The Initial Spark (The Creativity Series: Guest Blog)

The Creativity Series: Guest Post

The Initial Spark: Derek Flynn


Stu wanted a post about creativity and the first thought that struck me was the initial act of creativity. As writers, we all know about the second and third and sixteenth drafts, and the critiques and so on, but what about the initial spark. What about that moment when you first pull the words out of the ether and put them together into a sequence that (hopefully) makes sense?

This set me thinking about writers going back a century ago, and their initial act of creation. It’s very different from writers today. Even just going back to the Forties or Fifties – before the advent of television and certainly before the advent of the internet – a writer sitting in a room was not bombarded with any of the things that they are now. There was no sensory overload. The writer sat – as many writers still do – with a pen and paper, or at a typewriter, but the mind worked differently.

Many writers probably still sit quietly writing and don’t have all this external flotsam coming in, but I would imagine that’s increasingly less common. There’s this constant multi-tasking going on. Previously, if a writer got to a point where they needed to research something, they would have just made a note – “Need to research that” – and gone back to the writing, or gone off and picked up an encyclopaedia. But the speed which we can research something now is amazing. And, of course, this is not always a good thing. Because while you can research 18th century Parisian townhouses in a couple of Google clicks, this doesn’t make up for the two hours subsequently lost reading about the Three Musketeers. (No idea how I got to that page!)

For a long time – probably since the first person sat at a desk with parchment and a writing implement – writers pretty much sat at their desks and wrote. And they still do, but there are different ways of going about it now. I often use a Dictaphone, and it’s a much more off-the-cuff, stream-of-consciousness way of writing. So, I can be dictating whilst looking at something else, and all these ideas are coming at me, and I can stop and research, and so on. And oftentimes I’m just throwing down random ideas, rather than necessarily keeping on a constant train of thought.

It’s an interesting way to work. It’s not a way that I used to work. And, funnily enough, when I dictate while I’m out walking, I actually write more “conventionally” because I’ll get on a roll and I’ll start to write an actual whole scene. When I’m at my desk dictating, oftentimes another idea pops into my head because of something I’ve just seen on the computer and I’ll go off on a tangent with that. And I know there are writers who would gasp in horror at the idea that you would write with all this going on around you, but I think that’s the difference between the initial writing and the later edits. I would find it impossible to edit and rewrite that way; for the later drafts, I have to work from hard copy and the computer has to be shut off.

But it’s the initial phase that I’m interested in, and that initial phase of creation has certainly changed radically for writers in recent times and I think will continue to do so.



Derek Flynn is an Irish writer and musician. He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and was First Runner-Up in the 2011 J. G. Farrell Award for Best Novel-In-Progress. His writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – can be found here: and on Twitter, he can be found here:!/derekf03


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. zencherry
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 09:55:22

    Wonderful way to get those ideas down! I must try this out. I’m often inundated w/emails, twitter, Triberr, Facebook, and blogs. I have to find a way to get away just to push the books onward, (and outwards), in my head. Fabulous idea! Thanks! 😀


  2. Lisa Wields Words
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 12:04:15

    This is a really interesting topic. I need to find the balance between distraction and inspiration. I write or create better when I am not in total silence, but sometimes total silence allows for those flashes of inspiration that come from a source outside myself. I have, in recent years, become attached to my computer keyboard, but I miss the visceral feel of writing in a scribbled mess on an empty page. In my upcoming artist retreat adventure to Slovakia, I am intentionally leaving the computer behind, in the hopes that it will help me work without distracting myself by the research moments. I will probably have lots of notes to self, but that’s a great thing to have in my opinion. I may, however, bring a little mini-cassette player so I can write as I walk, so that I see the world in front of me, not just the pen and the page.


  3. Bonnie - Your Better Living Maven!
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 12:54:33

    The initial spark can seem the hardest when you try to force it I think. Figuring out what gets those sparks flying for you and not worrying about what others do is really the key isn’t it? Brilliant.


  4. Manisha Bhatia
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 01:33:47

    Nice write-up



  5. Misha
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 14:37:23

    That’s one reason why I pen and paper it when I’m rough drafting.

    I don’t want to get stuck in come “vital” piece of research that only starts mattering once I start editing.



  6. Trackback: The Initial Spark (The Creativity Series: Guest Blog) | Creative Excellence |
  7. Trackback: The Initial Spark (The Creativity Series: Guest Blog) | Creativity For Life |
  8. joyia11
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 17:17:12

    It was great reading about your writing process. I too get distracted by the Internet and find that it can interfere with my writing if I’m being bombarded by too much information. I also find it easier to talk to myself to get my thoughts straight, which usually involves talking to someone else, which others start to get annoyed about. LOL.

    A dictaphone sounds like something I should be utilizing. I actually think a lot of cell phones have them. And I’m also sure there’s an app for it.

    And when I edit, I can’t have any distractions, not even background music.


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