TED.com has a video of a great talk from author Elizabeth Gilbert about nurturing creativity. She talks about where creativity comes from and how in today’s society, when an author or creative person achieves a certain amount of success, there’s enormous pressure to do even better next time. Gilbert can attest after the huge (she calls it “freakish”) success of her Eat, Pray, Love. To relieve some of the pressure, she suggests that we stop thinking of successful creative types as geniuses (with the need to constantly repeat the genius) and instead adopt some of the ideas of the Greeks and Romans, who believed that creativity was a gift from the gods (thereby taking some of the pressure off us). Of course, Elizabeth Gilbert says it all much better than me, so I recommend taking 20 minutes and watching the video.
I totally agree with what Elizabeth’s saying. Sure we work hard at our writing, and we grow our talent and skills, but there’s more to creativity than that. And in my experience, that more is God. I believe that God gives us all gifts when we are born, and we can choose to use them, build on them, or not. And He can help, but we have to ask. That’s free will.
I also think He gives us nudges, pokes to get us going in the right direction. And hopefully we’re open to them, and if we follow through, follow His will, then everything’s beautiful — still work, but beautiful nonetheless.
When I got the idea for the Sir Newton books, I did nothing with it. I thought it was a good idea, but frankly, honestly, I was scared to do anything with it, to take a chance of failing. So I didn’t do anything. Then one day, when I was walking to work, the idea popped into my head again, but not a simple, “Hi, remember me?” It was like a tornado. The idea burrowed into my head and exploded into a heap of other ideas, about how the books would look, what kind of content they would have, why they would sell, etc. It felt as though something was shouting at me: “Hey, I gave you this great idea a while back, and you’re not doing anything with it. Here’s what it could be. Do something with it.” Needless to say, I did something with it and they have been a success.
More recently, I was doing the structural revision of my novel and I was revising a part that had made me stuck for days. I just couldn’t think of a good way to fix the problem, and I had gone over it and over it. My plan was to stop torturing myself and take a break for a couple days in the hope that inspiration would strike. But that night, I was at our local church sitting in our Adoration chapel (I was raised Catholic), and I was talking to Our Lord and telling Him the problems I was having. I asked Him to help and basically said that I believed God had given me the idea for this novel, but if I was going to do it well, I needed His help, because I couldn’t figure it out on my own. Despite planning to take a break on the revision, the next morning, I woke up early with the solution in my head. I jumped on my computer and had the problem solved in an hour, and not only was it solved, but I got all these other great ideas. Thank you, God.
A family friend who’s a priest told me once that I should pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance before I start writing every day. I don’t. I always forget. But I do pray about my writing regularly, and when I do, I can see the change in the work.
What drives your creativity?