with your first idea, it usually is the strongest." - One of the more useful writing advice I recently read was: "Never stay with first level creativity. Go at least one level further, if not two."

The advice went on to define 'first level creativity' as 'the first thing/idea that comes to your mind when you see something.'

Especially in fiction writing, I think this is very sound and useful advice. Just think what usually is the first thing that comes to our mind when confronted with a writing promt? More often than not it comes out as cliche. That's why there are cliches after all, because they are what everyone comes up with. And don't we all try to avoid cliches like the plague. We torture our minds to come up with something fresh, original, new. But honestly, how likely is that? Hasn't everything been done before?

Second level creativity is not about 'coming up with something new' so much. It is about taking that first inspiration - be it as cliche as it may - and raising it to the next level. It is about cherishing the first inspiration and working with it, thinking it through all the way.

Let's see, how about this simple three word prompt:

"Girl, Moon, Wound."

Yeah, can you see it already? A girl with a wound that only open when the moon is full? A bit tired, isn't it?

But now, what else can we come up with if we try and take that first inspiration a step further. (And you could argue that the first inspiration might already be a second level one. We could have started with 'A girl with a wound under the moon.')

How is this: A girl with with a wound that can only heal when the moon is full? Or maybe a girl who can hel wounds when the moon is full? Or maybe she can cause wounds?

Those might be considered second level creativity. Now what would be third level? Well, why don't we take all the above ideas and roll them into one:

"A girl with a wound that only opens at full moon must discover her healing magic to finally heal her own wounds."

There, a full one-sentence summary for a short story or even a novel. Well, maybe not, but this is only a quick example to illustrate the principle. The process can be repeated and refined at taste. You could take the one-sentence summary and use it as 'first level.'

So, stick with your first inspiration, but take it to the n-th level!

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