Why You ARE the Creative Type

Posted by Cybil on November 01, 2017
Grant Faulkner is the executive director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which encourages people to take on the challenge of writing a novel during the month of November. He's also the co-founder of 100 Word Story. He recently published Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo, a guide to overcoming writer's block, banishing boredom, and revitalizing creativity during NaNoWriMo and beyond. The following is an excerpt from his book.


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Each year, I talk to hundreds of people who have perfected a peculiar and disturbing art: the art of telling themselves why they can't jump in and write the novel of their dreams.

"I've never taken any classes. I don't have an MFA."

"I have a lot of ideas for stories, but I'm not a real writer."

Or, worst of all, they say, "I'm not a creative type."

I call this the other syndrome—as in "other people do this, but not me."

We've all been there, right? We open up the pages of a magazine, and we read a profile of a magnificently cloaked and coiffed artistic being—a twirling scarf, moody eyes, locks of hair falling over a pensive brow. We read the witticisms and wisdom the celebrated artistic being dispenses while drinking a bottle of wine with a reporter one afternoon in a charming hamlet in Italy. The artistic being tells of creative challenges and victories achieved, and then drops in an anecdote or two about a conversation with a famous author, a good friend. There's a joke about a movie deal that fell through, and then an aside about the one that won an Oscar. There's talk about a recently published book, which called to them and gave them artistic fulfillment like no other book ever has.

And, as we sit in our house that is so very far from Italy, and we look across the kitchen, over the dishes on the counter, to the cheap bottle of wine from Safeway, and the phone rings with a call from a telemarketer, just as a bill slides off the stack of bills, we tell ourselves, "Other people are writers. Other people get the good fortune to have been born with a twirling scarf around their neck. Other people get to traipse through Italy to find a fantastic novel calling them. Other people get to be who they want to be—whether it's through family connections, blessed luck, or natural talent. But that's not me. That's other people."

And you know what, we're right. The life of an artist is for others—because we just said so, and in saying so, we make it true.

But here's the rub. Even after negating our creative potential, we're bound to wake up the next day to a tickle of an idea dancing in a far corner of our mind, a memory that is trying to push a door open, a strange other world that is calling us. We wash those dishes, we pay that stack of bills, we drink that cheap bottle of wine, but we know there's something else—we know there's something more.

And there is something more. There's the creative life. You don't need a certificate for it; you don't need to apply to do it; you don't even need to ask permission to do it. You just have to claim it. You might not wear scarves in Italy, but you can make your own version of the artistic life, no matter where you live or what demands of life you face.

It's not always easy, of course. There will be naysayers, those people who think it's silly or trivial to be a "creative type," those who think it's audacious and pretentious for you to write a novel, those who think you can't do it because you lack the qualifications. You've decided to escape the mire of your creative slough, and sometimes that threatens others. But you're not embracing your creativity because it's an easy path. You're doing it because you have something to say. And no one gets to tell you that what you have to say doesn't matter, because it matters to you.

The arts don't belong to a chosen few. Quite the opposite: every one of us is chosen to be a creator by virtue of being human. If you're not convinced of this, just step into any preschool and observe the unbridled creative energy of kids as they immerse themselves in finger painting, telling wild stories, banging on drums, and dancing just for the sake of dancing. They're creative types because they breathe.

And you're a writer because you write. There's no other definition. Don't fall into the common trap of hesitating to call yourself a writer if you haven't published a book. It can easily happen. Agatha Christie said that even after she'd written ten books, she didn't really consider herself a "bona fide author." You earn your bona fides each time you pick up a pen and write your story. So start by telling yourself you're a writer. Then tell the world. Don't mumble it, be proud of it, because to be a writer takes moxie and verve.

Your task as a human being and as an artist is to find that maker within, to decide that you're not "other," you're a creator. Honor the impetus that bids you to write—revere it, bow to it, hug it, bathe in it, nurture it. That impetus is what makes life meaningful. It's what makes you, you.

Inspired? Be sure to add Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo to your Want to Read shelf.



Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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message 1: by idiffer (last edited Nov 01, 2017 10:46AM) (new)

idiffer Mmm, this is like a narrowed down version of the "you can be anything you want when you grow up" speech. It's cool to say and hear, but it's not true. We all have limitations, and some people aren't meant to be writers (at least not good ones. at this point maybe even I can write a pnr or a harem anime script). I guess it's okay to encourage beginning authors to overcome their doubts, but I sure hope this book includes some tips on how to know if you aren't a writer afterall. And, uh, no to qualifications? Well, fine, but I'd still read a few textbooks, because otherwise your first experience with your editor isn't gonna be a nice one. And how much of a writer are you if you don't soak up advice like a hungry spounge?


message 2: by Emily May (new)

Emily May idiffer wrote: "Mmm, this is like a narrowed down version of the "you can be anything you want when you grow up" speech. It's cool to say and hear, but it's not true. We all have limitations, and some people aren'..."

To be fair, though, it's not like he's making any promises in this extract that anyone can be a bestselling author. He's encouraging people to write and be creative for the sake of art and personal fulfilment. There's a difference between saying "anyone can be a writer", which is mostly true, and saying "anyone can write a book that will sell millions of copies and land a movie deal", which isn't.


message 3: by idiffer (new)

idiffer Emily May wrote: "idiffer wrote: "Mmm, this is like a narrowed down version of the "you can be anything you want when you grow up" speech. It's cool to say and hear, but it's not true. We all have limitations, and s..."
Okay, fair point. Btw, didn't expect you to reply to me here, for some reason. It feels surreal, lol.


message 4: by Emily May (new)

Emily May idiffer wrote: "Emily May wrote: "idiffer wrote: "Mmm, this is like a narrowed down version of the "you can be anything you want when you grow up" speech. It's cool to say and hear, but it's not true. We all have ..."

Lol. These blog comment threads usually get too long for me to see a point in dropping in, but I guess I got here early this time :)


message 5: by Kay Dee (new)

Kay Dee Emily May wrote: "Lol. These blog comment threads usually get too long for me to see a point in dropping in, but I guess I got here early this tim"

yep. i normally cannot reply or ask a person a question about a comment on the blog posts because of this.


message 6: by Richard (new)

Richard I like to write both fiction and non-fiction. Although the fiction I write may not be published for the world to see, it helps me polish up my writing skills. It's good important to write, because whatever we write down becomes a possession for us to hold.


message 7: by Lilongxin (new)

Lilongxin I think the message that is sent is more important and of course motivational. Of course that you are what you do. This article is precisely against people who talk about limitations. I know someone who learnt to play the piano on a drawn piano on a piece of paper. Today he excels at playing piano. I was told that if I don't have money and a background I wouldn't be able to go abroad to study. And yet, I did that the year that followed. I have crouched to much in my shell, hiding the fact that I can write and ignoring the desire to write. People who are writers write and writers are people who write.


message 8: by Kay Dee (new)

Kay Dee Lilongxin wrote: "People who are writers write and writers are people who write. "

YES.


message 9: by Debra (new)

Debra Russell 2 years ago at age 64 I changed careers from fine art to writing as I always wanted to write but never had the confidence. Now I have just published my first book and for the last 6 weeks have been writing a regular blog on WordPress that people are actually reading and following. I agree with Grant we need to have confidence in ourselves and give ourselves permission to at least have a go. If we keep telling ourselves we are not good enough, it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.


message 10: by River (new)

River I've not read the book yet. However, I'm a huge advocate of NaNoWriMo. I'd encourage everyone to give it a shot at least once. You may not win, but you will definitely learn a lot about yourself in that one month. You'll also have a lot of fun along the way.


message 11: by David (new)

David Urban Very well said. Why limit yourself? The world is full of people who say "You can't do it!" Why add to the chorus? We need more people who say, "You can!"


message 12: by David (new)

David Urban Debra wrote: "2 years ago at age 64 I changed careers from fine art to writing as I always wanted to write but never had the confidence. Now I have just published my first book and for the last 6 weeks have been..."

Well said!


message 13: by Softness (new)

Softness "But you're not embracing your creativity because it's an easy path. You're doing it because you have something to say. And no one gets to tell you that what you have to say doesn't matter, because it matters to you."

This is something I really needed to hear today.


message 14: by Sahaj (new)

Sahaj This, actually reminds me of a movie I saw, Ratatouille. The critic, in the end, puts the message very nicely: "Not everyone can become a great artist. But a great artist can come from anywhere."
What a thought to remember on a Monday morning!!


message 15: by Farnoosh (new)

Farnoosh FarjadeeRad I can only talk on my behalf when I say I don't do that because I'm a perfectionist, anything less than a marvelous, totally awesome story would be a disaster in my eyes, so I wait for right moment, right time when I'm sure I can write my novel in it's best form. And so far, the time hasn't come...


message 16: by Janice (new)

Janice Bolick I love doing fanzine-style writing, and writing a paranormal romance, for fun.


message 17: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Stoeckel Softness wrote: ""But you're not embracing your creativity because it's an easy path. You're doing it because you have something to say. And no one gets to tell you that what you have to say doesn't matter, because..."

I spent 40 years creating sermons for parishioners. I am done being creatively WRITING. However, creativity doesn’t stay in our own yards so to speak


message 18: by Mark (new)

Mark Disagreements with this come down to the reasons why people write. These reasons can be self or other-directed. Writing can be pure creative catharsis, and it can also be communicative. I suspect that most writers write for a combination of both self and other-directed reasons. I find the activity of writing satisfying, emotionally and intellectually fulfilling, but I also want to communicate with a potential audience.


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