Serendipity and Creativity in the Writer

Today we have a special treat – a guest blogger.  Suzanne Lilly is a writer and an elementary school teacher (and an awesome critique partner) who finished three novels, Gold Rush Girl, House of Chimes, and Blooming with Hope, and is busy writing another.  When not busy writing, she enjoys swimming, knitting, reading, fine arts, cooking, and blogging about teaching, writing and cooking.  She lives in California with her family and has yet to feel an earthquake. 

To learn more about Suzanne, visit her at www.suzannelilly.com.

Serendipity and Creativity in the Writer

As I tossed several new story ideas around recently, I began to wonder about serendipity and creativity. What is it, and why should we invite it into our lives? According to James H. Comroe, a biomedical researcher,

“Serendipity is looking for a needle in a haystack and finding the farmer’s daughter.”

It can’t be explained much better than that, which may be why the word serendipity defies accurate translation into many languages.

Writers need serendipity. To see a kernel of an idea germinate from a seed into a full grown novel, takes a huge amount of hard work, and a tiny bit of chance happening. Serendipity is when things happen by chance that lead to wonderful discoveries, inventions, creations, artistry. Serendipity is when events and thoughts align to bring success to the writer’s work. Serendipity is the seed that germinates into the root of the endeavor and then, after much time and care, becomes fully formed.

Just as a seed needs water to germinate, writers need serendipity. Yet the seed doesn’t get water by working for it. It receives it when it rains or when the farmer decides to water the field. The seed has no control over when the water will come.

So too, with writers. We have no control over when serendipity will enter our creative lives. We just have to be open and receptive. It won’t happen while we are straining and pounding our keyboards in anguish over the dearth of writing ideas. Rather, serendipity tiptoes into our writing mind secretly, silently, sometimes fleetingly. We can only catch it if we are relaxed.

“Love happens when you least expect it.” How many of us can remember our mothers saying this adage? Love is serendipitous. Some of the best creative writing is serendipitous.

Writers are creative people. Yet creativity doesn’t simply mean coming up with new ideas on demand. In fact, every plot conceivable has already been done. For a writer, creativity consists more of the sagacity to make connections between two things that are unrelated, or that haven’t been brought together into the same thought frame before.

Bette Nesmith, the mother of Michael Nesmith of the Monkees, a 1960s pop band, developed Liquid Paper quite innocently. She needed a way to erase mistakes made on the typewriter she used as a secretary. She thought of putting white tempera paint into a nail polish bottle, and voilá, Liquid Paper was born. Bette didn’t invent anything. She simply thought of combining things in a way no one had done before. She didn’t even plan to make money on it, yet as things worked out, she died leaving an estate of $50 million dollars. Now that’s serendipity.

As a writer, any chance event may be a spark that can be nurtured and allowed to grow until it becomes a bigger idea. Something as mundane as a trip to the grocery store may bring a wonderful happening that is a new story spark. A news article may trigger a reaction that begins a creative process. Even something as simple as dropping an egg on the floor could be the impetus for a new children’s book.

Serendipity happens all the time, but we may not recognize it because we are too focused, our vision has narrowed with our life expectations, we are too overworked and we’re trying to get it all done, or we have a negative view of life. Release all those things and let your mind open wide to new possibilities.

Serendipity arrives without warning, on silent cat’s paws. It sneaks up on us. It isn’t found when we’re looking for it. It’s found by relaxing, and being aware. Let’s all agree to keep our eyes open with no judgments, no expectations. Then serendipity will be free to enter.

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