Creativity 101: The Art of Not Conceptualizing.
Let's get something straight: When it comes to creativity, conceptualizing is not art. In most if not all cases, conceptualizing is actually art's biggest roadblock.
I've come to much of my understanding of creativity from Julia Cameron, famous author of "The Artist's Way." I have one of her quotes taped down next to my desk that stops me in my tracks every time I try to put "control" and "outcome" in the same sentence:
When we become willing to be an empty vessel, we must let go of ideas of how our work should look and should sound. It is the same problem for writers as it is for actors. If an actor has an "idea" of the performance he is trying to give, that concept gets in the way of being true to the moment-to-moment life that is trying to move through him. Similarly, as writers, if we spend too much time conceptualizing our work rather than actualizing it, we become stuck in how something should look and that leaves us caught on a surface level when the work itself may wish to move deeper.
I am a woman of multiple creative endeavors, writing being the most prominent of them all. How many times have I gone months without writing and decided the ONLY thing that will get me started again is paying someone thousands of dollars to re-design my blog. 'I can't write something on this...it's just not me,' I'll think to myself. I have an idea of what my writing should look like, how it should come off. My idea, my "concept" ends up being so strong that I hardly write anything at all.
Don't get me wrong: I am all about creating an online space that makes you feel authentic when you're typing your latest and greatest. I re-designed my blog last year and have spent all but the 24 hours after it launched waiting until I can redesign it again. Truthfully, it's soooo not my style. But who am I to let that stand in the way of whatever it is that's trying to creep it's way through my fingertips and onto your screen? I am not the director of this project called life, I've come to understand: merely an actor I am.
And so I write on a platform that doesn't feel "like me" because quite frankly "me" is rather in flux (generally and mostly-all-the-time speaking.) I certainly have an idea of what it is I'm supposed to be writing about and how its supposed to be presented, but God often has a better one. I like to let him do the guiding whenever I can...he seems to know a bit more about what he's doing.
Bloggers out there, consider this: what are you favorite blogs to read? What makes you want to read them? Have you ever noticed what they look like? If the answer to that last question is yes, then answer this question: did the aesthetic of the blog draw you in initially, or did you notice it after you were captivated by what you were reading?
For me, it's not just holding back due to lack of appropriate aesthetic that gets me in my own way - it's thinking I know what I "should" be writing about, and letting that override whatever it is that really wants me to write about it. Take my recent honeymoon, for example. I got home and had countless people message me, insisting I write about the trip and post photos on my blog. I considered it, and wrote this post all about how amazing it was. None of it felt right. I deleted it shortly after I posted it. What I saw on my honeymoon, all of our travels I detailed, was amazing, but the post just wasn't authentic. That's because no matter how hard I tried, I didn't want to write about what I saw on my honeymoon: I wanted to write about how I felt on my honeymoon.
And there are plenty of people out there who write about what they saw and that's wonderful and I love reading about everything everyone else is seeing. I love it so much that I often imagine myself with a travel blog of sorts, posting photos from my latest jaunts around the globe and writing tiny captions under each photo explaining what they're capturing. It all sounds great in theory, but for some reason whenever I do it, it just doesn't jive.
I've had thousands upon thousands of ideas for what I could rename my blog, things I could write about because I was told I should, and other thought clouds that seemed perfectly wonderful inside of my head. The problem is, when I spend too much time thinking about what I want to say, I spend hardly any time actually saying it.
My mom always says: "The greatest marketing tool is a good product. If you don't have that, you have nothing." We can spend all day trying to perfect the image we think we should have, but until we let go and have the courage to get our hands dirty, we're blocking ourselves from everything inside us that's waiting to come out and be heard.
So make like John Mayer and "say what you need to say." Don't wait for the perfect platform to say it on or the perfect moment to say it. Any sentence you're starting with: "I'll do that when I'm ________", start it now. Write it down. Get it out there. Let yourself be a work in progress because progress, not perfection, is what we're all here for. Creativity is dirty, messy, unkempt work. We need to keep at it. We need to get the grime under our nails. The "look", the "concept"...all of that will follow. Trust that the perfect shell will appear once it has something to hold...something inside that needs protecting.