“The Craft of Creativity” / Scott Keen

(Scott Keen is the author of YA fantasy novels Scar of the Downers (WiDo Publishing, 2015) and Rise of the Branded (WiDo Publishing, 2017). He blogs at ScottKeenBooks.com. This post originally appeared on his website and appears here with his permission.)

Creativity is a craft. No matter how much we would like it to be a naturally occurring trait, it often involves hard work and dedication. And it is never easy. It is a muscle, if you will, that needs to be exercised. If it isn’t, it is in danger of atrophy.

I have had conversations with people who say that they’re not that creative. I would wholeheartedly disagree. Being creative doesn’t mean ideas pop out of you at a whim or on command. (I wish it were so).

Usually, it involves a lot of pen to paper, and many discarded ideas before you come up with something that someone might describe as creative.

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​I was rereading a book, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, and I came across a letter he had written on 18 February 1938 to Stanley Unwin. In it, he commented on the difficulty he was having while writing his new novel.

I squandered so much on the original ‘Hobbit’ (which was not meant to have a sequel) that it is difficult to find anything new in that world.

That sequel was obviously The Lord of the Rings.

Now imagine if Tolkien stopped working on his “sequel” because he thought the idea (or his creativity) had been exhausted. Imagine if he gave up before he discovered anything “new” in that world. We would have missed out on one of the greatest works of the twentieth century.

I am trying to instill this idea in my daughters. I gave her an assignment a few years ago when she was nine-years old to sit outside and, using your five senses, tell me what you experienced. This is what she wrote:

So Katie was outside, and she saw the beautiful colored leafs blowing in the chilly air. She felt the cold wind blowing against her, and her hair was wild cause of the breeze. She heard crickets chirping. They sounded like a flute with a random rhythm. She smelled a beautiful fall scent, and after that, she tasted a sweet taste of hot cocoa.

I thought it was a great paragraph! I asked her what she could have used instead of “colored” leaves, and she knew the answer – the actual colors.

Creativity involves work and rework, writing and editing, drawing and erasing. So, if you have an idea in your head that says you’re not that creative, throw it out until you come up with a better one.