Sunday, August 26, 2012

Creativity: Use It Or Lose It

Creativity: Use It Or Lose It

I have a theory. I think that the more one writes, the more one can write.

Generally, I think the more tasks one does which require creativity the more such tasks one can complete. Clear as mud? For instance, let's say a writer has a hobby; she finds it relaxing to make dolls, or bind journals, or paint, or do fridge poetry, or write a thousand words of glorious nonsense that, like a sandpainting, exist only for a moment and then is gone, sealed away forever. Those actions require creativity and I think creativity works something like muscles do: use it or lose it. The more we use our creativity the more we are able to use it.

Aisha Sultan seems to agree with me. She writes:
If you ask a kindergartner to tell you a story, chances are you'll hear a nonsensical and fabulous tale. If you put a chocolate chip cookie on a counter and forbid the child from using a chair to reach it, chances are she'll find a few alternate routes to that cookie.

Children are born inherently creative. They act on it unselfconsciously when they are young, willing to dance, draw or create at a moment's notice. We all begin with enormous creative capacity, but how does our willingness to act on it diminish as we grow older?

I confronted this question when I participated in my first fiction writing workshop last year. The instructor gave us a series of prompts, and each time, I stared at a blank screen with unmitigated fear.

I was convinced that my fiction would be poorly disguised autobiography. And that it would be terrible. And that others would see just how terrible it was. So terrible that it wasn't worth making a fool of myself.

I envied how easily my children could slip into pretend stories, where make-believe dialogue didn't sound contrived or wooden, and plot was just a four-letter word.
. . . .
We unlearn creativity, according to Josh Linkner [...]. "Instead of growing into our creativity, we grow out of it," he said.

Fear is the main culprit, he says. We are conditioned through years of schooling to strive for the "right" answer.
. . . .
"People learn from an early age to get in line," he said. So, we judge others and judge ourselves when we make a mistake or - heaven forbid - fail. We talk ourselves out of creativity and hold ourselves back from big ideas.
. . . .
My own children were encouraging during my creative-writing fits.

"Just try again," they would say.

So, I did. And it was never as terrible as I imagined it would be before I began.
You can read the rest of Aisha's article here: How we grow out of our creativity. Thanks to Passive Guy over at The Passive Voice Blog for posting a link to Aisha Sultan's article.

What do you think? Have you found that the more creative tasks you complete the more you can complete?

Other articles you might like:
- Seth Godin on Creativity, Childhood and Heroes
- Amanda Hocking's Unusual Writing Schedule
- Ripley Patton: The Self-Validated Writer

Photo credit: h.koppdelaney

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