The Creativity Myth
I’m not sure how it happened but, somehow, growing up in a family of athletes I still managed to forge my own creative way. I knew I wasn’t like my baseball playing brother or my basketball playing sister the second I stepped on stage in eighth grade. I decided right there and then that I wanted to be an actor forever and ever. Amen.
From a very early age I adopted the title “creative”, and I looked for as many ways as possible to become just that. Whether through art, writing, or on the stage, my creativity seems to be connected to my happiness, so I accept it as a natural part of who I am. It’s something I need, I suppose. Without it, I’m simply living someone else’s life.
But for many, many people, creativity feels like something frivolous, something elusive that only people showing in art galleries in New York City are allowed to have. In a way, creativity is like an always-elusive, everyone-has-it-but-me gift. Mystical and misunderstood.
So, let’s dispel a few key creativity myths. (Here’s a hint: They’re probably hindering your writing.)
Myth #1: I’m not creative.
Well, I beg to differ, and I’ll tell you why. You were created in the image of the Great Creator, yes? (Yes. We all were.) And because God created you in his image and because HE is creative, that means you’re creative too. To argue that point would be to call God a liar. Or at least to say you know better.
Could it be that you’re simply creative in a way you don’t recognize? Maybe your creativity looks different than you want it to, so you have trouble seeing the beauty of your own unique creative gifts. Maybe you’re an excellent storyteller with a huge imagination but you’re a crummy writer who made poor grades in English class. Or maybe you understand the structure of a story, but you struggle to think outside the box. It’s not that you’re not creative, it’s just that you want the whole of the story to come easily, and sadly, it never really does.
Creativity shows up in many forms, but step one is to own it. I am creative. Write it down. Post it on your bathroom mirror. Say it out loud when you feel like you aren’t. Because anyone who tells you differently hasn’t had a conversation with God on your behalf.
Myth #2: Creativity comes easily.
Anyone who has ever immersed themselves in a creative project knows this isn’t true. Creativity, in any of its forms, takes WORK. You aren’t going to tap into an ounce of your creativity unless you’re willing to work for it.
Often for gifted people, it’s easy to sort of float by on your natural talent. But if you really want to be a writer, and you really want to write an excellent book (all the way to the end), you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
How do you work at writing?
- Read. A lot. In and out of your genre. Fiction and nonfiction. Craft books and novels. Study storytelling and constantly question what works and why.
- Sit your butt in the chair and write. Then rewrite. Then rewrite again. Push yourself past what comes naturally, plug in to your creativity and come up with something better.
- Never stop learning. Go to conferences. Talk to writers. Pay attention to what’s working and what’s not. None of us have ever really “figured it out.” There is always more to learn…and that’s the fun of this stuff!
- Stop looking for it to get easier. You can ask authors who’ve written over twenty novels and they’ll tell you the same thing as me (who has only written six): it really doesn’t get easy. Ever. You still have to work out the story details. It can be difficult and tedious, but I’ve gotta say…it’s also a ton of fun.
Myth #3: Real creatives have conquered their fears.
I don’t know a single creative who isn’t absolutely terrified to launch something new. Whether it’s a book or an art project or a new role on stage, creativity takes courage. Big courage. It’s hard to put so much of yourself into a project and then put it on display for the world to see/critique/criticize. Courage is a must.
Give yourself a pep talk or two if you feel lacking in this area. Your creativity needs this every once in awhile. If you can find just a few minutes of insane courage—enough to hit send on that proposal you’ve been agonizing over—enough to query that agent—enough to self-publish the book of your heart, you’ll get through the scary parts and settle in to a comfortable place of contentment.
At least until it’s time to do it all over again. ;)
Myth #4: Creativity requires constant attention.
For years, I thought that true productivity was the result of continuous and never-ending work. Hours upon hours of tireless working. But after too many years at that pace, my body finally said “Knock it off” in the clearest way possible. I got incredibly sick and stayed that way for one full year. In a lot of ways, I lost that whole year. Because I was so consumed with not wasting a single minute.
I’ve learned now that creativity takes REST. Purposeful and intentional REST. This idea has made it in to a couple of my novels, and seems to be the song of my heart these days. We need to rest in order to refuel. And I’m not talking about a full eight hours of sleep. I’m talking about a full on Sabbath—a day of rest. A day where you rest as if all your work is done.
What happens is the next time you open your laptop to work on a scene, you just feel refreshed. You’ve got new ideas. You’ve spent some time living rather than just writing about living—and your work (and your creativity) can flourish under these conditions. If you’re wound too tightly and you never rest, you’ll make it nearly impossible for creativity to visit you.
So, whether you’ve been writing for years or you’ve just sort of started thinking about trying your hand at it, give yourself permission to live a creative life. Make time for it. Be courageous and willing to work, and you just might find, like so many of us, that the title of “creative” looks a whole lot better on you than you thought it would.
Courtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theater director, and playwright. Change of Heart is her fifth novel and is set in the same town as Paper Hearts. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists and was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. She has written two additional books in the Sweethaven series, as well as two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives in Illinois where she and her husband own a performing and visual arts studio. They have three children.
Courtney has generously offered to giveaway a copy of her book, Change of Heart. Simply leave a comment below and we will select a random winner, come back Monday to see who the lucky reader is!