GUEST POST: GETTING PAST THE HUMP IN A CREATIVE PRACTICE
I set a goal to write 1 million draft words of my 1.8 million word series in 2018. That’s 5,000 pages. Although I’ve written other books and short stories, this series is the first that has the potential to be commercially viable. I reached that goal on August 31, 2018, and I’ll work towards my stretch goal of 1.8 million words. I’ve been stumped. I’ve written myself into corners. I’ve had to redesign characters and do some deep thinking on magic systems to ensure that my world was logical and internally consistent. And I continue to have to fix problems with plot, structure, characters, and endings.
I’d like to share with you some components of emotional, psychological, and professional resiliency that you can use in your creative work whether it’s writing, Painting, performing arts, composing, or some other artistic endeavour.
Put your Pride Aside
It’s not easy creating something. What gets typed up on a page, painted onto a canvas, inked into a score, often isn’t what you initially thought it would turn out to be. I wrote a romance scene where the heroine and hero fell into each other’s arms and fell madly in love with one another. A perfect ending to a beautiful story. Romantic, eh? The problem was when my beta-readers reviewed it, they pointed out the glaring flaw that the conflict the heroine and hero had just a chapter ago wasn’t resolved, that it didn’t make sense in context for them to wrap each other up in their loving arms and that the scene was flat. No spark, no desire. Ouch.
I rewrote the scene with their advice, looked at the margins where they scribbled notes and questions, answered them all in the rewrite, and ended up with a better chapter.
To create the best product (art) you need to open yourself up to feedback. Open to feedback from people who have more experience in the art than you.
A chapter may not make sense. A composition may lose its rhythm or not synch well with other instruments. A piece of weaving may not achieve the desired pattern. A painting may work best when another technique or perspective is used.
Sometimes you’ll have a creative difference with the person providing the feedback. Other times you’ll have to have a think about how to rework it, how to incorporate the feedback, how to make it fit for what you want to achieve.
It’s not easy, but you’re better off for it. Sure, there might be some creative differences, but you asked them for feedback. You won’t get better unless you take that feedback and rework it into your work.
There are days where my brain doesn’t want to cooperate. I have an idea in my head, it’s clear and crisp, but when I go to type it up, it’s garbled and flat. There are days where I can’t get a piece of the story to work, the plot twist that I thought it would turn out to be a gentle slope, uninteresting and predictable.
I think I write goodly 😃, but then it comes out as making no sense. Sometimes it’s because I’m tired, so I take a break. Sometimes, it’s because I’m dehydrated and I can’t think clearly in those situations. Other times, it’s because I need to improve my skill level.
Budget your time and money.
I budget time and money for professional development. If you don’t have a lot of money, that’s okay. You need to allocate more time. For example, I read a lot of free articles online, listen to free podcasts, and participate in free forums about my craft.
I also allocate a professional development budget, and I participate in conferences, workshops, and online courses. The better I get, the more tools and tricks I can use to overcome a technical challenge.
It’s nice to have your spouse or sibling ask you about your art. And then you see their eyes glaze over when you become animated and enthusiastic about your work. Your spouse, your children, your siblings, are likely to smile and nod when you show them a new creation, but they often don’t share the same passion for your art as you do. That stings and can discourage you from pursuing it.
Find and surround yourself with people who are equally passionate about the type of creative practice you do. I’ve developed an ecosystem of individuals associated with publishing and writing to help me through this project, and I’ve expanded my network in this area. With them, I get technical about writing, engage in deep conversations about the craft, go to conferences with them, share resources, and talk until lose my voice about all things related to writing. But when it comes down to it, I still need to put my fingers to the keyboard and produce.
I love writing. I took a fifteen-year break from writing – though I can’t remember why I stopped writing, and when I came back to it, I remembered how much I love it. I find editing difficult and less entertaining. When I don’t feel like doing it, even though I know I have to do it, I break it into smaller chunks, I learn techniques to make it less of a slog, and I keep reminding myself that I need to do this to achieve the end goal: a well-written, polished, book.
Take that idea, then apply the points of this article from bottom to top.
Renée Gendron MA
I’m the founder of Vitae Dynamics where I help companies and communities improve their economic resiliency. I think Canada needs to create 6 million full-time jobs to ensure prosperity for all. You can like my Vitae Dynamics page on Facebook and/or follow me on twitter under @vitaedynamics.
My website is http://reneegendron.com/index.html
I’m also the co-founder of a clean agricultural company. We offer a range of organic certified whole life cycle products that reduce the need for antibiotics, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, improves air quality in barns, and boost yields for farmers.
If you’d like to follow me for my writing, please do so on twitter @reneegendron I’ve not posted much yet but will do so soon. I will probably post a lot about squirrels because they are awesome.