Wednesday, 13 April 2011

amy tan on creativity

This one is an assignment in the Lecture & Listening class.

Amy Tan, the celebrated American novelist of Chinese descendant, delivered an interesting presentation hosted by She spoke about the three Ns. The first N is Nature. Creativity may come naturally, from an abnormal chromosome produced by our brain. This chromosome makes us generate ideas. She mentioned about depression, that great artists such as Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath (my favorite poet/author), and Edgar Allan Poe suffered from depression. The second N is Nurture. Childhood trauma can be really good materials. She gave an anecdote that when she was young, her IQ test told her that she was going to become a brain surgeon, so she studied lots. The last N is Nightmare.

In a nutshell, Tan summed creativity as the sense of inability to repress looking at anything in life. As a writer, it is important to be able to receive inspiration from everything. She also stated that creative people are multidimensional, able to see through multiple layers of an issue. This makes sense since the ability to see and analyze many layers becomes the backbone of a rich and vibrant writing. In her presentation, she talked about how she received her inspiration, an experience that she described as ambiguous. She needs moral ambiguity to write stories. This moral ambiguity creates a sequence of responses and intentions, the fuel of her stories.

I am still in the middle of reading The Joy Luck Club, the first of her novels. The Joy Luck Club explores mother-daughter relationships of four women and each of their mothers. More specifically, Chinese mothers who went to the United States, seeking for a better life and future. All of the women had a somewhat murky past. They found each other through a Mah Jong club that they named “Joy Luck”. Friendship bloomed in that club, as well as competition. Being very close to my mother, needless to say, there were instances when I found myself crying on the bus while reading the book. The book itself is almost autobiographical to Tan’s life. Facets of her and her mother’s history serve as the basis of the stories in The Joy Luck Club.

Tan’s idea of creativity is relatable, at least to me. Creativity comes to me when I have an enquiry, when I begin to question aspects of life, and in some cases, of death. I sometimes make up my own answers and assumptions to some questions, as for the rest, I do research. The research depends on the time and resources. If I have enough time and resources, I’ll do a thorough analysis. If I don’t, I will have to be satisfied with what I have and go on with my life. Perhaps along the way, I will get more answers.

Nonetheless, these questions, including the what-ifs have become the source of my inspiration. I create a dialog within my head, with hypotheses and more questions. I will have these conversations until I’m ready to sleep. Usually they calm me down because I’m assured I will have enough to write.

Amy Tan believes that one characteristic of a good writer is that he or she never stops thinking. If that is the case, then I believe I have the making of a good writer.


  1. I love the book cover <3
    the synopsis sounds interesting as well!
    and you attended TED? that's cool. I've been wanting to go but too bad, when it was held in here, I couldn't come...too bad...too bad :(

    anw, when you're going back to JKT kak? me and friends are about to interview you for "feature radio" class. that would be interesting to interview male belly dancer :)

  2. I didn't attend the TED presentation, it was from the website.

    Ah, yes. I wasn't feeling bad when I didn't get to see Bill Gates at Shangri-La Jakarta when I was working there or missing Obama's stay when I had resigned.

    But I did regret not being able to see Dame Anita Roddick of The Body Shop when she was giving a lecture at the Hotel. I was doing a job interview and also crashed that one. Oh, well.

    I'll be back on June 20th and I'll be returning to the US for my Master's degree on August 10th 2011. In between my vacation in Jakarta, I'll be going to Bali. There's going to be a hafla by Dancewave Center and the velvetRAQS but I don't know exactly when. Most probably on July 3rd.

    I'd be honored to be the interviewee for your assignment!