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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Please Participate in the Poll: Is PInterest Process?


For those of you who haven’t heard about it, PInterest is like making collages on your computer combined with show-and-tell. For those of you who are new to the blog, “Process” is creative play for the sake of play where outcomes are unimportant.

Some people take to Process like ducks to water – others take to it like cats to water.

For the “cats”, Process can seem like a waste of time (it’s not!) as they struggle to find something to do that engages them creatively but doesn’t make them focus on the outcomes.

Process is the attitude behind riffing and fooling around with an instrument in contrast to the attitude behind rehearsing, practicing and perfecting (what I would call Product Time). One is not better than other – we need spontaneous play AND focused work.

PInterest as Process?

Cate, a student in my Writing Habit class, had struggled to discover what she could enjoy doing in her Process time. Yesterday she triumphantly announced, “I finally found something I like to do for Process: PInterest!”

I cheered for Cate. I also started to wonder if my unspoken assumption that Process should be an “electronic-free zone” is valid.

One person’s Process can be another person’s aversion. My approach has always been that whatever works for a writer/student is what works. But I’ll admit that I have always assumed that electronics and Process don’t mix well.

Why I Assumed Electronics Are Not Part of Process

I’ve always thought of Process as more “hands on” than is typical with electronic media. Research shows that writing by hand engages more areas in your brain than keyboarding – areas that are involved with language, thinking and working memory, which are key to creativity.  This is why you can often freewrite your way out a problem you just can’t seem to solve on the computer.

There are surprising connections between sensory-motor skills and cognitive abilities. Using your hands to handwrite, draw, manipulate paint, clay, beads or other materials engages your brain more fully than when you use a keyboard and mouse.

Research has also shown that computer and TV monitors change your brain waves and alter how you think and what you feel. Whether these effects improve or hinder creativity is still up for debate. (If you’ve found good research on this, please share it in a comment.)

Personally, I can draft and do some revision on a computer, but for deep revisions and careful edits, I need a hard copy. But even though I can write new stuff on a computer, it seems antithetical to creative play.

Should I Broaden My Definition?

I realize that because I’m a Baby-Boomer, I may find it more difficult to play with electronic media than people who have, shall we say, arrived more recently on the planet.

But maybe age isn’t the deciding factor – my sister Glendeen (also a Baby-Boomer) uses the “Sketch n Draw” app to create “paintings” over photos. This flower is one of her recent creations.

Glendeen says “I do these on a notebook with no keyboard — just touch and off you create. You can erase easily, no fuss, no mess. I am enjoying the process, and it is easy to upload a photograph to ‘sketch’ over. There is some creative process going on, but so much is provided by the program I feel like I’m taking advantage of lucky accidents. What did I create and what did the program create? That is the question. I’m still experimenting. Maybe in time I’ll feel they are more ‘my own.’”

Maybe it was not my age that made me blind to the possibility of electronic Process, but my attitude and assumptions. And I am willing to change those. I’ll give PInterest a try.

So what do you think? Do you PInterest? Use a creativity app like “Sketch n Draw” or create with some other electronic media? Do you think of this as Process?

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