Thursday, May 19, 2016

Creativity, and Fear.




 Creativity is messy.

It is paint splashes and wiping brushes on clothing once deemed 'good'. Creativity is swearing in frustration because you've lost the line of your song, or the editing program crashed. Creativity is sore knees and papercuts and failed experiment after failed experiment.

We know this. We're all well acquainted with Mr Hemingway's excellent elocution on the fact that, 'the first draft of anything is shit'. We know it take hours of practice to get a sketch of a cat looking like a cat rather than a bat-puppy crossbreed. We know it takes hours of arguing on the phone with our mothers to suddenly find the problem with our manuscript and thus the solution to storm ahead to those wordcount goals.

Yet still there is that niggling fear. That fear of first drafts, and what we have been told in the past is a 'mistake', 'wrong'. Often these criticisms in our creative (and living!) processes will be relayed to us without the added inflectation that this was a 'first try' and that we need to go back to the drawing-board, review and learn from our mistakes. Why was the nose in the sketch wrong? Well, because we highlighted the wrong part. We didn't yet understand the relationship between light and shadow here, or between those two characters, or how they would move the plot along.

Despite knowing all these things we will still get caught up in grammar, in colour-theory, in blending techniques and other things that might be considered the 'finishing touches'. These are things we will learn to introduce as our drafts move along and we begin to understand more thoroughly when we look more closely at those interrelations and how they perfect the bigger picture. Creativity is a study, after all.



When I studied writing at RMIT it taught me lots. My tutors taught invaluable lessons about research, marketing, the twenty-thousand words worth of writing exercises and personal essays that will never go into the book. They also taught me about grammar, rushed writing and the difference between having a great idea and a great  execution. One problem with this  knowledge however, was suddenly knowing what my writing looks like from a marketing perspective. This tended to stifle the flow in my creativity because it instilled that fear that coincides with the idea of what we produce needing to be marketable.

I used to write in crazy, automatic flows. Barely thinking my fingertips would fly across the keyboard and it would be later that I would print my document off and set about stitching it up with a red pen. 

Now I'm much more deliberate. I write slower, and there are parts of me telling myself off for adverbs, and any dialogue tags other than 'said'. Rather than flowing through my work with a, 'can be fixed later' attitude, I edit as I work and become very dismayed over weak sentences and descriptions.

I think there is a balance that needs to be struck between this 'fear of first drafts' and knowledge that they will be shit. There needs to be a deep breath and a removal of judgement - like when we review a relationship with a new partner. An acceptance of the learning process, learning the curves of a new story and its highs and lows. Learning how the story expresses and values, and a sympathy toward it. Much like learning how a person feels this can be an emotional labour. As they say though, if the writer - or artist! - put nothing of this sort in during the writing, than the reader won't get anything of this sort out during the reading.

Xo

Ellen