Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On Finding and Harnessing Your Creativity
The Greeks were the first to label what it means to be creative. The muse, they called it, because the sensation of creativity–the experience of creating–seems to originate outside our own corporeal forms.

We feel passive in the process of creating, like vessels, or mediums, for the work of some external force. I hear myself saying this kind of thing all the time: "The story just wrote itself!" Our fingers touch the keyboard and they create of their own volition.

But let's get real here. There's no muse. I mean, all right, maybe you believe in that kind of thing–ghosts, spirits, the supernatural–that's cool. I'm not trying to harsh your buzz, or diss that belief system. All I'm saying is this: creativity comes from inside. It comes from you. And when we give the muse credit for our creativity, what we're really doing is avoiding responsibility for it.

"The muse didn't come to me today," is really easy to say. 

"I'm just not feeling it," might even follow.

So, while you're sloughing off the blame for that lack of fingers-on-keyboard action that happened earlier today on some non-existent demi-god, I invite you to watch this pretty rad video about the requirements for creativity:

Is it really a muse, then, who inspires us? Are we are simply vessels for her creations? Or are there other factors at work in the process of finding and harnessing our creativity?

The folks who did this experiment suggest one essential ingredient to creativity:

1. Time.

The longer we're given to work on an idea, the more magic we can make with it. That seems simple enough.

But what's also being suggested here is:

2. Experimenting.

Your first idea isn't always the best one. (For me, it rarely is--what I end up hardly resembles where I started.) When you have more time to work on something, you also have more time to scrap and start over; to back up and refine; to modify and filter and try things out you might never try when your workspace and work-time is more limited.

And this is my favorite. This idea is one suggested to me a long time ago, when I first became a graphic designer:

3. Limitations. 

Sometimes it's the restrictions on a project that brings out the creative individual in us. This video provides a good example: the kids don't get to just draw whatever they want. They're given a specific task: take this clock-shaped thing, and go to town.

How often have you looked at a blank page and been intimidated by it? "I could do anything," you think, trying to feel liberated, trying to imagine what you could accomplish with that blank page. But instead, the cursor blinks.

And blinks.

What if, instead, you have a prompt? Some words of inspiration; a specific guideline to follow. Isn't it easier to put down those first words, and corral your thoughts into some kind of sense that may, eventually, make its way onto the keyboard?

So give yourself time. Time enough to listen for ideas, time enough to process them, time enough to write them down.

Don't be afraid to experiment, or throw things away. Try starting over. Try something new.

And if you need lines to color inside, then find them. Make them. Set them for yourself. Exchange a prompt with a friend; imitate a story or style you enjoy; breathe life into an old concept.

Remember: don't let some lady with crazy hair and a toga take all the credit for your hard work!

Read more of Kiersi's writing advice on her blog, The Prolific Novelista, or follow her on Twitter at @kiersi.


  1. Love the way you analyze your world in creative ways...

    1. It's the only way for it to make any sense!

  2. Honestly, the 'the story just wrote itself' thing has never happened to me either. I tend to struggle a little with writing it all down, then through the revisions. Guess this is why my progress is slower than other writer friends, but I'm still okay with this ~ as long as the work is productive and good.

    1. Hey! As long as you're getting the work done and it comes out good, who cares? You're your own muse, Claudine :D