The Cart Before the Horse: An Open Letter to Writers About Their Creative Self
Brenda Ueland in her classic book If You Want To Write talks about the spark of creativity and the process of writing, and creating, with inspirational flashes to show us how other writers and creators, painters, playwrights and poets come to hear their muse.
Inspiration comes very slowly and quietly.
And how do these creative thoughts come? Very slowly and quietly. It is the little bomb of revelation bursting inside you.
–the way you are to feel when you are writing is happy, truthful, and free. With complete self-trust…it will be good. Salable? I don’t know, not for a long time anyway.
When you get down to the true self and speak from that, there is always a metamorphosis in your writing, a transfiguration.
When I notice writers getting tangled up in their inner critic, in not wanting to write, feeling stuck and shy after previously writing freely, I know that something needs to be addressed. I suspect that despite their strong pleas to have me as their coach help them with the techniques of editing, of teaching the about skills that will help them be published—an often passionate desire—that the creative process has become lost in the “goal” of getting published, that the editor they were learning how to be has turned into the inner critic.
It’s time to go back to the basics. While I don’t want to discourage people from being published someday, the idea of “someday” needs to be stressed. It seems easier for people to realize that playing a violin sonata or concerto, or being on stage giving a solo piano concert will take many years of practice. Because everyone has to do some kind of writing all their lives, it seems that the expectation that a person who decides to “write” seriously and with goals for professional notice is that after a few stories, journal entries, or a year or two, they will be able to go “out there” with their work. Of course, this does happen, and no teacher wants to discourage magical and unexpected treasures that may arrive at the writer’s doorstep. On the other hand, I’ve learned too that if I give into the student’s desire to be published, to learn how to edit in a time frame that I sense is premature, that they may plunge into self-doubt, depression, and as if a mule is guiding their creative cart, find themselves backing up instead of moving forward.
All creative learning involves this back and forth process, but at the same time, it’s my desire as a coach, as a person who keeps an eye on the pulse of the creative process, to help people to feel encouraged. Premature “professionalism” can throw ice water on that process and even contribute to them not writing at all.
When in Doubt…
The cure for this malady is to return to “freewriting,” without much editing input. To return to the raw, free voice and creative spirit that made them want to write in the first place. The cure is to return to the inner self, mess and all, incorrect grammar, and misplaced modifiers, and not worry about them.
The creative self needs freedom, it needs applause and smiles and unconditional acceptance. When in doubt, I suggest that you find the joy in self-expression once again, and sink into your free floating stream of consciousness. Allow it to guide you down the stream to the heart of yourself. Listen inwardly not outwardly. Forget the editor. Invite your readers to give you what you need to continue to create. Let the “goal” go and return to the Source.