I used to be one of those people who believed that creativity is fixed. And by “used to,” I mean that I was one of those people up until about two years ago. I’d spent my whole life writing and rewriting one story and I believed that that was the only story I would ever tell.
So, when I was nineteen and that story got totally disrespected by a freelance editor, I was devastated. I completely gave up on any hopes of becoming a published author because my one good idea was dust. I couldn’t possibly come up with any more ideas.
At least, that’s what I believed.
I stopped writing for a few years (seriously, at least), but I did start to read more fiction. This was one of the best decisions I could make to rekindle my creativity. In my mid-twenties, I read Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor and fell in love. I hadn’t realized that there were black women who wrote science fiction and fantasy. I hadn’t even realized that that was what I wrote. I don’t think that that freelance editor knew either. But after reading Okorafor, I definitely knew that this was what I did and that she and others had carved out a space for me.
Reading such work by Okorafor, N.K. Jemisin, Octavia Butler, and others helped me to get my idea unstuck and to produce several other ideas because I learned from these authors. My creativity grew as a result of theirs. I realized that creativity is not fixed; it’s work. Like any other type of work, it can be improved.
In her book, Creative Success Now: How Creatives Can Thrive in the 21st Century, Astrid Baumgardner cautions us against romanticizing creativity. She writes, “Having a great idea is just the start of a creative process.” For me, part of this process was immersing myself in the creative works of other brilliant artists.
Challenge: The next time you’re feeling uninspired or down on your work, choose someone in your field whose work you admire and immerse yourself in their art. Forge your creativity through the warmth of theirs.
If your growth mindset needs work, check out Baumgardner’s book for creatives. I recommend this to people who can appreciate the value of case studies, but if you prefer more direct instruction, this one might not be for you. As a reminder, I get coffee money when you make purchases through links I post, but I only recommend books that I love or find useful.