Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Work to Create

My cousin Erin sent me this link recently of a talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, in which Gilbert discusses the idea of creativity and a "creative genius".  It's about twenty minutes long, but if you're the creative type, possibly looking for a little motivation, I encourage you to watch it.

As I listened to this woman share her wisdom, a woman who is living my dreams of being a successful writer, it occurred to me that I've been waiting around for inspiration to suddenly appear.  I'm waiting for a muse, apparently, a muse to show up on my doorstep and unlock all these innovative and insightful ideas just waiting to be unleashed and shared with the world.  I haven't been doing my part of the job, the working part, the part that involves writing every day whether or not I have any ideas or inspiration.  It's as if I've been avoiding creating because I'm waiting for it to happen to me, rather than my working hard to actually create

Very rarely it happens to a writer, when suddenly an idea occurs and, without much thought or work, the words spill out onto the paper in perfect order, succinctly expressing just what the writer has in mind.  Once or twice a good idea has suddenly hit me, and somehow the stars aligned and it happened to be at a time when I made myself sit down to write it out while it was still fresh and alive.  But any writer worth anything will tell you that nine times out of ten it is simply hard work that produces the works worth remembering, not a sudden stroke of genius.

I'm ashamed to say that sometimes I do feel inspired but I'm too lazy to sit down and write; I procrastinate and assume that the same fire that's burning will continue tomorrow, without any help from me.  Inevitably, when I finally get around to sitting down to write, the fire of creativity has cooled down to barely warm embers and I have a hard time remembering what I thought was so good about my idea the day before.

Here's the thing: I often wait for things to happen for me.  I wait to be asked to perform, I wait to be asked to write something, I wait to be asked to be promoted.  I never go about actually pursuing things on my own.  Part of it is the fear of failure, part of it is a fear of success and not knowing how to handle it.  But mostly it is just plain laziness.

(On a side note, I do think it's time to tell everyone about the time I did pursue something I really wanted.  It involved a certain boy who is now my husband.  Yes, folks, I shamelessly pursued Sam, though I did it in such a crafty way that he was convinced it was all his idea.  That situation worked out well for me, so perhaps I should pursue things more often.)

Yes, creating is fun.  But it is also hard.  It is frustrating to have a perfect vision of what I want to write, only to be unable to properly come up with the words to make it as perfect on paper.  Sometimes it's just pure laziness that prevents me from creating.  I don't want to work for it, I don't want to struggle for it, I don't want to sacrifice other pleasant things in my life (such as sleep, for example) for the opportunity to create, though sometimes sacrifice is necessary if I want to create anything worth sharing.

And this is exactly the reason I haven't been doing any creating recently, and exactly why I haven't felt creative.  It's like a relationship - sometimes it's easy and it just flows, but other times you have to work at it.  I have not been working at it, and then I wonder why it hasn't been flowing.

I've had too many excuses, too many justifications.  I'm busy, I've had a long day, I need to clean the house, go grocery shopping or whatever other necessary chore I can think of that will allow me to put off sitting down and getting to work.  And when I actually succeed at forcing myself to sit down and write, I am quickly discouraged by my perceived lack of ability and that the genius doesn't suddenly appear.  I'm usually so frustrated that I post a picture or two, or write a paragraph of some half-hearted attempt at a blog, in the hopes that it will quiet the voice inside me that tells me I need to be producing something, anything, that reflects my heart.

I know this isn't a new struggle, that I'm not coming to any radical realizations.  It's a simple case of writer's block.  The long list of tortured artists serves to display that I'm not alone in this feeling.  It's simply a relief to remember this, to feel a bit like I've been chastised, to be reminded that I need to work.  I haven't been surrounded by writers since school, so I forget that I need that encouragement to show up to work.  I can't expect any brilliant writing to happen if I never sit down to write.  And I will certainly never improve if I don't struggle through the hard times.

Thanks, Erin, for the eye-opener.  And thanks to whoever reads this, for assuming I have something interesting to write that you will enjoy reading.  I will try harder to make it worth your time.  And as always, I welcome any attempts at keeping me accountable.  And if you are the creative type, in any way shape or form, keep creating.  It only inspires others to do the same. 

1 comment:

  1. Loving this and your acknowledging that creativity takes work. Before starting my program I remember being so excited to work hard and use my brain and stay up late writing and thinking and planning for the next day. Now that the time to work hard, to give everything I've got, to go big or go home, has come, I'm not quite as motivated as I thought I would be. Getting better takes work, and I want to be an amazing teacher for my students, but then Robert gets home and I would much rather have hot chocolate and watch a movie than write about why students aren't motivated.

    But, ultimately, that is what I want to do. When I'm in the classroom I'm filled with emotion that is beyond joy and that is why I work...because I truly love it....just not always the time!

    Okay...Robert is wanting me to try a buffalo wing (so spicy!) so I need to go!

    You have twitter...not on it yet, but now I just might have to join! eek!


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