Christian Long

Amy Tan: Creativity

In TED Talks on April 15, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Reflection by MEIGHAN A.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Amy Tan:  Creativity

Amy Tan speaks of creativity, and bases her view of it on the idea that something comes from nothing. This is perfectly rational because nothingness is a state, it is an idea of something. Creativity is an idea first, and then you or someone else puts it into solid form and it becomes tangible. Until the it could be considered nothing, only after is it something, thus nothing is something that is at the moment intangible which becomes something tangible.

There are many different opinions as to what creativity is and why we have or don’t have it.

For example, her mother said it was due to her past lives. she admits to having a lobe seizure a number of years ago that did actually affect the style of her last book, and that Van Gogh had a similar issue. However, creativity is not only attributed to mental health or ‘muse chromosomes’. It was more attributed to the process of finding ones self and defining what made you an individual out of the masses of people. Sometimes we appear to excel in subjects because we can do well at face value, but like the poodle she drew, it was only a flat image. The drawing didn’t show the poodle from her view or show a specific angle she thought was imperative to the viewers. The Poodle was detached from her, the drawing was good, but it lacked value to her, and therefor wasn’t excellent.

She believes like many, that creativity can be linked to childhood trauma. In her case and many others it is that one had certain expectations set upon them. Certain goals to reach, not because they wanted to, but because family wanted you to. The never ending cycle of pleasing ones guardians and putting their wishes before your dreams. Another much more serious and traumatic experience was the loss of her father and brother to brain tumors. This is definitely something that leaves it’s mark on a person, and she is lucky it has affected her positively rather than sent her into a downwards cycle or depression. her mother believed it was a curse of sorts and that they would all die soon. faced with this negative perspective she began to cultivate her creativity. This she said was a survival method.

Her mother didn’t believe in randomness, she thought everything was linked to something else. This brought Amy to see the link between things in her stories that in reality made the story what it was or wasn’t. When writing one has to link all the scenes and characters and events together in order to make the tale make sense. Each story must be its own universe with its own process, fates, and cause and effects. Without this the story is difficult to follow and one might not realize the importance of the randomness strewn upon the page.

In her works she tries to find meanings. Not that she has a meaning and then writes, but a process of writing and creating leads to a meaning. Not to say that one cannot write with a meaning in mind, but more often than not a story will lead up to a meaning that even the writer wasn’t aware was there until later. When writing people have to be careful not to write only plot or as she called it “the about”. If you do this you will not find the meaning in the writing, and neither would someone else reading it.

Then, she considers the affect ambiguity has on situations in life and in writing. ambiguity surrounds our decisions in life and reactions to situations. Sometimes we make a bad decision and we have to decide how to handle this new issue and try to better it, or just make it worse. More often than not, you cannot be sure of what choice to make and there we find the ambiguity of life. She says it was the ambiguity in her life that disturbed her and led her to write “Saving Fish from Drowning.”

She says later when she understands a question the world starts dropping hints to answers and she sees it everywhere. She notices how all the things connect and how they were so obvious that she was oblivious to them before. This appears in writing again and again. Sometimes a writer will add in hints of clues to the meaning and then uncover it at the end, but other times even the writer will find the meaning at the end and then realize they unconsciously had placed the hints along the way. Then you might begin to see relationships between everything and life and feel like the world is speaking to you, really whats happening is that you are more aware and your mind zooms in on all the relationships you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

These links in life drive people to try to find out who they are, why they are here, and what’s their greater purpose if they have one. this leads us to resent the ambiguity of life, we want answers and not ever feel confused or lost. without ambiguity there would be no story to show us new meanings, we have to have a void so that it may be filled. The story’s meaning is what fills these voids. Sometimes the answers in life appear to handed directly to us. We cannot explain why or how we came across the answers to our questions, but we did and that’s what counts. we can call it luck or bad luck depending on what happens, but then we have to try to define what luck is. Or we wonder what they things are that give or are given to us from the universe. Sometimes these occurrences are shocking like the time she wrote about stacking rocks, and when going for a walk with a friend she met an old man stacking rocks like in her story.This occurrence led her to the meaning of the story.

She often wondered about accidents, and whether they really where that accidental. her mother didn’t believe in accidents, but rather that all things happened because of something else. Our traditions and culture lead us to find certain answers to unexplainable accidents and they may sound irrational to others, but when in our places viewing the accidents as we do, they will understand why we explain accidents in the manner we do.When writing story we have to feel what the characters feel, and be able to sympathize otherwise the story isn’t as authentic. If we can give it a sense of reality, then our readers will feel what we want them to feel. We can then lead them to the meaning and they will accept our truths more readily. They are free to interpret the things we portray as they wish, but that is what creativity. To bring the “muse” as she called it, into being. An idea or meaning that readers can see as we see but still find more in than even the writer could have imagined.


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