Have you ever noticed the wide variety of books, magazines, websites, blogs etc. on the subjects of writing and cultivating your creativity? Have you ever noticed how they often seem to contradict each other?
Write with your audience in mind. / Write like you’re the only one who’ll ever read it.
Write, write, write; especially when you don’t feel like writing. / Write only when you feel you have something to say.
Surround yourself with inspiring objects. / Declutter! An empty space provides room for creativity.
Listen to music to get you in the mood. / Silence! Don’t drown out your ideas with other sounds.
See what I mean? Not just different views. Diametrically opposite views. How do you know which one is right? Is there such a thing as ‘right’ in this case?
Perhaps we should rephrase the question. How do you know which one is right for you and your Creativity? The answer is: Cheese!
Well, not exactly ‘cheese’ but run with it for a bit and you’ll see what I mean.
Cheddar or Bulgarian Feta?
Although most people like cheese, none of them agree on which is the best cheese and how it should be eaten. Some swear by melted cheddar in toasted sandwiches, while others are adamant that feta with coppa and sun-dried tomatoes is the ultimate cheese eating experience. Even those who prefer melted probably started out as kids with tiger bread (grilled cheese and Vegemite), progressed to pizza with extra toppings and then discovered fondue.
Are those who prefer melted cheddar wrong and the feta lovers right? “No,” you say. “Everyone has different tastes.” And you’d be right.
In the same way that people have different tastes and personalities, Creativitys differ. Or should that be Creativities? Making up words is tough! English grammar flummoxes me every time! What was I saying?
There are some truths that apply to just about all cheeses. You can add just about all cheeses to salads (depending on the salad). Just about all cheeses melt. And then there’s cheese and crackers. That’s tradition. Feta, cheddar, edam, bleu, smoked, cream. It doesn’t matter. You can add them all to crackers and yumminess ensues.
It’s the same with creativity. There are some truths that apply to just about all of us Creativitys/ies. We all need input – exposure to information or examples of what we are expected to produce – before we can truly come up with something new. We all need a certain amount of freedom. We all need a little nurture and protection from scathing responses to our work. We all need bright colours, outlandish clothing and permission to dance barefoot on cafe tables in the rainy season. Or is that just me?
There are some situations where a certain kind of cheese is just perfect for a certain kind of dish. For example: lasagna and grated parmesan. One would think lasagna and grated bleu cheese would not work so well (but then I’m not a bleu cheese person). Creativities are the same. There are some situations where they perform brilliantly, and others that are just not their thing. The situations mentioned at the beginning of this post are cases in point.
Some Creativitys are like water pumps. When you first start pumping in the morning, all sorts of icky water comes out. Useless stuff. But it has to be pumped out so the clear water can start to flow. Once you’ve got going, then you start finding all sorts of gems and ideas. But you’ve got to get past the junk first. In this case, ‘write write write even when you don’t want to’ is good advice. It forces out the dirty water so you can get through to the clear.
Some Creativities (I’ve decided I like it better with the ie) enjoy interaction with their intended audience. I personally like to invite an imaginary audience member around to my place for a cup of tea and a buttered pomegranate so we can get to know one another and I can work out what makes him/her laugh. As I get to know them better, I understand what I have to do in order to get (and keep) their attention. However, once I’ve got that worked out, I tend to boot them out and have fun all by myself. Only later do I invite them back. But perhaps your Creativity has a phobia of the intended audience, and clams up completely when they’re around. In that case, ‘write like you’re the only one who’ll read it.’
See what I mean? I’m not saying never take anyone’s writing advice again. I’m saying view writing/creativity advice as trying a new kind of cheese. Instead of reading someone’s writing tips and thinking, “My goodness, I’m doing it all wrong” or “My way’s better anyway,” think of it as a cheese platter. Try it. If you like it, great! Add it to your list of acceptable cheeses. If not, then don’t feel like you’re a failure, or that the other person is wrong because he or she subscribes to a different method. Concede different tastes. Each time you taste, you are coming to a better understanding of your Creativity. And I that’s what it’s all about.
Because even the best writing advice might just not work for your Creativity, and if it’s not working then you’re not getting the most out of him or her. You might even be surpressing the very thing you wish to cultivate. So sit down with your Creativity and try tasting different advice. Work out which work and which don’t. Enjoy the experience and learn from it.
Now, where’s my parmesan? Bring on the smelly-sock-cheese!
January 22, 2010 at 11:48 pm
I love cheese, every kind of cheese ever made and the kinds not yet invented. Love it all. And your cheese post is a great, entertaining metaphor for creativity. I worry sometimes about new writers listening to, and trying to follow every bit of advice they hear. We all need to learn the art of picking and choosing what to follow. Now, of course, I have a bit of a problem because I’ve just confessed to loving all kinds of cheese! It is important to remember that what works one day might not work the next–so just put everyone’s advice in the toolbox–or the frig–and pick and choose.
January 23, 2010 at 9:00 am
Hi Charlotte! Thanks for dropping by. 🙂
You make an excellent point! Even avid cheese lovers realise it’s not necessary to eat every kind of cheese all the time. In fact, cheese tastes even better when it’s specifically selected to go with a special glass of wine or a particular salad.
Some advice may only work for you under certain conditions, e.g. writing poetry, writing during holidays, writing letters to your mother-in-law etc. For all those other times, it may only be a hindrance. So, keep the advice in the fridge and you know exactly where to find it when you *need* it. 🙂
Thanks again, Charlotte.
January 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm
What a great analogy. It is so hard sometimes to know what to listen to and what to give a miss to.
And I really like the water pump analogy. Next time I am drumming out illegable ungramatical scentences I will remind myself it is just the dirty water getting out of the pump before the pure sparkling genius flows.
January 29, 2010 at 5:02 pm
I’ve seen some of your sparkling genius and it’s well worth the illegible sentences that go before. Please keep pumping!
June 18, 2010 at 7:04 pm
We all need bright colours, outlandish clothing and permission to dance barefoot on cafe tables in the rainy season. Or is that just me?
Ohhhhh….ohhhhh….ohhhhhhhhhh………………..all 3 of my Creativities wholeheartedly agree that these are absolute, vital, irreplaceable necessities!!! Granted, #1 agrees most heartily about the bright colours, #3 agrees most heartily about the outlandish clothing, and #2 agrees heart and soul with dancing barefoot on cafe tables in the rainy season!!! But, they all agree all of the above elements are required………they’d all pick different colors, clothes, and methods of dancing/cafe locations, though.
June 19, 2010 at 8:21 am
“Beth, this isn’t a story. It’s a recipe.”
“Dear me, I never know what to write.”
“The first rule of writing is, never write what you know.”
I’ve always tended to agree with Jo on this one. I always wanted to write about different centuries than my own, which, inevitably is NOT what I know. Then again, my songs and poems are almost always “what I know.” So, once again, different cheeses for different moods, etc.
My goodness, this has made me hungry! And the only cheese in the house, some string cheese that tastes funny! *sigh* I suddenly have an incredible craving for brie!!!
June 19, 2010 at 8:23 am
Brie on toasted rye with salami!!!!! Ohhhhhhh…..
June 19, 2010 at 10:09 am
Actually went to the store and bought the brie, came back and made the sandwich, grilled it, and added fresh basil……………heaven.
June 19, 2010 at 8:43 am
I think ‘write what you know’ works especially well in songs and poems because they’re very much based in emotion. If you have actually experienced the emotion in question you can describe it with far more accuracy. Songwriters and poets are expected to know what they are writing.
In stories and novels on the other hand, we expect to be exposed to locations and situations we’ve never experienced before – sometimes to places no human now living could possibly have gone to. If authors only wrote what they knew, we would have far less variety and no science-fiction.
June 19, 2010 at 10:10 am
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