The nature of creativity and a case for not having a plan

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 0 , ,


Occasionally, I have an idea overload. I think of ten awesome ideas all at once and write (or at least start) five posts I am excited about on a Saturday morning. This is almost guaranteed to be followed by what I might be tempted to call a dry spell.

Just when I think to myself, “I’ve made it! I am now a person who is constantly flowing with ideas, just as I always dreamed!” I become a person who literally cannot think of one topic I could say anything about somewhere in the next 72 hours.

But I am learning that is just the nature of creativity, and writing. Sometimes you need a break, but most of the time you just need to soldier on.

To be perfectly honest, I wish I could tell myself that a lack of ideas means a break is needed. And sometimes that is the case. But it just so happens that blogging has forced me a time or two (or 249) to write when I don’t feel inspired to do so and I have come to realize an annoying truth: working hard produces results. And writing when you don’t feel like it is sometimes a wonderful exercise in being a perfectly honest writer. In fact, you might be scared by the results more often than pleased with them.

But keep going.

You don’t need a plan. In fact, having a plan kind of defeats the creative purpose: to see what happens; to let the creative process guide you and take you to places that are better than what you had planned. If you must have a plan in order to begin (I usually do), hold on to it very loosely and be willing to cut ties with it at a moment’s notice. Even if you feel like a traitor. It will be for everyone’s good.

What I mean is that one thing leads to another, and unless you have an infinite mind, you could never predict how all the seemingly random dots connect. You simply pick one dot and follow it. Follow it faithfully until you come across another dot that is interesting to you, but you don’t see how it connects to dot #1. But then you come across dot #3 and dots one and 2 look kind of familiar. Oh boy! Keep following the dots, and they will make a picture in the end. It might not be a great picture, though, because pictures connect to other pictures, too. Maybe your first picture just turns out to be of a toe nail. But, maybe in 50 years, you will see that you have been slowly painting an entire leg. Patience is a virtue for a reason.

For me, blogging is creating lots of little pictures of little toenails. (Sure, you can quote me on that) It is not an end-all, just as any kind of creative pursuit should not have a final destination.

Being creative can be scary at times. But the more creative you are, the more brave you become. I believe that. It is hard to pull things out of thin air–ideas, especially. I know, because I have tried plenty of times. But when you sit down, feeling like your brain is a dry, withered lump of grey matter, you may find that after banging your head on the table a few times, an idea pops up through the crusty folds. It may seem trivial at first, but tomorrow it will connect you to a dot. And we know that dots are promising. Follow the dots, and don’t forget to write them down. Or paint them. Or photograph them. Whatever you do, just keep clinging to them.

Now I am dying to know: do you wait until you feel inspired to sit down to write or do something creative? Or do you sit down with the goal of producing something no matter how uninspired you may feel?

Can you tell a difference in your work when you are inspired or uninspired? Do you find that life is brighter when you are pursuing something creative?

Also, How to Kill Creativity

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