Early last year I went on a bit of a learning binge, reading books by some of my favorite or respected creators about the process of creativity. I find it a fascinating topic overall but at the time I was ramping up for writing my first solo authored book and wanted to see how they did it. It was highly relevant and urgent for me given the task ahead (new projects are always my favorite way to learn!).
I read On Writing by Stephen King, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For Life, and John Scalzi’s You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing.
(I give Scalzi the best in show award for the title alone!)
King is a horror writer you’ve probably heard of, Scalzi is one of my favorite sci/fi authors (he has interesting ideas about science and the future while still being able to tell a hell of a story), and Tharp is one of the preeminent choreographers today.
The one thing they all had in common: creation is a discipline. The writers all have established a schedule of working on their art that they stick to without much deviation. Equally important, they create whether they are feeling ‘inspired’ or not. The artist burning with the intensity of an idea and then creating madly in an epic session is the rare exception and not sustainable.
These three creators, who have made works highly valued by others repeatedly for years, are workman like about their art. They go at it every day. Is everything a gem? Hardly. But their mix of talent (yes you do need some!) with dedication and consistent effort is why they stand out from the crowd.
As you might guess, this same lesson applies equally well to any other endeavor. With so much work being knowledge oriented today, creativity is worth more than ever.
The lessons from these three creators should give you heart: keep working at it and you will be creative. Don’t worry about inspiration, it’ll happen when it happens. Your discipline is what enables you to take advantage of it.
Thanks for the suggestions on Scalzi and King’s book. I read the Creative Habit recently and really enjoyed it.
I imagine you’ve read Stephen Pressfield’s “The War of Art.” Highly recommended for a similar book. Pressfield’s very open about his struggles with discipline and creativity.