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.

Advertisements

The Healthy Writer

I walked through the doors of the local Tim Horton’s to meet my friend Josh for a night of writing bliss. Before I even sat down, or even said a word, he glanced up at me then looking taken aback.

“You got sleep last night didn’t you?” He asked. I nodded affirmatively.

Probably not the appropriate amount of sleep

I moved three weeks ago. My daughters were not sleeping (and still aren’t) for a variety of reasons, and I was spent on house projects, and lack of sleep. Through all of this I barely wrote. I ate terrible food, (insert your fast food kryptonite here) did not exercise (I was sanding wood floors and redoing my kitchen, however) and slept little.

Which brings me back to Josh’s comment at the beginning of the post. That night I wrote well. I put in eight hundred words on my novel, and when I reviewed them the next day they were better than I expected. This made me stop and think.

What would happen to my writing if I slept well all of the time? What would happen if I was a healthy writer?

I am not a health nut. I am not a person who obsesses over portion sizes and calories. But I can tell the difference in my body when I eat junk for a while and when I eat fresh produce and drink the proper amount of water. I don’t have caffeine head aches. I don’t have an upset stomach.

What would happen to my writing if I ate well all of the time? How would that impact my writing?

an Apple a day…

A month ago I ran a 5K race. It was very satisfying. I believe that the struggle of a sport or 5K builds motivation in other areas of life. Also, running, while sounding torturous, can be fun. It also gives me time to collect my thoughts and not be distracted, providing a great opportunity to mull over a particular part of my story.

What would happen to my writing if I exercised regularly?

These three things are not imperative to the writer. But, I believe being healthy may help me be a better writer. The master sleuth lived on opium and liquor, and the occasional embalming fluid. I wonder how he would have functioned had he ate fresh vegetables and got the proper amount of sleep?

Cheers,

Bob