Saturday Creativity Quote — nurturing the creative spirit

I just finished a manuscript, the 6th Spice Shop mystery, and while I often leap write — er, right — into the next project, this time I’m feeling the need to take a few days off, to read, cook, garden. Whatever calls to me. Artists often refer to this as “filling the well,” nurturing their creative energy, and that’s exactly what it feels like to me. August starts tomorrow — crazy, right? — and the last month of summer is perfect for a bit of a refresh. so for the next few weeks, the quotes will focus on fueling the creative spirit.

“When I walk into the white room [her dance studio] I am alone, but I am alone with my: body, ambition, ideas, passions, needs, memories, goals, prejudices, distractions, fears. These ten items are at the heart of who I am. Whatever I’m going to create will be a reflection of how these have shaped my life, and how I’ve learned to channel my experiences into them.”

— Twyla Tharp, American dancer and choreographer (b. 1941)

Writing Wednesday — writing about different generations

A while back, I attended a video webinar sponsored by the Washington State Bar Association on bridging generational differences in the workplace. The theory was that boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z approach work differently, have different expectations about the work environment, and take a different approach to leadership.

While working on the next Spice Shop mystery, I pulled up the handout — and because I’m a Boomer, albeit a late one, I printed it out. :) Pepper’s employees range from 22 to past 60; she’s 43. Her friends in the Market are equally spread across the age categories. A major new character was 24. I wanted to understand the differences. Obviously, comfort with technology is one — Sandra and Vinny aren’t going to be 24/7 with their cell phones the way Reed and Jamie are. What else? Generally speaking, Boomers want to be recognized for their experience, want to be motivated to make a difference, and want to be part of a team — perfect for retail. Gen Xers prefer a casual atmosphere and a hands-off manager — works for me, as it gives Pepper lots of freedom to leave her shop on investigations! Milennials want a fun workplace, a positive contribution to the world, and both a challenge and flexibility. All those are easy traits to work with in creating, or discovering, our characters.

Then I read an opinion piece in the Washington Post by a sociologist challenging the use of these terms. Generational labels have “no basis in social reality,” Philip Cohen writes, and should be retired; they lead to stereotypes and caricatures. Donald Trump (born 1946) and Michelle Obama (born 1964) are both Boomers — and two more different people you could not find. That they were both born in a post-WW II population boom is pretty much coincidental. Sociologists and demographers recently sent a plea to the Pew Research Center, responsible for much of the generational labeling and research, to use alternative categories, and Cohen says the response has been encouraging. Cohen stresses that there are other ways to describe groups of people that are more useful, such as decades, or issues, like “2020 school kids.” There are so many more influences than simple generations, such as race, gender, home access to technology, and immigrant status. I’d add a urban/suburban/rural background, parental education, growing up in a religious or nonreligious family, and more.

We’re writing characters who can be characterized in specific ways, but must always remain individuals. Stereotypes are bad for fiction! In the WIP, for example, a brother and sister were raised apart — and oh, the differences! Calling one a Millennial and the other Gen X may be a good way to start, but that’s all it is.

BOTTOM LINE: Use categories like generational labels to start your character analysis, but go beyond them. Make your characters individuals, who may share common experiences with others their age, but are always influenced by so much more than when they were born.

Saturday Creativity Quote — and a request to subscribers

Hello, friends! You may have noticed that the Creativity Quote and Writing Wednesday took a short break, but I’m back now. I do have a request. The service I’ve used for years to distribute the blog is being discontinued shortly. I’ve got a new method in place, but can’t automatically transfer my subscriber list. If you would like to continue receiving the blog, please follow this link and resubscribe. If that doesn’t work, go to my website and scroll to the bottom, where you’ll see an icon that says FOLLOW MY BLOG and click on that. Then watch for the confirmation email. (You may get duplicate messages for a time or two, until Google completely disables its service, but not for long.)

After all that, I want to give you a particularly fun quote. It’s funny, but it’s also a really great idea! And I loved the novel it came from!

“I grinned when [Professor Cohen] answered the door—in a tuxedo jacket.
“What on earth?” I asked.
“I’m trying to get into the mind of my character, so I put on my husband’s tails.”
“Is it working?”
“I’m not sure, but it’s great fun.”
—Janet Skeslien Charles, The Paris Library

See you next week!