Notes on Creativity: tips, tricks and personal anecdotes (1)

I want to, so why can’t I?

There are people who never seem to get creatively blocked. They merrily produce stories, (or artworks or ceramics or films or jewellery) regularly, frequently, without apparent let or hindrance, maybe even singing as they go.

Try not to hate them. Hating the productive does not improve one’s own life or creativity. It only wrinkles the brow, sours the mouth, and induces back pain.

There are people who agonise over every fragment they produce – such luminaries as Douglas Adams and James Joyce, according to report, expelled every desperate word in paroxysms of painful effort. You might want to write like Adams or Joyce but who wants to go through that much misery?

Most of us are somewhere in between, to differing degrees at different times.

So. There are things to consider. And I believe they apply to other creative arts as well as writing, but I’m using that as my reference as it’s the area in which I have most experience.

Firstly, is writing really what you want to do?

If you have a computer or notebooks full of beginnings, unfinished stories, poems, fragments, half-delineated characters, even a few finished pieces – you’re a writer all right, you just haven’t worked out how to keep at it, even though you want to.

If you have little or nothing, because you’re waiting for the perfect moment, the perfect story, the perfect writing implement, the perfect lifestyle, the perfect everything – I’ve got bad news for you.  It’s not going to happen.  Because you’re lying to yourself – what you’re really waiting for is for a perfectly formed story to drop into your lap without effort.  This is a bad principle to apply to anything in life, including creativity, careers and relationships.

Again, most of us who are interested in writing at all are somewhere in between these two extremes – sometimes with a headful of ideas, sometimes blank. Sometimes finding it easy to produce, sometimes impossible.  Sometimes with a handful of completed works of any length – sometimes with only two. Or one.  Sometimes self-disciplined, sometimes sulky and rebellious.

Any creative work does take effort.  But I have come to believe it doesn’t have to take blood, toil, tears and sweat for every goddamned brush-stroke or paragraph.

So over the next few weeks I plan to offer, among other things, some thoughts on why it’s sometimes difficult to produce, even when you really want to, and some methods I have found that may help to make it easier.

Just for a starter: when you begin, banish the thought of perfection. Nothing starts out perfect, nothing ends up perfect. A baby is only ever a perfect baby. It has to grow, change, be socialised and learn to walk and hundreds of other things in order to become a functional adult human, and the best of adult humans is still an imperfect being. A shrivelled little apple seed contains within it many apples – but only if all other conditions are right, if it gets sun and water and wholesome soil and the loving attention of the bee.  Even then some of the apples will end up with bruises or spots – but they’ll still be good to eat. Your seed, your story, doesn’t have to be a whole tree, right now, or a perfect tree, ever. It only has to be a seed, and get planted.

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