Exercises to Nurture the Creative Process

Posted by Linda Seger on

Linda Seger is a popular consultant and lecturer who travels throughout the world speaking to new and established filmmakers on creative ways to make a screenplay great. In this segment of an in-depth interview she gave to Writers Store staffers, Seger discusses the creative process, what it means to her and exercises for writers to use to expand their own creativity.

As a script consultant Linda Seger has worked with more than 2000 scripts, from 'The Neverending Story II' to 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.' She is the author of two bestsellers, 'Making A Good Writer Great' and 'Making A Good Script Great' and touches on creativity in much of her work. We asked Linda to discuss the creative process and why its principles appeal to her.

My mother says that, from the time I was really little, before I could talk, I had a creative slant on things. My family valued my creativity. However, I think I recognized in grade school and high school that creativity is not highly valued by much of society; giving back the right answer is.

I became interested in studying creativity in the 1970s because I wanted to understand how my own creative process worked. I spent at least two years reading loads and loads of books and continually analyzing my process, being aware of it and reflecting upon it. I finally learned to affirm it and not to compare the creative process with other things I was doing. That's a universal problem, everyone compares the process; challenging themselves such as asking, 'am I doing it right even though I'm only writing four hours a day?'

One of the things I'd like to dedicate myself to is the affirmation of the creative process so people don't think they have to go out and be insane to be creative. Or, that people don't have to believe that the only way to be creative is to be against the system, or to drink, take drugs or, worse, kill themselves.

I occasionally teach where I attended school, in Colorado Springs at Colorado College. I test my exercises there with a three-week class, some based on what I once read that Picasso said, 'I copied paintings at the beginning so I wouldn't have to copy later on.' The idea of copying helps you figure our where your voice is. You can write out a scene as it is from a movie already out there -- get it into your fingers so to speak -- writing a scene like that style, and learn so much of how and why that scene works.

Some of my exercises use a step-by-step process to learn to 'visualize in opposition.' Imagine something in the front of the scene that's very serious and, in the back of the scene, something is very funny. That's what David Zucker ('Airplane!') does in all of his movies: the comedy is going on in the background and the people in the foreground are being perfectly serious. The more you can begin to think in opposition, you have another tool that's useable to create very strong visuals. It's really practice.

I direct writers to movies to see how the metaphors are working and point them out. It's study, it's practice, it's playing around with it, it's doing it, it's grappling with it and then it just gets easier. Metaphors are very difficult. They're more advanced, but I think if somebody actually practiced working with metaphors, I'm sure their abilities to do that will be greatly enhanced.

I believe creativity can be taught. I believe we're naturally creative and then we lose it. And then we have to go through a process to regain it.

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