Creativity’s a Funny Thing
Creativity’s a funny thing when we reflect on how something, a book in my case, takes shape. For me as a writer it’s an insular process that just kind of happens. I’ve never thought too much about how my ideas float around in my head, sometimes for years, and then one day get out of my inner world and become tangible for others to see, judge and react to. That last part is scary, you just never know what readers will make of your words till it’s too late to change them.
Writing Saving Maya has been the first time that I’ve had anyone with whom I can reflect on how I work. Annabel Wilson worked so closely with me on the book, she was integral to how it took shape. She was much more than the illustrator. It’s interesting now to look back and see how my ideas became a book over several months of hard work, not only through my words, but her drawings. How she interpreted what I was scribbling down, sometimes badly, othertimes smoothly. I’ve written before about what the creative journey has been like and how sharing my early drafts was a difficult hurdle for me (far too silly at times and I’m glad I was pushed to do it by Annabel and through necessity).
The creative relationship between us developed beyond Annabel merely illustrating, she freely threw ideas at me, some stuck, some didn’t and we realised early on that neither of us are precious if an idea doesn’t quite resonate. We shelve it and move on. There’s a dumpster-sized bin of discarded ideas from us both. And that’s fine. Some might appear at another time when it’s right. Some may never be seen again.
We enjoy sharing our creativity. Ideas which might seem quirky one day develop into something shapely another, as we bounce them around. We both read widely about the work of others who have trodden this path through the centuries and know that what we’re lucky to be engaged in is our version of what Maria Popova calls combinatorial creativity. It’s fun, enriching and I feel most fortunate that the tough subjects I write about are enhanced by having a creative partner to share them with. What comes out of this collaboration is fruitful and judging by reviews, appreciated by readers.
Our inspiration comes from many sources, as all creativity does. We soak up ideas in a quest to produce something worthwhile, art that affects how people may think and act. We jostle about with words and pictures, themes and images and we make it work. We have fun with our creativity amid a lot of hard work and demands. Neither of us have done this writing-illustrating collaboration before, (although I did once co-write a specialist textbook in what seems like a different life). During the writing, illustrating and production of Saving Maya, we’ve been finding our way together on a journey that we had little clue where it would precisely take us.
I have notebooks of ideas that never made it into the finished Saving Maya. Flicking through them it’s curious to see how early thoughts evolved into what is now permanent bookform. Annabel’s produced this short video which illustrates one pivotal scene in the story; one where Maya meets her new sister Willow while she’s in her foster home. Finding my notes on this scene brought some good memories to the fore. This is creativity through mutually respectful collaboration. I feel lucky that I’ve discovered this side to writing, which is by its nature an isolating process.
I hope you enjoy seeing a small snapshot of how our book took shape. I certainly enjoy sharing it with you – a new thing for me to show my scraps of ideas publicly and I thank you all, and Annabel for being on this creative journey with me.