Debunking Creative Myths

unnamed-5In the DIY MFA book (Chapter 6), Gabriela Periera debunks the following five myth about creativity:

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

While I recognize each of these myths, none of these seem to resonate with me. At least, none resonated with me at this point in my life.

That is the good news.

Of, course, there has to be bad news.

The myth I seem to struggle with the most is:

Creativity has no place in “real” work.

The definition of creative, according to The Oxford New Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus (2009) is 1) inventive; imaginative, and 2) able to create.

Nothing in this definition says that creativity can’t be your work. For me, this myth persists.

In the back of my mind, there has always been a distinction. Work was something you did to make money so you could pay bills. Not live, pay bills. Being creative has always been relegated to hobby status.

Perhaps that is why my journey has gone the path that it has.

When searching for the origins of our personal myths – which is a requirement of overcoming them – it is not to place blame. Rather, look at your myths about creativity and decided your truth.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that being creative is an asset in my “work” life. I see it as a strength I’ve found for myself. Creativity as a strength is a truth that debunks one part of the myth.

The other side, well, that one is a work in progress. How does one earn a living through creativity alone?

I am not certain if a person can since life is always about seeking balance. However, if you believe that life is about finding your higher purpose and if that purpose is to be a creative then, you still have to balance that with the business end of life.

I’ve also realized that the basis for all of these myths is fear. For each myth, there is a “what if” question. What if this happens or that? These are all fear based.

Do you ever really get over your fears?

Do you want to get over your fears?

Two very different questions. One is about belief, and one is about desire.

If you answered yes to the second one, then seek the truth in what scares you.

*What is the thing I am really afraid of?
*Is this fear because of an experience or the thought of an experience?
*Do I still need to be afraid?

Fear is one of our most powerful instincts. So powerful, in fact, that we often have little control over certain fears. Our brains and bodies are designed to respond – to keep us safe. If overused, this fear response can create problems which then become difficult to overcome.

One of my favorite quotes is:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
Anais Nin

I believe this is appropriate for this discussion. Facing the fear that appears to keep you safe are the same ones keeping you stuck.

You must decide for yourself which is more painful?

Beware Best Practices

unnamed-4How do you write (or create or anything)?

This question gets asked of every person who proclaims themselves to be a writer, famous or not. The more famous ones often share their formula’s for success.

Do this … and you will be published and make millions?

Well, maybe that is a slight exaggeration.

We often look to best practices in many different areas. For instance, one could look at research and seek out statistics and believe they have found the best practice for whatever the subject is and we will be successful. The problem is that if you only follow someone else’s practice, you will never know what works best for you or how capable you are.

I, myself, have followed some of these ‘best practices’:

Julia Cameron (The Artist Way) recommends writing three longhand pages each morning just as the day begins.

Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones among others) describes freewriting to be something akin to neutralizing the inner critic.

Anne Lamont (Bird by Bird) speaks to writing shitty first drafts as a way to remove the idea of perfection.

These are just a few of the best practices I’ve followed. I managed to follow Julia’s recommendations the best, but even that has fallen by the wayside. Although, I still believe in the shitty first drafts because anything else would be paralyzing.

Dorothea Brandt (Becoming a Writer) talks about writing first thing in the morning. She even goes so far as to say that if you need caffeine to wake up, make up a thermos full of yerba mate tea, so you waste no time in getting to your desk. I’ve only gone so far as to make my coffee pot ready the night before.

And, then there is Stephen King (On Writing) who gives some of the most interesting advice: Read a lot; Write a lot. Again, this can be challenging if life sometimes (always) gets in the way.

What I’ve discovered is that some things work sometimes, and other things work at other times. Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA describes the process as iteration, which means to decide on a variable and see what works for you. Of course, it is more complicated than that so I would recommend you seek out her website if you want to know more.

While I believe in this, and in the rest of the ‘best practices,’ all of these feel a bit too restricting.

The past year has had its ups and downs, and my writing life has followed suite. The lessons learned have been ones that will (hopefully) carry me throughout my career.

Please do not consider the following a list of the ‘best practices.’ Take from the following lessons which ones work for you:

  1. Be kind to yourself. If you have a day where writing (or whatever you are working on) isn’t working, let it go. Come back tomorrow and try again.
  2. All writing counts. Whether it is a journal entry, a scene of your WIP, or a to-do list. Give yourself credit for facing the page.
  3. If the work you have in front of you refuses to cooperate, change the scenery. This change of scenery can be as simple as grabbing a pen and writing longhand or as vigorous as going for a walk. Your brain will thank you for the change.
  4. Do one thing every day to step closer to your goal. Take baby steps if you must. Read a few pages in a writing book or a scene (or two) in a book you admire. Peruse Pinterest and pin a few ideas. Cut out interesting articles from magazines or newspapers. The idea is to keep the mind flowing creatively even if the words won’t come.
  5. Sometimes you need a good ‘bitch’ session. Regardless of whether you choose the screen or paper, write down all the reasons you hate writing that day or the issues with the world. The benefits are twofold. All that negative energy gets out of your head, and you can look at your world with a clear head. And, you’ve put words on paper (see lesson #1).

While I have goals I want to accomplish each day, and I recommend that everyone have them, I’ve learned to give myself a break if life becomes too overwhelming. It won’t help to reach your goals if you hate what you do.

What are some of your ‘best practices’?

What is Your Writer’s Kryptonite?

unnamed-3The question this week is ‘What is your writer’s kryptonite’?

Since last week the question was is your writer’s superpower, I suppose this is a good time to talk about what works against that.

Through Gabriella Pereira’s Writer’s Superpower quiz, I discovered that my superpower is Survivor, someone who overcomes adversity.

Though I’ve always known what my kryptonite is, I still struggle to deal with it.

In writing, the goal is to put your character up a tree and throw stones at them to see how they react. In fact, writers create trauma in their characters. And, if I am writing with a survivor superpower, then, in fact, I am traumatizing an already traumatized character.

Yeah, me!

The interesting thing is that this is what makes a good story.

Which leads into my kryptonite.


What is the basis for trauma? It is fear. My superpower and my kryptonite go together well.

Being afraid that something worse is going to happen to us. I tend to be nice to my characters which creates weak writing.

Too often what happens in our real life carries over to the page. It is interesting to me how much my superpower and my kryptonite are connected, and how each of those is connected to real life.

I was curious about fear and went to my trusty “Flip Dictionary” by Barbara Ann Kipfer. If you don’t have this book, it is a good one to have on your bookshelf. The Flip Dictionary won’t necessarily tell you the definition, but it will give you the phrases and the words that subject means

For instance, courage (which was the first word I chose that was opposite fear, though I’m not sure if it truly is) has three entries:

Courage (page 155): audacity, backbone, boldness, braveness, bravery, chin up, daring, etc.

There are nearly 20 words for courage, and that is only the first entry.

There is also a listing for an entry for courage from alcohol and courageous which has nearly as many words as courage itself.

Fear, on the other hand, has almost an entire page. On page 243 of the book, the top half of the page is devoted to types of fear. Did you know that the fear of lawyers is called ipsophobia? The list includes 53 other types of fear.

Also included are 17 entries on fear.

Fear: affright, agitation, alarm, anxiety, apprehension, awe, concern, consternation, dismay, etc.

In light of recent events, fear is a virulent infection throughout our lives.

How can any of this change?

“The only way out is through.”

I’m taking this to be my mantra, probably for the rest of my life. The only way to overcome fear is to face them. Facing your fears is difficult, and I’ve found that when I’ve dealt with one, another, even more, insidious issue takes its place.

So, the mantra. Each day, getting up and facing those things that scare you the most is an act of courage.

dandelion-705660_1280Courage isn’t the opposite of fear, yet they go hand in hand. There is a quote, and I will probably ruin it here but says something like “courage isn’t the absence of fear, courage is being afraid and doing it anyway.”

There is strength in fear, the question is, will that strength be used to stay back and stay safe or will the strength be in finding the courage to push through?