Burning Down The House

“I’m an ordinary guy. Burning down the house.”

The subject of creativity is endlessly fascinating (to me, at least). How does it happen? How do we do it? Why do some people do it well, while other people don’t? With enough time and effort, most of us can gain the bedrock of technique, discipline, understanding that is needed to be creative. And yet, even when we have gained it (in whatever subject), many of us do not go on to be creative with it. Why is this? What causes the gap between being able to write, and actually becoming a writer? I suspect it is about:

* an obsessive desire to work at it (whatever ‘it’ is) until you get it right

* a certain ‘stickability’ – refusing to give up when you find it difficult

* feeling secure enough to take risks, to experiment, to get it wrong until you get it right

* a willingness to throw lots of ideas away until you find the one that actually works

* looking for links and connections, especially ones that no one else has noticed

* looking for the right questions, rather than expecting to find the right answers

* coming at questions from a fresh angle, to see what things look like elsewhere

* a willingness to go over the top, being unafraid to make a fool of yourself

* not caring what other people will think or say about what you have created.

This last one is, to me at least, the key to unlocking our creativity. We must silence the internal editor that sits on our shoulders, nagging in our ears. “What will people¬†think?” the voice says. “You’ll look really stupid if you say that,” it whispers. “Weirdo!” it shouts, if it thinks you’ve been ignoring it too long. But by its very nature, creativity often looks very strange at first glance, because it is ahead of its time. So, a word to the wise, for any prospective writers out there. When I hear that nagging voice in my ear, I send it packing, with the words: ‘I think you’re mistaking me for someone who gives a shit.’

(And I strongly suspect that David Byrne does the same.)

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