Embracing Writer’s Block, Part 4: We’re Creative In Every Moment | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

Embracing Writer’s Block, Part 4: We’re Creative In Every Moment

(This piece was inspired by one of the many heart-opening conversations I had with Robin in the comments to an earlier post.)

There’s a lot of advice out there about “how to be creative.”  On the surface, this sounds great — everybody wants to come up with useful and profitable ideas, right?  But when I look more closely at this kind of advice, and what drives us to seek it out, I feel concerned.

On one level, none of us needs to be taught how to create. In every moment, we’re creating (or, at least, playing a part in creating) our lives.  We’re choosing where to go, what to eat, what to say in a conversation, and so on.  We make many of these choices unconsciously, but that doesn’t change the fact that we make them.

Yet, somehow, I doubt this would satisfy most people looking for creativity tips.  As someone I know who often complains about her “lack of creativity” put it:  “sure, I choose the words I use when I’m talking, but so what?  Everybody does that.”

Being Creative and Being “Special”

I think my friend’s words illustrate the real concern that often motivates people to seek creativity advice.  They aren’t actually interested in being creative — what they really want is to be special and unique. What’s more, they worry that, without outside help, they’ll always be mediocre and average.

In my experience, this need to be special, and self-loathing for being “average,” causes people a lot of suffering.  Ironically, I’ve found, it also hampers our progress in our work.

Speaking for myself, it’s hard to move forward in a project when I’m demanding that my work be brilliant and 100% original.  With that kind of mentality, I’m likely to second-guess, and probably delete, every line I write, and be left with a blank screen after hours of effort.  Worse still, perhaps, I won’t have fun, and I won’t feel inspired to keep writing.

It’s only when I drop my need for “uniqueness” that I start making headway again.  In other words, it’s only when I’m willing to take the risk of “being average” that I’m able to produce anything at all.

Who’s Afraid of Averageness?

And when you think about it, is “being average” really such a huge risk? What would happen if someone told you that your work was average?  Would you spontaneously combust?  Or maybe dissolve into a pile of steaming protoplasm?

I’m no expert on spontaneous combustion, but I can tell you that some people have said far worse things about my writing, and somehow I’m in one piece.  I’m still writing, to boot, and — for better or worse — showing no signs of stopping.

So, when someone comes to me bemoaning their lack of creativity, I often invite them to try this exercise.  For a moment, consider the possibility that you don’t have to try to be creative.  You are creating your life, through the choices you make, in every moment.  Imagine what you would and could do if you fully accepted that.

If we could let go of our draining struggle to “be creative,” and trust that creativity is already and always ours, I think we’d free up a lot of energy to accomplish what we want, and give the gifts we want to give, in our work.

5 thoughts on
Embracing Writer’s Block, Part 4: We’re Creative In Every Moment

  1. Patty - Why Not Start Now?

    So wise, Chris. The day I finally said to myself, “It’s okay if I suck at this,” was a red-letter day for me. I guess I had to shoot for below average to actually embrace my averageness. In some ways I think we all need to forgive ourselves for just being average, because the message for so long has been that it isn’t acceptable to be so. And certainly, the message about creative people is that they are far from average. The topic of my master’s thesis was counseling for creative people, and I had to search high and low to find literature that framed creativity separately from fame. Sadly, much of the study of creativity has been linked to success in the market place and being special. Even the “Flow” guy (Csikszentmihalyi) started his research on creativity by studying a group of students at the Art Institute of Chicago, hypothesizing that those who were special (what he termed “problem-finders”) would also be most successful. His hypothesis didn’t pan out and he’s certainly gone on to normalize creativity for the masses, pointing out that it’s within all of us. Yet still, it’s a hard sell to the public-at-large.

    Okay, I’m done geeking out on you now. Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  2. Sara

    Chris,

    Okay, here’s my thoughts on this interesting topic. While I understand what you’re saying about accepting being average at something, I’m not sure I believe that anyone is average regarding creativity.

    We’re just at different places in our creativity. So, I may not be able to draw to save my life, but maybe I have other ways of being creative and they don’t have to be “artistic.” Maybe I need to acknowledge the creative talents I do have and see them as special.

    So, from my perspective, I guess I’m saying we don’t have to accept “average,” but rather expand our definition of what is creativity. If we do this, perhaps we will see the creativity in every person.

    This was a very interesting post. Thanks for making me think creatively:~)

  3. Chris - Post author

    Hi Patty — that felt liberating reading what you said about giving yourself permission to suck at something. How many of us are not giving ourselves that permission, and thus not even starting the projects we’d really enjoy working on? Or accusing someone else of “sucking” at something they’re trying, because no one else should have the permission we’ve denied to ourselves? I’d love for us all to be able to trust in our uniqueness, or even in our adequacy when we aren’t unique.

  4. Chris - Post author

    Hi Sara — I’d agree that everyone has a unique contribution to make. And, I think, if we’re holding ourselves back for fear of being average, we aren’t going to be able to make that contribution. So, I think it’s useful for us to face the “worst-case scenario”: what if there are actually ways that we’re average, and no “better” than anyone else? When we recognize that averageness won’t destroy us, in my experience, we start to hold back less tightly.

  5. Hilary

    Hi Chris .. we’re all average .. we are always average at some things and by being human we’re better at some things, than others … being creative is being open to ideas, relaxing with those thoughts, perhaps bouncing ideas off others and just adding a little extra to the averageness. If you’re giving a talk .. take along a copy of it, or some pictures of the things you’re talking about .. so there’s something to remember you by.

    As we increment with thoughts and ideas .. we’ll be more creative and dare to be different – even for the small things in life .. that opens other doors ..

    There is no average, no mean, because we’re all better than others at some things – it’s just a label ..

    Cheers Hilary

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