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Creativity and Productivity

By on Friday, Apr 19, 2013 in Creativity, Productivity | 2 comments

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I read something this week that has been churning in my mind ever since. It’s a fabulous blog post on creativity done by Margarita Tartakovsky and you can view the entire post here:

The entire thing is fascinating, but the part that really stuck with me all week was the story about the pottery class. Basically, students who had to produce quantity of pottery produced more creative–i.e., higher quality–pieces than students who were permitted to take an entire semester to create a single piece (i.e., those who strove for quality, not quantity). 
Tartakovsky’s advice is to stop striving for perfection in creative work, but instead to focus on a “magic threshold” where you’re happy enough with it but you’re able to let it go and, in the words of artist Jolie Guillebeau, who taught herself to paint faster, “hope that the quantity of my work will also improve the quality.”
This is a fascinating concept, and one which skilled, bestselling writers surely must learn. Could it be that the more you produce, the more creative you become and the better you get at being creative?
It reminds me of something I read–I don’t remember where–basically, this writer said that not everything you produce is going to be great. But the MORE you produce, the BETTER CHANCE you’ve got at putting forth something great. 
So are speed and perfectionism mutually exclusive? 
Well, I think they can co-exist, if the perfectionism is toned down. How to do this? (I don’t know, but I am working on it. )
This article also addresses the fear the creative ideas are finite. I remember reading something from a bestselling author saying she felt she had more ideas than she could possibly write about in a lifetime. I am on the opposite spectrum. I fear not having ideas. But filling the creative well is a skill that can be cultivated, and it starts with showing up every day to work. And work hard.
More great advice:  Focus on process, not outcome. Focusing on outcome stifles the process, says creativity coach and writer Miranda Hersey. Worrying about if your work sucks, if you’ll be able to get it all together and have it make sense, and what will happen in your career are creativity killers.

When this happens, I think about why I sit in front of the computer day after day. The answer is–because I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! I’m so grateful to be here! Things are a little different than when I was 12 and writing Star Trek fan fiction to my heart’s content. The muse is a little older and more scarred, and the devil-may-care attitude has been pulled back and restrained. But the joy is still there.

I think this article reinforces the fact that the skills it takes to write fiction, including the creative skills, are trainable with lots of work and the determination to show up day after day to do your job. Like any other job, practice makes perfect–or at least better.

How do you teach yourself to write faster or tone down your inner perfectionist?

Beautiful brickwork on a Savannah sidewalk outside of Colonial Park Cemetery (my photo).
Sidewalk of seashells in Savannah–I think they call this tabby, a concrete made of lime, sand, and oyster shells (my photo).