I just got finished editing an article that was sent to me. The subject? Getting started in creative writing. The author of this article believed wholeheartedly that the only way to carve out a genuine career in creative writing was to go to school for it. After rereading and tweaking the article for editorial purposes several times, I am now faced with the problem of replacing all the office furniture I destroyed in the process.
Call me eccentric (God knows I’ve been called worse), but I have a hard time subscribing to the theory that creativity is something that can be taught from a book. There has to be something there to build on in the first place. You can teach somebody to draw a circle, but it is a whole nother concept to transform that circle into a globe, a planet, a world of your own creation, with a reality that you manipulate, characters that you breathe life into, and the orchestration of those lives through the strokes of a pen or keyboard (pick your poison).
I remember a few years ago when our church hosted some musical guests, a husband and wife opera duo from Julliard School Of Music. I sat and listened to the wife perform….she had a gorgeous, God given soprano gift that she had taken on to the Julliard School and accentuated into something truly remarkable. It was a joy listening to her.
Then came the husband, who wasted no time in informing all of the great unwashed in the auditorium that night that he was “classically trained” (Warning: any time somebody feels compelled to share the “classically trained” gem with you, it is advisable to run like a river when the snow melts). He began singing, with proper breath control and technique to go, and with all the tonality and appeal of an out of tune foghorn. Better still, he did it into a microphone to make sure none of us MISSED IT.
The moral? The husband had the education down. I’m sure he was a straight A student. Unfortunately, he failed to realize that when it comes to talent, you’ve got to meet them halfway. You’ve got to bring some innate ability to the table with you and work to improve it. One night with this guy proved that whole ‘silk purse/sow’s ear’ concept beyond all doubt.
Likewise with writing, if you want to write, write. In the end you’re going to learn much more by actually doing it than you ever will from a school. Now I’m not discounting the importance of book learnin’, and I have a B.A. in Communications (big fat, hairy deal, right?) but I maintain that you can’t learn how to be creative in some by the numbers, A-Z approach. The creative spark is already there, within you, in whatever form. You just have to learn how to channel it, and most of that is going to be learned through simply putting pen to paper.
Yes, you can go to classes, attend seminars, read what others have written on the subject, practice osmosis, whatever, but without the spark, without that creative muse, you will never be anything more than the literary equivalent of the out of tune foghorn mentioned earlier.
So don’t put it off. You’ve had that idea for a story, a song, a poem, or even a novel percolating around inside your head for some time now. Go sit down and start it. See what comes out. If you like it, you’ll be inspired to plow forward. If you don’t, well, hey, that’s what Delete buttons, White Out, and erasers were invented for. Back up and take another run at it.
And spell my name right in the dedication……