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DIYMFA QOTW7: The Creat[ivity] Myth

My brain while writing. Image courtesy of www.designmantic.com

One of the primary ingredients in writing is what? I’ll give you a minute.

Are you back now? If you didn’t say creativity as a possibility, you may want to go back and re-think the question.

If you don’t think your idea is creative, what will make someone want to read whatever it is you’ve written?

However, there might be a downside or two (or five — read on!) to creativity. What do you think of these?

  • Creativity is an exclusive club, and you can’t be part of it.
  • Creativity is innate–you either have it or you don’t.
  • Creativity is driven by chaos, so there’s no way to control it.
  • Creativity is all about getting that one “Big Idea.”
  • Creativity is focusing on an idea until it’s perfect.

Bummer, right?

Rather than being bummed about them, consider them (as our head Word Nerd, Gabriela suggests in DIYMFA) as myths. Let’s chew on them one at a time.

If you are a blogger or reader of blogs, you may have noticed there are more than a few of them around. Many have regular writers and followers. Seems like there is a neverending stream of creativity there, so what’s up with the exclusive club deal? I don’t buy it.

I would suggest that creativity is like bike riding or swimming: no one gets on a bicycle with balance, poise and speed the first go any more than someone jumps into a pool and swims like a fish straight away. Creativity in writing is developed with practice (and skinned fingertips …), rather than something that is innate.

Now the third one could have been on my Kryptonite post. I often tell my students that I live quite well in Chaos Theory. I tend to write the same way, sort of. Chaos comes in the form of multiple storyline ideas, crazy lists of characters or locations, or creature types. I certainly believe there is a way to control the chaos but don’t always enjoy it. We are the ones who decide what goes where in a story and can use creative means (see what I did there?) to reign in the madness. Use a separate notebook to capture the ideas instead of trying to incorporate all of them in a single story. Write things on sticky notes for later. Use Scrivener and make multiple projects so the ideas are not totally lost (for those who want to be more tree-sensitive and e-friendly).

The idea of one big idea is scary to me. I like to follow the grassy path of my stories to see where they will go; I often write things that don’t fit in the end but that need to get out of my head. Sometimes those bits are cut away and at other times, the bits are used in a completely different story or post. In the end, particularly with a book, there is an ultimate big idea, but I don’t always start out with one. I certainly don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t show up immediately.

Perfect? What is this ‘perfect’ that we are speaking of? Having beta readers, editors, and other team members help us focus the concept. If we focus on perfection, we’ll never get anything written and read.


Which myth gets your mind racing? What do you do to get past it?

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