{From “Liber Floridus,” a Medieval encyclopaedia, as seen on BibliOdyssey.}

Rob Kennedy in Australia recently asked if I would answer some questions about creativity for his blog, Mind Storm. I enjoyed the questions quite a lot. Here is what I answered:

Is there a stimulus you use to invoke creativity? E.g. music, yoga, wine, visual art.

Basically it’s a matter of making a schedule and sticking to it. Be there, and the muse will show up. I use a Moleskin calendar to sign in, record the goal for the day, sign out. This is essential.

Silence helps: hence the use of headphones and/or ear plugs.

Informing the family: no interruptions (please). I have a number of “Do not disturb” signs to hang on doorknobs. I don’t really need to use them. The act of declaring out loud seems sufficient.

There have been times — when suffering from creative fatigue — that I’ve listened to music (Willie & Lobo) to re-energize me.

I think the greatest stimulant to creativity is caffeine — but it only works if you’ve given it up.

My tools have to be in order! Computer, mouse, the perfect pencil (Pentel TwistErase o.9, extra soft lead).

I respond strongly to visuals. Three I keep by me at all times. The first one expresses, for me, the creative process, the immersion in the “unconscious.”

{Evariste Luminais, “Les Énervés de Jumièges” 1880.}

The second image evokes the “work” of writing a novel, the way one moves chunks of text around, changing things constantly.

{“Granite for monuments (for future monuments), 1939,” lithograph by Louis Lozowick.}

The third image evokes the sense of an enormous story brewing.

{David Blackwood, “Fire down on the Labrador, 1980”}

Are there particular times of the day or places where your creative levels increase?

First thing in the morning, in my office. Every day.

Are you more creative by yourself or with others?

By myself. I’m too easily distracted by others.

Is there a form of literature or an author that inspires creativity?

Any really wonderful literature — novel, short story, poem — inspires. I think reading great work is extremely important nourishment for a writer.

Is there something that stifles your creativity?

Poor health, lack of sleep, boring activities, lack of solitude.

Do you know why you are a creative person?

I think people have innate drives, and that a creative drive is one of them. Some are driven to be very physical, for example, some to be analytical, others to be creative  . . . .  I think I have a need to be creative. When I’m not expressing that “drive,” I wilt.

A story: There was a time in my life, decades ago, when I was having a medical problem. I went to a number of doctors, a homeopathic doctor among them. He examined my eyes: “The problem is that you’re not being creative.” With a wry smile, I showed him the book I was reading: How to write a novel. I’ve been healthy ever since.

How would you answer some of these questions?