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creativity’s top ten most wanted

America's Most Wanted

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This isn’t really a Top Ten list. Instead, it’s two Top Five lists. The Top Five Creativity Killers and Top Five Creativity Boosters. These are ten things you should be seeking out — and avoiding to keep your creativity flowing.

Top Five Creativity Killers

Criticism: Carefully guard your work. Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, says that “[a]n act of art needs time to mature. Judged early, it may be judged incorrectly. [...] Art needs time to incubate[.]” I wouldn’t even talk about The Hunter’s Daughters until I was half way through NaNoWriMo, and that book has been brewing in my head for years already. Maybe you don’t need to incubate your work as long as I did, but give it some time to mature before exposing it to criticism. Even the most constructive criticism can be a creativity-killer for our fledgling art.

Perfectionism: Expecting your work to be perfect the first time, or constantly editing and re-editing instead of just writing.  Julia Cameron calls perfectionism “an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are writing [...] and to lose sight of the whole.” This is the beauty of NaNoWriMo, thirty days of writing with abandon: “By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.”

Competition: Comparing yourself to others.  This is Perfectionism and Criticism’s bigger, meaner brother.  Julia Cameron describes competition as poisoning our own well, that “[i]t asks us to define our own creativity in terms of someone else’s.” Richard R. Powell, in Wabi Sabi for Writers says competition “generate[s] fear and anxiety and squelch[es] creativity.” This is one of the reasons I’ve dropped out of several writing groups — writing groups that I highly recommend to others regularly. I became too caught up in comparing myself to others.

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Media: Media is the biggest creativity killer for me. It numbs your brain. As Julia Cameron says, “We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.” In The Artist’s Way, she talks about going on a Reading Fast. I think going even farther and taking an occasional Media Fast is good for your creative soul.

Procrastination: Procrastination can be part of the process at times, like idling your car in the winter to warm up the engine. But eventually you have to actually get in the car and drive somewhere. You can’t just leave it idling in the driveway for hours, days, or months on end.

Top Five Creativity Boosters



Journalling: Julia Cameron calls this Morning Pages. I call it Detox. In Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande says that “if you are to have the full benefit of the richness of the unconscious you must learn to write easily and smoothly when the unconscious is in the ascendant. The best way to do this is to rise half an hour, or a full hour, earlier than you customarily rise [and] begin to write.” This was written in 1934, almost sixty years before Julia Cameron told us about Morning Pages, and well before 750words.com came along. While the morning may be the best time to do this, I don’t believe it is the only time. I often do my Detox at the end of the day as a way to clear my brain so that I can go to sleep, sleep well, and dream — which leads to the next Creativity Booster.

Dream Catcher: I keep a dream journal tucked in between my mattress and bed frame, with a pen tucked in the pages, and a small LED book light attached to it. Whenever I wake up, whether it’s in the morning or the middle of the night, I try to jot down at least some notes or images from my dreams. Dreams are the voice of your subconscious, or the unconscious, that Dorothea Brande is talking about. You may or may not ever use the images from your dreams, and you don’t even need to be well-versed in dream interpretation to benefit from dream catching. Just the act of writing them down can help untangle the messages in both your daily life and your writing life.

Idea Catcher: I’ve mentioned part of this before when I talked about my compost bin. This is a place you keep to catch stray idea seeds that aren’t yet ready to germinate. Chris Brogan calls it an Idea Locker and keeps them in a spreadsheet. But having an Idea Catcher is more than just a pretty box or a spreadsheet. Carry a notepad with you so that you can catch those stray ideas before the wind of your daily life carries them away. I keep a small notepad in my purse and at both of my computer desks. Some times I use the voice recorder on my smart phone. Even just having a pen in your shirt pocket can help — I know I’m not the only person who’s written ideas down on the back of a napkin or cash register receipt.

Ritual: Find out what works for you. Writing in the day, writing at night. Stealing time, making time. Pantsing, plotting. If you find yourself stuck, switch it up a bit to jump start if you need to — but when you have found what works, stick with it. I’ve heard this referred to as being present at the page and being available for your characters. Julia Cameron talks about making an Artist’s Altar. This isn’t about building an author’s mystique though. It’s about creating a habit that works for you. Scientifically, it’s about creating neural pathways — literally ingraining the habit of creativity into your brain.

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Cheering Squad: Gather to yourself friends who are encouraging and supportive of your creativity. Your own personal cheerleaders. My husband is one of my biggest cheerleaders. He reminds me not to be so critical of myself and encourages me to follow my creativity. My friend, Paul Tristan Fergus, is another. He tells me amazing things about myself when I can’t. This is one reason why you want to join a writers group — it’s one way to find your own personal cheering squad. Yes, to push your craft to the next level, you need friendly critics who can tell you why your baby is ugly, but balance that out with the sweet grandmothers who will just pinch your baby’s cheeks and squee with delight about how adorable she is too. If you find a friend who can do both, that’s a true diamond of peerless value.



Don’t forget to enter the #JustWrite Challenge for a chance to win some cool prizes. Click here to submit your entry to the challenge. (You many need to login or register first.) The title of your post should be “The Hook” and your entry should be in the body of the post. Enter as many times as you’d like. The challenge will remain open until the first of next month, when I select the winning entry.

Originally published at kimberly creative. Please leave any comments there.

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