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Creativity & The Writer

Preparing the Foundation: Opening the Door to More Creativity In Your Writing
by Bev Walton-Porter

When did you first realize you'd lost your child-like sense of creativity? More important, how long did it take you to regain it? When you did regain a sense of creativity, how much were you able to retrieve? Since most of you are active writers, and the rest are probably "closet" writers, it may be safe to say that you've reclaimed more of your creativity than the average person on the street. Unless that person happens to be working in another of the artistic disciplines, such as art, dance, music, etc. However, although you have reclaimed a large portion of your creativity from the clutches of left-brained, linear society, you still may have a long way to go in cultivating and expanding your bountiful booty of poetic beauty.

Let's start at the beginning. Do you recall any times when your creative side was actively stunted by the admonitions of an authority figure? Perhaps a teacher or a parent. Now, I'm not bashing parents or teachers in general because both have played a part in my development as a writer, but often it's some sort of authority/adult figure which first quashes our urge to create something new and untried. Children are incredibly imaginative and, if left alone, come up with some perfectly brilliant ideas. But once they begin school, grow up, and enter the daily grind of the workforce, their one-brilliant ideas become muted in an attempt to fit in with the set boundaries of society. Some children are determined not to let go of their creativity, and so they pursue artistic disciplines with tenacity. The majority, however, are urged to spend their education dollars on more "valuable, worthwhile" pursuits such as law, medicine, and business, to name a few. These are thought as more reliable disciplines of vocation. Somewhere along the way, Liberal Arts became dirty words -- something a student majored in until he or she "found his true calling". But what if the student's "true calling" always resided in the arts?

I don't know when you discovered yourself as a writer or even began to label yourself as one (which, I might add, can become a very stressful thing indeed -- the first question is always, "Oh, really? How many BOOKS have you had published?") but for myself, although I'd written all through school, I didn't begin to identify myself as A WRITER until after I was married and had my first child. Perhaps I knew that deep inside I'd always been a writer, but I dared not expose that truth for fear of criticism.

It's amazing to me that a golfer is one who golfs -- not merely one who is a member of the PGA. An average Joe who seeks out the golf course on most weekends and some weekdays is known as an "avid golfer." But those who seek out the pen or computer keyboard are known as "aspiring writers". Why? To BE a writer, you WRITE -- plain and simple. If you golf, you are a golfer. You are NOT known as an "aspiring golfer." Why the distinction? It's perception, my friends. Writing is perceived as the domain of the highly intelligent and naturally talented. Natural talent does help, but it does not make a writer. To write, one must WRITE. As far as intelligence, I don't buy that, either. Writers are MADE, not simply born. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you do not mix that God-given talent with discipline and perseverence, it doesn't matter one whit.

So, step one. To OPEN the door to more creativity in your writing, you must first WRITE. Go ahead and read your books on writing, attend conferences, and join writers' groups, but do not forget the main ingredient -- the writing itself! And when I urge you to write, I urge you to write with heart, not merely with one hand on Strunk and White and the other on your pen. Put good ole S & W away for a bit and loosen the noose of your internal editor. Don't be afraid to write drivel. Don't be afraid to mess up the page. Don't be fearful of what you'll produce if you simply sit down and begin to write without prior preparation and cerebral primping. This is where the root of all creativity starts! You can grab your handy dandy style and editing manuals later, my friends. For now, OPEN the door to that innate sense of word imagery and creation by allowing your mind to swirl around pictures and symbols and channel them down into your hand and out through your fingers. Go ahead, try it -- you won't hurt yourself, I promise! :)

Step two -- READ. Some writers claim they don't read when they're writing because it interferes with the work in progress. As I've heard time and time again, you must FILL the bucket before emptying it. Okay, so you're penning a fiction book in a specific genre -- romance, horror, Science Fiction, etc. You aren't limited to the same genre you're working on -- in fact, it probably will do you better to read works from other genres. You never know what you might discover -- what might spark an idea which will translate into your current WIP (work in progress). If you write non-fiction, read some poetry. There are ways to spice up your non-fiction pieces and still keep them non-fiction. You've got all the information you must report to your reader, but the success of the end product all comes down to the delivery!

Step three -- EXPLORE. And by that, I mean explore other artistic disciplines, either literally or vicariously. In order to nurture and grow your creativity to its greatest height, you must feed your Muse with art, literature, music, dance, and culture of every kind. Visit a museum, take a hike alone in the mountains, take in a play, or simply watch your local Arts channel on cable if you have to. Do you have an art fair that visits your city every year? Have you ever graced its entrances? If not, give it some thought. Creativity does not thrive in a vacuum. Since you're connected to the Internet, you have a prime opportunity to check out loads of images from museums all around the world -- all from the comfort of your home! I recently discovered a site devoted to an artist whose works strike a strange, discomforting chord in me -- Salvador Dali. Something about his work resonates and even sends me a bit off kilter. Another artist, Norwegian Edvard Munch, created a work entitled "The Scream". This piece of work is disturbing, but remains entrancing in its own way. On a deeper level, it connects with the darker side of my Inner Artist.

In order to prepare the foundation to support your growing creativity, you must WRITE more, READ more, and EXPLORE more. WRITE without boundaries -- realize you won't always create a masterpiece, but in order to fashion a magnificent gem you must first chip away the impurities. READ across literary lines -- it is imperative to know your genre and intended market, but your education shouldn't stop there. The more variety of works you read, the more fertile your imagination will become. EXPLORE beyond your artistic limitations -- don't fence yourself in by concentrating solely on the written word. Discovery of other mediums of expression heightens your sensitivity and expands your awareness. The end result will translate into a deeper, more complex side to your writing.

Until next column, step gently into the waters of experimentation in an effort to tap into your hidden, creative core. As writers, often our perceived boundaries are fortified most diligently by our own selves. Break free from misconceptions and years of useless admonitions. Allow your mind to roam. And wherever it takes you, come along for the ride willingly. The destination will be well worth the strange, wonderful trip.

NEXT COLUMN - Feeding the Urge: Books and Magazines Strictly for the Muse Within.

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