Home > Uncategorized > Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2015: Dan Maguire and creativity.

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2015: Dan Maguire and creativity.

A session on creativity. Who wouldn’t want more of that? If you are a writer you might very well believe that “you can’t be too thin or too rich or too creative.” Although writers can forget the rich part.
The last session of the Saturday, June 13, 2015 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, hosted by Dan Maguire, was titled “Courting the Spark: Finding and Using your Creativity.”
There was another choice: attend Janice Gable Bashman’s talk on “Guidelines for Researching.” I spent my whole career doing research, so I shouldn’t need to attend. Nevertheless I was tempted. Janice and I are Facebook friends, though neither of us posts much. But we remain Facebook friends, which could be awkward, I mean, how am I supposed to introduce myself? What do I say? “Hi Janice, you don’t know me, but I am your friend?”
I am not friends with Dan Maguire—who claims to have been left behind by the technology revolution—but I wouldn’t mind becoming his friend. Dan is not only a good speaker, but a very funny man as well. His brand of humor runs to the dry side, much like mine. Humor is always welcomed, well almost always, but was particularly well received at the end of a long day.
Dan quoted Thomas Mann. “A writer is someone for whom writing is harder that it is for other people.” So, asking anyone—Dan suggested a milkman—to write one hundred words about what it’s like to be a milkman would not be much of a problem, but asking a writer to write one hundred words would be paralyzing: what do you mean? Why a hundred words? What for? Should it be prose or poetry? Should it rhyme? Fiction or non-fiction, etc.
Of course finding a milkman these days may prove to be an even more difficult challenge.
I identify with Mann’s quote because Ruth, (Ruth is my wife. She gets annoyed if I refer to her as my wife, even more so if I introduce her as my first wife) always has me write the little notes that go with gifts or greeting cards, because, after all, I am the writer. Little does she realize what a responsibility this represents. After all, I am the writer, so more is expected of me and I have more to lose. Now I need to come up with. . .something quotable? Maybe something that may be repeated at a cocktail party? “I just got the cleverest note from Jim Kempner, oh yes, you know Jim, the author? We were just conversing. He is so droll.” It is quite a chore. Alas, I don’t get invited to many cocktail parties, a good thing because drinking gives me a headache.
Dan felt that a key to creativity was readiness, to always have a Dictaphone, in case you are driving when inspiration hits, and a means of writing something down, like a pad of paper or an iPad or something like that when you are not driving. (It’s unclear which to use when stuck in traffic)
Ideas are ephemeral and unless they get written down they will disappear, or at the very least they will be changed, diminished.
If your goal is to become rich from your writing, Dan wishes you good luck. If it is to become immortal, forget that as well. You’ll never know; you’ll be dead by the time you reach immortality. (Don’t think too hard about this last one)
Dan spoke about internal and external sparks. Literature is one such spark. Read what you like to write. Read something you wrote that you are specially proud off. Go to little out of the way bookstores, find the best book you can. Find the worst one as well.
Read foreign authors; they have different styles. Read writers you don’t like. He even reads Gore Vidal, though he doesn’t care for him as a person: “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.” Yeah, I can see what he means. Vidal isn’t my favorite either.
Music is another stimulus. Music that speaks to you. Dan read some lyrics from Dylan, from Steely Dan and others. They were wonderful.
Ruth and I went to see and hear Steely Dan at a small Center City cafe about forty five years ago. During their second song I left. I thought my ears were bleeding. A few minutes later a friend also came out to stand with me on the cold, lonely sidewalk. He thought his ear drums were about to burst and he ought to know, he was a physician, probably still is. So music doesn’t work for me, even when I don’t have to plug my ears. I find music distracting even if it has no words. I also find it may affect my mood, so I tend to be careful with music, but it definitely works for Dan. Maybe because he is a poet and I am not.
Visual art, Dan went on to say, can act as a stimulus as well. Use one art medium to describe another. Write the painting. Not about it.
In photography, imagine what happened next.
Random screen savers, web shots can also stimulate.
Talk to a homeless person, Dan suggested. Find one who isn’t crazy, someone of your same gender to avoid misunderstandings. Some are crazy, many are not. Most have a story.
Look at graffiti. Someone is saying “here I am, I matter, I am alive, I’m not stuck in this hell hole.”
Meditation may work for you. Dan confessed that he falls asleep. Me too.
Try a book of quotes. Find people you admire, like Samuel Becket: “Try, fail, try again, fail better.”
Mostly Dan thinks you should write. Find a place to write and go there. A place away from distractions. Write two hours a day. Write everyday, whether you feel like it or not. It isn’t a job but it is what you need to do.

Audience members suggested that writers are the crazy people who do homework even when no one asks them. They are right. We write because we have to, we read and write because we love words, we write because we have to, we write because that’s what a writer is: a writer writes.

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