The Constant Tension of Creativity (A love letter)

Hey: have you joined the Prolific and Prosperous Facebook group yet? Please do–we’re starting to have some good discussions over there.  Just go here and ask to join and I’ll approve you.  Unless you’re a serial killer. But you’re not, are you?


So, creativity has connotations with warm, fuzzy, wild, free—all positive, right?  And tension is conflict, stress, danger—all negative.  Amiright?  But they are linked. Oh, are they ever linked.  We may prefer to think of creativity as our safe haven, our happy place—and it is, for sure.  But there’s also a dark side to it.

Okay, that sounds a bit overly dramatic and it probably is.  But drama is intricately linked to both tension and creativity so bear with me.

Research has shown that individuals with highly creative aspects may fall prey to some undesirable traits as well. They may be narcissistic. (Who, me? The most beautiful, brilliant, smart and funny human in the world? Nah.)  And, probably because of their ability to, say, make up great stories, they may be chronic liars. Then there’s the creative types who are maladapted socially due to their tendency to burst out saying inappropriate things.  (That’s part and parcel of the creative process—going against the grain.) And all of these add up to creative tension.

And there’s the tension that comes from waiting, as for instance when you have a project out on submission. Agent, editor, critique group, beta readers—waiting to hear their judgement of your work can be excruciating— constant creative tension involving checking the email obsessively ten times an hour. (I know whereof I speak—I’m waiting to hear my agent’s verdict on the latest rewrite of my novel.)

Your brain being creative

But it’s not even those aspects I’m thinking of when I talk about the constant tension of creativity.  I’m talking about its constant, incessant, pull. When you are a creative person you’re always aware of your project calling to you: I should be writing. With every minute, every breath, you’re finagling when you can get back to your WIP, or pondering how to write the next scene—even though to the outer world it looks like you are sitting in a sales meeting pondering the latest sales figures.

This constant tug from our creative sides creates a delicate tension that pulls us through our days.  And, it can be harnessed for our highest good.  Because constant tension is like a pesky gnat flying around your head when you’re sitting outside drinking a glass of nice, cold, white wine in summer.  You swat at it and it returns, again and again, until you finally get your ass up and do something about it—like move inside or kill the damn bug once and for all.  Do the work and quit kvetching about it already, or quit calling yourself a writer.

Ouch.  Yet creative tension can help you.

Because here’s a news flash, creative tension can help you do that, because it is actually a thing. (I thought I made it up, but alas, greater minds have walked this path already.) It’s about your vision for the work (a finished novel, say) and the current reality of it (two chapters written).  This creates the delicate tension whereof I speak. What happens is this: the brain seeks to preserve energy but when faced with the gap between vision and reality, more energy is actually released, giving you the oomph to get the project done.

And so that’s the good news.  This creative tension is actually good for our writing practices. Never mind that sometimes I wish I could wake up and not be constantly thinking about my WIP—either that I should be working on it, or something about the story.  But this hasn’t happened in a gazillion years. And, in truth, I’m grateful for it. Because how boring would life be without this creative tension?

What kind of creative tension do you experience? Leave a comment and tell me.  Or head on over to the Prolific and Prosperous Writers Facebook page and we’ll chat about it there.

Oh, and by the way–I have a couple spots open on my coaching roster if you need help with any aspect of your writing. My current services page is crap so if you’re interested just shoot me an email at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com.