Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why It's Important to Protect the Creative Process

I think you're absolutely wise to protect your fragile creative projects as they're being brought into the world. There are certain stages of a project when you really should choose very carefully who you share them with
                                                                       --Linda Dessau, Creativity Portal

Lately I've had several experiences that have reminded me exactly how fragile the creative process is. Last week, a friend from Washington, DC, confided that during National Novel Writing Month, she gave up on the memoir she was writing. "I have a whole new respect for you authors."

When I queried her, she admitted, "The dialogue. It just didn't come out right."

I explained to her that on a first pass, it probably wouldn't. I encouraged her to try again. "This time, don't judge your work. Just blurt it out onto paper or your screen. Writing is a process of discovery." I recommended that she read William Zinsser's Writing to Learn.

A young man in Pittsburgh who writes poetry told me, "I quit. I couldn't get a whole poem I liked. It seemed to take me forever."

This tangle pattern was inspired by the work of one of my students yesterday.
I told him that Carl Sandburg was known to carry scraps of poems in his pockets. A line or two. A word. "Don't judge your work while its in progress. You have to sit down and invite the muse, because unless she's invited and you wait for her, she won't make an appearance." I suggested he read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

A couple of days later, here in Florida, I attended an art exhibit. All the work was done by local elementary school students. And the work was magnificent! Unfortunately, the evening was ruined by the woman in charge. She simpered around behind the microphone and explained that we were all present to view the efforts of "students trying hard to be artists." After more dismissive commentary, she suggested that the students should come up as she called their names to claim their "little awards." (Yes, LITTLE awards.)

People like that are natural born killers of the creative process. When my friend quit writing her memoir, it was because she heard that woman's voice in her head. That's also why the young man put aside his poetry.

Last night I taught my second class in Zentangle. As I moved from student to student, my heart was full of love for all of them. It takes courage to be creative! I felt so very, very lucky to witness these brave souls as they tried their hand at something new.

What do you think? Do you believe that creativity requires courage? Do you hear a voice of negativity in your head when you try something new?


Shirley said...

I think it does take courage, writing in my journal just for me, I am a brilliant writer. If I shared something with someone else, then that person can judge my writing.

So, I have lots of respect for people who share their writing!

C. M. Elizabeth said...

Hey Joann, Funny thing is I don't need anyone else's voice, I have the voice of myself as a child saying, "But you can't do this." I have found that all I have to do is tell the child to sit back and watch me. It's actually gotten to the point that I wait for the little boy and then I know I'm about to do something worth doing.

C said...

I agree it takes courage to try new things. It takes courage to persevere when the inner voice is critical even when there is encouragement from outside. I wonder why ten positive thoughts or comments can be overshadowed by one negative response. Someone I respect advised me to not let negativity destroy the joy of creativty. I think the ultimate courage is when one shares the creative fruit with others as y'all do with your hard work. You won't please everyone and some enjoy tearing others down for sport, but your stepping out, refining your skills, and perseverence bring joy, knowledge, and entertainment to so many. Every one of you here give me an added bonus--the opportunity to practice patience while I wait for your next book!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Shirley, that's true. I guess each of us has to make a decision whether to share or not. When you share, you sort of invite commentary.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

C.M. Elizabeth, sounds like you know yourself pretty well. I do believe, however, that your "little boy" wasn't born thinking he couldn't do this or that. Somewhere I read the number of times a child hears the word "No" in a day, and it's an astonishing number.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Well, C, as you know...I totally believe that we can't let negativity destroy the joy of creativity. (Hmmm. Wonder who said that? LOL) And I totally hear what you're saying. One negative review on Amazon, and I really have to "talk" to myself. I remember that a wise man once said, "I don't know the secret to success, but I do know the secret to failure--it's trying to please everyone." I think that's a quotation by Michael Jackson.

Amy said...

When I taught pre-school, we told parents how to react to a child's art work. They were never to ask "What is it?" but to say instead "Tell me about this picture." It's a small but an important difference. I still have several wonderful things created by my kids and grandkids. My daughter actually has a painting I did in 3rd grade framed and hanging on her wall. Thank goodness smy teacher was an encourager and my mom was a "keep-all-sorts-of-strange-stuff" mom. (We found the painting under the sofa in her living room after she died.)

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I'm actually a bit part of me wants to write a note to the art center and point out that if they THOUGHT their goal was to encourage young artists, they should think again. But I'm still so angry that I'm afraid I would not be kind, and that my words would be ineffective. However, it's very hard to let this go...

Linda O. Johnston said...

I think creativity takes work, courage and determination, Joanna--and the ability to choose when to listen to others, and when to ignore them. I really like your post!