In the new year, I want to practice creativity more intentionally. As Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” As the quote suggests, creativity is strengthened by use, just as our bodies are strengthened the more we use them. My creativity atrophies when I don’t intentionally exercise it. A couple of days ago, I googled “writing quotes” and discovered two great lists that have provoked me to think a lot about what traits I have that encourage creativity and what traits I need to exercise in order to develop my creativity further. Here is one list, from creativesomething.net:
1. Confidence: ability to question without fear
2. Observation: seeing ideas
3. Humility: knowing you don’t know everything
4. Mindfulness: thinking on how to think
5. Curiosity: exploring and experimenting
6. Resourcefulness: something to tinker with
7. Energy: to explore and tinker
8. Action: not just thinking, but doing
Of this list, I feel that I am very strong in traits 2-6 but, as Leonardo DaVinci said, “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” The list in this sense is cumulative: I must begin with confidence in my abilities, accumulate the material that I will use creatively, and then DO it(7 and 8). My problem is that I’ve always liked the research more than the writing 🙂 I love exploring, learning, collecting ideas. What I need is more of #1: I need to be more confident in my abilities, more willing to take a stab at things, less worried that I’ll fail. The perfectionist in me wants my first draft to be magnificent, for all my words to be publishable. But, as Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is garbage.” Fear of producing slop too often prevents me from producing anything at all, and thus I fail at 7 and 8.
Though I know in my head that nearly all authors admit that their early drafts are ugly and embarrassing, I am awed by their final products and can’t really believe that those words didn’t fall fully formed from their pens. Sometimes I don’t know how to move from crappy draft to beautiful language and it’s intimidating to try.
But I like the word “tinker.” It suggests playing and making small, progressive efforts.Trying this, trying that. Not letting myself be overwhelmed with the whole shebang. My medium is paper, and paper can be torn out of notebooks, wadded up, thrown away. No one need see my pathetic efforts. Drafts can be scaffolds; art can generate ideas. Success comes from first seeing what fails.
So the challenge for me will be to accumulate the energy to write more often; hopefully this will breed both confidence and a stronger creativity.