What People Need To Know About The Creative Process

I've run into a lot of people who have some pretty unhelpful and even self-defeating ideas about what it means to be creative and just what they should expect of themselves. So I'm going to try to lay it out the reality of the creative process so you don't end up falling into these myths and misconceptions yourself.

It's always going to be work. Sometimes you'll have lucky days where everything comes together almost effortlessly, but those days will never be most days. Most days are going to involve actual effort, whether it's actively hunting down ideas, writing down as many ideas as you can come up with and hoping a good one pops up, or forcing yourself to write even though it feels like chewing your way through a sandstone wall. And only working on days when everything comes to you effortlessly is the worst mistake you can make - because if you do, you will never get your projects completed.

You will need to take occasional breaks to recharge your batteries. Sometimes you'll do your best to muddle through despite feeling completely uninspired, and you'll still find yourself spinning your wheels. When that happens, it's okay to take a break for awhile - say, from a few hours to a few days - then come back to it and try to push through again.

Sometimes there's nothing to do but put a project off to the side for awhile. It sometimes happens that no matter how hard you try, you just can't make your project get anywhere right now. In cases like these, you might have to leave it be for awhile - which could be a matter of weeks or months, or even years. What's important is that you don't forget about it so that you can get back to it if you find a way to make it work, or so you can use it for ideas if you end up starting a new project that some of its concepts would actually work really well for.

Just because your initial concept has a few flaws in it, doesn't mean the whole thing is bad and needs thrown out. Just about nobody creates something that's perfectly flawless at first go. How it usually happens is someone comes up with an idea, writes it out, then look over the idea for possible flaws (and maybe ask other people to look for flaws), then figure out what can be done to fix those flaws. If everyone just completely threw out their initial ideas because they had problems, no one would ever get anything created. Think of it this way: if you were furnishing your bedroom and realized partway through that you'd put the shelf in the wrong place, would you just throw out all the furniture and sleep on the sofa instead? Of course not. You'd just move the shelf over where it belongs and get on with the rest of it. Likewise, you wouldn't stop decorating your room if you realized that the painting you just hung up doesn't actually look good in that spot; you'd just move it to another spot or decide not to hang it up at all. But you wouldn't just give up on the room entirely. And so, finding a few flaws in your concept doesn't mean that you just give up on it - it means that you find a way to fix them.

Just because you can't immediately spot the flaws in your project, doesn't mean you're stupid. Being able to spot flaws in a project often requires real-world knowledge that you may not have had the opportunity to learn yet. What sorts of critical questions you should be asking yourself about your setting aren't always obvious, either. Troubleshooting a story or setting is essentially a learned skill, and you'll get better at it with practice.

It's normal and okay to discard some ideas you were considering for your project altogether. You might find that you can't really fit something into your setting without creating a lot of plotholes, or you might find that it just doesn't mesh with the tone, or you might find that it doesn't really serve any necessary function. You might even realize that it doesn't fit after spending days or weeks developing it. It's normal and okay for this to happen.

It's okay to recycle your old ideas. If you came up with something years ago for some obscure fanfic or RP you were in and feel like you could use the concept for something else now, go right ahead. If you came up with a make-believe world when you were six years old and feel like it has potential as a story now, go for it. If you wrote a short story ages ago and want to rework it into an entire novel, do it! If you can think of a new use for something you had to discard from another project because it just didn't fit, then use it now! Repurposing your old ideas is a perfectly valid way to create.

No matter how smart or educated you are when you start writing, you can't expect perfection from the start. Writing involves a lot of skills that have to be practiced to be gotten down, as well as involves learning to do a lot of things that are simply counterintuitive to the average person. Just because your English teacher gushed over your work doesn't mean you'll automatically be a great writer, either - in some cases, English teachers impart a lot of bad habits onto their students, such as relying on purple prose, avoiding the word 'said' like it's infected with scabies, or prioritizing "grammatically correct" prose over prose that sounds smooth and natural.

It's okay if your creations right now aren't very good. You're still gaining experience and skill that will help you create better stuff in the future, and if you're having fun right now, that alone makes the effort worth it! That's right - creating and writing just for yourself is a perfectly valid hobby.

It's okay if you're never perfect. Because no one is. No creator makes 100% perfect works all the time, and anyone who says that some creator or other only produces perfect works is probably a bit biased. So chill if your creations aren't 100% perfect. As long as you're making somebody happy with them (even yourself), that's all that matters.

Getting advice is good, but you must also learn to trust yourself and take risks. Not everyone is going to have all the answers all the time. Different people are going to have very different answers, some of which will conflict with each other. Some people's advice might be wrong for your project, or it might be just plain wrong, period. The trick is to know what it is you're trying to accomplish your creation, and to ask yourself whether or not what you want to do or what you're being told to do will likely help or hinder that. It also helps to occasionally ask yourself, "what can I think of that confirms that this is so? And is there anything I can think of that could demonstrate an exception to this as a rule?" (Remember, while a lot of advice is very good, very little of it is absolute.) And sometimes, just sometimes, you have to just take a risk on something that you heard was a bad idea - because maybe you've figured out how to make it work!

Also, you might be interested in:

"How Can/Should I Do This Thing With My Story/Setting/Character?"
"Help! I Need Ideas For My Story/Setting/Character!" - How To Get Ideas For Yourself!
"Is This A Good Idea For My Story/Setting/Character?" - How To Answer This For Yourself!
Universal Creative Tips For Everyone & Everything
How To Break Your Creative Blocks

How To Recognize Bad Creative Mentors
Dealing With Criticism & Negative Reviews
Basic Advice For Giving Useful Feedback To Creators
Tips To Help People Improve Their Creative Work

Ways To Deal With Negative Emotions
7 Ways To Make Yourself A Happier Person
5 More Ways To Make Yourself A Happier Person

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