On the surface, I have always known that drafting wasn't easy for me, but I have always assumed this was some massive character defect on my part.
I mean, what kind of writer HATES writing?
To make matters worse, I have a number of friends who can draft thousands upon thousands of words in a single day. I've always assumed that THEY WERE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT while I WAS DOING SOMETHING WRONG.
But that's not true. And on the flip side, nor is it true that I am doing something right while they do something wrong.
Instead, what it boils down to is how you create.
Your Creative Brain
I recently read a book that literally transformed how I view my own creativity (and others'). I highly recommend the book, Your Creative Brain
by Dr. Shelley Carson, though I warn you it is very
Of course, I loved all the nitty gritty science, but you could theoretically skim past all that dense brain talk and dive directly into the heart of the book, which asserts that science has identified 7 types of creativity. Each of these "brainsets
" happens in a different part of your brain, and while your own brain might be strongest at one kind of creativity, it doesn't mean you can't improve the other kinds as well.
So for example, you might be extremely strong in the Stream "brainset" (which contributes to creative flow), but weak at Reason (which would contribute to revising).
On Dr. Carson's website, you can actually take a quiz
that will tell you which brainsets are YOUR strengths. The book provides a much more in-depth quiz, and I will say: I got slightly different answers from the quick quiz vs. the full one in the book. Additionally, having the book will give you much more insight into what each brainset means, as well as how to improve your weaker brainsets. Still, the quick-and-dirty quiz
on her website can be hugely helpful if you can't get a hold of the book.
Now go on. Go take it right now. I'll wait.
Okay. You're done. What were your results?
I came back with Reason
as my highest, followed by a tie between Connect
. This means that I am good at generating ideas, solving problems in unique ways, and learning new things.
This doesn't surprise me at all. It fits perfectly with my abilities as a strong reviser and brainstormer. I take a bad first draft and solve it like some tricky math problem -- but unlike a math problem, there are a hundred different possible solutions, and the fun for me is picking out the best one.
It also came as no surprise to find that my WEAKEST brainset was Stream
. I am not good at falling into flow while drafting.
"Duh, Sooz," you're thinking. "You reinforced what you already learned in your postmortem. Good for you."
Yes, I did
. But I also learned something that came as a complete surprise.
Dr. Carson doesn't address what this means on her website (you need the book for that!), but the basic idea is that in addition to the 7 brainsets, there are 2 pathways to actually accessing creative ideas.
- Deliberate creators work away at something, little by little. The simple act of "showing up" regularly allows them to tap into their creative brainsets. They feel they are getting "warmer and warmer" as they hone in on the Right Idea or the Right Solutions. Deliberate creators work with the front of their brains firmly in control.
- Spontaneous creators tap into their creative brainets via the subconscious mind. The back of our brains never turns off, you see, yet rarely are the ideas happening there worthy enough to reach the conscious, thinking parts of our brains. When those the ideas DO come, though, they can be a total AHA! moment. You're struck by a solution that is so perfect and so "random," you think it must have come from some external, magical source. (It didn't. Thanks human brain!)
What surprised me is that I would have said without a doubt that I was a "deliberate" creator. BUT NOPE. My results showed I am much more of "spontaneous" creator. So while yes, I will continue to "hack away every day" at an idea because I can't not
, the really important solutions and creative moments are always going to come "spontaneously" from my subconscious mind.
Leaning into Your Strengths
This is all important. So, so important because it means that I AM NOT BROKEN. (And nor are you!)
I'm not failing at flow because I am a terrible author -- I'm failing at flow because that part of my brain isn't nearly so developed as the parts of my brain that work with problem-solving and learning.
Can't you see why that's incredibly liberating?
Instead of trying to force myself to become that writer-who-loves-to-write, it makes more sense instead to lean into what I am actually good well as what I actually love.
It also means that working everyday for 2 years on Windwitch
was NOT the most effective use of my time. The spontaneous, subconscious part of my creativity needed space to operate, and I simply wasn't letting that happen. Instead, I was acting like a "deliberate" creator, drafting words before the ideas were fully grown -- before I'd allowed my subconscious mind to think through & evaluate every possibly story solution.
It is also why, 1.5 years into the process the Right Story did
come along (in a summer full of glorious AHA! moments), and once I had those ideas, the words weren't so agonizing to get down. I still wasn't fast, but I didn't throw everything away over and over again.
So what have I learned?
- I am good at seeing what's wrong in a story -- and I'm good at articulating them too.
- I am good at assembling stories like a puzzle for the most satisfying, unique outcome.
- And most of all, I enjoy staring at all the seemingly disparate ideas and pictures and scribbles on my white board until I see how they all connect.
Why, then, am I avoiding that and trying to force myself to "just hammer out a draft as fast as possible and fix it later?" That will never end in a good product for me! Instead, it will end in a series of false starts, thousands upon thousands of wasted words, and ENDLESS MISERY.
Right now, I'm working ona new project in the Witchlands world. I tried to write this story 3 years ago, but like Windwitch
, it simply wasn't ready and I threw out tons of false starts.
Now, 3 years of incubation later, this sucker IS ready. It has evolved into something so different from what I originally thought it would be -- a sign my subconscious has been one busy bee. Yet I know this is the Right Story because the ideas have been coming so fast I'm actually struggling
to keep up. I literally fill my white board, snap a picture of it, then erase and start again.
Idea, idea, connect, absorb, idea, idea.
Oh, it is pure magic
. I feel as if my heart is actually singing as I race to get all the ideas and connections down -- and is that not the same feeling that writers-who-love-to-write feel when they fall into creative flow?
And no, the actual words still aren't tumbling out of me. I manage only 500-1500 words a day, but I can feel that this is the Right Story. Other than polishing prose and other scene-level tweaks, I think maybe...dare I say it? I think maybe
FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE, I will not need to rewrite the whole book once I reach The End. Because for the first time ever, instead of trying to force myself to be something I'm not, I'm leaning into what I'm actually
good at and what I actually
That, my friends, is pretty incredible.