by Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh
Recently, I ran across a book that I’ve used as inspiration in the past--The Creative Spirit. This is a companion text to the PBS series of the same name in the early nineties, and it is still available through Amazon. Since the book chronicles some astounding research and philosophies about creativity, I thought I’d write a few blogs applying the concepts to writing.
The writers point out that one of the stumbling blocks of being creative is the fear of making a mistake (Goleman 43). None of us wants to look stupid in public or to fail at something we love, and this nagging thought freezes up the ability to produce creatively. It sounds like writer’s block, doesn’t it? We all know it; that horrible hovering of hands over the keyboard as the chest tightens and the brain buzzes. My guess would be this is why a lot of writers who have a successful first book block on the second one. It doesn’t even have to be that dramatic. Simply being good at anything can prevent a potential writer from producing. We fear failure and people pitying our attempt at creativity.
Getting over the fear isn’t easy but possible. The authors cite the creator of the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, Chuck Jones. Jones believes that Wile E. Coyote is so popular because we all identify with his failures. Again and again he tries to catch the road runner with ever-complicated plots but never succeeds at anything but looking foolish (Goleman 44). The fear in all of us is to become Wile E. Coyote. But unlike most of us, Mr. Coyote continues his quest, each time being more creative. He is fearless.
“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity,” says Jones, but having the courage to soldier on is how we become better—more creative (Goleman 44).
In my own experience as a writer, I can tell you that I suffer from anxiety every time I hit the WordPress “post” button or when I upload to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I fuss and I rewrite, but the truth is that I’m never completely happy and I constantly obsess over mistakes and perceived mistakes. My anxiety pushes me to become better.
Writing should be, and most often is, a joy. Nothing is more satisfying or blissful than the act of creating. But that gnawing feeling of imperfection and fear of failure can be the catalyst that you, as a writer, need to work through to the next step of creativity.
Goleman, Daniel, Paul Kaufman, and Michael Ray. The Creative Spirit. New York: Dutton, 1992. Print.
by Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh: President, Word Branch Media
1. Proofread, proofread, then do some more proofreading. This should be obvious, but a lot of times proofreading is overlooked in favor of content. Your most skillful spinning will be negated if the reader can’t get past the typos and grammar and spelling problems. Sloppy proofreading equals an “I don’t care” attitude. If you are a poor proofer, have someone else in your organization look over it or hire a professional.
2. Make your letter easy to read. While it’s tempting to use some of the fancier features of word processing programs, simple is better. Use only one easy-to-read font in the text portion, and stay away from complicated formats.
3. Avoid overdoing hyperbole. While you may want your audience to get excited about your product or service, you don’t want to come off as insincere. Using too many exclamation marks, bolded words and underlined phrases at the best makes you appear to be over-caffeinated and at worst an inexperienced communicator.
4. Format for readability. Use a standard business format: a 1.15 line spacing with a double space between paragraphs and no indentation at the beginning of paragraphs. Use bullet points when listing more than three items, and keep paragraphs short and to the point.
5. Use the Chicago style for a standardized look. If you don’t have a copy of this classic manual for business writing, it is worth the investment or you can have a style guide written for your company to match your industry’s standards.
6. Hire a professional writer or editor. It is much more cost effective than you think and can save you a bundle in sales. A professional writer can put together a sales letter for one campaign or for a template for several. She or he can also proofread or edit existing letters to make them more successful.
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