“Writer’s block? I’ve never heard of a plumber complain about plumber’s block.”
— Robert B. Parker
When I think about creativity, I think about that quote. I like that quote. It emphasizes that creativity does require work. There’s something liberating about that idea. For anyone who has ever said, “I’m just not creative” — well, you are. We all are. But it it does take a little effort.
Maybe you don’t want to do the work. Okay. Maybe you see it as a calling, a thing that must be expressed, never denied, lest it consume you. Right on. That must feel interesting too.
For me, it’s just a thing I do. It takes practice. But I know if I can get myself to focus for a couple of minutes, I will always surprise myself. Five minutes ago I felt like I had nothing. But I sat down and started writing and here we go.
I don’t think it can be defined. I don’t think there’s anything definite about it. I think about it like a flow. Sometimes the flow isn’t happening. Sometimes you produce garbage. That’s okay too. Nothing stops the creative process faster than the unwillingness to write badly.
Everybody has their own way. Some like to plan it all out in advance. I don’t know how they do that. I like to be surprised. I like to jam with it. I don’t have to know where it’s going. I just have to be there to let it happen.
I think of it as a wave on the ocean. Sometimes the wave isn’t there and I have to wait. Sometimes it hits so fast and hard that I can’t catch it. But when it’s right, I just try to stay on it as long as I can.
John Hughes wrote “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” in a weekend. That’s a good wave. But again, that takes practice. You can’t catch a wave from the cabana, so Parker’s right too. You gotta get out there.
Find your own metaphor. Find what works for you. Create the kind of thing you enjoy most. There’s no right or wrong. There’s no life or death hanging in the balance. If you do nothing, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Personally, writing is something that always makes me feel better. I’m happier when I’m writing. I’m happier knowing that today I got to have that moment where I sat down with nothing and got up with something. That moment where the characters are writing themselves? I love that.
So when I can, I show up, flow with it and see what happens. Good or bad, I’ll feel better than I did before. I’ll know I did something. And maybe someone got a chuckle out of it.
That’s a good feeling, man. There’s not a lot in life that feels that good. This is one of those things. So get out there and surprise yourself. You’ll be glad you did.