Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Creativity II: Sometimes a Cookie is More than a Cookie

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I wrote about creativity on December 3, but it’s such a large and important topic, that I want to revisit it.

A painter friend of mine once said that if you’re going to output good creative work, then you need to take in some creative experiences that enrich you. So artists of words, images and more need to take time to figure out what feeds their creativity, then try to provide that nourishment for their brain.

If you go to http://www.ted.com/topics/crea... you can find lots of TED Talks about creativity. (TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design and if you don’t already know about these interesting talks and videos, then be sure to go to the Web site and prepare to lose a few hours of time!) Or try www.mentalfloss.com if “amazing and interesting facts, trivia, quizzes, and brain teaser games” get your creative juices flowing.

Sydell Waxman wrote a great article about creativity in the Fall 1999 issue of the CANSCAIP News. (Not sure what CANSCAIP is? See my December 4 posting.) CANSCAIP members can read the entire article on the organization’s web site.

One of the easiest and most important things that Sydell suggested for increaing creativity is taking long, deep breaths. Definitely a good thing to remember during these busy holidays!

I also found it fascinating what Sydell had to say about creativity and how our brain works. The two sides of anyone’s brain are very different, she explained. The left side, or hemisphere, makes decisions, does math and, especially if you’re a writer, edits. The right hemisphere is where your feelings and memories are stored. This side of your brain loves art and music, makes leaps of intuition and is the side you call on when you need to think creatively.

Sydell also mentioned how repetitive action that doesn’t involve a lot of thinking can calm the left side of your brain while stimulating the right side. No wonder many writers like to swim, walk, run and garden. Try to remember the last time you did one of these and think about how your mind wandered, perhaps helping you to some useful insights.

I also like to bake — another repetitive action — especially at this time of year. Here’s one of my favourite and easiest recipes — it also appeared in my book Bake and Make Amazing Cookies.

Shortbread Cookies
1 pound (2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325°F. Cover cookie sheets with aluminum foil (for easy clean-up and to reflect the heat).
Cream together the butter and sugar well.
Mix in the flour until well blended. If your butter is very soft, you may want to add a little more flour.
Roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to cut out cookies. Or drop the dough by spoonfuls onto your cookie sheet. (This dough doesn’t spread much as it bakes.) Feel free to first mix in chocolate chips or chunks, or dried cranberries, crushed candy canes or whatever you like.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the bottoms of the cookies are light golden brown.
Makes about 4 to 6 dozen (depending on the size of your cookies).

Smells, like the scent of fresh-baked cookies, help you recall memories and feed your right brain. So you’re not making high-calorie holiday treats, you’re boosting your creativity!

And this recipe has a connection to Canadian literature. It’s a recipe that has been in my family for many years, and it’s also very close to the recipe that Lucy Maud Montgomery baked. Like me, Maud was very proud of her Scottish heritage.

And Another Thing …
How many people were first introduced to the world of ballet by being taken to see The Nutcracker? That magical experience started on this date in 1892 when Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia. Like so many classics, it wasn’t a success at first (that should give all writers and other artists hope!), but now some ballet companies generate almost half of their annual ticket revenue from this one ballet.

When one good friend of mine first saw The Nutcracker as a little girl, she was soon asking her parents, “When is it going to end? When will it be over?” Her parents finally told her that they would all leave right then if she couldn’t watch quietly and was so unhappy. But that wasn’t the problem at all— she was loving the show so much, that she wanted to prepare herself for when it would be finished!

Thanks for reading.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Elizabeth MacLeod

Award-winning author Elizabeth MacLeod has written over 50 books for children. Her most recent book, Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries, was published by Annick Press.

Go to Elizabeth MacLeod’s Author Page