Unlocking Creativity

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.                                                   
Joseph Chilton Pearce


Remember when you were a child, and you approached life opened-armed with unbounded enthusiasm, without fear of failure, without considerations of what others thought or fear of being judged, and just played for the sheer joy of play?

Then you grew up.

Somewhere along the way, that creative child was told he was making mistakes. Maybe at some time, that child broke a rule. Other kids – or adults – made fun of that child’s ideas. Or maybe the child was told he was stupid, or a daydreamer (as if that was a bad thing) or irresponsible or – fill in the blank.

Now you’re in English or Creative Writing class, and your instructor asks you to write a narrative essay. Pick a significant event from your childhood and write a creative story. First draft due Monday with full narrative arc.

Panic sets in, accompanied by negative self-talk:

I can’t write like the writers in the textbook. . .
I don’t know how to start. . .
I don’t know how to conclude. . .
I’m too embarrassed to ask a stupid question. . .
I’m bad at punctuation. . .
I’m bad at spelling. . .
I’m bad at everything. . .
I’m a lousy writer. . .
I’m a lousy person. . .
I’m such an idiot. . .
Nothing significant has ever happened to me. . .
I am not significant. . .

Something happened between being the child who tried anything without a care in the world, to being paralyzed with fear of making a mistake, and it might take some years on an expensive therapist’s couch to figure out what. So what do you do in the meantime?

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
Pablo Picasso

For the next few weeks, we’re going to focus on ways to unlock our creativity. What does this have to do with writing, you ask? Nothing – and everything. Even if you are writing an argument paper for Composition or a recipe for culinary class, it is still considered a creative act. Artists are not just painters or sculptors or novelists, but chefs and welders and landscaper designers. Everyone was born creative, but most of us were educated, scolded or guilted out of it. Once we relocate that creative child and give him or her permission to experiment without worries of judgment, shame or embarrassment, great things begin to happen. We realize we can compose a mighty fine narrative essay for Comp class. We can write a nice poem or story for Creative Writing class. We can even create the best darn recipe for quadruple- chocolate-caramel-stuffed- layer cake EVAH!

Inspiration may be a form of superconsciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness . . . . I do know it is the antithesis of self-consciousness.
Aaron Copland


Before you jump into your next assignment, take ten minutes and just write. It doesn’t matter what you write, just start writing. Write your very first memory. Write about what inspires you. Write about your flat tire. Write about kindergarten class. Write about a bad hair day. Three pages, just for your eyes. Share your experiences in the comments.




4 thoughts on “Unlocking Creativity

  1. The Pearce quote is an excellent quote and much used. What is the source of Pearce’s quote? In what context was it originally used? I finally quite on Google page 15 with not one quote source providing the context of the original quote. Can you help? Thank you, Bob.


    1. Bob-
      I’m not sure I can help either. I took the quote from ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julie Cameron, but this isn’t the original source, of course, and Cameron doesn’t attribute it to any text, only Pearce. Sorry I can’t be more help.


  2. i have always had a problem with tapping my own creativity. it’s not so much a matter of the ideas or inspiration not being there. there seems to be some sort of block between my brain and fingers that has always frustrated me. Even when i can get it to transfer to paper, i seem to pick everything apart and i just want to delete the whole thing.


    1. Brian-
      There is a school of thought that believes a “block” like you describe can actually be remedied with physical activity. Walking, stretching, even shaking out your body can unlock mental barriers like you describe.
      Picking everything apart is a different problem. That, my friend, is your inner critic. All writers have them. Tell him to shut up. There is a post in here somewhere talking about the inner critic and how to avoid him; it’s especially a problem for perfectionists. Has anyone told you that you are a perfectionist? Writing is a process, meaning, it takes multiple drafts to get a piece of writing to where it needs to be. Even published, professional writers would never dream of letting anyone see early drafts of their writing – because it’s crap. Painstaking revision makes it better.
      Never judge your early writing. It’s like a baby: it needs nurturing and great care to grow into something.


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