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Why Is Being Creative So Hard?

March 26, 2009

So whaddya all think of my fancy new header? I decided to try and stand out a bit more in the universe o’ blogging…plus I hate when WordPress makes me stick to limits and I hate all their font choices for headers. Anyway, I played around with Photoshop for a few minutes (which always makes me feel artsy and hip), and this is what I came up with. At least for now — I tend to change my mind on what I like all the time (the reason why I have never bothered getting a tattoo; that and being petrified of needles).

So anyway, I met up with my friend Victor the other night, to drink coffee and talk. We got to talking about creativity, and I admitted how difficult I find it sometimes. I would consider myself to be a creative individual, but during moments of frustration, I feel like it must be so much easier for everyone else. I’ll read a book, hear an idea tossed out in a meeting, or see a photograph, and start to pout. The bully voice in my head sneers that creativity comes so naturally to other people; they can spout off creative ideas like they’re firing a machine gun of brilliance, and yet I am still there, mouth half open, hoping that an idea presents itself before I start drooling. In fact, I can confidently say that I hate “brainstorming” most of the time, because when I try, the storm in my brain is so loud that no ideas can be heard. It’s like static on a TV; my ideas are more unruly and tend to show up in the middle of the night, when I immediately either scrawl them unintelligibly on a piece of paper or forget them in my half-unconscious stupor.

Much to my relief, instead of laughing or kicking me out of the “super cool creative peoples’ club,” Victor admitted that he is the same way. He said that he thinks that for most people, creativity is a lot of work. I suppose it begins by repostulating yourself with life and how you see it (I truly believe that lens matters and affects what comes out). Creativity just comes naturally to all of us in different ways, none being better or more creative than another. Or at least that’s what I hope. I have this secret fear that maybe I’m like those people who audition for “American Idol” and think they are really talented, only to find out that their singing is the vocal equivalent to nails on a chalkboard. But then at other times, I know that’s not true. I suppose being the perfectionist I am, I am not satisfied with being merely creative in one or two ways; I want to be creative in them all so I feel cooler. I want to not only be a decent writer, I want to be a spectacular one, as well as a mind-blowing photographer, graphic designer, interior designer, chef, seamstress, painter, sketcher, and whatever else one can be creative in.

(I think going to Rob Bell‘s church has made me creatively insecure…how does one react when your pastor is taking over the world by being extremely awesome at everything? Seriously?)

Books I Heard Are Good For This Kind of Creativity Conundrum:

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

Drops Like Stars by Rob Bell (though it won’t be out till August, I think…he WOULD write a book on creativity, *shakes fist lovingly*)


What do you all think of the creative process? Are some people naturally just uber-creative or does it take some work?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2009 12:25 pm

    It’s really weird seeing your own name on a blog. Cool though, too. πŸ™‚

    I read The War of Art last year after Rob recommended it in one of his interviews. It really is very good – Pressfield talks about what I’ve found to be a common thread among creative-types: creativity is really hard work, and most of the time you have to just sit down and get to work. Like Madeleine L’Engle says, inspiration comes during work, not before it. And like Robbie says in his first book, “Inspiration comes because of discipline, and discipline comes when you organize your life in specific, intentional ways…and then stick to it.”

    Much easier said than done, true, but much easier done when said.

    I think Drops Like Stars is going to rock us. I can’t wait!

    Oh, and here’s the link to my friend Jim’s page that I mentioned at Sparrow’s the other night. He talks a lot about the creative process in nice concise posts: It’s down at the moment but it should be back up soon.

  2. ratsekad permalink
    March 27, 2009 12:45 pm

    First, I would like to say that I think you are incredibly creative with your writing. Creativity could be equated with uniqueness, I would think. Some of the ways you word things I would never think of in a million years.

    And backtracking, your line… ” I will accept it on pure faith, the kind that seeps from your backbone and not always your heart.” That one blew me away.

    A better way to say that you are a perfectionist is to say that you just don’t like to settle with mediocrity. I think truly creative people don’t like to half-ass things, and in that sense it is hard work, but at the same time, it usually comes naturally, not forced. That’s why when you see someone else do something beautiful, it looks so easy because it is natural for them, but I would bet they worked and worked to focus that skill… if that makes sense.

    I really like your header too.

  3. March 27, 2009 1:28 pm

    Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking creativity is easy. Art is hard for everyone. Even if you have a “creative” idea, you still need to put forth a lot of work into making something come of it.

  4. Caroline permalink*
    March 27, 2009 6:29 pm

    Victor: I really want to read that book…and that blog. My reading list always grows by leaps and bounds when I talk to you.

    James: I so appreciate that you appreciate how I write. πŸ™‚ I think you’re right in what you say about it being natural for people, and that’s why it looks the way it does. So yes, it does make sense.

    Frank: Thank you for affirming that I am not crazy. I think you are extremely creative, so I appreciate that you think it’s hard too.

  5. Misterwrite permalink
    March 30, 2009 6:14 pm

    I think creativity is itself very creative, so it’s never exactly the same with any two people. When inspiration first strikes you, that part can often be easy–BAM! an idea kicks the door of your brain open and vaults in. Or sometimes it quietly enters while you’ve left the door open, and you turn around to find it sitting on your couch smiling at you. But then you have the work of shaping that idea, giving it form and substance, something tangible to look at, hear, or feel. And that is often difficult and time-consuming.

    But not always! I was asked to perform a wedding once, and that night while I was drifting off to sleep the whole 15 minute marriage talk was inserted into my brain. I felt like Neo in The Matrix: a cable was plugged into my cerebral cortex and the knowledge of Judo was downloaded.

    Another time I wrote a novel (first draft with pen on paper) and I felt like I never hit a wall. It was like the whole book was inside my pen, and all I had to do was watch it come out. It was almost easy (of course, no agent or publisher was interested, so maybe it stank to high heaven!).

    But anyway, I think times like those are the exception. The creative act does seem somewhat mysterious, though, and very individualized. One of the most frustrating things is when a non-artistic person asks an artist where she or he gets their ideas, and they shrug and say, “I don’t know. They just come to me.” You can’t teach that; it’s either there or it isn’t.

    Fascinating question, Caroline. I’m surprised you’re not inundated with responses. I had to chew on mine awhile, and now that I read it over I find it very inadequate.


  6. Caroline permalink*
    March 31, 2009 8:39 am


    I always love your responses — they are so well thought out and interesting. I think you’re right though; sometimes the creative process takes a few more steps than other times. There have been times where BAM, something came to me, I scribbled it down and it felt more natural than breathing. Then there are times where an idea or concept and I wrestle for hours, ending up sweaty and mad at each other.

    The great thing I find is that both approaches are equally valuable. Whether walking hand in hand, prancing around with an idea, or wanting to smack it across the face, I love the process equally.

    Thanks so much for responding! πŸ™‚


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