Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nurturing your creativity

"If I have a poem to write, I need to write that poem, whether it will sell or not. I need to create what needs to be created. I cannot plan a career to unfold in a sensible direction dictated by cash flow and marketing strategies. Those things are fine, but too much attention to them can stifle the child within, who gets scared and angered when continually put off...

Since my artist is a child, the natural child within, I must make some concessions to its sense of timing. Some concessions does not mean total irresponsibility. What it means is letting the artist have quality time, knowing that if I let it do what it wants to it will cooperate with me in doing what I need to do...

As an artist, I must be very careful to surround myself with people who nurture my artist, not people who try to overly domesticate it for my own good.... As an artist, I do not need to be rich, but I do need to be richly supported. I cannot allow my emotional and intellectual life to stagnate or the work will show it. My life will show it. My temperament will show it. If I don't create, I get crabby...

Creativity is oxygen for our souls. Cutting off our creativity makes us savage. We react like we are being choked.. Creativity is a spiritual practice. It is not something that can be perfected, finished, and set aside. It is my experience that we reach plateaus of creative attainment only to have a certain restlessness set in." Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way

Being an author can sometimes stifle your creativity after you become published. There is the temptation to write what sells and sacrifice the creative side. You can get so caught up with the quest to sell one book, market it so sales are good so you can get another contract, that you fail to nurture the creativity that urged you to first write.

It's important to nurture the creative spirit, the spark inside you that wants to express something that may not be practical in terms of the market or sales or in a goal to get published. Like Julia Cameron said, you don't do this to the extent of being irresponsible. But it IS a good idea to nurture your artist within, and write just for the sake of exercising creativity.

There are all manner of obstacles that can block creativity. I know some readers, and some authors, say that you can learn from a negative review. Yeah, well, maybe. But if you read a negative review of your book and start corraling your inner artist based on what the reviewer said, you end up hurting the work. You stifle your creativity, and that can be extremely damaging.

The trick is finding balance. Does this mean if you have a successful career as an author, you forgo what you're writing now that is selling to write only books that nurture your inner artist? No, of course not. But it does mean that if you are prompted to write something that you are dying to write, to create, you indulge your muse. Locking it all up damns the flow of creativity and can make you become frustrated.

This is why I say that everything you write shouldn't be targeted merely for publication. You need to give your creativity the oxygen it needs to breathe, and even if the result is something that won't advance your career or your chances of publication.

Nurture the artist within and you will rediscover the joy of creating again.


Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

Just catching up on your blog, Bonnie, and I couldn't agree more. I like when my books do well because it means that I can continue to write for a living, but if I put all my effort into making the "numbers" then the creativity dies.

This year, I was late on a couple deadlines because of personal issues, and when I turned in the last book and actually had breathing room, what did I do?

Started writing!! Freely, without worry about "will it sell?" "will anyone like it?". It was just pure creativity. It was such a relief to go back to writing for the sake of writing, to entertain myself, to fulfill my inner muse or inner child or whatever. It was how I relaxed from deadline pressure.

I'm now channeling that wash of pure creativity into something that my publisher can sell, but there would be nothing there if I didn't nurture the creativity in the first place.

I definitely can't write a book by filling in the spaces (like paint by number). I have to love the stories and characters or I can't make myself sit down and finish. Not for nothin' (including money). I have no discipline. :-)

Thanks for the post! It's such a good point.

Bonnie Vanak said...

You're welcome Jennifer...and you are one of the writers who inspire me when I think about how important it is to be creative!