The Creative Writer

Books in the BNF Bookshop

In this post, I will share some ideas on creativity and getting around to WRITING!

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As any would-be creative writer knows, writing is hard. Writing things which someone else will read afterwards is HARD. Imagining your book/ short story/ article as a finished thing is easy; so, to a lot of people, is sitting down and starting it. However, you get past that initial creative period where you shine, and into that bit where you have to actually slow down and put in some hard work, that’s when things can get difficult.

Worst of all is … finishing. The idea of ‘finishing’ a project – of telling yourself that this is it, that this is what you’ll show to the world, that this piece of writing (or art, or film) you’re holding in your hands is good enough as it is – this idea terrifies many of us. This scary, insurmountable territory of ‘finishing’ is why many a good manuscript, many a good drawing or first student film, never leaves your bedside drawer.

Ewa Szypula Balzac quotation

‘Must bend over the white paper all the more, and cover it in ink – a very sad occupation’. Honor√© de Balzac

Luckily, lots of people who have created art and who have ‘finished’ a product (although they know as well as you and I do that it never really feels that way) have also left guides and road maps for the rest of us to use. I’m talking about the wonderful people who, having struggled with creativity and found it insanely hard, afterwards channelled their energies into writing about that very process they experienced. Their books often end up labelled as ‘self-help books’; an unhelpful term if ever there was one, for it leads many readers to reject them before they’ve even had a look.

I stumbled on a few of these when I was in a particularly low, creatively blocked period in my life. I can certainly recommend a few favourites; they deserve a big, soppy acknowledgement in the footnotes of my creative life.

The things I have taken away from reading books by people cleverer than me:

  • Focus on starting. If you think too much about finishing a project, it’s possible to become overwhelmed. As Neil Fiore puts it, even the last twenty minutes of your project will essentially be an act of starting. Every time you find yourself thinking ‘I have to finish’, ask yourself, ‘When can I next start?
  • Feed your inner artist. You should have at least one hour in your day where you can play – whether that involves dancing, exercising, reading, or simply mucking around. Neil Fiore suggests taking at least one day off a week without any work – giving you time for relaxation and any small chores you wish to get done around the house. (This advice may sound like common sense to many of us, but to those who try to invest their free time in running a creative business, or those trying to write a novel, this may be an impossible-sounding dream!) Julia Cameron¬†also recommends the idea of taking yourself on an ‘artist date’ – a scheduled couple of hours where you take your inner artist-child out for some quality time together, be it to hunt for vintage treasures at a flea market, buy stickers, or just have a cup of coffee in a cafe. Apparently, the more resistant you feel to this idea of taking some time to yourself (and really protecting that time from other people and their demands), the more important it is that you find this time.
  • And finally, from me: be kind to yourself, and tell yourself nice things. It is so much easier to criticise the beginning stages of a project, pre-emptying the negative reactions you expect from others. In the words of a wonderful teacher whose talk I once attended and whose name I have forgotten: ‘Tell yourself that you would not have gotten this far if you didn’t have some very special gifts’.

Idleness is the normal condition of all artists

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Recommended Reading:

The Now Habit: A Strategic Programme for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play, by Neil Fiore

The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron

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Copyright Ewa Szypula 2016. All right reserved

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