The Marine Corps is a place that develops and fosters creative problem solving. That kind of creative problem solving can come in handy as a writer. So, the Marine Corps specifically, and the military generally, can be a great place to learn the skills you need to employ your creativity in a practical way. You can be a creative person and yet not have the skills to put your creativity to any use.
You must learn how to harness creative thought and transform it into creative action.
People often think of the military as a place of rigid, structured thinking. Military leaders spend a lot of time learning how to master the many facets of conducting warfare. They learn how to manage workforce requirements; how things get moved from one place to another; how to gather data to make informed decisions; how to employ kinetic forces and lead operations; how to manage communications and digital networks; how to maintain and build training and education programs; and how to develop and control financial resources. They learn how to plan everything from strategy to campaigns to operations to tactics.
There is a lot of structured thinking that goes into planning for warfare.
However, there is a saying in the Marines that posits, “No plan survives first contact with the adversary.” The truth of this is that leaders spend a lot of time planning things (up to 70% of their pre-adversary-contact timeline), but as soon as they implement the plan, tiny details that change rapidly on a miniature timescale turn ideas that were great at the macro-level into irrelevant or even dangerous obstacles at the micro-level.
While a lot of the things that leaders plan beforehand continue their usefulness throughout the conflict (logistics, information gathering, all the training and preparation that were inculcated into the troops conducting the operation), the decision-making at the micro-level must be flexible and dynamic to respond to the situation at hand. This is where creative thinking becomes key.
This is especially true for operational and tactical leaders. This means marines at the battalion level and below. From the battalion commander, a lieutenant colonel with 15- to 20-years’ experience, and his senior enlisted leader with a similar background, all the way down to the platoon, a group of about forty marines led by a lieutenant with one- or two-years’ experience (much of which was in training) and his platoon sergeant, squad leaders, and fire team leaders. Many of the marines at this level train in military theory, but the marines themselves lack practical experience. However, because of the way the Marine Corps reinforces creative leadership, the concept of the strategic corporal, and the idea of commander’s intent, practical creativity becomes the foundation on which marines win individual battles.
These young marines must be able to develop creative practical solutions in an unexpected and unpredictable environment on the fly.
This is where the Marine Corps can teach someone who wants to pursue the creative arts how to harness creativity in a practical way. You might be surprised to learn how many writers served in the military, especially in the Marines. The next time you’re having a discussion about useful jobs for writers and someone dismisses the military, pull out your phone and google “writers who served in the military,” and you might find some fodder for argument. My name will certainly be on that list some day.
I admit I am a big fan of Chuck Wendig. Not only does he write great fiction, but he is also a tremendous help to writers and great at engaging with readers. I got a copy of The Book of Accidents when it first released and finished it in two weeks. I would have finished it sooner if I weren’t working all the time. But it was such a fast read and such a great story that I couldn’t put it down during the pockets of time I found to read it.
The story follows a young boy who ends up finding a thin place between alternate realities and has to contend with other versions of the people and places he knows. Along the way, he discovers that an evil creature is trying to destroy all the alternate realities, and it falls on the boy’s shoulders to stop the creature and save the world (at least his own).
Chuck’s writing style is reminiscent of Stephen King, but he has found his own unique voice. The characters were solid, fully formed people. And there were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing.
I would give it a score of ten out of ten. Overall, a really enjoyable book that I think I would probably enjoy reading again.
Today’s reading is something I penned whilst sitting in the back of a math class in the ninth grade. It’s called The Wood. When I wrote it, I was a bored first-year high schooler who hated and sucked at mathematics. But I had recently started jotting down my mind-stories. And they were weird. I thought maybe I was too. Let’s see what you think.