Writer’s Desk: Harness Your Creativity

What does a writer do about their spark, their inspiration, their creativity? Sometimes it comes (often when you are not at your desk, can’t find a pen and paper, and unable to thumb text into your phone’s notetaking app fast enough) and sometimes it doesn’t (generally when you are on deadline and running on fumes).

Freud just plain gave up trying to figure out that wily spirit. In “Dostoevsky and Parricide,” he wrote that “Before the problem of the creative artist,” (interesting to see the artist as a “problem”) “analysis must, alas, lay down its arms.”

That elusiveness is a key aspect to how many see creativity: A tricky and flighty thing who will take off at the slightest rustling in the bushes. Immaturity plays a role as well, with some seeing creativity as a thing treated without too much seriousness. In his writing guide Wonderbook, Jeff VanderMeer says “the most important thing is allowing the subconscious mind to engage in the kind of play that leads to making the connections necessary to create narrative.”

Julia “The Artist’s Way” Cameron just lets rip every morning, writing a few pages of whatever comes to mind and not letting her internal censor say anything. She calls him Nigel, by the way:

That’s the name she’s given to her internal censor, whom she imagines as a dapper gay Englishman. “Oh, Nigel,” she’ll say to herself when she hears his tut-tutting voice. “You leave me alone!”

It feels like the right move. Whether you ignore it or nurture it or let it play, keeping your creativity away from Nigel makes a good deal of sense.

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