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The Seven Deadly Myths of Creativity - The Motive Center
September 7th, 2004
11:07 pm

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The Seven Deadly Myths of Creativity
Time for some content! I've captured here a very brief summary of the Seven Deadly Myths of Creativity which are in my book Motivate Your Writing! I spoke solo on this at the Boston Worldcon as well, and in case someone didn't get the handout, here they are:

Heredity: “Creativity is born, not made—and only some of us have it”
The Muse: “Creativity is a gift of the muse”
Solitude: “I must be alone in a quiet place to create”
Discipline: “Creativity comes from discipline and structure”
The “Right” Way: “I must write in the same way as ‘X’ to do it right”
Completeness: “Creativity must be full-blown—not piecemeal”
Worthiness: “I don’t really belong here—I’m not one of them”


Now I say these are all myths, which means that I don't think they are true! Here is my brief set of answers to the myths:

1. Creativity is hereditary—to everyone!
2. If creativity is built in, what do you need a muse for?
3. Solitude is helpful but not required—and some produce better in groups!
4. Motivation matters more than discipline
5. “There are 9-and-60 ways of composing tribal lays—and every single one of them is right!” – Rudyard Kipling
6. People only read the last draft...
7. You don’t need a creative license!


I had intended to mention a few inspirational examples of writers as well, but ran out of time at the talk, partially because I was getting great questions from the folks in the room, so I'll add a few of them here. All the myths are about ways people block themselves, or let other people plant a block, as it were. So imagine, if you will, people saying things like this:

"I'm not a real writer--I've only written one book." This describes a writer named Harper Lee, who wrote a little book called To Kill a Mockingbird. Somehow I am not willing to take credit for her writing away...

"I just write poetry and plays." Well, so much for Shakespeare! And yet people set themselves barriers like "I'm not published in X, therefore I'm not a writer."

"I've only written nonfiction." Too bad, Darwin.

"I never sold anything except to a relative who felt sorry for me." That was Vincent Van Gogh, who at last check had a whole museum dedicated to his work in Amsterdam.

Hmmm....Epictatus said it a long time ago--"if you wish to be a writer, write." No other criteria were specified.

Current Mood: creative

(14 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:loupnoir
Date:September 9th, 2004 03:21 pm (UTC)
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I missed your presentation at Worldcon, but my husband went and came back waving your handout and telling me how much I would have loved it. I plan on taping the handout on the wall where it will remind me to go forth and write.

I linked to your LJ from mine. So many of those on my Flist also want to write and the wonderful "Seven Deadly Myths of Creativity" needs to be shared.
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From:stevekelner
Date:September 10th, 2004 08:07 pm (UTC)

Taping the handout

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Thanks so much! That's the intent...
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From:icarusancalion
Date:September 9th, 2004 03:32 pm (UTC)
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Wonderful. loupnoir pointed me towards your blog (her husband apparently attended one of your seminars recentely).

What are your thoughts on fanfiction?

I started writing fanfiction with the attitude that so much of it's dreadful, what did I have to lose? I didn't consider myself a writer, merely a frustrated reader who didn't find what I wanted, so wrote it myself. To my surprise I became a relatively popular fanfiction writer, and developed steady readers and within two years cranked out around 100 stories.

It's addictive, especially with the instant gratification of posting a story -- and receiving reader response within hours (sometimes minutes). Yet my original stories are often back-burnered to feed fans' hunger for more fanfic, and there's always that lingering sense of intimidation: I may have 'made it' in a certain limited circle, but what about outside of that?

Icarus
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From:mollymoon
Date:September 9th, 2004 03:42 pm (UTC)
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Like Icarus, I'm here because of the loverly Loup and I too am curious about what you think of the world of fanfiction.

Personally, I would rather move forward with my original writing, but I can't seem to overcome the mental barrier I have about it. Just don't want to deal with rejection, I guess... and with fanfiction, one can always fall back on the "it's not real writing" clause if you feel that your work isn't good enough.

I got into writting fanfic because I felt that it was a good way of exercising my writing skills, but now I'm worried that I'm writing to satisfy others more than myself. Like Icarus says above, the instant gratification factor is very high.

Great posts you've made on your journal, though! Look forward to reading more from you.
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From:stevekelner
Date:September 10th, 2004 08:11 pm (UTC)

Fanfiction

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Actually, you've described the good part and bad part of fanfiction beautifully: the good thing is that you feel safe writing it and you get instant feedback--the bad thing is you may prefer the "safe" instant feedback to doing it the hard way. Face it--you're already a writer--why not take some stories and submit them elsewhere? If you're that fast a writer, you can certainly put your fanfic on hold for a few days without your readers objecting, I presume.

If you feel the fanfic is too specific to a given world, check over your 100 stories and see if you can find one where you could file off the serial numbers, as it were.

I'll add a note on the blog regarding the instant vs. non-instant gratification of professional writers...
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From:madwriter
Date:September 9th, 2004 04:42 pm (UTC)

""I never sold anything except to a relative who felt sorry for me."

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That would also be Virginia Woolf, whose husband set up a press for her books since he knew her writing was therapeutic.
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From:stevekelner
Date:September 10th, 2004 08:11 pm (UTC)

Re: ""I never sold anything except to a relative who felt sorry for me."

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Gotta remember this one--I didn't know that!
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From:absynthia
Date:September 9th, 2004 04:58 pm (UTC)
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This just might one of the most beneficial things I've ever read.

You know... I can apply this to just about every area of my life. You've blown all of my excuses completely out of the water. Now what will I do?! ;)
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From:stevekelner
Date:September 10th, 2004 08:12 pm (UTC)

"blown all of my excuses completely out of the water"

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I guess you have nothing left to do but write!

Glad you liked it--I'm working on a more general book of motivation applied to life, which I am writing piecemeal here, in fact.
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From:albionwood
Date:September 9th, 2004 09:53 pm (UTC)

Great Presentation!

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Very glad to see this on your blog. Your presentation at Worldcon in Boston was the best thing I attended at the whole Con. Very professional, direct and unaffected. Thanks very much for doing it!
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From:stevekelner
Date:September 10th, 2004 08:14 pm (UTC)

Re: Great Presentation!

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Thanks! I appreciate your description as "professional, direct and unaffected" because that is exactly what I was aiming for. Too many writers get snooty, and indeed one person on one of my panels seemed to forget that you don't have to write a zillion novels a year to count as a writer. Not even as a good one. My intent is to encourage people--if I can encourage the next Harper Lee, I've done my bit for civilization!
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From:albionwood
Date:September 11th, 2004 08:10 am (UTC)

Re: Great Presentation!

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The panel format can be frustrating... for participants and audience alike. Part of what made your solo presentation so effective was that your message was undiluted!

Absent from Cons for many yers, I had forgotten how annoying panels can be. There always seem to be certain archetypes present: The Hogger, the Hider, frequently the Incoherent Weirdo. So it was quite a pleasure to hear you talk and stay "on message!" Also I was impressed that you got through the whole thing in exactly an hour - perhaps not the first time you've given that talk, eh?

(BTW: I am Loup Noir's "Spousal Unit" so I suppose this onslaught of fan-ficcers is partly my fault...)
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From:casfic
Date:September 10th, 2004 12:38 pm (UTC)
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Yet another person from loupnoir's flist. I used to write fanfiction like some of the others. It was really strange. In the online world I had some recognition, but fanfic was always like a dirty little secret in my offline life. I lost my motivation when the character I wrote about was killed off, and that kickstarted me on to my own stuff and I'm currently editing the first decent novel I've written. I find I keep going because I want to find out if I can pull it off. Can I save the hero from Certain Death in the penultimate chapter?

The only two of your myths that I find applicable are number 3 and number 7. Three isn't a problem, but seven probably will be.

Looking forward to seeing more of your entries.
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From:stevekelner
Date:September 10th, 2004 08:16 pm (UTC)

Saving the hero from Certain Death

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Sounds like you're motivating yourself pretty well already! I know one mystery writer (Phil Craig) who got this image of his character hanging off a cliff in Colorado, and decided to write his next book in the series to get to that image. Unfortunately the character was a fisherman living on Martha's Vineyard...but he did it, and the motivation for that book was to get to that scene, which was so vivid in his head he had to make it happen.

I'm glad only two myths apply--too many myths, and you've got REAL challenges...
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