Creativity isn’t all big shirts and flouncing around Italy

Katherine has been being creative over on her blog. Please check out these two posts before you continue reading all of this: http://kathall.co.uk/blog/2009/10/are-monsters-creative/ and http://kathall.co.uk/blog/2009/10/the-wonders-of-pritt-stick/. I wrote a comment on her site that got a bit out of hand. So here it is – it’s the creative process, writ large.

I am not sure I agree about the creative process. But it is hard to know. I write in two different ways depending on the context. Sometimes I just keep writing sentence after sentence with little idea of where I am going and hope that will get sorted in the edit. And that works fine in a short thing, and you imagine that when you are going to go and write a novel you are going to do it properly – come up with a plot and fill in the details.

However… That doesn’t seem to be the real truth. Sometimes I write and I find myself coming up with the whole story. Sometimes I know I want to write, but I have no idea what is coming next. The sense of painting oneself into a corner is hugely exciting and motivates you through the slog of writing, and it is a slog. I would say that I always find writing less exciting when I know the end before I get there. But the question is – does knowing make the end result a better or worse thing?

It is hard to know whether the excitement of keeping you guessing distracts you. Does it stop you from seeing the wood for the trees? Do you end up with something hideously unbalanced? And yet the question remains – does it matter if, on the other hand, you enjoy the process so little that you can’t get to the end?

The issue with this is that the process of creation is somewhat mechanical. This is like parts of the edit for me. The sad news is that you can’t have creativity without hard work and a bit of boring mechanical processing. Other people don’t do it because of the hard work, and that’s part of what makes it worth while.

Just think, you could imagine monster, would that be as good as holding monster? I make up a story with every spare five minutes I have. But it is the ones I turn into reality that satisfy me.

Sometimes, you have to overcome your enjoyment of the process to achieve results. My novel, when it is in my head, is perfect, writing it reveals the faults. In my head, nine years ago, it was a perfect story I told myself one rainy evening. I loved it, and now as people read it, I’ll realise the faults and I’ll have to be told about them, because, at the end, the achievement is worth it. Maybe we will see more of monster around the house than your collage?

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do collage, of course, but that part of all creative work involves the horrible difficult part where you have to learn all the new things, create rubbish, fail and learn. And part of that is challenging yourself. Making a collage out of materials you’ve never used before, knitting with a new material, writing a much longer story.

In some ways, if the impending sense of doom and failure are absent, the process isn’t going to be exciting. That’s why to me, here, the collage is more interesting because you had to do something, and publish it, and that’s scary for you. Maybe the next thing is constructing a knitting pattern for yourself, or maybe it’s just pushing the boundaries of the scary and knowing that whatever you did, four things are true:

1) You did it
2) Not many people do
3) You started, which is hard enough
4) You finished

Proud isn’t enough of a word, for what I feel about you. Now keep starting and finishing.

P.S. If you would like to suggest a topic for Katherine to be creative about then send in your ideas here.

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