Life of a Creative-Part 12

Monument Valley, Arizona Photo by Michele Venne

Monument Valley, Arizona
Photo by Michele Venne

How do we write? “I own my own mind. I claim my thoughts. My mouth and the words I say with it are mine and no one can take that away. I can’t write like Dostojevski or Henry Miller. I write like myself.” According to Natalie Goldberg in her book Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, we write like ourselves. That could explain why, in one of the writers groups I attend, when everyone is given the same prompt, there are as many different stories as there are writers sitting around the table. We may start off emulating authors we admire. We often begin writing stories in the genres we read. But if we stick to writing, or any creative act, it becomes our own. Our voice. Our words. Our characters, setting, plot, and ending. And though others may try to write like us, they can’t. They aren’t who we are. They haven’t had the experiences that we have that make up the stories we tell.

Again, how do we write (or dance, sing, sculpt, paint, draw, photograph, cook)? “You have to do it. No one can do it for you…I try to tell as much as I can so I can help. It doesn’t help. We have to do it. We help ourselves, and then we know something we can’t give away.” This goes back to practice. Anyone who has written a book or given a workshop on how to do something has logged thousands of hours in order to figure it out for themselves. They may offer suggestions. They may point out where we miss a note, a step, an ingredient, a color, but it is only in comparison to what they know, to what their experience is. If we want to know what notes, steps, ingredients, colors, words we’ve missed, or what might make what we’re doing better we have to do it. And then, as Goldberg says, “we’ll know something we can’t give away.” That something is how we create art. How each person creates is unique. How do we write? We do it so we know.

One question that is often asked of creatives by people who have yet to try making art is, “Where do you get your ideas from?” Some may say their Muse. Others may say the people and places around them. Still others will say their dreams, or their logical minds. Regardless of the creative’s answer, that idea passes through them. It becomes influenced by their experiences. The artist’s preferences help to shape the idea. “We are not our writing. Our writing is a moment moving through us.” As we write, sing, dance, cook, photograph, or paint we are not that “thing” that we’re producing. We mold it, alter it, add to it, which means that part of ourselves is in that “thing”, but it’s not us. That doesn’t mean that we don’t cry when the art moves us to tears, or laugh when it tickles us. Our experiences are flooded with emotions, and there’s no way to keep those emotions from our art. If we do, it’s horrible. It affects how we feel while creating, and what we’ve produced. It’s fake. Art is colored and flavored by who we are, but it’s not us.

To see how I’ve shaped stories, visit my website:

How do you create art?