Why I’m going to stop saying “I’m not creative”

hand writingI was listening to a podcast interview with Joanna Penn the other day where she said words along the lines of, “I used to say I wasn’t creative, but now …” In her case, she had started writing fiction part way through a career that she had thought would be all about writing non-fiction and being a professional speaker. And that fiction is now very successful. I’m not going to suddenly embark upon a spot of novel-writing, but hearing this did set me off on a train of thought.

You see, I’ve always said that I’m “not creative”. “I’m an editor, not a creative writer: it’s two different things,” I would blithely say, as I tucked my editing pencil behind my ear and got on with putting my new guide to social media this, that and the other, or writing a blog post to help people with their time management, or had a good long think about how I could best explain a grammatical concept.

But have you seen the place where ‘they’ define ‘being creative’ as ‘writing novels and poems’? Me neither, when I think about it.

I want to be clear here that I’m not placing creativity above non-creativity. I’m just talking about the idea that more of us are more creative than perhaps we think we are.

What is creativity, anyway?

The dictionary defines creativity around it being the work of imagination and involving new ideas. In fact, I’ve worked on a few academic pieces about creativity, and these kinds of themes come out in those and what I would like to call some heavy research work but actually is more along the lines of skipping through hyperspace following links here and there until I’ve got a list.

For me, creativity involves:

  • Using the imagination
  • Making something exist which didn’t exist before
  • Finding new ways to say things
  • Putting things together in different ways
  • Solving problems
  • Being ‘inspired’

When you look at it that way, you can see that creativity isn’t all about making a painting, a pot or a poem. Of course, it’s all of those things, but it’s more …

In my life, I exhibit creativity in these ways:

  • Creating a business out of nothing except skills and talents and combining areas in different ways – I don’t know many other people who do editing / transcribing / localising / writing but it suits me.
  • Producing edited or transcribed or localised work that’s thoughtful about its author and audience and manipulated in subtle ways to link the two and make a good and useful piece of work.
  • Creating blog posts and other resources that may not be based on completely made-up stories from my imagination, but draw together strands of my experience, new ways of explaining things to people and examples to illuminate points.
  • Being ‘insipired’. “Oh, no, I just write to order and can sit down and produce copy for an hour if I need to,” I say forthrightly. But I would like to point out to myself here that I did have to put back some paid work slightly because this blog post got itself into my head and I had to write it down. Ah.
  • Coming up with reasons why my running partner can carry on and do a few more miles (“We’re nearly up to 35 minutes now!” (looks at watch, which clearly reads 45 minutes; hides watch from running partner).

Just in case you’re feeling I’m being ever so self-aggrandising and arrogant, which is not what I try to be about, here are some more examples of creativity that I see all around me but might not be traditional creativity:

  • My translator friends working with one language to make it represent the nuances of words written in another language
  • A young friend dipping her toe into the world of blogging with gig and record reviews
  • Book reviewers who link the book to others, write about the plot without giving it away and give their readers (or their future self reading their journal) a good idea of whether they’d like the book
  • Business owners forming communities where other people can ask questions and feel supported and valued
  • Networkers who are forever putting people together who they think have something in common
  • Biographers who gather facts about their subject and put them together in a readable and interesting way
  • People who put together lovely, restful, welcoming homes or find a thousandth way to explain to their toddler why they need to put their wellies on
  • Good employment agents who match job profile and candidate for a perfect match

What’s the difference between non-fiction and fiction writing, then?

This is something I’m starting to ponder now, too. When you read an interview with a novelist or poet, there’s usually something in there about how they have to write, how they were scribbling haiku at the age of 3, how they go all weird if they can’t get some writing in every day. Are we non-fiction folks like that? I’m not entirely sure. But then, why do WE write? I have some ideas about why I write — if there are non-fiction writers out there who would like to explore this area more, perhaps in some interviews on this blog, please do get in touch!

In the meantime, I’ll say it …

My name is Liz, and I’m creative

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Thank you for reading this article. If you enjoyed it, please do click one of the buttons below to share it. And if you’re interested in my books, which do turn out to be creative after all, have a look here!

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