Maximizing Our Creativity–The Transformative Power of Q

There is a really wonderful book out called Imagine by Jonah Lehrer. Lehrer explores exactly how creativity works. What colors spark imagination? What routines kill it? Can drugs make us more creative? Or do drugs do the opposite? Are we most creative when we are well-rested or sleep-deprived? Are there different forms of creativity and imagination? The answers will surprise you, and I strongly recommend this book.

I read Imagine back early in the spring, and there was a certain chapter that really stuck with me. This one particular section inspired the idea to build a new kind of social network just for creative professionals, WANATribe. WANATribe started with a seed named “Q.” We all need the perfect about of Q for creativity to thrive. But what is it?

Different Tools for a Different Age

Modern society is growing more complex, and so are the problems. All of the low-hanging fruit is gone. The age of the lone genius has passed, and, these days, most fields require that we get better at teamwork. Even the modern day author is required to do so much more in order to survive, let alone be successful. The largest mistake I see writers and people in publishing make, is they assign writers to do all of this work alone, which is a formula for stress and burnout and rarely yields much that is remarkable

This is one of the reasons the WANA methods work. WANA is founded upon working as a team, and being part of a team holds unique advantages, namely an increase in Q. What is Q?

Patience, Grasshopper. We’ll get there.

But what its the best way to work together?

Brian Uzzi, a sociologist at Northwestern University has spent his career wanting to understand the how groups function, and, better still, how they function optimally. Why do some groups seem to fizzle? Why do others take off and push all boundaries of imagination?

Uzzi decided that the best way to understand groups was to study Broadway musicals. Why? Well, no one can do a musical alone. Musicals require perfect creative collaboration and cooperation in order to be successful. Musicians, dancers, choreographers, etc. all working together. No easy task. Uzzi quickly discovered that, “people on Broadway were part of an extremely interconnected network; it didn’t take many links to get from the librettist of Guys and Dolls to the choreographer of Cats (Lehrer, pg.141)”.

Sound familiar? *cough* Writers. The world of publishing is a small one, which is why we must be kind and professional at all times (aside from it being the right thing to do). Publishing is a small world and we are all connected. Now, the density of the connection will all differ and this is known as Q.

Low Q? No one knows each other very well. High Q? We all know each other like we know ourselves. We might even finish each other’s sentences and we know all the little quirks and habits.

What Uzzi noticed was that, in the 1920s, there were all these collaborations from some of the greatest minds in the business, and yet they produced a string of tired, mediocre musicals. What happened?

Q

What Uzzi soon discovered was that, for maximum creativity, we needed to maintain Ideal Q. If the Q is too low? Everyone is afraid to talk to each other, there is little exchange of ideas and so nothing happens. Ah, but if the Q is too high, we get groupthink and there is no fresh innovation. I feel this has been one of the biggest problems in all the creative industries that have fallen under the tidal wave of digital.

The music business and the film business were stuffed full of people who had all worked in the same industry for years, with the same people, and so they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. The Big Six has yet to learn from music and film. Why? Because they have too high of Q. They have too many people who’ve been in the same industry with the same business model and they are suffering because of groupthink. To remain relevant, they will need to up their Q.

People will always want paper.

Yeah.

So what does this have to do with WANA?

WANATribe and Perfect Q

When I teach my blogging classes, I don’t teach writers how to blog and then throw them out in the digital ocean to sink or swim. I know that to survive in this Brave New World we must work together or fail alone. Yet, I watched this Q component time and time again. I would put together a blogging class into a private Facebook group where they could get to know one another, follow each other, and trade ideas, assistance and recipes for Kamakazis.

At first, there would be very little interaction and nothing would happen. *insert sound of crickets* Low Q. Ah, but then the Chatty Cathys would start getting people to talk, and then there would be this BOOM! of creativity. Some of the best ideas always came from this phase of Ideal Q.

But then what would happen?

The group would get comfortable in their tribe. They would hang out in the private Facebook group instead of getting out and mingling with new people, and this is when I would start seeing people hit a wall. The creativity would taper off and with it, the ideas and enthusiasm. This presented a challenge.

How could I create an environment where we could always maintain Ideal Q?

Then it hit me. We needed our own social network. So long as we were on Facebook or Twitter, it was too easy to just get comfortable with our own peeps. It wasn’t very easy to get out and meet people with enough in common to form instant rapport. Face it, when we sign up for Facebook what does it ask us to do? Invite existing friends. Import our e-mail addresses and invite people we already know.

But how do we meet the ones we don’t know? THAT has always been the problem.

Yet, in WANATribe, we are surrounded by people we might not know, but with whom we have common interests. We at WANATribe are working to perfect the group. We go beyond the group to the TRIBE—the original social network. Start a tribe, join a tribe or even drift between tribes.

Writers are more than all-writing-all-the-time, so there are even some tribes based off interest like Patrick Thunstrom’s WANA Nerdfighters. If you don’t see a tribe that suits your needs? Start one. Invite friends. Tribes change how we connect. It means we can get to know each other, but yet always have an infusion of fresh ideas, new people with new insight. Thus, the odds we will keep Ideal Q greatly improve.

“We need structure, or everything falls apart. But we also need spaces that surprise us. Because it is the exchanges we don’t expect, with the people we just met, that will change the way we think about everything.” Lehrer, Pg, 156.

WANATribe offers that environment that isn’t fully predictable nor fully chaotic, either. We strive to offer the structure, yet the space for surprise.

Write Woman’s Fiction? Pop into a Historical Fiction tribe. Write Historical Romance? Pop into the Paranormal Club. Get out of the comfort zone. Bring new ideas to them and gain new ideas and perspectives in return. Want to collaborate? Create a private tribe. The possibilities are endless. Now you don’t have to live in a major city to find the perfect writing group. Create one. Want to learn about the industry? Join an industry tribe. We have an Indie Tribe and a Self-Publishing Tribe. We have a Writing While Parenting Tribe. Or go mingle with other types of artists and join a Photography Tribe or a Cartooning Tribe.

WANATribe is one giant digital playground for creative people. Grab your Crayons and glue sticks. Bring your GI Joes and Barbies and we’ll all hang out until the streetlights come on. There is a good reason why children have such active imaginations. They play. They always meet new kids. So come on! What are you waiting for? I look forward to seeing all of you at WANATribe. Bring your peeps. The more the weirder…um, merrier. Come get your Q on! Here is an invitation.

So what are your thoughts? Do you find your trusted critique group gets in a rut? Do you find it is hard to meet new people? What have been your biggest challenges with staying creative? Do you find being around other creative people inspires you?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners will now have one business week  (5 days) to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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  1. #1 by Kathy Tetlock on June 27, 2012 - 12:58 pm

    I think I am just too lazy to try new things and meet new people. It takes effort. But when I do, wow, the inspiration can be overwhelming!

  2. #2 by kasey mathews on June 27, 2012 - 1:03 pm

    Kristen, I just got a new car and named it Q! Ha! So… I’ve already joined WANAtribe, but I’ve yet to really get over there and explore. My book came out at the end of May and I’m so busy with promotion that I hardly have time for anything else. Do you think there is a place for me over there right now? I find with FB, Twitter etc, that if I’m not part of the constant on-going conversation, I’m out of the loop. Will I have the same experience on Wanatribe? More than anything, I just want time to take a walk outside and not feel the need to have one more aspect of social media life that I need to tend to. Any advice?

    • #3 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 27, 2012 - 1:05 pm

      A good place to pop in is there is a main chat. Just hop in and say “Hi!” Also you might want to create a group based off the subject for your book. It’s about preemies, right? Invite moms of preemies and hang out, talk, trade pictures, etc. Get creative.

      • #4 by kasey mathews on June 27, 2012 - 1:26 pm

        Yes, it is about preemies! I’ll head over now and give it a go!

      • #5 by kasey mathews on June 27, 2012 - 1:41 pm

        I went “bigger picture” and thought about the reason I wrote Preemie. Hence the new group, Writing to Heal – A group for those who hope their writing promotes healing and positive change in others. Thanks, Kristen! You totally amaze me!

        • #6 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 27, 2012 - 3:10 pm

          Thanks. You guys amaze me every day. Why else would I work to hard to herd all of you into one spot? LOL. One thing you might consider is a group for women who have been through having a preemie. Feel free to make the group private. Of course WANATribe is for creatives, but we aren’t going to keep anyone out :P. We dig patrons/readers, too. Many times they are the best resource for feedback. Start a group and let women have a place to come bond, talk and share. I would be fine with that. And I am pretty sure there are a lot of writers who have been through this–We Are Not Alone, right? :D You and Jenny both talk about high-risk pregnancy. Maybe start one together. Build your platform. I am here to support you guys building a platform so use the resources.

          • #7 by kasey mathews on June 27, 2012 - 3:32 pm

            Love it Kristen! Off to meet the newest members of The Writing to Heal group! I thought I’d be the only member for weeks not minutes!! Hooray!!

            • #8 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 27, 2012 - 4:10 pm

              Actually, I think that type of group has potential. Lots of memoir authors and self-help and it is a really hot topic. I think you could build a tribe like that very quickly…as you’ve already seen. And just put Jenny on it and you’ll have a bazillion members in the hour.

  3. #9 by Rachel Funk Heller on June 27, 2012 - 1:12 pm

    Kristen, this is so bizarre, I read “Imagine” when it first came out, on my old kindle, and I had just transferred it to my ipad last night. I just want to say how I’m so blown away at how wonderful WANA Tribe is. I check in every day and I’m so impressed with the range and variety of people there. There are old WANA friends from my WANA1011 gang, and I’ve already made new connections with people AROUND THE WORLD. It was great, I’m out here in the middle of the pacific ocean, and then I did a quick chat with a gentleman in Great Britain! It really is International. I can’t tell you how great it’s been for me, who literally works alone at home with just the dog and two cats, to be able to pop in and say hello, or follow an interesting thread in the “Writing Do’s and Don’ts tribe. It is a blast, thanks so much for creating such a fun playground.

  4. #10 by Debra Eve on June 27, 2012 - 1:33 pm

    Just loved this, Kristen. WANA is such a special group and you’ve worked so hard to make it that way. Love this new incarnation! This is the third time the book IMAGINE has crossed my radar this month, so I think it’s time to read it…

    • #11 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 27, 2012 - 3:11 pm

      It has been really amazing to watch how WANA has grown and “incarnation” is a great word for sure, LOL. You guys are so creative and have come up with so many innovations it just blows me away. I am just happy to herd y’all together in one spot. Of course the Mayans did predict the world would end in 2012, maybe it was a bad thing to put so many writers together, LOL.

  5. #12 by Chihuahua Zero on June 27, 2012 - 2:10 pm

    My mom has that book! She wants me to read it one day, although I’ll have to get it from her and put it onto my reading queue first.

  6. #13 by Anne R. Allen on June 27, 2012 - 2:14 pm

    Such a great book. And I love WANA tribe. I finally got past my ridiculous McAfee firewall that wouldn’t let me in. And I’m about to announce the launch of my new handbook for writers there. (I’ll be forever grateful for your fantastic blurb.)

  7. #14 by jonniasmith on June 27, 2012 - 2:16 pm

    I am so axcited about the WANATribe site! Just signed up, haven’t even looked around yet, but wanted to come back here and say THANK YOU!

  8. #15 by jonniasmith on June 27, 2012 - 2:16 pm

    Too EXCITED to spell properly!

  9. #16 by Human In Recovery on June 27, 2012 - 2:18 pm

    Reblogged this on Human In Recovery and commented:
    Creative collaborators unite – WANATribe

  10. #17 by Elisa Cashiola on June 27, 2012 - 2:43 pm

    I’ve seen that book several times in various places, and will be sure to pick up a copy to read it. Thanks for sharing! And yes, meeting new people is always a great way to expand your mind and perceptions to stir the creative juices. Growing up as an army brat definitely made me eager for new places and experiences, as well as meeting new people.
    nice to meet you, by the way! ;-)
    Cheers,
    Elisa

    • #18 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 27, 2012 - 3:12 pm

      Awesome to meet you too! I’m also hoping this makes research faster and easier. We have the “hive” to lean on for information, resources and expertise. It’s a really excellent book and an easy read (for neuroscience, LOL).

  11. #20 by Miriam Joy on June 27, 2012 - 3:53 pm

    I decided to join (mainly for the Nerdfighters group, ha ha). I’m afraid I had to lie when I signed up because it wanted me to be 18, but you did say on Twitter that it was okay so I hope this isn’t an unforgivable sin or anything ;)

    • #21 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 27, 2012 - 4:09 pm

      I actually went looking for your DM. We dropped the age to 13. I just had to make sure that was something we could do without having to have extra support. So start a Young WANAs Tribe for us. We are thrilled you joined!

  12. #23 by Cathy Ulrich on June 27, 2012 - 4:23 pm

    Love, WANATribe, Kristen. Also loved both of your books and I actually joined Twitter based your recommendations in WANA. I’m quite the techie, but I just didn’t “get” Twitter. I live near one of the bad wildfires in Colorado and Twitter has been awesome in being able to keep track of fire activity. And I had just signed up for Twitter the day before the fire started! Imagine sounds amazing and I’m going to get it for my Kindle today!

    Best,

    Cathy

    • #24 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 27, 2012 - 4:33 pm

      Twitter was a LIFESAVER here in Texas when we got hit with that massive outbreak of tornadoes. We didn’t have power so I couldn’t get the weather report to see if another twister was coming, so I just followed in my iPhone. Then once I had power I started tweeting warnings, too. One woman tweeted back to me that the tornado had been headed right for them and my tweet was what made them take shelter. they didn’t have TV, radio or windows, but she had checked her Twitter feed at lucy and saw my warning. Was awesome and scary. You stay safe! *hugs*

  13. #25 by politeandparanoid on June 27, 2012 - 4:38 pm

    I signed up for WANA. I’m hoping this will help me get out of the rut that I’m in :)

  14. #26 by Tamara LeBlanc on June 27, 2012 - 6:10 pm

    Ah-haaaa! This quote really hit home for me: “So long as we were on Facebook or Twitter, it was too easy to just get comfortable with our own peeps.” And that’s what I had been doing for years, shooting the breeze with people i already knew. That is, until I branched out and met a bunch of wonderful WANA-clansmen.
    I love the idea of checking out different tribes though, hadn’t thought about that, but it makes sense.
    Maybe I’ll check out those historical-WANA next, see what they have to offer:)
    I’m looking forward to reading IMAGINE. Sounds incredible.
    Thank you for your wisdom, and have a great evening!
    Tamara

    • #27 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 27, 2012 - 6:36 pm

      You leave some of the best comments. I was so bummed when you were away :(.

  15. #28 by Adriana Ryan on June 27, 2012 - 6:36 pm

    Great points, Kristen! I need to read Imagine–sounds like an inspiring book. I’m at WANAInt’l…now I need to start participating in the tribes more. :D

  16. #29 by barbaramattio on June 27, 2012 - 6:44 pm

    Imagine is now on my to read list…which never decreases, just maintains a standard level.

  17. #30 by J M Gallagher on June 27, 2012 - 10:43 pm

    I guess Q doesn’t stand for anything? Makes me think Star Trek Next Gen. :-D
    (I know, I know, read the book – I will, thanks for the recommendation)
    Going to check out WANAtribes, too.

  18. #31 by Susan on June 27, 2012 - 11:08 pm

    Kristen, I LOVE this idea of tribe. I think it’s the new wave. Great post! Thanks :D

  19. #32 by Jess on June 28, 2012 - 6:29 am

    This is a FABULOUS idea. Absolutely fabulous. I’m in!

  20. #33 by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson on June 28, 2012 - 6:43 am

    Guilty. I have my mates, and I haven’t been active in terms of outreach lately.

    But…

    The bar mitzvah is over.

    Repeat.

    The bar mitzvah is over.

    So…

    I’m back in action with my WIP once the child heads off to summer camp for 4 weeks. I should be able to finsh draft one. And meet some new people at WANA!

  21. #34 by jadwriter on June 28, 2012 - 10:29 am

    I do find it hard to meet new people, mainly due to my Asperger’s. But I do find I am more talkative and creative when I am with like-minded people, ie writers. And when I am somewhere writing, and know that others writers are around me doing the same, that spurs me on and gets me focused.

  22. #35 by KM Huber on June 28, 2012 - 1:16 pm

    I popped over to WANATribe to join the Writing to Heal Tribe but before I reached that tribe, I discovered the Time Travelers Tribe and could not believe my good fortune. For me, the synchronicity of these two tribes starting up just when I was searching for like-minded folk is among the greater coincidences in my life but then, WANATribe offers so many gifts to so many, not the least of which is another way to view the world.

    Thanks, again, to all in WANATribe. What a place to be!
    Karen

  23. #36 by Matthew Shields on June 28, 2012 - 5:57 pm

    I am LOVING this Facebook-for-writers thing and I want to win this contest! I went to WANATribe and it is like Facebook for writers! I can go there anytime and talk to other writers and that. Is. Awesome.

    • #37 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 28, 2012 - 6:34 pm

      Yay, Matthew! So happy you love it :D.

  24. #38 by Yvette Carol on June 28, 2012 - 7:26 pm

    You’re so right about the ideal Q. Ever since starting a tribe on WANAtribe and the conversation sparking my ideas have been bursting forth with increased speed!!! Yeeha

  25. #39 by paralaxvu on June 28, 2012 - 7:42 pm

    OK, so I’m gonna pop in somewhereas soon as I send this and say “hi!”. But what’s to say any of the WANATribe groups won’t end up stuck in groupthink too?

  26. #40 by paralaxvu on June 28, 2012 - 7:44 pm

    Reblogged this on paralaxvu and commented:
    This sounds interesting so I’m heading over for a look. Unsure if it’ll work but only one way to find out…

  27. #41 by paralaxvu on June 28, 2012 - 7:45 pm

    I just reblogged this on paralaxvu.wordpress.com and commented: “This sounds interesting so I’m heading over for a look. Unsure if it’ll work but only one way to find out…”

  28. #42 by Johanna Denton (@JohannaDenton) on June 29, 2012 - 10:05 am

    Great post, as always, Kristen. I’m reading “We Are Not Alone” and finding it a mine of useful information. I also joined WANATribe and look forward to exploring it. It does take me a while, though. After my trucking shifts all I want to do is slip into a coma. ;) But one step at a time. Moving forward. Thanks so much for your inspiration.

  29. #43 by lynnkelleyauthor on June 29, 2012 - 11:39 am

    This is fascinating, the concept of low Q, high Q, and ideal Q. You’re so right about our blogging class having a page on FB and getting to know each other. It’s been wonderful. And now on WANATribe, on one of the children’s writers tribes, some of us are bonding quickly and having ongoing threads, sharing so much about our lives, offering support, links, and joking around and laughing, too. I just hope others don’t feel like they can’t jump in and join us. We don’t want to be a clique. We want others to join in and share. We’re realizing that this interaction is very uplifting, seems to be feeding some needs in us. So we’re loving it and want to spread the love.

    The book Imagine sounds like an awesome read. Thanks for telling us about it. I hadn’t heard of it.

  30. #44 by Reetta Raitanen on June 29, 2012 - 2:20 pm

    Imagine sounds like a fascinating book. I loved hearing the story behind WANATribe. I definately have gotten too comfortable and lazy and haven’t reached out much beyond the WANA Facebook group. Right now I’m looking for ins with my own genre folks and figuring out places outside the box.

  31. #45 by nathaliehourihan on July 11, 2012 - 5:30 am

    Kristen — there are so many writing blogs in the world but I love yours! and am therefore nominating you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Which basically means you’ve won. :) Happy Wednesday. For how to collect the award (though maybe you’ve won before?) … here’s a link http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/vba-rules/

    • #46 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 16, 2012 - 5:33 pm

      Thank you! I have. I don’t generally participate because this blog (for the most part) is instructional. But THANK YOU anyway. Very sweet.

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