Tuesday, April 25, 2017


I recently received a batch of anonymous evaluations from a class I taught a year ago – a 15 week work shop wherein each student submits almost 60 pages of prose which the class and I then discuss with a view to pinpointing what is and what isn't working.

Generally I get good reviews – and these were no exception. A few grumbles about odds and ends – you can’t please everyone—and a suggestion which I shall take to heart – more writing prompts to break up what can be the drudgery of fifteen week of critique.

But there was one puzzler. A student complained that he (I suspect it was a guy from the handwriting) would have liked more focus on ideation.


The student repeated this criticism in his summary – he would have liked more discussion of ideation.

I have a pretty big vocabulary but this word ideation isn't part of it. Obviously it has to do with ideas . . . 

So I Googled ideation creative writing and found THIS LINK
'Boost your creativity -- ideation techniques for writers. '

Aha! It's the old "Where do you get your ideas?" question that always gets asked in interviews and at book readings.

My answer, after I've fought back the impulse to say 'Walmart, Aisle 4', is generally that I get ideas from life -- living, observing, reading, paying attention.

I'm not sure one can cold-bloodedly generate an idea, as suggested in the link above, that will sustain a writer through a novel. Writing prompts are great for short pieces -- and sometimes in a writing prompt one may meet a character that demands more attention or a situation that could be a part of a longer piece.

What was it this student expected, I wonder -- especially since the class dealt with work (presumably) already written?

I'm also wondering if this is a kind of creative writing buzzword -- it's happened before that I get a student who's taken lots of writing classes and is fixated on certain words or techniques -- in another class one student kept talking about filtering which was a term new to me, as applied to writing anyway. 

I looked that one up too -- and found much very useful information. It's basically the same advice that Strunk and White give in Elements of Style (avoid unnecessary words) but HERE is an excellent explanation.

Always learning . . .


Barbara Rogers said...

Ah, you've taken me from your post title, Ideation, to the concluding link about "focus" which also is interesting, only to leave me with your underlying theme of "everyone can learn something." So true. And I don't have much trouble with focus (when transliterating your creative writing thoughts into pottery creativity) and I sure don't have trouble ideating, except perhaps to focus on just one at a time. Lesson of constantly being open to learning is definitely one I needed today!

Carol Crump Bryner said...

The better question, maybe, is "where do your ideas get you?" My ideas seem to get me while I walk, do yoga, or am thinking about other things.
Very interesting to read about "filtering." I had never heard it called that, but can see right away how useful it is to have it defined.

Darla said...

Fascinating. Thanks for more learning! The ideation thing came up constantly when I was attending writing classes at the university in Arizona, but it was always from the youngsters. They seemed in awe of the long list of ideas I had each time we were given an assignment; when asked about it, I told them something similar to what you said, that my life's journey had given me more ideas than I could ever possibly use. Of course, most of them couldn't relate to that, it was as if they had no imagination...but if they keep writing, I'm sure they will understand it eventually.

Barbara Rogers said...

Oops, I thought focus...and it was filtering you mentioned. My bad. Probably should have filtered and focused a bit more!

Anvilcloud said...

And this phrase from the ideation link: "semantic intuition." I think terminology can make things more difficult in some cases.

Vicki Lane said...

Amen, amen! One should always eschew obfuscation.