Are you ready to pen the next Great American Novel? Or are you just looking for some casual journaling inspo? Look no further. Writer’s block happens to the best of us, so we’ve asked an expert to share his tips and tricks. Brain Grazer, author of A CURIOUS MIND, writes about a method he’s found that fuels most of his creativity.
Good storytelling requires creativity and originality; it requires a real spark of inspiration. Where does the spark come from? I think curiosity is the flint from which flies the spark of inspiration.
In fact, storytelling and curiosity are natural allies. Curiosity is what drives human beings out into the world every day, to ask questions about what’s going on around them, about people and why they behave the way they do. Storytelling is the act of bringing home the discoveries learned from curiosity. The story is a report from the front lines of curiosity.
Storytelling gives us the ability to tell everyone else what we’ve learned—or to tell everyone the story of our adventure, or about the adventures of the people we’ve met. Likewise, nothing sparks curiosity like good storytelling. Curiosity drives the desire to keep reading the book you can’t put down, it’s the desire to know how much of a movie you’ve just seen is true.
Curiosity and storytelling are intertwined. They give each other power. What makes a story fresh is the point of view of the person telling it.
I produced a movie called Splash, about what happens when a man falls in love with a mermaid.
I produced a movie called Apollo 13, the true story of what happens when three U.S. astronauts get trapped in their crippled spaceship.
I produced a movie called 8 Mile, about trying to be a white rap musician in the black rap world of Detroit.
I produced a movie called American Gangster, about a heroin smuggler in Vietnam-era New York.
American Gangster isn’t about a gangster—it’s about capability, it’s about talent and determination.
8 Mile isn’t about rap music, it isn’t even about race—it’s about surmounting humiliation, about respect, about being an outsider.
Apollo 13 isn’t about aeronautics—it’s about resourcefulness, about putting aside panic in the name of survival.
And Splash, of course, isn’t about mermaids—only a thousand people in Hollywood told me we couldn’t make a movie about mermaids. Splash is about love, about finding the right love for yourself, as opposed to the love others would choose for you.
I don’t want to make movies about alluring mermaids or courageous astronauts, about brazen drug smugglers or struggling musicians. At least, I don’t want to make predictable movies about only those things.
I don’t want to tell stories where the “excitement” comes from explosions or special effects or sex scenes. I want to tell the very best stories I can, stories that are memorable, that resonate, that make the audience think, that sometimes make people see their own lives differently. And to find those stories, to get to inspiration, to find that spark of creativity, what I do is ask questions.
What kind of story is it? Is it a comedy? A myth? An adventure?
What’s the right tone for this story?
Why are the characters in this story in trouble?
What connects the characters in this story to each other?
What makes this story emotionally satisfying?
Who is telling this story, and what is that person’s point of view? What is his challenge? What is her dream?
And most important, what is this story about? The plot is what happens in the story, but that plot is not what the story is about.
I don’t think I’d be very good at my job if I weren’t curious. I think I’d be making movies that weren’t very good.
I keep asking questions until something interesting happens. My talent is to know enough to ask the questions, and to know when something interesting happens.
What I think is so exciting about curiosity is that it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter what your job is, or what your passion is. Curiosity works the same way for all of us—if we use it well.
You don’t have to be Thomas Edison. You don’t have to be Steve Jobs. You don’t have to be Steven Spielberg. But you can be “creative” and “innovative” and “compelling” and “original”—because you can be curious.
For more tips, check out A CURIOUS MIND – now in paperback!
Always remember, write because your heart demands it. Writing can be hugely cathartic.