Creativity is a skill, not a gift

Sep 24, 2012, 0 Comments

Being a writer is one of those endeavors that most people feel are limited to a certain type of person. The "naturally creative." The "inspired genius." The "born communicator." They seem to think that creativity is some kind of natural affinity or talent or quality that you are born with, like being right-handed.

Except the truth is that anyone can be trained to be left-handed. Similarly, anyone can be trained to be creative. Writing, even writing creatively, is a skill, not an inherent quality. Need proof? Mark Twain was not a creative writer when he was an infant. He wasn't even literate. Nobody is born with the ability, it is learned.

If you want to write something creative, stirring, and/or inspirational, here's how you start.

1. Start writing. Just start. Don't think of a subject, don't think of a plot, a character, or a moral to your story. Just start writing. Overcoming the mental inertia is the hardest part of writing. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Just write for 15 minutes in an unstopping stream of consciousness until the clock says you're done.

2. Keep writing. Write a little bit every day for 21 consecutive days. Even if everything you write is garbage, you are developing something that will be of incredible benefit to you in the future, and that is a habit. It takes roughly 21 days for a new behavior to develop into a habit. Allow the power of habit to work for you.

3. Read. In addition to writing every day, develop a habit of reading every day. When you write, you share a piece of yourself with your reader. That is why you need to always be reading, to grow your own knowledge and experience base, so you have something inside you worth sharing. Read from a diverse base of authors that you admire.

4. Keep writing. As you read, you learn. As you learn, your writing voice will change and grow.

5. Share. Whether it is a blog, a collection of short stories, or your letter of resignation, eventually, you will need to show your writing to someone else. This is probably the hardest part for most aspiring writers, but the only way that you will be able to succeed. Do not fear criticism, you will need it to identify your areas of weakness. Constructive criticism will also help you to identify your areas of strength. Share your writing with someone you trust is qualified to judge your work.

6. Keep writing. Write every day. If it's already a habit for you, then it should be harder for you to not write.

You may have noticed that in my 6 step process for writing creatively, that 4 of those steps are "write." The more you write, the more skill you develop. A lot of what you write you will probably throw out, especially in the beginning. That's to be expected. The key to having some really great ideas is to have a lot of terrible ideas along the way. That is what I mean when I say that creativity is not based on natural talent. It is based on continuous work and discipline and perseverance.

Thomas Edison said, "To have a great idea, have a lot of them.He also said, "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." The art of inventing, the conceptualizing and creating of a physical something that does not even exist yet, is the very epitomy of creativity. But Edison recognized, that the secret was not waiting for the ideas to come, but to work and push and continually experiment, until the ideas developed. Writing is the same way. If you want to generate writing that is worth gold, you need to sift through enough rocks and dirt.

by Matt S. Law. Matt S. Law is the author of It Takes 15 Minutes to Change Your Life.

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