You Will Always Be Creative

By Marianne Knowles

Recently, an old friend wrote to say that he feared his days as a writer were nearly done. It wasn’t only that for the first time in many years he was not participating in NaNoWriMo. Reflecting over the year that was ending, he realized that “Other than a few short stories, this has been a year without writing.” He’d done some blogging, plus editing and compiling of past work, but compared with previous years, this one was unproductive. He wrote, “I know for most writers there’s a point when you shut down and you stop writing. I have so much more I want to accomplish. I wonder if the shutdown is in progress, and how much time I have.”

I realized that others might want–or need–to read my response to his fears. So here it is, revised and expanded to speak to all of us who are blessed with the gift of creativity.

Creativity1

It will always be a part of you.

You will always be a writer. Or an illustrator. Or a poet, singer, actor, painter, dancer, musician, inventor, sculptor, comedian or performance artist. However your creativity expresses itself, it will always be with you, because it is part of you. It may lie dormant for months, years, or even a couple of decades. Your creativity may be channeled into your work, into earning degrees and credentials, raising children, into volunteering for any number of causes. You may choose to ignore it until it recedes into the background. But it will never die until you do. Very few of us will be fortunate enough to have our creative works enjoy a wide audience or outlive our physical death—but that doesn’t change who we are.

I’ve been struck, reading the stories of creative people, at how early we express our gifts. Ask a question like, “When did you start writing (or drawing / acting / singing)?” and most of the time the answer includes a childhood memory of telling stories even before we could write, of scrawling stories on paper or tapping them into a computer as soon as we learned how. Artists remember sketching on every available surface using any available medium. Young singers raised their voices without even realizing it, sometimes at the wrong time. Performers gathered family, friends, or even stuffed animals for an audience.

Demands pile up as we grow. Creative writing assignments in school give way to critical reviews of classic literature from the syllabus. There are high school activities, teams to play on, applications for colleges and for jobs. We may choose a path that will nurture our creative gifts—or one that has a greater chance of supporting us, or even one that we are equally passionate about but is not creative in a traditional sense. We establish careers, businesses, homes, perhaps marry, and perhaps have children. Then there are children to raise, aging relatives to care for, bills to pay, decisions to make, cars to fix, taxes to file—and, as my writer friend also experienced this year, funerals to attend, loved ones to grieve, and estates to settle. For these reasons and hundreds more you may set aside your gift, by choice or by chance, for long stretches of your life.

But at some point when you have the mental space, when you have the time in your schedule, when the tide of urgent demands recedes and your emotional, spiritual, and creative energies recharge, you’ll write again. An idea will arrive, in whatever way it does for you. Give it room. Nurture it. Let yourself go with it. Feel the joy. The next thing you know two hours will slip by and a couple of thousand words will be there, or a sketch, or some music. You might wonder, “Wow, where did that come from?” It’s always been there, hidden inside you—you just had to let it shine.

Here’s what I do NOT believe: “I know for most writers there’s a point when you shut down and you stop writing.” Barring illness or incapacity, I don’t know of any examples of this, certainly not enough to use the word most. If you know of any examples, please don’t share them. I don’t want to know.

But if you have examples of personal creativity rising again, and ideas of how to nurture the creative drive when it re-asserts itself, please share them here. And if you know others who might appreciate some reassurance that creativity is an essential part of who they are, please share this post with them.

Related Post on The Artist’s Road: Creativity and the Aging Brain

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About Marianne Knowles

Marianne is not sure if she's a trickster, but her two older brothers absolutely ARE. She writes middle grade and chapter books and freelances as a writer/editor/project manager in K-12 science and math education. She is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt, whose red cowboy boots definitely qualify as Trickster Chic.

22 thoughts on “You Will Always Be Creative

  1. It’s so hard to make room for creativity to come to the surface. It’s no surprise that it comes pouring out when life changes or slows.

  2. Pingback: You Will Always Be Creative | Feed the Writer |...

  3. Most of our blog’s readers are adults, so it makes sense that we’re responding from our perspective. But honestly, this post was inspired by two people concerned about the same thing, in the same time period. The other is a high school student who is writing those critical reviews of books from the syllabus, sometimes grieving from the lack of time to be creative, and worrying that it has gone forever.

  4. Pingback: You Will Always Be Creative | Creativity & ...

  5. As someone who’s become a writer as a second career, I’ve tended to think of myself as less creative. Otherwise writing would have been a first career, right? But your post rings true Marianne. Before I embarked on a career as a software engineer (which, when I think about it, requires lots of creativity), I was a dancer. So despite believing I’m a logical thinker it turns out I’ve been creative all my life! Go figure. I guess this proves the point that creativity comes in all forms. It’s just a matter of how you channel it.

    • Well, I don’t know that it proves anything, since it’s an opinion, but there’s a lot of creativity in a lot of different pursuits. And I don’t think logic and creativity / intuition are necessarily opposites, either. They complement each other really well.

  6. Marianne, the pivot point in this phenomenon up for discussion is finding the “mental space” you refer to. Your post is a great reminder: once creative, always creative. But finding that inner space to think freely is elusive. Life sure is full of things! One helpful strategy is to have an actual, physical space to go to for open thinking. When I was a single parent with three kids (long ago) I declared part of our front room as my studio. It was always set up for writing or art so that if kids were napping or at school, I could get things done. The very most productive time for me was after they went to bed. That was partly because I’d turn on only my desk light, so the rest of the world melted away into darkness. No dirty dishes or dust bunnies visible. Eventually I had real studio space, but even a closet that is set up with a tiny desk and your computer can be like the wardrobe door opening your mind to other worlds. Claiming that mindspace is the thing.
    Thank you for your encouraging thoughts!

      • Thanks for the tip. I just went to Wendy’s site. Yeah, everything was put away for the photo, but it’s a nice space. I love the natural daylight. Once I redo my studio (much needed, when I have time), maybe I’ll send her some pictures. I have a 500 sq,ft. space I had built. Part is for writing and art. The rest is my welding shop and sculpture storage. Also, she’s interested in interviewing historical fiction authors, which might be useful down the road. You are an excellent resource!

  7. Thanks for this post, Marianne. I always tell people I started writing later in life…nearing the end of my teaching career. But when I read this, I realized as a child I wrote stories and I always wrote poetry. But when I graduated college I used my creativity to plan lessons and teach children. I didn’t think of my creativity as always being there, but now I see that it was. I’m grateful that my creativity took its twists and turns. All is as it should be.

  8. Thanks for a beautiful and inspiring post, Marianne! I took a 12 year break from writing when I got married and had 5 children…I decided to start writing again 3 years ago, when my baby was 6 months old and I’m happy that I did. I sometimes wish I had never taken a break, but timing really is everything. All my creative energy was focused on surviving and helping my children thrive. Now, I’m using some of that creativity for writing stories and it’s wonderful.

    • Surviving…yes, that is kind of the theme of raising kids when they’re really young! Glad you’ve found some time to write again. I’m sure your children are benefiting from your example.

    • So glad to help! Thanks for letting me know. By the way, in my opinion, teachers are among the most creative people on the planet, with the toughest audience to please. Thanks for channeling your creativity into this high calling!

  9. What a beautiful post, Marianne! I “forgot” I was a writer after college and for many years after and sometimes I wish I was getting into this business much younger. But I did a lot of living in those years that inform my writing now. I got that first spark of a story idea shortly after my youngest started school, and I know for a fact that if it had come sooner, I would have brushed it aside and gotten right back to Candyland and potty training. Timing is everything! I look to authors like Judy Blume and Stephen King, still cranking out novels far past retirement age to know I don’t ever have to stop playing with words:)

    • Thanks, Jen. I know what you mean about timing; I likewise wish I’d gotten into this much younger. I did start writing again a long time ago, then we bought a house and had kids and it was put on hold again. But hey, I’m having fun now!

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