Starting a new workshop at The Writer’s Center (and speaking at a book festival next weekend) has me rethinking the writing process. It's been a while since my piece for the Center about ways to nurture creativity amid daily life, so this is an update. It starts with the adage from Samuel “Sunshine” Beckett, quoted by Amy Bloom: “Try. Fail. Try again. Fail better.”
For me, creativity boils down to a handful of practices:
1. Make the time. Hoard your best hours for your own project. Are you most creative when you wake? Mark off an hour then. Late at night? Stay up. The rest of the day, use time wisely.
2. Find creative people and listen to them. Your peers (I started with a group from The Writer’s Center) are priceless for feedback and for self-imposed deadlines that help to motivate. I don’t always like other people's feedback at first but I suspend judgment until the next day.
3. Know when you’re drafting and when you’re revising. When you start a work, let it come out so you can see on the page the material that you can work with. When it has cooled, go back and allow yourself to tear it apart - that is, to edit and revise. I think of it like a train: To get started, unhook the drafting engine from the editing brakes. The brakes work best later when it’s underway.
4. Follow the links from small to large. Short stories can lead to a collection. An article can lead to book, maybe to film. Post this motto somewhere where you see it: “By the yard, it’s hard. By the inch, it’s a cinch.” Allow yourself to take small bites. Writing an article may not capture the entire epic that you see in your mind, but getting an article published can help focus it.
5. Do the paperwork. Submitting stories to journals and contests doesn’t sound creative, it sounds tedious. And full of rejection. But pick a few, put the deadlines on the calendar, give it time, and send them off. (Don’t calculate the odds. They’re never good.) Then forget them. When one comes back, send it out again; when one succeeds, your creativity gets the world's stamp of approval.