The Flying Poetry Creation Contraption

Most people are not very creative. They are very good at doing what they’re told but are often stuck in neutral when they have to figure out what to do by themselves. Even creative people have a difficult time being creative. Their creative ideas go only so far and then that well can dry up for an awfully long time. There’s a reason for that. Creativity requires a certain degree of randomness, unpredictability, or surprising yourself. It’s not something you can use logical deduction or induction to get to. It’s not linear. It’s a step function. You don’t have it, don’t have it, don’t have it, don’t have it, until Eureka! You have it. Where did it come from? Out of the clear blue sky.

Most humans are pretty good at deduction and induction, but we aren’t very good at randomness at all.

We tend to do the same things over and over, we tend to be predictable, and we don’t know how to surprise ourselves. Actually we are not as predictable as machines because of our all-too-human errors creeping into everything we do, but we don’t know how to harness those errors yet for creativity. My signature is slightly different every time I sign it. I suppose I could invent something that turned the differences in my signatures into random numbers but it’s much easier and cheaper to use a random number generator function in a MS Excel macro, which brings me to the rather strange title of this blog post: “The Flying Poetry Creation Contraption”.

I’ve programmed an Excel spreadsheet to help me freely associate my noumena (the objective world, the external world as it is) and phenomena (my subjective world, my internal representation of the world) to generate in a semi-automatic fashion ideas for poems. It’s semi-automatic because it can’t generate a finished poem, although it sometimes comes pretty close.

Here’s how it works:

  1. I created 10 categories or lists. My categories are People, Animals, Plants, Places, Time, Objects, Phenomena, Senses, Emotions, and Actions. These are the dimensions of my experience. You can make your own categories and lists.
  2. I populated each list with 31 different power words or names, different sets of words for each category. A power word is a word or name that elicits a powerful response in you when you contemplate it. Each of us has his or her own power words. I won’t share mine with you because they are internal, raw, deeply personal, and they wouldn’t have the same impact on you as they have on me. You can come up with your own power words for your own or my categories. Why 31? It’s just a number. I’ll probably increase it over time. You could start out with 6 or 12, or any other number. I’ll explain why 6 or 12 below.
  3. Then I created a function (randbetween) in Excel that generates a random integer between 1 and 31 and uses it as an index into each of the 10 lists to pull out the word at that offset. If you don’t have Excel or know how to write functions, you can use a single die or a pair of dice to generate a random number as an index into your lists. Just roll the die or dice for each list (not one time for all the lists, but once for each list).
  4. This is one of the lines I randomly generated:
People Animals Plants Places Time Objects Phenomena Senses Emotions Actions
Dad frogs orange tree woods eternity stars stories unseeing adventurous limp

Randomness is the basis for an algorithm of creativity. This is how creativity will be programmed into robots and artificial intelligence.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under about writing, Essays, Poetry

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