Here’s what humans have done with the literally awesome gift of creativity: removed it from our souls, turned it into a product and sold it back to ourselves. No really. What a bunch of fuckwits we are.
Somewhere along the line we have convinced ourselves that creativity isn’t something that’s inherent in all of us, that it isn’t the fundamental basis of our superior evolutionary intelligence, or that it isn’t the thing that makes us utterly unique in the universe (so far). We separate out science subjects and creative subjects, tell our children that only sciences are worthwhile because money and jobs, and then, as adults, marvel at the creativity of storytellers and wonder what astonishing magic they used. Then we turn to books about creativity, listen to uplifting talks about being creative, and live our lives according to out-of-context quotes set against moody backgrounds of landscapes.
In this respect, the Internet is Peak Bullshit, and as Thomas Frank so gloriously puts it “the literature of creativity was a genre of surpassing banality”.
The fact is, everyone is creative. Without fail. Without exception. You are necessarily creative; it’s how you were designed. But! And here’s the big but (snarf, butts): you have to Do The Work. Which leads us very nicely on to CLICKBAIT HEADLINE POINT NUMBER ONE:
There’s no movie montage inspirational bollocks
You really do have to Do The Work. All this stuff you’re reading about being creative, it’s like seeing a car crash and vowing you’ll be a more careful driver from now on. Half an hour later you’re picking your nose while doing 85mph down the lovely new wiggly bit of the A23, just like everyone else. You might read an inspirational quote and be uplifted and decide to change your life. But 30 seconds later you’re still wanking into cups watching Pokémon porn while your typewriter remains un-tippety-tapped. You might watch a TED talk and come away feeling teary and inspired, but that’s 20 minutes you could have spent actually writing. None of this is to say that you shouldn’t seek out beautiful and informative things to enrich and nourish your creative brain. Of course you should. But at the same time, if all that enriching and nourishing doesn’t lead to the final goal of Doing The Work then you’re in wrong set of the Venn Diagram of People Who Say They’re Writing Novels against People Who Are Actually Writing Novels.
You only get good at something by doing it
I accept this may sound obvious but sometimes people need a prod with the Bloody Obvious stick. Years ago, when I decided I wanted to retrain as a journalist but was still miserably making my living from building websites, I would spend evening after evening moaning to my flatmate that I didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting any freelance journalism work and when would I get my break and oh it’s all so unfair. One evening, she said “How many pitches did you send to editors today?” and I said, in shock, “Oh. None.” You only win the lottery if you play the lottery. You only finish your novel by writing a novel. Do or do not, there is no try etcetera and so on.
It all just makes you feel crap about yourself
“Oh look at all these stories of wonderful creative clever people doing wonderful creative clever things and I’m just sat here in my pants eating chocolate cornflakes from a plastic tub looking at the same wall on Facebook I looked at ten minutes ago and not doing creative clever wonderful things.” That’s me, most evenings before I turn off the endless stream of narcissistic wittering and high contrast photos of fish and chips that is Facebook. Then I write something and I feel great. Or maybe not always great, but I feel like I’ve ACCOMPLISHED something. Know this: no great work of art was ever created by someone looking at a pixelated picture of a pile of stones by the sea and reading a shonky quote about living in the moment.
You risk overthinking
And overthinking is the death knell of your confidence to get off your bottomly area and Do The Work. Don’t bombard yourself with information. Don’t worry about finding a creative life, whatever the fuck one of those is. You don’t need to read one more blog about the juxtaposition of character and plot. You need to write your character and see what plot unfolds. You need to write your plot and ask if your character fits in. In the immortal words of all exasperated parents everywhere: stop faffing about. Just get on with it.
Whatever it is you are doing, it is already perfectly brilliant
<cue fanfare for the uplifting ending>A little story for you, or as we call them at Writers’ HQ HQ, einen anecdoten für sie Frau Writinger. Moments before writing this blog I was WhatsApping the Almighty Jo, and I said I wanted to make a totally creepy altar to Chuck Wendig whose blogs on writing regularly make us both snort. What followed was fairly standard stalker chatter and then Jo said I should be careful because I don’t want to be accused of nicking his style, and I said NO I FUCKING WELL DON’T. “My own style is perfectly adequate, thanks.” I actually said that. I’ve never fucking said that before. But *epiphany lights twinkly twink* it’s true, and it’s true for you too. Whatever you’re working on now is just getting you one step closer to the place you’re going. It’s all good, man. And I think we should all say it out loud together, this most British of affirmations, and eventually we might start to believe it. So, holding hands, on the count of three…. One… deux… trenta percenta:
THE THING I’M DOING IS PERFECTLY ADEQUATE, THANKS.
Now, put the fucking inspirational quotes down, pick the notebook up, and get the fark on with it.
Got it? Good.
(oh but you can share this one…)