If you think you aren’t one of these “creative” people I’m going to talk about, feel free to close the laptop and ask the person nearest to you if they would kindly slap you upside the head.
Every single one of us is capable of creativity, so don’t even bother trying to argue with me. The internet has my back on this one. I won’t bore you with the details because chances are you’ve already seen the link, but suffice to say that at one point you were probably more creative, and now you only wish for the courage to take a different route to work every once in a while. To quote Sir Ken Robinson from the video, “All children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”
While I can’t speak authoritatively for every aspect of creativity, there are some things I know quite a bit about. For example, I write and perform original songs, and my Grandma once taught me how to knit half a scarf. These achievements aside, I’d be willing to say my main source of expertise comes from fiction writing. In the story arena, I humbly admit to having a substantial bank of knowledge. Does that sound pretentious?
Well, whether or not you think it does, I’m not going to let your judgmental attitude bother me. I’m having a hard enough time writing with these delicately elevated pinky fingers as it is.
My knowledge does not only come from writing extensively, it has developed from searching every how-to on the subject, reading numerous books on the craft, work-shopping material with other authors, and even attending university courses to do with it. If you want an attentive reader to view your work and have useful things to say, I’m probably your man. Unless I’m busy.
The advice I’m about to give you is twofold, and even though I’ll probably relate it to writing more than anything, understand that this advice will probably apply to any creative endeavor in life. Here it is, fold one of two:
Take a break from reading about it and do it.
Now don’t get me wrong, there definitely is value in learning your craft from the experts, I’m not going to pretend there isn’t. Mentorship is a beautiful thing, in fact, some of the best things I’ve ever learned about writing were found in some of these books. The point that I’m trying to make here is that you’re probably spending way too much time doing that and not enough time actually writing.
In order to knit a scarf, you gotta learn the basics of needlework, just like in order to write a book, you gotta learn the basics of language and grammar, but there comes a time when enough is enough and you actually have to do it.
I’m concerned about you is all. Really, I am. All I want to do is stop you from reading the well-intended 33 Unusual Tips to Being a Better Writer and say: You know what? You want to be a better writer, [insert sexy name]? Stop reading this crap because it’s giving you the impression that you’re actually doing something. These bits of advice you’ll find scattered all over the internet are not going to help you write because you’ve read them; as the old saying goes: standing in a garage does not make you a pile of junk that’s been sitting there since you moved in.
“But Spencer,” You say meekly. “I learned a lot from 34 Writing Tips That Will Make You A Better Writer. Why can’t you let me be?”
Imagine me giving a sad little shake of my head. A knowing shake, like the shake of a good father when he sees his children playing with the light socket. Not one of those tips are going to help you very much, probably because none of them say…
I’m so passionate about this point that I broke the sacred laws of grammar. You see, the entire culmination of this article is in those two words. Just write, people. Just paint. Just freaking knit. You’re not doing it enough, you’ve been procrastinating.
The art of actually doing something is lost on so many of us these days. And not just doing something, but finishing something. Looking at my own track record, I can tell you without a doubt that I have a tendency to read too many how-to’s without actually doing. The original title of this article was almost going to be “the how-to sickness” because well, it really is a sickness. I am only a recovering patient.
When it comes to writing (and most other things), it takes actually doing it before you can get any better. It takes seeing your handy work in front of you; being able to examine it, being able to feel the way your muscles react in the activity so you can train them, hone them. You see, the beauty in actually getting your hands dirty is that you will quickly form a larger appreciation for the craft in general. You will start to develop your own voice as you hit every wall and trip over every obstacle, as long as you remember that the point of what you’re doing is to capture the beauty of reality, not merely to be some wicked author.
Creativity starts with wonder, if I may remind you. The Masters of the craft begin by being in love—deep, unquenchable love with the object of their utmost wonder and awe, be that nature, be that the human condition, etc. Their art is the fruit of that love. They paint because they are compelled to paint and because love is a mystery. Every piece they create brings them closer to the heart of that mystery. Also, they paint because they actually took the time to sit down and freaking paint.
So, I pose a question to you. Do you want to be creative because you’re in love and the creativity is part of the courtship ritual? Or is it because you want to be a creative person?
Whatever it is, you better do something.