Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, April 6, 2017

I wasted six years telling myself I wasn't creative

One of the most common refrains I hear out on the street is this one:

"You know, I've always thought about writing a novel but I'm not really that creative of a person so..."

These poor would-be authors trail off into a CLOUD OF UNCERTAINTY AND DOUBT. (And yes, I walk down strange streets where spurned writers congregate and lament their fate. How else do you think I write this blog???).

These writers worry they won't have enough ideas.

They worry they won't be original.

They worry no one will want to read what they have to write.

Most importantly, they worry they are not the "creative type."

Trust me, I know. I used to be one of them.

I spent six years telling myself I was not a creative type. Six years!!

When I was in college, I was highly encouraged to be a creative person by the very creative author Vikram Seth. But despite this, I lost the belief in my power of creativity. When I graduated and got a job, I prided myself on being the rare publishing employee who wasn't secretly working on a novel.

But mostly: I talked myself out of my own creativity. I wasn't a creative type. I was relatively responsible, had a day job, did not go on hedonistic binges, did not spout wild nonsequitors, did not do drugs... therefore I wasn't creative.

Gradually, I tiptoed toward believing I was a creative person. I started working on a screenplay and it was a finalist for some award and I started believing a little bit. Then I wrote two novels without telling anyone. WITHOUT TELLING ANYONE. I was so unbelieving that I thought my creativity would combust if my activities were exposed to the light.

It wasn't until I was in my late twenties that I finally started believing. I started writing this blog, I started my Jacob Wonderbar novels, I started actually creating things that I found meaningful.

But before all that... I spent six years talking myself out of it. What a waste of time!! I kick myself when I think of what I could have accomplished in those six years if I had just believed.

Please learn from my mistakes. There is no such thing as a creative type. Everyone has the power to create works that have meaning.

And just as I'm immensely grateful to Vikram Seth for believing in me, one of the greatest gifts you can give another person is to share your own belief in the power of their creativity. Just reach out to them to encourage them, or send them this post if they don't believe you for whatever reason (also what did you do to them can we talk about it).

Don't let doubt stop you from creating. Just get going.

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: Kellar: self decapitation, magician poster by Strobridge Lithograph Co.


Peter Dudley said...

Right on.

k bot said...

Well said. I think that inner voice is sometimes also an echo from school, parents and friends...we are told often that if you are creative, you probably can't do much with it anyway, so maybe just be creative in your spare time. It's easier to believe you're not creative if you can't see a future for it. A guidance councillor (!) at my old school in the late 80's said creative jobs will give you years of Kraft dinner and camping trips, while REAL jobs offer Red Lobster and Disney.
He. Was. Awesome.

Thanks for sending the reminder into the world!

JOHN T. SHEA said...

Amen, K Bot! Such introjected voices can echo long after the speakers are dead, but they're not all discouraging, thank heavens! As for creativity, I wonder how many words Nathan has written for this blog, quite apart from his books.

Bryan Fagan said...

One of my favorite movies - Orange County (2002) - centers around a young man wanting to write. His father, played by John Lithgow, attempts to sway him in a different direction by proclaiming, "You're not depressed! You're not gay!"

If any of you are having doubts, watch this little gem. It did wonders for me.

abc said...

Let's not think of it as wasted years but rather gathering intel.

Sophie Ahn said...

Thank you for this post!

Anonymous said...

Wasted time? Is anything ever wasted? What does that mean? Are we talking about regrets? Regrets is not the best way to go in life. The only truism for me is “if I do this then I can’t do that.” …Is there ONE God, or a whole slew of Gods, or just maybe no God?

wendy said...

Having read your reasons and conclusion, I can see the wisdom, Nathan. Not a non sequitur in sight. I always claimed I *was* this type. Not that I had any attributes you named, but because I was imaginative, dreamy and an ideas person, and I thought I was at the opposite end of the spectrum from the practical person. To me, the practical person was akin to those personality types who worked in nursing, or the police force, or who played professional sports. Yet, I've always felt more on the wave length of artistic people - not that I've known many. Perhaps it's because we have more hobbies/pursuits in common and more to talk about. At one stage I had a partner who'd never read a book and focused on fishing, gardening and TV. We got on well but drifted apart as we spent our time doing different things.

wendy said...

P.S. But I do think, especially after reading this blog, that anyone can be creative if they put in the time and effort, and have a passion to create, and a certain amount of confidence.

Neil Larkins said...

For a long time (I'm nearly 72 now) I kinda knew I was creative, but in another medium: as an artist. Never really considered if I was creative as a writer but if I was or wasn't, I wrote anyway. Then a few years ago I published a few ebooks and a few (very few) people said I was a pretty decent writer. Now I have to tell myself "I am a marketer, I am a marketer." So far another voice is saying "No you're not, no you're not" but I try not to listen to him...who sounds a lot like me. Nonetheless, I shall carry on until I can say with confidence "Last munth I cudnt evin spel 'markuteer' an now I ar wun."

JOHN T. SHEA said...

Thanks for your June link to this post, Nathan, which I reread with renewed interest. But I do wonder if it is accurate to describe time not writing as 'wasted', something I do myself too. Stephen King (in?)famously described time not writing as 'dicking off'. Yet most people do not write much or at all, and what King called 'dicking off' is what they call 'life'.

So I must ask myself, if I wrote more, what would the writing have replaced? What book would I not have read? What walk would I not have taken? What relative or friend would I not have visited or phoned? Perhaps writing would have been preferable, but maybe not.

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