Sometimes our writing creativity can blaze up like a bonfire and other times it can sputter like a weak campfire. It may wane, flicker at times, diminish to an ember, but it never goes out. You can build a little tent of twigs to get it going and light them with tenderness. You can fan the fire into jumping flames and watch with awe. Or you can shelter the flames into a steady, quiet glow that warms your every effort.
The Requirements of Our Writing Core of Creativity
I think of our writing creativity as a core, a center of our desire and motivation.
We all have a writing core, gleaming warmly under all our daily chores and duties. If you feel you don’t have one, you do. If you feel you haven’t written enough to deserve one, you qualify anyway.
Our writing core doesn’t care how much or what we write—poetry, political sagas, publicity releases, or plumbing manuals. It doesn’t screen, dictate guidelines, require a resume, or demand membership dues. It never asks hard questions like what we published, what awards we’ve won, or what we’ve earned this year from writing.
Just What Is Our Writing Core?
Wherever you are—right now—you can find your writing core. You may not yet clearly identify it, or need to, but like every other writer, you have experienced it. It’s more than our fantasies of bestsellers, book tours, and talk shows, more than our January sworn oath to write 20 pages a day, and more than the irrepressible grin when we manage to get something published.
Our writing core is what makes us write.
Maybe this definition sounds obvious. The specifics are undoubtedly different for each of us. We can probably describe elements and motivations. “I write to show that fifth-grade teacher who gave me an F on my second short story.“ “Because I must.” “I want to share all the music within me.” “Writing gives my life meaning.” “Writing is part—a big part—of who I am.” “I feel alive.” “I feel soooo good doing it.” And many more you can list, I’m sure.
But sometimes we forget. Our writing core heats up reluctantly, a temperamental slow-quickening fire. It threatens to get choked off by everyone else’s successes. Or it gets snuffed out in favor of the hot new cable movie or pickup basketball game that beckon us instead of tussling with our manuscript.
Other times, though, we don’t need to invoke our writing core consciously. It shoots up in gorgeous red-purple plumes and sends us bounding to our computer, laptop, typewriter, clipboard, yellow pad, spiral notebook, or nearest used napkin.
Reviving the Fire of Our Core
When your core doesn’t so easily flare, though, you may feel you can’t find the spark to get going. You may be tempted to pull the quilt over your head and torch all your manuscripts. Don’t. Try these steps instead.
1. Stop trying to write. Stop telling yourself you have to. If you miss a few days, you won’t be destroyed or condemned to eternal block.
2. Go to a quiet spot, with no disturbances of kids, neighbors, phones, apps, or chiming texts. Take a few deep breaths. Relax.
3. Let your mind go back to a time you really enjoyed writing. Maybe it was two years ago, last month, or yesterday. What were you working on? What materials were you using?
4. Reconstruct that experience. Where were you? What was the physical setting like? How were you dressed? See yourself writing in that environment. Replay it.
5. How did you feel? Don’t try to force the memories or bully them into being. They haven’t been lost. If you’re quiet and patient, they’ll emerge.
6. Live those feelings. Re-experience them. Feel your ideas flowing, fingers again moving, singing on the page.
7. As you allow these thoughts, pictures, and feelings to surface, you’ll start sensing something. It will stir in you, as excitement, maybe, a physical sensation, a desire, a word, phrase, or image.
8. Whatever arises, give it time. Baby it like scarce tinder. Maybe it’s a snip of a great idea, a phrase that came to you in a dream, or a passing stranger who fascinates you. You’ll know it . . . .
You’ve reached your writing core.
9. Bask in your core. Let it move you, as naturally as languid smoke curling out of the chimney.
10. And then, gently, without hurry, listen as it tells you what to write. No judgments. If it’s a current project, fine. If it’s a journal entry, fine. If it’s a long-delayed email, also fine.
You’ve reignited your writing core. Whatever your lapses or assumed ashes, it cannot be lost. You have the kindling to refresh it. Your core is always within you, ready to support, sustain, guide, and excite your writing creativity.
© 2014 Noelle Sterne