Managing your creativity is one of the difficult parts about being a writer. Now this may sound like an odd concept because most people view creativity as something that we react to. We often describe inspiration as something that strikes, is fleeting, it rarely comes when we want it to. There seems to be so much waiting around that It’s no wonder that Greek mythology described inspiration as a bunch of fickle spirits called called muses.
While creativity may seem like a passive process, it really isn’t. When writing is your business, you really can’t wait around for inspiration or else you might be flat broke. It’s the worst feeling in the world to sit down to write and inspiration is nowhere near your computer, but that should never deter you from attempting to write anyway.
Creativity is an active process that needs stimulation and proper direction to surface. To put it another way, the muse does not reward the writer that simply waits around for her. She rewards the writer that seeks her out and wants to put her to work.
Two sides to the Coin
Creativity becomes necessary when we are challenged to do something. We turn to it when there are problems that need to be solved and we create space for it when we are totally focused on finding a solution.
When writing fiction, finding creative solutions to narrative problems both large and small is the biggest challenge. On a small scale the hardest part is writing scenes that are coherent and flow well. That requires me to solve problems that have to do with point of view, believable dialogue and proper description. On a larger level it’s plotting the story so that all these disparate scenes form a coherent narrative.
In both of these cases I’m challenged to find solutions to the many obstacles that get in the way of good writing. In this context, inspiration and being creative is when you are so focused on solving these particular issues that you begin to work through them on instinct. You know exactly what you are doing and how to do it without much thought on the matter
Creativity needs space to operate. It require you to allow room for solutions and new ideas to flow through. Often the challenge is keeping your inner space clear enough to be inspired. If you’re worried or distracted about something, then you are crowding out creativity.
There is such a thing as creating too much space for creativity. I’m the type of writer that gets easily absorbed in my work. When the muse strike, she comes in a flood that won’t ever leave me alone until it’s down on the page. I can get so absorbed in a concept or idea that it consumes all of my focus.
Until that idea is written down and articulated in some way, I can be very distracted and often lose touch with what is going on around me. If I’m not careful, a single piece of writing can take over my life to the point where other important projects can fall by the wayside.
Managing your creativity is essential to being successful. Creativity can become unwieldy when you can’t put down the Muse for a while and focus on things that are equally important to your writing life.
Blogging went on a two week hiatus because an idea for a short story took hold and simply would not let go. It’s now completed and in the editing process, but it made me realize that working this way isn’t efficient.
The flip side of this is not creating enough space for yourself to be creative. There are the people that wait their entire lives for inspiration to come and often never get around to starting a creative project. Or they ride the initial momentum then burn out before they even get to the finish line.
People like this can wait around their entire lives before ever starting that book, poem or painting. Often, they don’t schedule time to do their art and let themselves be swept away by other things that are “more important” than the creative project they hope to finish.
Striking a Balance
Creativity rewards active people. It lends itself to those who seek to use it and becomes most effective for those who know how to manage it.
The first step to doing this is to set the edges of all the projects that you have. You can’t apply your creativity to something if you really don’t know what you are doing. Think about all the steps necessary to accomplish a goal. Be specific, make sure to write them down and review them as much as possible.
Creating space for creativity also means knowing when you’ve started and when you’ve finished. The Muse is more likely to visit if she knows you will be working at 6 a.m. every morning to finish a short story due by Sunday.
The second step is to be aware of all your commitments so you do not neglect any one aspect of your life. Disappearing off the face of the planet for long periods of time simply because a single project took over your life is not a healthy balance.
Know when to put down the pen and work on something else. Make sure that you are still taking the time to properly deal with other issues aside from writing that allow you to be successful like planning, market research and maintaining your social media presence.
Third is to make sure that you are always in the moment. Worry, fear, doubt and distraction are not proper places for creativity to show up. If you were thorough in defining your goals for a project and you’re clear about how you are going to deal with all the other commitments that surround your writing life, then you’ve done much of the work to clear your inner space and allow creativity to come through.
Realize that obsessive focus on the end goal is not a good thing either. If you are constantly thinking about the end of a project rather than the step you are taking at that particular moment then that tends to choke off creativity. Remember that creativity thrives on being active and in the present. If you are worried about something in the past or obsess about the end goal to the point where you neglect the present then you leave no room to be creative.