I once did a few comedy improv workshops once for troubled teens in a local high school. Most of the scenes were about sex, so I urged the students to try something else. A young man spoke up.
“You know we’re teens, right?”
That young man illustrated for me what many people believe: an assumption they accept of themselves (“teens think only about sex”) also includes an assumption about creativity (“therefore we can’t think of anything else”).
When I was young, I actually believed that creativity = good writing. I didn’t realize that practice and learning = good writing. By the time I got to university, I’d stopped writing fiction, because I couldn’t remember anyone (except my parents) saying I could write well.
It’s amazing how 16 years, two kids, and a daytime job improve your self-esteem. I have come to realize that assumptions and creativity are glued together. By now, I know that “good writing” is subject to some subjectivity. So, I’ve allowed myself to write fiction again.
I didn’t do it by setting aside “me time” at the computer, where I’d spend two hours completely immersed in my writing. I did it the old-fashioned way: the notebook beside the bed. (I believe L.M. Montgomery did this, though I’m sure many other writers did and do, too.) If I had the urge to write in the morning or before bed, I wrote, usually about ten minutes or so, and then went on with my day.
I ended up writing a few kids’ stories and sharing one with my little ones. They loved it, by the way, and it’s sparked a new bedtime routine for us: practicing creativity by writing a kids’ story together.
What if they hadn’t liked it? I would’ve been ecstatic with the small step that I’d at least written something. Then I would’ve tried to figure out why they didn’t like it, and I would’ve tried again.
But first thing’s first: break out of the assumption you’ve created about yourself and just create.
Excellent observation. You make a great point, we shouldn’t ignore or fix our notions about the aspects of ourselves that fuel and drive us as writers.
When I was younger I believed (extreme emotion and complex words) = good writing. I laugh at and edit my old work in a loving way now ^__^
Thanks, Nathan. Most of my “(extreme emotion and complex words)=good writing” was thankfully in personal correspondence, so it didn’t have much of an audience, though I may have annoyed a few people 🙂
Love the last line, Lori! Great advice no matter what you want to pursue.
Funny you mention LM Montgomery, Lori. When I was around 10, I was reading Anne of Green Gables in the back seat of the car on the way to spend the summer in PEI where my father was working. I decided if Anne could be a writer, so could I, and started writing. Somewhere along the way, someone laughed at me…and it took me about 35 years to get back to what I should have been doing all along. I tell that story to students now when I speak to them.
I don’t think we should entirely discount the paths our insecurities take us on. After all, they give us fodder for later stories 🙂 I’d just rather be my age now than in my 90s before figuring this whole thing out.