Arranging the Pieces… The magic of creativity spurring more creativity

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By Tabitha Bozeman

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with some fellow writers. As we workshopped, I noticed how much I was enjoying the time we spent reading and discussing the words and ideas in front of us. If you have never had the chance to participate in a writing workshop, it is basically just a time to let others read what you have written, then listen to their reactions, suggestions and ideas on how to strengthen the piece. Sometimes a plot point needs to be clarified, or a character described more fully. A poem might be nearly perfect, but a line is a little “off”, or a different word may work better. It can be a useful experience and exercise in creativity and problem-solving.

When I first started writing, though, it did not feel like a positive thing to let someone else see what I’d created and then listen to them tell me what was wrong with it, or how it could be better. It felt more like an emotional assault, if I am honest, and it was difficult to take suggestions and know what to do with them. It can be hard to separate ourselves from the things we create.

With writing, art and any project, there comes a time when you begin to suspect that you are very nearly finished but aren’t sure how to know the thing is done.

Sometimes you get halfway through a project — painting the living room, writing a story, crafting a scrapbook, restoring a car — and suddenly you ask yourself “Is this really the way I wanted this to go?”

In those moments, it can be challenging to know what to do next. Sometimes, the color just isn’t right, and you must start over. Or maybe a character isn’t acting the way they ought to act in a story, and you must decide what to do with them before moving on. Maybe there are pictures you want to include but can’t find, so the scrapbook must wait a while. Or a part you need to finish a restoration project isn’t available and you have to walk away for a while. It can be an uncomfortable feeling, wondering if you have run out of ideas, if you have used up your creativity.

Most of the time, a creative challenge, missing part or indecision isn’t an insurmountable obstacle, though — it is just a sneaky, insidious discomfort that stops your progress and demands attention. It can be incredibly frustrating because when we are in the middle of a project that absorbs us, when we are in the flow, interruptions pull us back to reality. It can be hard to jump back into a productive creative phase when that happens. When I find myself in this place, I remember Maya Angelou’s comment that “you can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.”

This is exactly why I love workshops. What used to feel like a personal summing up of faults is really a creativity generator, a grab bag of ideas and suggestions that just might be exactly what I need to finally finish that poem I started two years ago, or for a fellow writer to feel confident that her story not only makes sense but really captures a reader’s interest.

Last week, I looked around as we chatted about words and sounds and ideas, and I was incredibly grateful for the moment. We were all encouraging one another, appreciating what we read, curious about what might come next — we were all caught up in the creative flow together. We left as the cafe was closing, and we stood together in the parking lot, still talking, planning our next workshop and by the time I got in my car I was full of ideas and new motivation to continue creating. I was struck all over again, just like I am after every workshop, by the power creativity has to beget more creativity. It is a kind of magic, and I don’t think I will ever grow tired of experiencing it.

Tabitha Bozeman teaches English at Gadsden State Community College, where she is the editor-in-chief of the Cardinal Arts Journal. The opinions expressed are her own. She may be reached at tabithabozeman@gmail.com.

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