In Other Words, Creativity Happens

During my several nights of non-writing since I attended a single-day writer’s conference last weekend, one message has scrolled through my head like the banner across the bottom of a news show: You must write every single day.

Relax? Only with a computer!

One speaker at the workshop said that even one day without writing negatively impacts our craft.  I couldn’t believe one lazy (or busy) day zaps away progress faster than a slice of cheesecake derails a diet.  I could see several weeks eroding past gains, but one day?

It got me thinking (when I should, perhaps, have been writing) that maybe my opinion is skewed by the fact that if her statement is true, it means I’m destined for mediocrity, at best.  That’s all I need:  one more under-developed skill that will never be honed into excellence.

I could lay writing to rest with all the other things that I’ve enjoyed, but don’t excel at:  playing the clarinet, drawing, painting, bowling, modeling.  Okay, that last one was just to see if you were paying attention…but if I were 6 inches taller, 20 years younger and had a pretty pouty face, I’d have a chance.  (Not really…)

The same speaker made a suggestion to write down five novel ideas each day.  I may not write every day, but my creativity doesn’t rest.  I have lots of ideas, and a few of them make it to paper.  I don’t have five ideas a day, but at least I’ve got some ideas for a rainy day (or another reason to shake my head and wonder, ‘What was I thinking???’)

Sometimes I don’t have story ideas at all, but creativity happens anyway.

Last weekend, I made a flag stand out of scrap wood (which Home Depot kindly cut for free.)  It only cost me $1.53 since I already had paint on hand.  It has gotten rave reviews (my older son said it looked ‘cool’)

Hubby says it’s “creative”. That’s code speak for “Wow, that’s messed up!”

I’m also helping my younger son disguise his Thanksgiving turkey for a school assignment.  I came up with five ideas and he settled on the jack-o-lantern.  We’re in the design stages and gluing will happen this weekend.

I think he picked this one because he can empty the wrappers!

Finally, I had an idea for a funny cartoon (compliments of lack of sleep).  I did get it drawn, but you’ll have to wait until Sunday to see it.  It fits in with the post I’m thinking of doing.  (Again, more thinking than writing at the moment!)

Maybe it’s true.  Maybe I never will be a great writer.  Maybe my skills will continue to get stronger,and then atrophy as I navigate through life, leaving me no better (or worse) than before.  Then again, maybe if I can’t write myself out of a paper bag, I can always create a window.

What do you say?  How long does it take for under-used skills to get rusty?

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32 thoughts on “In Other Words, Creativity Happens

  1. Richard W Scott November 3, 2011 / 11:46 PM

    Skills get rusty, but I do not think talent (whatever THAT is) does. But, even rusty skills can come back, and do so by far faster than the original learning curve. Why? Because the “whether or not you CAN do it” is no longer a part of the equation.

    I learned to juggle (nothing fancy, just three balls), but I got to the point where I could keep it up until I got tired, not just until I missed. Even after not doing any juggling for a number of years, I find I can get the skill back in a day or so of practice? Why? Because I know I can, it’s just a case of honing the skills.

    Do I think that writing every day is important? Yes. Not to keep skills from getting rusty, but rather to improve them. Reading critically, and writing daily cannot help but grow you as a writer.

    Settling is not an option for me, nor should it be for you, Janna. You have the talent, you just need to keep at it.

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 8:30 AM

      Your explanation makes sense, Richard. I wrote a lot when I was younger and then didn’t for about ten years. Since I started again, I’ve kept at it with some regularity. This blog keeps my mind on writing something, so I do enjoy that! If reading blog posts counts as reading, then I’m definitely up on that 🙂

      I don’t plan on settling (or giving up) and am encouraged by your enthusiasm and stamina (you write more blog posts in a day than I do in a week – amazing!)

  2. Widdershins November 4, 2011 / 12:04 AM

    If it’s something physical, the ‘how-to’ is stored in our muscles. It’s called muscle memory. Unless we have a physical reason for forgetting, the same thing happens with intellectual ‘how-to’s’. I don’t know if it has a name but I’ll call it ‘neuron-memory’!

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 8:33 AM

      Neuron-memory…I like that, Widdershins. I know frequency and repetition are both important to get better at something. I’d like to think that improvement can still happen (at a slower pace) with writing even if it doesn’t happen every day 🙂

  3. knotrune November 4, 2011 / 4:27 AM

    Although I’m sure it helps to write every day, and it helps some people to have this kind of motivation, if all it does is make you feel bad when you fail then it’s not helpful. There is another truth, which is that guilt cripples. If the crippling of guilt when failing to write one time is more disabling than the discipline is too strict. The damage done to your ability to write by feeling bad about a failure could be greater than the damage done by missing a day.

    My advice – take any advice (including this 😉 with a pinch of salt. See if it is actually helpful to you. We are all different, what helps one person can hinder another. Just like with a diet, one chocolate in a month is not really going to make you fat. Feeling so bad about having failed that you give up your diet altogether and trough the box is! 😀

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 8:36 AM

      Guilt IS the worst, Knotrune. I put pressure on myself with writing goals in the beginning and when I didn’t meet the goals, I wouldn’t bother writing at all (because I already ‘failed’.) It’s sort of like your chocolate example 🙂

      I don’t feel bad about not writing every day – because I write when I can and have a lot of other commitments. I was just a bit curious/discouraged by the idea that I may not get better unless I can write every day. (The speaker also said writing in the morning is better than writing at night, but night is when I get my alone time…)

      • knotrune November 6, 2011 / 5:10 AM

        Better to write when you get the chance than obsess over a mythical ‘best time’! Also, that might be the best time for some people, but not necessarily all people! Rules are made to be considered, tried and rejected if they don’t work for you 😉

        • jannatwrites November 6, 2011 / 1:23 PM

          That’s a good philosophy to have about rules, Knotrune. We are all different in personality so it makes sense that a one-rule-fits-all approach wouldn’t work.

  4. suzicate November 4, 2011 / 5:15 AM

    One creative endeavor feeds another. I find if I am sewing or taking photographs (or even hiking), my mind soars and I just can’t wait to write down the stuff rolling around in my head!

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 8:37 AM

      Your posts do combine words and photography beautifully, SuziCate. Whatever you’re doing works for you 🙂 (With luck, perhaps it will for me, too!)

  5. Tori Nelson November 4, 2011 / 7:59 AM

    I don’t think writing is one of those rusty skills. I’d like to think after a break you can jump right back into it 🙂

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 8:39 AM

      I agree, Tori. I think we can jump back into it, I was just curious about how long the rusty phase might last, and if improvement is likely with less frequent writing. Guess I’ll find out eventually 🙂

  6. Debbie November 4, 2011 / 8:14 AM

    I believe we all need time away from our craft periodically so our ideas can percolate. How much time away will vary from person to person. Those of us who seek the creative life will find outlets for our creativity, whether it’s writing, drawing, playing music, photography, or whatever. Yes, try to write every day (even if it’s just a “Things-to-do” list!), but accept the fact that LIFE tends to intervene, especially when your kids are small. Please don’t let the advice to “write every day” conflict you to the point where you feel guilty if you don’t (or can’t!)

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 8:42 AM

      Thanks for the encouraging words, Debbie. I don’t feel guilty at all about the amount of writing I do, because I know I’m doing the best I can. I have no plans to sacrifice time with my kids to write because I know the time will come soon enough when they would rather be away from me than have me watch a TV show with them. I’ll just have to accept my skills may not get rusty, but they may not show great improvement, either…that one’s the hardest one for me to accept!

  7. nrhatch November 4, 2011 / 9:13 AM

    I think she is DEAD WRONG! There is NOTHING we have to do every day but BREATHE.

    If we want to write, we should write. If we want to read, we should read. If we want to be models, we should STOP EATING. 😉

    People have all sorts of ideas about what works . . . based on what works for them. That’s why we must look within for the answers that work for US.

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 8:46 AM

      Your comment made me laugh, Nancy!

      I’m not planning on changing my ways at this point, because I simply don’t have more time to write. It is what it is. I was just curious about her adamant statement that writing every day was THE key to getting better. (She also said that writing in the morning was better than writing at night – but I can’t change that either :))

      Here’s to breathing…for another day!

  8. nrhatch November 4, 2011 / 9:15 AM

    And spending time each day to come up with 5 novel ideas is rather a ridiculous exercise ~ at the end of the year, we would have 1,825 ideas. So what?!

    The quality of what we choose to write is far more important that having a quantity of ideas that we will never have time to implement.

    No rules . . . just write (when you can). 😀

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 8:48 AM

      I thought that was excessive, too. I think one good idea a month is more than enough. I completely agree with quality over quantity, Nancy. I can strive for that 🙂

  9. Carl D'Agostino November 4, 2011 / 12:38 PM

    I think about cartoons ideas every day. Sometimes nothing for days and sometimes a dozen in one day. Unused talents do evaporate. My best paintings were done in my late teens but today’s efforts wind up in the trash very early into creation. Things just don’t turn out right like they used to. Decades of non practice.

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 8:49 AM

      I’m sorry your painting skills didn’t come back quickly, Carl. I wonder if they would with more practice?

      I’ve noticed my creativity comes in spurts, too. I guess that’s creativity’s way 🙂

  10. pattisj November 4, 2011 / 2:01 PM

    I, personally, enjoy reading the writing that you share with us on your blog. It’s like sitting and visiting with a friend, and one with a great sense of humor. I think the practice of writing something every day is good, it doesn’t have to be a lot. But we need to allow time to take in things, so the words will flow out. Nice flag stand, btw.

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 8:51 AM

      Thanks, Patti! I did enjoy making the flag stand. If the blog counts for writing, I get 3 or 4 days a week in. If writing comments count, then I get about 6 days a week!

      I’m glad you enjoy reading my posts, and I’m glad you visit and take time to carry on the conversation with a comment 🙂

  11. pattyabr November 4, 2011 / 8:12 PM

    I write everyday. I’m commenting on your post!!! That counts doesn’t it? I also write tons in patient charts everyday. I may not write everyday in my blog but I am writing somewhere.

    Colorful flag stand. I am sorry to say I can’t totally appreciate your effort from the picture. I wish I could. I’m impressed with the cost of building and painting it! Way to go! Poor turkey got camouflaged by the wrappers.

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 8:52 AM

      Technically, commenting IS writing, Patty 🙂 Any writing is better none…

      The flag stand is a bit unconventional, but the cost was in our low budget and it serves the purpose. The flag hasn’t fallen over once 🙂

  12. Carol Ann Hoel November 5, 2011 / 3:32 PM

    You are very creative, Janna. Writing everyday is for people with nothing else to do, right? Write your plight; write your right; write when you’d rather write than fight. I think you really do write a lot. I miss reading all your many posts. I’m grabbing a few moments of blog time. My time slot for blog today is nearly over. And I confess, I don’t write (or read) everyday. Blessings to you…

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 10:01 PM

      Your life has a lot going on right now, so not reading or writing every day is perfectly understandable. I’m glad you took time to read and comment here today, Carol.

      I will, of course, write when I can 🙂

      • Carol Ann Hoel November 6, 2011 / 6:20 AM

        Writing everyday is a good thing. My life is full, but I’ve been where you are, Janna, and your life is full, very full and challenging. You do well to write everyday, but if you miss a day, remember that God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh. I’m not saying we need to stop writing one day a week. We are not under law but grace. But if God rested from his creativity one day, we may feel free to rest and not think that our writing has been stifled. Your writing improves everyday, and your talent shines. I have no doubt that you will someday be published. Blessings to you, Janna…

        • jannatwrites November 6, 2011 / 1:28 PM

          Thank you for the encouragement, Carol Ann. It’s strange, but I’m not in a rush to get to publication at this point. I’m enjoying what I’m doing right now.

          I do agree that rest is necessary for anything we do. If I don’t feel like writing on a given day, I don’t. I’m not under any contracts or deadlines, so I have that luxury 🙂

  13. crumbl November 5, 2011 / 7:47 PM

    I do agree that writing every day will hone your craft; however, writing takes many forms besides fiction. I don’t agree that guilt or feelings of failure should result from not devoting part of every day to writing solely fiction – if time permits, great, and if not, devote the same attention to whatever you do write as would you to your fiction – I don’t agree mornings are the best time to write (unless all you want to read is my Maxine-esque side shining through), and I most definitely do NOT agree that generating 5 novel ideas a day is necessary or a worthwhile use of time. I signed up for NaNoWriMo this month. No earthly intention to write much less submit a novel this year, but I will write something, I will gain a better understanding of how NaNoWriMo does it, and I will have a whole year of prep to tackle next year’s challenge. Gotta be worth something.

    Carl, I wonder if the “fault” is with your recent painting or with the painter’s eye having a different perspective from that of your youth. Technical errors can be fixed … I don’t paint and even I know that … and techniques can be refined or new ones learned and applied, so perhaps you need to have more patience to see a canvas through before you toss it.

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 10:09 PM

      Good for you for trying the NaNoWriMo challenge, Crumbl. Sounds like you’re taking a reasonable approach.

      I’d have to get up at 3AM to get in two hours of writing before I get ready for work. Not gonna happen! It doesn’t help that I’ve already trained myself to stay up later at night. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this post!

  14. clarbojahn November 5, 2011 / 8:17 PM

    Like me your post speaks of being too hard on yourself. So glad when in the comments you clarified your intentions.

    I am in the midst of picture book idea month with thinking of an idea a day for a picture book. I have almost ten and the month is only five days old. I’ve even fleshed out a few. And in spite of everything it’s so much fun fun fun. I love thinking of ideas. Now to complete a couple of them in the coming months. I’m almost certain I will. And that makes me happy, too.

    This brings me to the bottom line in my comment. Do what makes you happy and happiest. If having goals and having the ability to meet those goals make you happy. Then go for it. But if you set unreachable goals and it’s not fun and doesn’t make for happiness. Then don’t go there. That’s what I wanted to tell you.

    • jannatwrites November 5, 2011 / 10:13 PM

      No, this time I’m not beating myself up for NOT doing these things…it was more of me wondering if it would help if I did. For now, I’m going along with what I’m doing – write when I can.

      I’m glad you’re having so many ideas right now, Clar. Good luck getting them written over the next few months 🙂

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