Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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Cheesy Advice…The Good Kind

CheeseHave 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?

Ahem.

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!


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The Benefits of Befriending Your Creativity

Okay. So now you’re probably finding the whole idea of personifying your Creativity a bit strange, and although it sounds cute and is fun to read, you think you’ll just remain a distant observer. Fair enough. But let me briefly explain why this concept might actually be useful.

Predict the ‘Elusive’

You’ve probably heard many descriptions of creativity. It’s a mysterious and elusive force some people master while others spend their time fruitlessly waiting for it to appear. It is a process – if you put yourself in the right mind-set, at the right time, in the right circumstances you will eventually produce creative thought. The descriptions are numerous and varied.

However, most of these descriptions foster the idea that you need to control your creativity. If you find the spark, grab it. Don’t let go. Recreate the same circumstances so you can reproduce the experience. Follow these steps to bring it back into predictable line.

Steps and cycles do have their place when you need creative inspiration, as we’ll discuss another time. But what if, instead of viewing your creativity as something to be controled, you viewed it as someone to interact with?

What if instead of viewing it as an unpredictable force, you were able to view it as a friend? You could learn your Creativity’s likes and dislikes. When does she feel creative, and when does she feel stifled? When is she bursting to provide you with the answer, and when is she sulking because of something you let happen? What can you do to make her feel creative again?

And most importantly, how can you call her to action when you need her? What if, instead of rummaging through the scraps of paper on your noticeboard for your 10 point list on how to spark your creativity, you could mentally pop around to her place and ask for help in person?

The Second Voice

You’ve heard it said, “Two heads are better than one”? In a way, your Creativity can become your second head. She’ll bounce ideas off you. You’ll mention your problems to her. She’ll say the wacky, insane things you’re afraid to say and you’ll be the voice of reason. She’ll raspberry at you when you select her tamest idea and you’ll smile to yourself as you put it into practice.

Thinking of your Creativity as a separate character, allows part of you to voice ideas your rational mind would be too embarrassed to let out. It provides you plausible deniability. The idea’s insane/ridiculous/brilliantly crazy. That’s okay, it wasn’t me, it was Creativity. She made me think it. The freedom this provides is delightfully liberating, and does wonders for your creative thought. It gives you permission to play with absurd ideas that you may otherwise have dismissed as inappropriate or childish. And it’s those ideas that are the necessary fodder for creative thought.

And besides, who doesn’t want to have someone to blame for our mistakes, verbal faux pax and word puns? Isn’t this why younger siblings are all the rage?

Feel More Comfortable in Your Process

I speak from experience when I say that viewing Creativity this way can take a lot of the stress out of the creative process. If I need an idea, I know where to go. I know I have a friend who can help me out. If I have a creative block, or am coming up with less than stellar ideas, I check on my Creativity. Is she annoyed at me? Is she feeling okay? Does she need a break? Does she need some new experiences? Am I actually listening to her, or trying to do things without her?

Getting to know your Creativity allows you to understand your own creative process. What helps it. What hinders it. (I use ‘it’ here to refer to the process, not the Creativity. I mention this to keep me out of my Creativity’s bad books. She views these things very seriously.) It also helps you to understand what you can do to increase the efficiency of your process.

In short, this is more than just a cute gimmick. It’s a concept that could help you become the creative person you want to be. So don’t be shy. Give it a try. 🙂

(On a side point, you may notice that the capital C in Creativity seems to appear and disappear. In this blog we will use an upper case ‘C’ when referring to personifications of Creativity, and a lower case ‘c’ when we are talking about creativity in general.)