If you only do what you usually do, you’ll never know what you’re capable of doing. ~Josh Spector
Creativity is such an ethereal property that mere mortals can’t possess it.
I think almost everyone is creative, or has the potential to be. It takes a certain sense of bravery, of not caring what other people think, to come up with a new idea.
If you try something that doesn’t work, you’ve failed.
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He also said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
The lesson? Don’t give up. Perseverance is a necessary quality for a creative. So, get back to work.
You have to be in the mood to create. The muse must be present to inspire you.
Sorry. The muse is a myth. However, if you need one, by all means, conjure one up. (It’s called imagination, people.)
The problem with relying on a creative mood is that they’re generally rare. If that weren’t true, people wouldn’t be wasting so much time with meaningless diddling on their phones.
And the muse is a fickle twitch. She moves on way too quickly.
So you’re going to have to work when you’re uninspired, or you’d never work. You can manufacture your own inspiration by examining things others have created, particularly items not part of your own sphere of expertise. Stuck on your novel? Go read a biography. Watch a musical. Visit the folk art museum. Then sit down and do something, even if it’s a sketch of something that could never be built. Exercise those creative muscles, and a viable creation will eventually result.
There are no new ideas. Everything has already been done.
I own a book called 20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias. It’s similar to The 36 Dramatic Situations by Georges Polti. The premise is that there are only so many stories (some other counts are as low as 4 or as high as 1,462), and you can only write a variant of something that’s been written before.
That may be true to a certain extent. How often have you read something and thought, This is just like the XYZ book. When authors submit manuscripts to agents or publishers, they are asked what books currently on the market are like theirs.
So, yeah. It’s hard to come up with an idea that is completely original. You know that scene in The Hunger Games when Katniss lays flowers all around Rue’s corpse? I wrote a scene like that in The Unicornologist—in the late 90s, ten years before The Hunger Games book came out. My book isn’t published yet—how many people will think I copied that scene? Yep, all of them. So I’ve either got to rewrite that scene, or be criticized for being derivative.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of books and songs and sculptures and plays that are similar, but uniquely different. The creators torqued an original twist on a familiar theme and expanded it into something delightful. That is creativity. Hey, the advertising industry tries to make us believe that a laundry detergent is new and improved. That’s right—laundry soap.
Now it’s your turn.
What misconceptions have you heard about the nature of creativity? What convinced you they were false? Share in the comments below.