Sunday, March 09, 2014

18 Things

The other day, I ran across an article called "18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently" on the Huffington Post.  It's an interesting article.  Written clearly.  Nicely organized.  Relevant Getty images.  Etc.  But it totally stressed me out.

I consider myself a fairly creative person.  I write books for a living.  Fantasy books with were-unicorns and gods in human bodies and creepy visions and so forth.  I live half in my imagination.  I've never ever been in an airplane without imagining unicorns hopping on the clouds.  (Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this!)

But this article listed out the 18 things creative people do... and I don't do them.  Not all of them.  So I wanted to write this blog post because I believe that you don't have to fit into a particular mold to be a creative person.

1. "They daydream."

Okay, yeah, totally do that all the time.  Skipping ahead...

2. "They observe everything."

Nope.  Definitely not.   Especially when I'm daydreaming (see #1).  I've actually failed to observe an earthquake.  (A couple years ago, we had a minor earthquake.  Very rare.  The next day, everyone was sharing all their where-were-you-when stories.  And I had no idea what they were talking about.)

3. "They work the hours that work for them."

Hah!  I wish.  It's a luxury to choose what hours you work.  I write in the hours that I have.  Or minutes.  If I only wrote when I was at peak freshness or when I felt inspired...  You don't have to wait until the perfect moment to be creative.

4. "They take time for solitude."

Quiet freaks me out.  I write to music because it distracts the critical side of my brain and allows the creative side to play.  But, sure, yeah, I guess I'm more productive when I'm alone?  I'm happiest, though, when I am both writing and have my family around me.

5. "They turn life's obstacles around."

Art can come from a place of pain.  There are many artists and writers who take their pain and transform it into art.  It can be part of the process of healing, or it can be a cry in the darkness.

But art can also come from a place of joy.

I think sometimes people forget that.

6. "They seek out new experiences."

In fiction, yes.  In real life, not so much.  I'm perfectly happy to not be the one to try the spiciest food or leap off a mountain or dive to the bottom of the ocean.  My characters can do that for me, thank you very much.

7. They "fail up."

Agree with this 100%.  You have to  be persistent.  In fact, if I had to choose one trait necessary for success in writing (and all art), it would be this: Don't give up.  Unless you're unhappy doing what you're doing.  Then give up and go do something that makes you happy.  There's no shame in discovering you don't love what you think you're supposed to love.

8. "They ask the big questions."

Hmm, define "big."  I ask things like "What would happen if a unicorn stabbed a vampire?"  Or "What fun things can you do with telekinesis?"  Does that count?

You can be the kind of creative type who asks the big questions and explores the mysteries of the human psyche.  Or you can be the kind of creative who studies the small moments and captures them in a perfect jewel of words.  Or you can be the one who wants only to entertain.  Or you can be some mix of all of those.

Personally, I am a big believer in "story first, theme later."  I've been known to write an entire 300 page first draft and then say, "Oh, so THAT'S what the story was about."

9. "They people-watch."

Ooh, I do this all time.  I wish it were socially acceptable to plop down next to someone and say, "Tell me your life story."  Only my grandmother can get away with that.

10. "They take risks."

Creatively, yes.  I intentionally broke writing rules right and left in Conjured.  In real life... not so much.  I hate when people are mad at me.  And I really don't ever want to break any bones.  So in real life, I'm rather risk-averse.

11. "They view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression."

Not really.  Sometimes I just like to eat tortilla chips and have no interest in making it into performance art.

12. "They follow their true passions."

Guess this is true.  I'd lump it in with #7.  Stubborn persistence is key to success in the arts.

13. "They get out of their own heads."

Yeah, this one is kind of a job requirement for me.  If I only wrote about myself, booooooorrrrrring.  (On the other hand, there are writers that can write brilliantly about themselves...)

14. "They lose track of the time."

True for me.  Especially when writing is going well.  Writing can be an immersive experience.

15. "They surround themselves with beauty."

*looks at crumbs on floor and teetering pile of junk mail next to kitchen table*  Um...

16. "They connect the dots."

Guess so.  But you don't have to see the connections when you start a story.  You just have to trust yourself that it will all connect someday.

17. "They constantly shake things up."

The article quotes someone who says (and I'm paraphrasing here) that habit is the killer of creativity.  Nonsense.  As with all of these, it might be true for some people.  But for others...  Habit can be the thing that makes you feel safe enough to take the mental and emotional risks that allow you to create.  Living in a safe environment, surrounding yourself with people who love and believe in you, avoiding unnecessary angst and drama... that's what gives you the strength to fly.  See #5.

18. "They make time for mindfulness."

Am I supposed to be meditating?  Oops.

The article does mention needing a "clear and focused mind," and I do think that can help.  But I would like to point out that "clear and focused" doesn't have to mean linear.  In other words, you don't need to know what you're doing to do something cool.  But you do have to sit down and do it.

So those are my thoughts.  What do you guys think?  Do you fit all 18?



At 12:51 PM, Blogger Perle said...

Food for thought. I consider myself creative and frankly some of these are just not me. p.s. What does happen when a Unicorn stabs a Vampire?.
Perle Champion at
Perleā€™s Ink,
freelance words & art

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Perle: I can completely see how each of the items can be true for someone, but not all of them for everyone (and certainly not me!). As for the unicorn and the vampire... I actually wrote an entire book to answer that burning question: DRINK, SLAY, LOVE. :)

At 9:28 PM, Blogger Jennavier Gilbert said...

Umm.... What? Most of this is complete BS. Being creative doesn't mean perfect, interesting, or successful. It just means creative. It sounds like they're setting up the next in-a-movie writer character!

Oh, and Perle, you should totally check out Drink Slay Love. The answer to what happens when a unicorn stabs a vampire is amazing and totally addicted me to Sarah's books for all time.

At 11:20 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Ever since I saw this disturbing animated video defining creativity, I try not to think of what makes me creative. And no, I'm not linking to it because I don't want to give anyone nightmares. We are creative because we come up with ideas that no one else would concoct. End of story.

On an unrelated note, Sarah, are you going to do a blog post about Frozen? I loved your entry on Tangled from 2010, and it'd be interesting to see your thoughts since with parenting Frozen is about how good intentions can go to Helheim, and that being family sometimes isn't enough to stop eternal winter or ambitious royals.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

This article is mind blowing. When I read this article, I enjoyed.

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At 9:05 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Jennavier: So happy you enjoyed Drink, Slay, Love! Thanks! And I agree that this article sounds more like a description of a character type than an actual person.

Priya: Ooh, I should post about Frozen. Great idea! I'll do that soon. Thanks!


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