Fear of Creativity
Fear of creativity?
That may sound crazy—I mean, aren't most of us afraid that we aren't creative enough? But over the years, I've learned how prevalent this fear is, and how much we worry about appearing different or unaccepted. Or standing out, God forbid.
Well, I want to encourage you to shift your thinking to how you can write in ways that do just that—make you stand out.
Today, many people write poorly, and that means you can excel with just a little extra effort. In turn, you’ll get new jobs and earn promotions. Or write even better fiction and sell more books. Writing—with a little creativity—can do that for you.
Again, I know a lot of people have trouble with the word creativity, but hear me out. All I’m asking is that you take time to make your writing a little more interesting, to write in a way that people want to read. In the process, you’ll get noticed (in a good way!). As I write in my book Words at Work:
That word—creativity—causes a lot of people a lot of problems. The mere mention of it makes them freeze, something like panic flashing in their eyes. “Oh, I’m not creative,” they say, quick to clear up that misunderstanding, just in case I thought they were capable of writing something more interesting. But I’m not talking about creativity like a giant jolt of electricity that lights up our lives once in a while (though that’s great too). I’m talking about a steady current that feeds us daily. The juice that inspires us to write a successful sales proposal, a persuasive proposal, or an interesting blog. (Page 40.)
And while that's referring to nonfiction writing, the same applies to fiction. You don't have to have the most fantastic story (which is like the giant jolt of electricity). Instead, you need a good story that features a steady current of heartfelt and exciting actions.
Which is how I wrote A Life for a Life. I didn't want a police procedural with 12 body bags and nail-biting tension. I wanted to tell a meaningful story, full of small stories from my past that would pack a big punch. That's what I aimed for, and so far, that's what the reviews confirm. As I wrote, I listened to—and captured, before they disappeared—the creative ideas that swooped through my mind.
Try it. Start small and build your story (either nonfiction or fiction). You don't have to feel inspired or write something wildly different from any story ever told. No one else has your stories—they are unique to you, so build on those. And then edit until you can't stand to read it one more time. OK, that's when you need take a break, however long you need before you're ready to edit some more. Most first drafts aren't all that creative; the good stuff happens when you edit.
Creativity is the best way I know to enliven your life and keep your readers reading. Creativity takes your writing from ho-hum to how-about-that! You’ll communicate your message better, engage your audiences more fully, and brighten your days. In the process, you’ll stand out.
To get you started, try these creative steps:
1. Practice. Writers love to tell this joke: A writer and brain surgeon meet at a cocktail party. The brain surgeon sips his martini and says, “I’m planning to take next summer off and write a book.” The writer nods. “What a coincidence!” she says. “I’m planning to take next summer off and do brain surgery!”
Writing is a profession, just like being an engineer, doctor, or teacher, and it takes time to perfect. Accept the process and keep practicing.
2. Write from your heart. Over the past four decades, writing styles have changed. In fiction, you have a world of genres to choose from, but the same principles of good storytelling still apply. In the workplace, the accepted style of writing has morphed from the stuffy corporate-speak of the ‘80s to the slap-dash texting of the 21st century. A good balance is somewhere in between—a style that is more conversational and personal. Many of us didn’t learn this in school; in fact, conversational writing was frowned on back in the ‘80s, which makes the shift from august to approachable harder for some. And for anyone weaned on texting, the shift to a more accomplished style is just as difficult.
3. Tell tales. Stories are at the heart of fiction and memoirs. They are how you show, rather than tell, qualities about your characters. And stories add punch to nonfiction writing. Through real-life experiences, for example, you offer proof positive that your product/service helps people.
4. Observe. Remove those ear buds, take the bus, walk instead of drive, hang out where people buy your product, listen in the lunchroom, eavesdrop at cafés, go to a library, pay attention. You’ll be amazed at the anecdotes and inspiration you gain for both fiction and nonfiction writing.
5. Capture the gems. Oh, the great ideas I’ve lost because I was sure I’d remember them! Carry slips of paper, buy a small (and refillable) notebook, or record on your cell phone. Don’t assume you’ll remember. (Ideas are ephemeral by nature, and no matter your age, escape back to where they miraculously came from.)
6. Read voraciously. Find works you enjoy, and by osmosis, you’ll become a better writer.
Now you’ve got six ways to write more creatively, so what's stopping you?
Would you like a free copy of the short story that started my fiction-writing career: “A Nose for Murder”? Just sign up below, and I’ll send you your own copy to enjoy. And from time to time, I’ll keep you posted with musings about writing and updates on my sequels to A Life for a Life and other books.