Creativity’s Archenemy

Sylvia-Plath-001And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath

When talking with writers, I’ve come to notice several commonalities—one of which is that we’re our own greatest enemies. Our self-doubt rules over our creative process with an iron scepter (forgive the cliché). I’m starting to think we need to have a creative revolution if we ever want to succeed. Our creativity needs to rally against the oppressive reign of self-doubt. But how?

Of the several strategies for overcoming self-doubt, I’ve found one the most empowering: give yourself the right to write garbage. If you enter into a novel thinking you’re going to craft the perfect book right off, you’re sorely mistaken. Most novels and stories undergo multiple drafts before they end up on the shelves of your Barnes and Nobles. And the first drafts are seldom good.

If you listen to the voice in the back of your head that tells you that what you’ve written is worthless, you’ll never finish a project. You need the imagination to improvise. Rather than giving up, harness the self-doubt and turn it into motivation. Yes, your first draft may be terrible. All of ours are. But it doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a writer. It simply means you’re a writer.

Take your doubt, wrestle it into submission, and assert your right to write, your right to revise something that you feel has little worth and turn it into a masterpiece. Imagine sculptors throwing away entire slabs of marble after a few taps with hammer and chisel. We’d call them crazy. But how many of us do the same thing with our first few pages?

Give your art the time it needs to be shaped and crafted into art.

Happy Memorial Day.

3 Comments on Creativity’s Archenemy

  1. Do you have actual mind reading powers? How did you know what I would be thinking the week-end after returning from a writer’s conference having received a major rejection? I figured jumping right back to work, writing a long delayed project, would be the healing balm but there’s this weird, bent creature clamped to my shoulder who keeps reminding me that I can’t write. Maybe I should make him read your post.

  2. “Yes, your first draft may be terrible. All of ours are. But it doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a writer. It simply means you’re a writer.”

    I love the simple truth of that. We can’t fail at something we don’t pursue. For me, the success is in the doing.

  3. I’ve found that self-doubt tends to shut its fat mouth when you ignore it completely. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Besides, that doubt is part of the real world whilst the fiction is part of your own world. The two seldom get along, so why take the chance?
    We’ve all written things that aren’t exactly genius. But that’s how we grow. The key is to put duct tape over the mouth of that awful little monster in the back of your mind and just write. You can revise what you’ve written later.

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