“The creative process is not like a situation where you get struck by a single lighting bolt. You have ongoing discoveries, and there’s ongoing creative revelations. Yes, it’s really helpful to be marching toward a specific destination, but, along the way, you must allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root, and grow.” – Carlton Cuse
“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” – Julia Cameron
“ ‘Romance’ is based on my entire creative process. I fall in love with an idea, obsess over it, isolate myself with it, and when I eventually introduce it to my friends, they all tell me that it’s stupid.” – Chuck Palahniuk
“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.” – Flannery O’Connor
“Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.” – Red Haircrow
Does this happen to you? You’re working on a project. You love doing it and you’re inspired every day by what you’re working on. Even when you’re having a frustrating day, it’s great to be part of the creative process. Then others, knowing that you are doing something creative, send you tips on how to do the work. And that makes you feel irritated. That happened to me the other day. A friend of mine posted something on my wall about writing a novel, which made me feel really irritated. It’s one thing to post it for the general public to read, but I didn’t like that he posted it on my personal wall like I needed help with the project I’m working on. Okay, admittedly, I do need help from time to time but I’m going to seek the help of people who are writers and who understand the personal nature of the writing process.
I find that often the people who are sending me tips, aren’t engaged in the same work I’m doing. That irritates me even more. Who do they think they are telling me how to do my work, when they aren’t working in my field? I begin to engage in mental ego games. I want to tell them to shove their advice in a … well, we won’t go there. Then I begin to get my ego in check and I realize they’re just trying to be supportive. They want to encourage me and be my cheerleaders. Sometimes I find myself getting irritated even when fellow writers send me tips on writing. They believe that everyone should approach writing the same way they do, and they are very didactic about it. Maybe that’s why I dropped out of both writing groups I used to belong to.
It’s a rule in the theatre that an actor never tells another actor how to portray their character. That’s the job of the actor playing the role in collaboration with the director. I feel it should be the same with other forms of artwork. My way of writing isn’t going to be the same as your way. Your way of painting that picture isn’t going to be the same as someone else’s way. The creative process is deeply personal and unique to the artist.
While I was mulling this “helpful” post by my friend, I read a post on Facebook by Diana Gabaldon, author of the hugely popular Outlander series. The other day she wrote about her experiences at writer’s conferences both as a new writer and now as a successful author. She enumerated the ways new writers sabotage themselves by listening to all the advice from the successful writers who present their method for writing at the conferences as THE way to do it. They, the new writers, think they have to write just like she does, or like Dan Brown, or James Patterson, or J. K. Rowling. She was telling how it was for her when she began to write the first in what is now nearly a nine book series. Though she attended writer’s conferences, she didn’t pay attention to anyone’s formula for writing. She took what was helpful, then just started to write and followed where her characters led her. She followed her own instincts. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve gone to only a few writer’s conferences because I didn’t want someone telling me I’m doing it wrong. As far as I’m concerned, there is no right or wrong when it comes to creativity. The few conferences I have attended didn’t really offer much help for me and my process. I’m the only one who can find my inner path to the truth I’m trying to convey.
Having written all of that, I have had fantastically helpful comments from reader and writer friends. But I chose their advice very carefully. The ones I trust don’t try to speak to my process, they only make comments on their reaction to the work I’m creating. They know that writing is a painstakingly slow process and sometimes we can get mired down in all the details of our story and loose track of where we were going with it. We throw unnecessary events and characters into the story and we need one or two helpful people to point out where we’ve gone off track. The people who are the most helpful, are those who point out where the story bogs down, tell me what’s working and encourage me to continue writing.
As for my friends who try to help me, I’m grateful that they are interested in what I’m working on. It’s nice to have cheerleaders encouraging you to keep up the good work. Maybe some of them want me to succeed because if I do, then it’s a sign that they can succeed at making their dreams come true too. When they send me advice, that I don’t really want, I’ll just remember that my ego is the one who is offended. The real me will accept the good wishes of my friends and keep writing.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015