So let’s be real. John is everywhere right now promoting his new book: Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide. Pick up a copy if you like. I will be reading and reviewing it shortly, but for now I will touch on some the ideas he has been tackling in his various talks, not just on the news but in other forms of entertainment.
That is essentially why I have had the privilege to speak with him and see him interviewed by others on topics such as creativity, psychology, and of course Monty Python, all topics near and dear to me. Still, while he is marketing himself, I am learning something and I can appreciate that.
Last night I watched an event where he was being interviewed by Judd Apatow. He addressed this issue of play but of course delved much deeper. Thankfully, he does touch on it in the clip above so you can hear it from the source.
It’s an important subject I think I/we should tackle in this blog, on the newsletter, in the group, etc. etc.
One of the things that struck me during his interview between two FAMOUS writers with long resumes (maybe not your cup of tea, but you have to give them that) is that they say the same words I have heard MANY “amateur/aspiring/what-have-you” writers say.
That most of the time what they write is crap, but they keep going until they get to something good.
Judd talked about his tendency to freewrite but then come back to the page later on to “fix” it. What he comes back to is usually a mountain of garbage with one “nugget” of good in it.
John talked about how he and Graham Chapman would write together all week, they would usually have something good by lunchtime Wednesday (because they put in the work Monday and Tuesday) and then that would be the best thing they wrote all week. Nothing good on Thursday and Friday, rinse, lather, repeat.
Think about that. What is your good to bad ratio and how do you account for it?
As a writer myself, I’ve felt… different about my writing lately. I know that while I am doing many fulfilling writer-like things, I am NOT by any stretch of the imagination putting is as much “play-time” as I have in the past or would like to. Why?
Well, while often focused on the business of writing, I am finding myself struggling with the same things I am trying to help others overcome.
- The lack of the motivation to write.
- The lack of creativity and ideas.
- Feeling stuck and unsure of how to keep going.
Even with all the coaching, experience, and learning too. And guess what?
THAT IS ALL PART OF BEING A WRITER
So what are the solutions?
- Acknowledge this fact and be nicer to yourself.
- Yes, you suck. Everyone sucks. Sometimes you are good, sometimes other people are good. Let go of the need for perfection!
- Get yourself back to that place when writing was fun and felt like play.
When John described to Judd how everyone deals with this in one way or another, he mentioned the hemispheres of the brain. While this concept has become rather hackneyed, there is still some psychological merit to it.
It isn’t simply that the left brain is all excel spreadsheets and the right brain is a joy ride, or that the two sides never work together. When we confront how it is more complex than that, we begin to understand why we have trouble “playing” creatively.
When we look at the functions of both sides of the brain, as writers we begin to see how we need both sides to write “well” or even think about writing at all.
We obviously need a strong use of written, analytical thought and language, and ahem, especially if we are right-handed. But we clearly need the right side too for our insight, intuition, creativity, and imagination.
John touched on the idea that even as creatives, society often embarrasses us into living in our left side and faults us when we try to find merit for the right.
As writers, I think our intellect is a huge part of our ego, and so we try to assert our intelligence more than we do play and have fun with our writing. Does that make sense? Am I making sense? Do I sound dumb to you?
You see where I am going with this…
And worse when we write for an audience and try to force them into the driver’s seat, we lose all agency to play as well.
Like if a child is playing house and Dad comes along and says, “You’re doing it wrong Timmy, you need to be thinking about your mortgage payment while you scramble your plastic eggs.” The child loses all agency and reality sets in.
I will part on this thought, take some of that time John described just once next week. It can be on a Friday, or any other day that feels more conducive.
I’m not saying abandon your family and responsibilities.
But think of this as nature calling. Your brain is calling you to let it play. You always have time for the other call. Make time for this one!
And let me know how it worked out.