One of the themes of recent books and research on talent development is that creative achievement, even genius, is less a matter of innate talent than focused practice over time – maybe a long time.
As David Brooks declared in his The New York Times op-ed essay Genius: The Modern View, “The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark…it’s deliberate practice.
“Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.”
He notes recent research supporting this has been summarized in the books: “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle, and “Talent Is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin.
Creativity author and teacher Julia Cameron recommends her strategy of Morning Pages to enhance creative expression: “three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.”
She explains one way this is valuable: “Creative energy is energy. When we are worrying about creating instead of actually creating, we are wasting our creative energy.”
[From her site theartistsway.com]
Audiobook: The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, narrated by Julia Cameron.
Book: The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity – by Julia Cameron.
Kurt Vonnegut had an additional perspective – he once commented, “Don’t worry about getting into the profession. Write anyway to make your soul grow. That’s what the practice of any art is, it isn’t to make a living, it’s to make your soul grow.”
From article Vonnegut on Fiction, by Kelly Nickell, Writer’s Digest.
Writing and perseverance
Writer Rachel Simon notes, “Tenacity has always been a primary theme in the lives of successful writers: some historians believe that Plato rewrote the first sentence of The Republic fifty times; Virgil needed ten years to write the Aeneid; Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, which itself required five years of work, was not even begun until Flaubert had written, and discarded, two other novels;
“James Joyce’s Ulysses took eight years to write, and countless rejections to get published; Ernest Hemingway rewrote the final page of A Farewell to Arms almost forty times…”
Timed writing exercises
Her first book, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, has sold more than a million copies in ten languages.
In an interview, Natalie Goldberg talked about writing to access your energy and creative intuition:
“A writing practice is simply picking up a pen — a fast-writing pen, preferably, since the mind is faster than the hand — and doing timed writing exercises.
“The idea is to keep your hand moving for, say, ten minutes, and don’t cross anything out, because that makes space for your inner editor to come in.
“I consider writing an athletic activity: the more you practice, the better you get at it. The reason you keep your hand moving is because there’s often a conflict between the editor and the creator.”
Writing coach Cynthia Morris is providing on her site Original Impulse a new email subscription service: The Daily Writing Impulse – which offers “a simple, evocative writing prompt, delivered to your inbox, to keep writing in your life on a regular basis.”
In her testimonial, Julie Ball, a writer in Australia, says “When I switched to Cynthia’s prompts, I never went back to my own. Using prompts generated outside myself helped me to break through the limits I had created. Cynthia’s prompts yielded more surprising connections and rewarding results. They often sparked a new way into my characters’ attitudes and interactions.”
See more (including a video with Cynthia) on my Inner Writer page: The Daily Writing Impulse.
[Photo: Winona Ryder as writer Jo March in “Little Women.”]