Ep 211: Be More Creative to Enjoy Your Best Writing Life: Pillar Two
Creativity as a pillar of the writing life? It’s a no-brainer. Creativity and writing go together like pencil and paper.
Writers practice creativity each and every day.
But when we think about creative writing and a creative writer, our minds may turn toward MFA programs. After all, that’s where you study creative writing.
I hate the potential implication—that other kinds of writing are not creative.
Who’s a Creative Writer?
Creative writing instructors and programs offer teaching and training that nudge students toward an approach—a mindset and practice—different from that of writers who focus more on, say, blogging or marketing. Certainly MFA students gain skills that prepare them for a rewarding, challenging writing life—one that matches their goals to write and produce literary work.
But I believe those who write corporate brochures and articles about succulents are also creative writers, even if they didn’t graduate with an MFA or land their work in respected literary journals. Bloggers and copywriters can also practice a rewarding, challenging creative writing life that matches their goals.
When you write, you’re creating.
If you write, you create.
Thus, creativity is a pillar of the writing life.
On the flip side, all writers—even published authors who have completed MFA programs—are capable of producing somewhat stagnant, occasionally derivative, work.
We don’t want that.
So how can any writer—all writers—practice creativity? How can we be more creative to enjoy our best writing lives?
Entire books have been written about the topic, so I can’t tackle everything. But here are a few thoughts to get us started.
What Is Creativity?
First, it might help to establish a definition of creativity, but that’s harder than you might think.
Researchers and experts and writers have been trying to pin it down, and no one seems to agree. I haven’t located one single definition (unless we would turn to Merriam-Webster). What I’ve spotted are words and phrases tossed around that we can consider:
originality (this comes up a lot)
surprise (which we talked about regarding curiosity)
authenticity (important for writers to practice)
discovery (including making connections)1
Whether these words reflect the process of creating or the finished product itself—that is, the thing created—they give us a hint of what it means to be creative: what it means to create.
Learning from Other Creatives
I’ve written before of how we can learn from the greats, studying writers we admire, even copying passages to learn techniques. We may find inspiration in their creative process and integrate elements into our own space and our own routines.
But why limit ourselves to learning from other writers? We may work in the world of words, but we can learn from other domains:
Writers can learn from the creativity of scientists to continually ask questions, experiment, dig deeper, analyze, draw conclusions, and try again.
Writers can learn from visual artists how color, form, and texture engage the senses and drive decisions.
Writers can learn from actors how working with the constraints of the stage and the script, we can make numerous choices that affect a performance and its effect on the audience.
Julia Cameron’s Artist Dates encourage outings to step out of our writing hovels and step into other spaces, whether a museum or yarn shop, an antique emporium or international grocery store.
From this new set of sensations and input, we build a network of possible connections, with one idea linking to another and another to form a new, novel concept that sidesteps the standard, mainstream mindset to discover original thoughts all our own as we become more creative.
We not only learn from these other domains, we also amass new images and sensory experiences we can drop into our projects, deepening or expanding what we might have pulled toget…