Why would you write something if there wasn’t a need for it?
If you write mostly for work, it’s a fair question.
Yet, we do all kinds of things for which there isn’t a “need.” Some of you bake bread even though you can buy it at the store. Or maybe you put together miniature airplanes which no one really needs.
We have hobbies for no other reason than we enjoy them and they allow us to experiment.
It’s All About Experimenting
My current hobby obsession requires a thick drawing book and a ziploc bag full of markers and colored pencils. Every evening I draw something on the page. Sometimes it’s objects, often it’s just shapes in a sort of abstract bit of art. I’m not very good at drawing but I love playing with color and coloring. Transforming the page visually is pretty damn pleasing.
After drawing my shapes and vaguely distinguishable objects, there is still a lot of white space that I fill with words. Using different colors for each shift in subject, I write down the events of the day, what my mother told me, what the news is, plans for the weekend, and often, essay ideas and character shorts.
None of this serves any purpose. It is pure experimentation. It is my opportunity to create without deadlines or metrics clouding my judgment. It’s a blank space that I fill line by line, bursts of color that don’t have to tell any other story than being themselves.
But the thing is, these pages do tell a story and they are constantly giving me new ideas. The meandering I do in this journal keeps my creative muscle limber.
Sadly, I don’t see many of my students or clients doing any meandering. They are not taking the time to create something just for the sake of creation. And why should they? They don’t think of themselves as writers or creators.
You ARE a Creator
If you’re writing or creating content at work you probably feel like you aren’t getting paid to experiment; you’re getting paid to put the words together and move on to the next item on your ToDo list. No one at work is interested in creativity or experiments; they are focused on deadlines and KPI’s.
This is a shame. I have made it my life’s work to make people understand that every single human on this earth is creative in some way and the more we own that, the better we become in many facets of life…including writing at work.
The key is being willing to experiment. No one has to see what you create until you want them to, if at all.
It’s taken me several drafts to find my way to this post. I experimented with many ideas and pathways. Most of them got deleted. That’s my process. I write to figure out what I think.
This discovery process is all about false starts and getting lost down side streets. It also requires me to have faith that I will find my way to a satisfying ending.
What creative faith do you rely on? Where will your experiments lead you?
Natalie Goldberg has a great prompt (that I’ve adapted a bit) if you want to experiment with experimenting.
Do this exercise several days in a row; you’ll never get to the same place twice. Here’s how:
1. Set a timer for five or ten minutes and start writing with the words “I remember.”
When the timer goes off stop writing and stretch. Actually stand up and walk around the room once or twice. Then come back and start over.
2. Reset the timer and start writing with the words “I don’t remember.” You will stray far from whatever memory takes control of your pen. Go with it and see what path it forges.
P.S. We use timers a lot at Story Mode so experiment with them. If necessity is the mother of invention, then timers are the fuel for great experiments.