Creativity Writing Process
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

The Love-Hate Relationship With the Creative Process

MosaicHeartBeing immersed in the creative process–writing a novel, creating a class, knitting a sweater, planting a garden–is my most favorite thing in the world.

Until I hit a block.

And decide that the novel stinks, nobody will want to take the class, the sweater won't fit, the garden won't grow.  And then I hate the creative process.

I was reading about this very thing on another blog this morning when it hit me.   The tension between the love part and the hate part is what keeps us working at it.  If the creative process–say, your writing practice–was all good all the time, you'd get bored.  And if it was all bad all the time, you'd get frustrated and quit.

A well-known psychological principle is that of intermittent reinforcement, and that's what we're talking about here.  This principle states that reinforcement is doled out in an intermittent manner is far and away the strongest motivator.  Why? Because we never know what we're going to get, and we're always hoping for the good outcome–the wonderfully satisfying writing session as opposed to the time when you sit and stare out the window.

But we're also talking about tension, the lifeblood of all stories.  It's what keeps readers turning pages, the tension in the story itself and the tension the author has embedded in the story.  Without tension, or conflict, there is no story, its a simple as that.  Which is why, of course, the news is full of awful stories about horrible things happening.

While it is frustrating to hit the lows of the creative process, if you just remember that its all a cycle and the highs will soon return, I think you can ease yourself through the times you hate everything you create.  Remind yourself that the work would not be nearly so compelling if it were all easy, all the time.  

And take yourself back to the page once more.

How do you handle the lows of the creative process?

Photo by Carbon NYC.

0 thoughts on “The Love-Hate Relationship With the Creative Process

  1. Dyoung

    I’ve found myself- not in a low- but just stuck. It’s taking everything I’ve got to not just go back and start over again. But then I tell myself I can’t keep stopping and restarting. Writers don’t do that. What’s wrong with me. I must not be a writer. Then I realize it probably is a struggle writers face and the pull to do the same is there. So how do I just keep plowing forward? Then I realize perhaps that bump in the road is what editors are for :) and THEN I realize there will probably be more than one bump..

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    It can be helpful to remind yourself that writing is a process, not a product (at least at this point). It really is important to keep moving forward because otherwise you’ll get stuck in this loop of constantly going back. And by the time you get to the end, you’re going to make the beginning different anyway. A couple of suggestions:

    1. Do timed writing spurts. Set a timer for 20 minutes and write, WITHOUT STOPPING YOUR HAND MOVING ACROSS THE PAGE. You can do this to random prompts, or as part of the next scene of the book. (Works well to do the random prompt as a warm up and then hit the scene.)
    2. Find a book of writing exercises and do them as warm-ups. They will help you see things in a different way. I recommend Naming the World by Bret Anthony Johnston.
    3. Ponder whether you know enough about your characters. If you get stuck, it may be your subconscious trying to tell you something. Do you need to fill out a character dossier on them? Figure out their backstory?

    Hope these suggestions help!

  3. Zan Marie

    Blocks are everywhere for me right now. :-(
    But I’ll make it through them at some point. And remind myself that writing is a process, not a product. That’s a keeper, Charlotte.

  4. Charlotte Dixon

    Yeah, its been a slow time for me, too.  I blame it on Mercury Retrograde.  We all run into blocks, its how we work through them that matters.

  5. Dyoung

    Your suggestions and insight are gold. Thank you!

  6. Don

    Fantastic post that hits home… thanks!

  7. Charlotte Dixon

    I’m so glad! I was thinking about you when I was writing earlier today, and one other thing I’d add is that so much comes out in the writing itself. I think I’m stuck and I force myself to get words on the page–any words–and suddenly I’m figuring stuff out. Which is why free-writing and prompts and journaling are all useful.

  8. Charlotte Dixon

    Thank you, Don, for reading.

  9. Milli Thornton

    Great point about the tension between the love part and the hate part. That puts it into perspective. And the same can be said about life itself. If we didn’t have the challenges that force us to grow, everything else would seem bland.

    I love that mosaic of the heart! Makes me feel creative just looking at it.

  10. Charlotte Dixon

    So true, Milli!  How are you?  I miss you!!!!

  11. Milli Thornton

    I’ve missed you too!! Email update coming soon.

  12. Charlotte Dixon

    Oh good, I can't wait.  Hope you're getting tons of writing done along the way!

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