Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why Wait to Be Creative?! #TBSU

Do you need a perfect life in order to be creative? Of course not. Do you need to follow in someone's footsteps in order to be creative? Of course not. Yet all to often, we wait for the perfect moment to inspire us, or we follow the advice of a guru, however well meant.

Let's take a look at how some famous writers have found ways to jump start their creative process. My two points here are, number one: you don’t need a perfect life in order to be creative. And number two:  you can’t necessarily follow somebody else’s guidelines. Part of the challenge of living creatively is to figure out what works for you, and then to trust and stick with that.

You Don't Need a Perfect Life!

Here’s a “you don’t need a perfect life” example. I want you to try to guess what these writers have in common, in terms of creative process. Let’s start with John Bunyon, the man who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. Does anyone here know anything about his writing process?... Okay, let me add someone else who shares at least one aspect of the process with Bunyon— Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. Any guesses?... Okay, here’s number three, John Cleland, who wrote Fanny Hill...  How about O’Henry? Can anybody think what all these writers have in common?... Okay, this one may give it away, Oscar Wilde...

Link to The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde.

Did you figure it out? They all wrote in prison, hardly what we’d call ideal circumstances. Bunyon was imprisoned for 10 years for preaching, and he wrote 10 books there, including Pilgrim’s Progress. Cervantes was captured and held for ransom by Algerian pirates in 1575, and was in prison again briefly in 1597, when he wrote parts of Don Quixote. Cleland, O’Henry, and Wilde also wrote in prison. So the excuse that our lives aren’t perfect enough yet for us to be able to live creatively is just that – nothing but an excuse. Creativity is available everywhere, even in prison.

Rose in bloom at Alcatraz. 

As a side piece of information, I have read that there is increasing evidence that the single greatest factor in reducing recidivism is to encourage inmates to express themselves creatively, whether in writing, visual arts, or performance. If you want to help people stay out of prison, help them discover a creative self.

Think how much easier life is for each of us. We’re not in prison to start with. If creativity can keep criminals from committing crimes, think what it can do for you and me!

Strange and Unusual Writing Habits!

Here are some more writers who found interesting or unusual ways to find time, or locations, to be creative. Two who wrote in the bathtub: Ben Franklin (he wrote there because he had one…) and Edmond Rostand, who wrote Cyrano de Bergerac (he wrote in the bathtub for privacy).

Not sure this was Ben's actual tub, but it looked something like this.

Thomas Wolfe was a tall, large man, and he wrote on top of the refrigerator, with his stomach pressed into the door. Mae West? Perhaps predictably, she wrote in bed. 

More on Les Miserables.

Let me give you one last example to show the lengths a creative person might go to in order to force himself to think creatively. Victor Hugo, the famous French novelist, found he was easily distracted when he tried to write. So he would take off his clothes and give them to a servant, telling him to come back several hours later. Then he would write, naked and alone in a room. You probably all know his most famous work, suitably titled Les Miserables.

Do these Writers Inspire you?

The point of these anecdotes is that number 1: there’s no excuse not to live creatively, even for someone in prison, and certainly not for you and me.

And number 2: you’ll have to hunt around and experiment to find ways to live your own life in your own uniquely creative way. Nobody can tell you the 'right' method, and if anyone tries, frankly, I’d run pretty fast in the opposite direction.

I’ll close with an observation that my sister made a couple of days ago. We were doing the instant message thing on the Internet. I told her I was writing a post on Creativity, and she wrote back, “I’d love to be a creative liver.” We both looked at what she’d written and started laughing. I’ll leave you with this challenge, if you can’t figure out how to be a creative liver, maybe you can learn to be a creative pancreas, or who knows, how about a creative spleen?

What jump starts your personal creativity? Music? A certain location? A particular time of day? Please share your thoughts, suggestions, and questions! I look forward to an interesting and lively conversation!

Check out these related posts:

Three great blogs, presented here in the grand tradition of The Blog Scratchers' Union! #TBSU


  1. The bath wouldn't work for me at all. I'm clumsy and can imagine my papers etc getting wet.

    Interesting post!

    1. Hi Shelley,

      Thanks for stopping by! Maybe Ben Franklin and Edmond Rostand just sat in the tub without any water! They went in for the privacy, after all. I never could even read a book in the bath, for exactly the reason you mention.

      I love all stories of writers and their eccentricities! Glad you enjoyed these!


  2. Hey Carole, great post! I get inspired all the time by all sorts of things and I make notes ALL the time! My IPhone is great because it's always with me so I pop my ideas in the Notes section. It has a wealth of ideas in case I get stuck! I don't write in the bath ( though I love to read soaking in bubbles) as the laptop wouldn't like the steam! As for the writing, I do it whenever I can, although I have to be in a comfy chair or I fidget too much! I'm having a bursting with creativity morning and wish I could write all day but I'll have to inspire my students instead!
    Have a great one! Xx

    1. Hi Molly,

      Thanks for stopping by! My ex-husband Larry is a writer too, as well as a teacher (retired now), and he writes ALL the time. He taught math, and if the students were working on an assignment and didn't need help, he'd write a paragraph or two on his latest novel. Halftime at the football game = write for 20 minutes!

      I'm the opposite. A quiet house, sitting in front of my computer, no distractions, that's the only way I can write a novel. Editing and writing short pieces, I can stop and go, but for a novel it's full-on focus for 5 or 6 hours a day.

      Isn't it interesting how we all differ? Sounds like you are closer to Larry's style — way to go! Have a fantastic day!



  3. Hi Carole,

    Sorry I haven't been by in a while, the world got really busy in the last couple of weeks and it all descended on MY house. LOL.

    I need my quiet and I prefer to write without people around. The dogs are always welcome though. :)

    1. Hi Maria,

      Thanks for stopping by! I need peace and quiet too. When my kids were living at home, one would half-peel a banana and stick it in the door of my office space and say, "Eat, Mom." I get a little focused!

      My dogs are actually better at getting me off the computer, because they either grab my arm in their mouth (gently) or sit and stare at me until I pay attention to them.

      Hope you are finding some quiet for writing,


  4. Hi Carole!
    New to your blog and really enjoying reading through your posts. Especially enjoyed this one! Very interesting.
    My best ideas come to me when i'm swimming.. i'm always rushing to write them down as soon as i get out!

    1. Hi SJ!

      Welcome to the blog! Glad you stopped by. There must be something about movement that stimulates the brain. For you it's swimming. For me it's walking or even driving. My Dad used to go for "think walks" every day, and then he'd come home and write.

      Hope you get to go for a swim today! Thanks again for coming by and commenting,