(I'm liveblogging from TED 2008, in Monterey, CA)
Presenter: author Amy Tan
She walks on stage and sets a bag on the ground. In every story something unknown is revealed. She says she will open the bag at the end of the talk.
Her creative process is nature, nurture, and nightmares, each word at one vertex on a triangle. One definition of creative is an inability to repress looking at associations.
She got some B minuses in school for her creative writing. Parents pushed her to be a doctor, or to be a pianist on Ed Sullivan show. Her father and brother were both diagnosed with brain tumors. Her father was a baptist minister and said God would take care of them. He died soon after and so did her brother. Her mother believed that she and Amy would be next. She then became very creative "in a survival sense." (This could be why she is so interested in "luck and fate and coincidences and the synchrony of mysterious forces.")
On writing a book: In that framework between page 1 and 300, I have to develop a cosmology as the creator of that universe. It can often take years and years to do that.
Dark energy and dark matter apply to creativity, too -- you sometimes find out what matters by what's missing. Sometimes what you hope to find is no longer there.
Moral ambiguity -- it is constantly there. "Save a man from drowning, you are responsible to him for life." We all hate moral ambiguity, but it is absolutely necessary in writing a story. It is the place where I begin.
"I will reveal what is in the bag - it's the muse that transforms our lives." It's little doggy that hops out and follows her offstage, where she puts the dog back in the bag.