The genius of C90. A revolution in creative writing

Light & Shadow MANILA (30 October) - “Creative writing,” did you say? Today, suddenly it came to me the reason why in the United States and elsewhere, after 100 years of creative writing attempts, theorizing, teaching courses in the universities, handling classes every which way, conducting workshops here and there, offering tutorials online and offline, despite creative writing books selling millions of copies worldwide, we don’t have 100 x 100 people in the arts writing widely known and cherished original & gorgeous poems, inventive & rich short stories, imaginative & magnificent novels, ingenious & heavenly biographies, dynamic & sparkling autobiographies, regenerative & dazzling histories and the like. In fact, many bestsellers in fiction (including sci-fi) are imitations of other bestsellers, and many non-fiction authors are imitating themselves. Where have all the learners gone?

And the number of creative writers in the sciences? I can count on the fingers of my hand the artistic science writers. I must say, for one Stephen Hawking is creative, even if I disagree with his support of the Big Bang Theory and I have my own Bang Big Theory (see my “Big Bang Stephen. Hawking’s Hierarchy of Gods,” 05 September 2010, American Chronicle).

I write in the arts and sciences. In this connection, I must mention that I just turned 70, and began creative writing in the arts earnestly in college as a section editor in the student newsletter Aggie Green & Gold in 1959 at the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, Laguna. In college, I had a dream of writing The Best Filipino Short Story, but I lost my way; in fact, I got kicked out of UP (not to worry, I was readmitted). Right now, I’m in the last revision of the 19th and last chapter of my 250-page book on Charice, the Asian singing sensation, the “Concert Princess of Asia” (check out if you wish “Charice newly crowned ‘Concert Princess of Asia,’” 27 October 2010, American Chronicle). If you want to check out how creative I can be in writing a biography of a singer, check out my dedicated blog, Pinoy Cinderella ( Creative, I saw in Charice her comparative advantage as a live performer that no journalist saw. Creative, I extracted 18 lessons for aspiring singers from the life of Charice (check out my “Go Charice! 18 Creative Lessons To Singing Stardom,” 23 July 2010, American Chronicle). Creative, I also have humor throughout my Charice book. Like, I say, “Charice can buy a house for a song.”

My creative writing in the sciences began in 1975 at the Forest Research Institute, FORI, also based in the University Town of Los Baños, when I founded, edited, and wrote for the FORI monthly popular-language newsletter Canopy and the quarterly color magazine Habitat that I designed after the US National Geographic (and I said so in the first issue). Creative, in 2009 I wrote a complete manuscript of 100 pages of an original book with the title Word Publishing and the subtitle Theory & practice of Word 2003 as a quick 2-in-1 word processor-desktop publisher designed for everyone. Creative, I had glimpsed in Word 2003 its comparative advantage as a practical and efficient desktop publisher that no one had seen. As if to prove my point, I authored, edited, and desktop published using Word 2003 my books that were eventually printed in India by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, ICRISAT, 3 of them, out in 2007, 2009 and 2010 (for my Charice book, I have graduated to Word 2010 as my desktop publisher). In 2009, I finished my manuscript of 197 pages for my book UP! ROTC2, which is in honor of the UP Vanguards, selected Vanguards (including President Ferdinand E Marcos). I started my environmental journalism, ejournalism also last year (check out iNews Earth, Blogspot).

And no, I did not study creative writing under anyone except myself, lucky me, thank God! I’m a self-taught writer, editor, and desktop publisher - and PC user, a wonk. I read, take note of the theory, and practice what I can. Practice makes perfect, but there must be theory first. Thus: Creative thinking must come first before creative writing. And if you’re better, the PC is the best device for creating before writing.

If indeed what university professors in the United States claim is creative writing, why are there no courses in creative writing in the sciences? Why only creative writing in poetry, fiction (short stories, novels, science fiction), non-fiction (histories, biographies, autobiographies), drama, essays and such?

The 3 greatest influences in my creative writing life of 45 years so far occurred 1st in 1956-1957 when I came across the Reader’s Digest and I was enamored with it; 2nd in 1965, when I came across the Readability Formula as well pieces of productive advice of Rudolf Flesch contained in his pocketbook How to Write, Speak and Think More Effectively (Harper, New York 1960) (thanks to Manny Alkuino for the gift of a copy), and 3rd in 1975, when I came across Edward de Bono’s concept of lateral thinking and his “Po” device for brainstorming in his pocketbook The Mechanism of Mind (Penguin Books, London, 1969) (thanks to Orlino Ochosa for the gift of a copy). Since then, I have reached that creative stage where, I joke, I’m so original I can’t imitate myself.

The day’s insight that came to me was this:
The problem with creative writing is creative writing.

Itself. Creative writing professors and facilitators teach that creative writing begins with being a writer and not that it begins with being creative, literally and figuratively. They don’t teach that as theory, but they certainly practice it. They do it like this, much too seriously:

In a class or workshop, you have to show that you are a writer first before someone teaches you how to become a creative writer. And then the professor or facilitator asks the whole class or group to criticize each other’s writings.

Are they kidding?! That, my dear friends, is definitely teaching not creative writing - that is definitely teaching critical writing! The double sin there is that they are asking amateur writers to judge other amateur writers - a crime against humanity.

And even in the case of a panel of authors judging the works of student writers, the story is the same - they are teaching critical writing and not creative writing. A sin against God, who is the author of creativity, who showed man that it must be creativity first before anything else. Without creativity, there is only the formless void and the darkness that covers the face of the deep, to borrow from Genesis 1: 2 (NRSV). Without creativity, there is no light for us to see that what has been created is good. Without creativity, you’re simply boring.

Now then, bad creative writing workshops should be stopped, poor creative writing programs should be junked, inefficient creative writing fellowships should be cancelled, and erring creative writing books should be banished from the shelves.

Except Flesch’s Readability Formula and pieces of advice on creative writing, speaking, and thinking, De Bono’s lateral thinking and Po technique, Ray Bradbury’s word association, and Tony Buzan’s mind-mapping, and maybe Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, all creative writing starts on the wrong foot forward, the worst foot forward - critical, not creative. And when critical comes, can discouragement be far behind?

In short, your creative writing guru may be teaching you along the lines of genius that Thomas Alva Edison defined thus: Genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Translated in numeric terms, genius is I10 + P90.

Look at my photograph again. Simply said, photography is light and shadow. L50 + S50. I read that somewhere about 42 years ago when I was teaching at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City and was ransacking its rich library for art books, to teach myself a deeper art of photography. My image is to provide a distinct contrast, as truly creative writing is much unlike creative photography. In photography, light must occur at the same time with the shadows; in creative writing, you must first separate the creative process from the writing process.

That’s why I said we need a revolution in creative writing. A 180-degree paradigm shift from: “Writing first, Creative second.”

Frank H says, “Creative first, Writing second.” Remember, even in the dictionary, Creative occurs first long before Writing. In everyday life, Sun first before Shape - there is no shape in the dark.

I’ll call what I’m thinking of as The Genius of C90 Revolution, based on my redefining Edison’s genius this way: Genius is 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration. I90 + P10. Edison was wrong. Thus, my #1 Lesson in Creative Writing is this:

Creative writing is 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration. Creative 90% + Writing 10%, C90 + W10.

More on the genius of C90 later.

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