The Creative “I” ~ Architecture of Space

Room (View from Door) Room (Computer View)

Room (Junk View) Room (Slam Dunk View)

This room is where my computer is at, a room that is also a storage/closet area that my parents and I share. I spend 50% of my time at home in this room, and the other 50% in my bedroom. This room is where I work on my fanworks and other computer-related tasks. Last month, I bought a new custom computer, which I named “Kazama”, and I now have to keep a stepladder nearby to access the USB ports on the top. The stuff behind my computer chair is my junk pile. By nature, I’m a huge pack-rat and a lover of piles. From office supplies to textbooks to jigsaw puzzles to my friend’s Magic the Gathering cards . . . yes, I not a very neat person, but I try to keep my computer desk cleaner, and I think that little statue of Mitsui Hisashi from Slam Dunk encourages me to keep the area clean. After all, if the desk gets messy, then I won’t be able to see him!

Regardless, though, the mess behind my chair stimulates me. The way I see it is that as long as I have a good computer, then that’s all it matters! The junk pile is a secondary feature of the room, so I am able to overlook it and do my thing on the computer. This room is my sanctuary — even my parents know that once I am in here, doing whatever tasks I need to do, I am to be left alone. Since I was young, my parents were good about giving me my own space to do my hobbies, and I thank them for that.

Room (Desktop Wallpaper View)

The final photo of my “office” is my “digital space”. I took a screenshot of my computer desktop. That is not a physical space, per se, but it is the most important space for me. It’s a space I can easily change the image of to whatever fancies me at the moment (which features Saitou Hajime from Hakuouki). It’s the space that acts like a portal to everything I do on the computer, where I can access what I want with a simple click on a mouse or by pushing a key. And it’s also an area I try not to clutter up with too much icons, which is the opposite to the physical clutter in my life!

Space, both physically and digitally, is very important to me. I like the fact that I can turn my work area into something that makes me comfortable. I admit that my physical space tends to be cluttered and chaotic at times, but this space also gives me the solace I seek, which pleases the introvert in me. My mum’s space is the entire living room, which has a lot of traffic and noise, but that suits her extroverted nature. If we have guests over, they all linger in the living room — hardly anybody comes in my computer room, and that suits me just fine! And if it gets too noisy out there, I can close the door and continue my tasks. I find it ironic that I don’t mind the clutters in my physical surroundings, but auditory clutter is not welcomed by me.

I understand that space is really important for everyone, and it is something that I see even in my workplace. The after school centre I work at is a chaotic place. The main area is one giant room divided into multiple areas by glass partitions, and it is a loud, stimulating area. Luckily, there are few closed off areas in the centre, and I operate one of them — a computer/homework lab, one of the few areas that’s “quiet” by the main area standards. For an introvert like me, the overstimulation of the main area is very off-putting, and some of the kids I work with are just like me. In fact, we just had a dance the other day, and a couple of the kids found the music to be so loud that they escaped the dance room and came out to the quieter area. Ergo, I brought up to my manager that the next time we have a loud event like that, we should offer an alternative activity for those who do not like the activities that may over-excite someone.

But understandably enough, there are people who will thrive in a stimulating environment. Then there are people who thrive in a quieter space. Some people think better in a loud coffee shop, others think better when they are in the middle of a forest, or some people just need to be alone in their house. Wherever it is, we all need our “happy space”, especially when we need to be creative since happy people, people who are at ease, will be more creatively-inclined than being put in a space that puts them in opposite moods! My happy space is my computer room, and I like seeing the “digital space” on my monitor; with my mind at ease, I can do whatever I want!

The Creative “I” ~ Variations on a Theme

For this second Creative “I” assignment, I chose to rewrite “Danny Boy”.

My revised lyrics are below:

Oh, Mrs Lee, the notes, the notes are playing.
From sea to sea, your love has touched us all.
But now you’re gone, and many hearts are crying.
But your name will be left on a wall.

Because it’s you, who gave us everything you had
We learned from you the music of the heart
So that is why your passing made us very sad.
Oh, Mrs. Lee, your soul’s a work of art.

“Danny Boy” is a ballad that is usually set to the tune called “Londonderry Air”. I chose this song to revise because my beloved high school band teacher, mentor, and friend passed away on October 16, 2013, four months after retiring. One of the last songs she had conducted prior to her retirement is “Irish Tune from County Derry” at the Far East Music Conference in April 2013.

After her untimely passing, I spent two days listening to songs I associated with her. “Irish Tune from County Derry” and “Danny Boy” began to stick in my head, and I was suddenly “inspired” to re-write its lyrics, instead of finishing up a different song I had already started. Doing this re-writing ended up being a very cathartic experience for me, and something I am glad I did as a mini-tribute to Mrs. Lee.

This entire exercise shows how a single song came from multiple sources. “Danny Boy” was written by Frederic Weatherly, and it was combined with an Irish folk tune from County Derry, a song that was later picked up by composer Percy Grainger, who arranged it into the song, “Irish Tune from County Derry”. Meanwhile, “Danny Boy” has been recorded multiple times, with one version being the 1955 Judy Garland version posted above. One song churned out multiple versions and renditions, and even conductors like Mrs. Lee interpreted the song in her own way.

Throughout history, many themes in creative works are shown to be repeated, but with a twist from the creator. Look at Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. Look at how a melody from Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity” was turned into the song, “I Vow to Thee, My Country” and to a Japanese pop song called “Jupiter“. These works are similar with each other, but at the same time are still different because the creator, the artist themselves, put some of their own knowledge and experience in the creative process.

One quote from Henriksen, Mishra, and the Deep-Play Research Group (n.d.) that has struck me is this:

People with a wider range of knowledge and experience have richer concepts to build on, and hence the potential to see more knobs or possibilities than those with narrower foundations.

Tara and her many interests!  Drawn by a dear friend, H.

Tara and her many interests! Drawn by a dear friend, H.

That makes complete sense to me. As a writer, I try to write what I know. What I know are: English literature, classical music, Japanese animes, video games, technology, and many other things that all come into my fanworks creation. When I write about sadness and depression, I think of my own sad memories and put myself into that state, which helps me find the appropriate words. Same thing for happiness — I think of the happiest times of my life, and bring those abstract concepts into words. To me, knowledge and experience are power, and that is why I read and watch what I can because the plot and characters I see in books, video games, and other medium gives me new ideas. I partake in doing new experiences like trying new cuisine and going to new places because what I do only empowers my creative process, and like a tool, it helps me create new stories and ideas mixed with what I know and feel and my perceptions. That’s what my fanfics do, it tells a familiar story using familiar characters, but with a twist of my own contributions.

And I will continue to read new things and go on new adventure. I want to always expand on what I know since there are infinite number of things out in the world I can learn and consume to my own pleasure. Japan is my happy place, but I’ve only been to Tokyo, so I will remedy that one day by visiting other parts of Japan like Osaka and Kyoto. There are plenty of food I’ve been wanting to try and will do so when the opportunity comes. There are always new books, games, movies, and shows for me to consume, and there will always be new stories for me to try and tell. All of this is a neverending cycle, a cycle I will encourage with the children and youth I work with. I enjoy introducing them to new things and encouraging them to try new skills. And as an adult mentor, I will continue to encourage ways to expand on their creativity and will always work on expanding my own creative process, too.

Reference: Henriksen, D., Mishra, P., & The Deep-Play Research Group. (n.d.) Twisting knobs and connecting things: Rethinking technology & creativity in the 21st century. Retrieved from http://punya.educ.msu.edu/cep818/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/TechTrends.Mishra.7.26.2013.pdf

The Creative “I” ~ Defining Creativity

CreativityWhat is creativity, and how does one’s creative process works? That is what I asked Beth K., a long-time online friend from the Harry Potter fandom, who also read and write fanfics. She is someone who I admire, and someone whose creative process just fascinated me, so I really looked forward to interviewing her.

The Full “Creative I Interview” with Beth K.

Beth eloquently defined “creativity” as where it is a combination of discipline, courage, and desire channelled towards bringing something new into the world. This definition is further explained that discipline is required to allow one to focus and create despite setbacks; courage is needed to allow creators to push on while being vulnerable to negative feedback; and desire is needed because creative individuals want to create new things — after all, being forced to do something against one’s will can be quite counter-productive. The three elements — discipline, courage, and desire — combined will allow creative juice to flow. For some, creativity can be used to create beautiful things in the world (ie: the arts), but creativity can also bring danger to our world (ie: weapons).

As a child coming from a family that encouraged creativity, Beth was involved with writing (her school encouraged their students to “write to read” as opposed to “write to learn”.), ballet, tap dance, jazz dance, violin, piano, and choir. As an adult, she participates in writing poetry and fanfictions, and she sings in a high-level volunteer chorus. She also finger-paints, but those paintings are done for her own privacy, and she rarely shares them with others.

With all these activities, she considers herself to be a creative individual, but her creative process involves synthesis rather than creating completely from scratch. She says that she sees “new” creations from the way different elements (visual, aural, or verbal) come together into infinite combinations. For an example, when she writes fanfic, she thinks about who her characters are and where they are going. Combined with the plot and other story writing elements, she researches for her story, which excites her, and she puts it all together. She wants her works to make sense in a complete way. When she wrote a fanfic featuring a four-year-old once, I mentioned to her that the child’s language seemed a bit too advanced for their age, and she took my observation to heart, and we discussed ways to fix the child’s speech to sound more realistic and age-appropriate.

I asked Beth about the NEW formula to measure and define creativity, and she and I both agreed that the NEW concept kind of went against the “joy” part of creativity. While I agree that works and concepts that are novel, effective, and whole showcase the definition of creativity, but when applied to online fanworks, those would not fit the “new” part of the definition. Fanworks are not considered “new” at all, since they are all based off of existing works. Beth even mentioned about how West Side Story being a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, but just set in a different social setting and time period. There are many works out there that are retelling or re-imaging of something that have already been done. Fanworks are just that, but they are created by fans for the enjoyment factor. We fans want to re-interpret works in a way that captures our perceptions. Are we creating something new? In essence, no, but we are still creating works that are “new” to other fans. Not all fanworks are of high quality, but there are gems online that invoke emotions in us as we absorb them, works that just breathe a new fresh of life.

And to me, that is the root of creativity. Some things we create may not impact the whole world as major works have done, but as long as we create something that still makes a difference to someone, then that is what matters. Creativity comes in all shapes and forms, all different sizes. Beth’s creative process takes on a rebuilding route; others take on the ex nihilo route. Whatever the case might be, creativity is something everyone can partake in, and it is a process that can be a very personal adventure. An adventure I encourage the kids I work with, and an adventure I go on myself. In fact, my job alone allows me to experience and see creativity on a daily basis due to my interactions with the kids. Being around them, I get to see things through their own perspective, and I can then bring that into my own creative mindset. So not only do I get inspirations from the kids at work, but I also get inspirations through my media consumption. Whether it’s a book, film, or video game, I always discover something new that makes my head spin, and it draws out my scientific and philosophical side.

Therefore my plan to become more creative is to always expand my knowledge-base through media consumption, real-life experiences, and learning. Life itself is a gigantic learning experience, and it is up to me to take that opportunity to do what I can. I’ll try to travel more in the future, including finally visiting United Kingdoms and Europe. I’ll keep on playing my video games and reading and watching new books and films. I’ll try to learn a new skill like computer-building. Whatever I do will benefit me to become a better person and to become a better writer. After all, I’ll continue to write what I know.