Creativity (& Life) Can Be A Messy Process

I love a good movie about the creative genius. They struggle, hit the EUREKA! moment, and then ride away into the sunset of fame and fortune.

It feels so neat and tidy, like the way creativity should work. But we all know that’s how things go in the rarest of cases and usually after long intervals of frustration.

I’ve written about being okay with okay, then maybe becoming great, and I’d even go as far as to say this is true about anything you want to do in life. It’s just not going to go as planned. Even when you are a world renowned author.

Consider this sentence written to a publisher from someone considered to be one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

“It has lost my favor, and I have no idea what to do with it.”

Who was this writer? JRR Tolkien. What was he talking about? The Lord of the Rings, after working on it for months. He also said this after aching over a bit of chapter one:

“it is difficult to find anything new in that world.”

We nearly lost Frodo, Aragorn, and the White City.

In her book Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the InklingsDiana Pavlac Glyer reminds us that creativity is messy and that keeping that in mind is helpful:

The fact is, creativity itself is a messy business. We want to think of it as linear and efficient, but in actuality, it is full of false starts, dead ends, long hours, setbacks, discouragement, and frustrations. Knowing that it works this way can help us be more patient with our own untidy processes.

If you’ve run into a roadblock and are beginning to consider that you are not creative, please remember that it’s not linear. It’s not easy. It’s full of long hours, setbacks and struggle of all sorts.

But keep moving. Do the next thing. Focus on the process not what your work is now. Judge it when you are done, then do it better next time, and the next.

The quotations contained in this blog regarding The Lord of the Rings were taken from  Tolkien: A Biography pages 210-211 by Humphrey Carpenter.

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Favorite Holiday Reads

Snow has fallen in piles over the last few weeks in southern Michigan. We had an ice storm. Power outages. It was a cold and white Christmas.

As winter comes and snow falls my mind wanders to certain writers, books, and characters.

Michigan Winter
Michigan Winter

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes pacing his study on Baker Street while glancing out the window at the bleak snow covered London streets comes to mind.

I think of curious Lucy Pevensie walking through the columns of fur coats in a wardrobe when she suddenly hears her feet crunch on the powdery snow of wintry Narnia in The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Anything that has to do with Charles Dickens. The Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and of course, A Christmas Carol.

And lastly, and most importantly, chapter 2 (NIV translation) in the Gospel of Luke telling of Christ’s Birth.

It’s not often I get in a reading mood. More often than not I’m in a writing mood. But now I want nothing more than a cup of peppermint tea and a nice steady snowfall coupled with a blanket and my comfortable couch illuminated by the white Christmas tree lights.

So readers, I turn to you. What sort of books, authors, and characters do you think of during this time of year?

Thank you in advance for your comments below.

Cheers,

Bob