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Using Personal Experiences in Creativity: When Does It Cross the Line?


I’ve been thinking about how our personal lives play a role in our creative processes lately, and how open we should be about those roles.

Part of it’s kind of a no-brainer, I know. I mean, as a writer, I don’t think there’s one thing I’ve written that didn’t have at least a hint of personal experience and emotion in it — even the folder of documents I jokingly call a work-in-process novel.

But, what about the other part? The part about how open we should be about it?

Especially if it’s blatantly about someone else?

Recently celebrity events triggered my thinking.

For example, back in July Russell Brand used his and ex-wife Katy Perry‘s sex life as part of his performance during a show at London’s Soho Theatre.

I’d be having sex thinking, ‘Think of anyone, anyone else.’ — Daily Mail


Common examples here in America include pretty much every song Taylor Swift has ever written.

At this point, it seems any man who starts dating Swift should be prepared to become a song (Billboard even created a timeline of Swift’s boyfriends and their respective songs, from Joe Jonas to Harry Styles); however, while Swift’s tunes seem like mere creative catharsis, Brand’s comedy is rude and hurtful.

“I go wherever my creativity takes me.” — Lil’ Wayne

Again, I use personal experiences in nearly all of my writing, and I’ve never been one to advocate censorship. I often used personal experiences (discreetly and, sometimes, not-so-discreetly) in my high school and college writing assignments and usually these were the assignments that earned the highest praise from teachers and classmates.

But, even when my writing was about someone who broke my heart or a friend who betrayed me or another student I just couldn’t stand at the time (ah, sweet teenage drama), I never named the person.

My style was and is still more subtle, like Swift’s (I never thought I’d compare the two of us) than blatant, like Brand’s.

So, my thought to ponder this week (or whenever you read this) is: Are there limits to using personal experiences to create? Do you avoid outright insulting people, or is that too much censorship for you?

While you think about it, check out these creativity resources from around Psych Central:

Using Personal Experiences in Creativity: When Does It Cross the Line?

Alicia Sparks

Alicia Sparks is a freelance writer and editor and the creator of, where she blogs to help new freelance writers get their quills in the pot, so to speak. Among animal rights, music, and physical wellness, her passions include mental health and advocacy. Here at Psych Central she works as Syndication Editor as well as authors Your Body, Your Mind, Unleash Your Creativity, and World of Psychology's weekly "Psychology Around the Net."

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APA Reference
Sparks, A. (2013). Using Personal Experiences in Creativity: When Does It Cross the Line?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Sep 2013
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