Finding the Creative Joy

Today’s guest post comes from Heather Reid.  Heather was a finalist for our Unpubbed Author contributor.  We loved her sample, which is graceful and powerful.  We were charmed by her whimsy and sense of humor, because, in her own words:

I’m a geeky Texan living in England, married to a Scotsman. Doesn’t that make me unique? Surely there aren’t two geeky Texans living in England, married to a Scotsman. If you can find one, please give them my number. I need a new friend. To which I add… nothing, as this answer has gone on long enough already.

You have friends (and fans) at WU, Heather!
Please enjoy!

Give a child a bed sheet and they build a tent. They imagine it’s surrounded by trees (a coat rack) and wild animals (the pillows from the sofa). Give a bed sheet to an adult and they fold it and put it away in the closet. As children we are often praised for creativity, encouraged to dream, to draw, to play in a world of fantasy. Creativity isn’t something to think about, read about, or take classes for. It’s something that comes as second nature. So why, as adults, do we talk about creativity as this great quest-an ethereal being we must woo in order to write? When did creativity become so much work? 

As we get older, society tells us it’s time to grow up, to stop dreaming, to live in the real world, to fold our creativity up and put it in the closet. We grow up and become aware of rejection, of failure, of judgement, of fear. When I sit down to write, that fear chatters away in the back of my mind. It reminds me that I’m not published yet and that I’ve been rejected by another agent on my list. It whispers that my book might not be on trend or the characters might be too one dimensional. It makes me second guess myself, it chases my creative muse around the room; it steals truth and authenticity from my words. Fear urges me to conform to the world, to see it through jade coloured glasses. But children, children are fearless when it comes to creativity. 

My fourteen-year-old niece e-mailed me the first three chapters of her novel last week. Her excitement oozed from every word, she believed in her story, she wrote with passion, and I enjoyed reading it. Is it publishable? Not in the grownup world of agents and editors, but I loved it none the less and was in awe of her accomplishment. Does she care? Her goal wasn’t to find an agent or be a best seller. She was free from the bonds of fear and judgment, free to create a story because it needed to be written. She wrote for the sheer joy of it. I envy her. That envy forced me to examine my own reasons for writing and the reasons why I feel I have to work so hard to woo my muse these days. She unknowingly reminded me of something I’d forgotten. The heart of this ethereal thing adults call creativity isn’t something we can woo. It’s something that resonates within each of us, something that is always there buried in the closet behind the bills, the day job, and dirty dishes.

To find truth in our writing we need to let go of our fear and expectations and get to know our inner child again- the creative child, who searched for fairies in the garden, believed a cardboard rocket ship would really travel to the moon and slept with a four leaf clover under the pillow for luck. It’s time to forget about word counts, agents, the golden ticket of publishing, and to breathe words on the page because that is what we’re called to do. To write for the sheer joy of it.



  1. says

    Super post, Heather! I love spending time with my grandchildren – they throw themselves into imaginary worlds with such enthusiasm. Of course Grandma does it too!

  2. says

    What a wonderful – and insightful – post! Absolutely true, to boot.
    I certainly hope you get to know your inner child. There’s so much she can teach you.
    Many years ago, I got in touch with my inner child – a terrified, lonely, battered little girl, frozen in time at eight years old.
    It took a long time to break her free of her bonds and let her be a child again. Unbelievably, she’s slipped my mind – life gets in the way. I think it’s past time to visit her again.
    Thank you for this great post . . . and the reminder.
    Married to a Scotsman, you say? Interesting!
    Oh, and I’ll bet you be published soon!!!

  3. says

    Great post that all writers – published and unpublished – should remember. I’m just plotting a sequel so I shall try to forget word counts, my publisher, etc., and have a good long chat with my inner child.

  4. says

    Thanks for such a great reminder of why I started writing in the first place.

    I’m going to print this out and stick it on the kitchen wall, so every time I feel a guilty twinge about writing instead of doing the housework I can jump on it with my inner child. :)

    Good luck with your wip.

  5. Sarah Callejo says

    Beautiful post Heather. I agree with you. We become adults and mould our creativity into a practical tool to help us survive our everyday lives and jobs, but then forget to give it free reins again just for the joy of living an experience in a remote world, far away from reality. Our imagination does become rusty, as we forget it’s still there somewhere waiting to be used again, oblivious of all those fears you mention.
    Your post is very inspiring, thanks.

  6. says

    I love this post! And your phrase, “But children, children are fearless when it comes to creativity,” brought my fearlessly imaginative seven-year-old daughter to mind immediately. I can vaguely remember how confident and creative I was as a child too.

    (Oh, and I am not a Texan living in England married to a Scotsman, but I AM a Californian living in England and married to a Scotsman!)
    .-= moonduster (Becky)´s last blog ..Do You Journal? =-.

  7. says

    Wow! Great post! I totally know what you mean about fear. My sense of humor borders on the bizarre and absurd, so when I write, I’m afraid no one will “get it”–In short, I live in fear of eye rolls. Today, when I write I’ll be flipping off that inner voice.

    Oh, and I loved the introduction of you just as much as the post! For two years I was a Minnesotan transplanted in Texas. . . not the same thing I know, but I’d be happy to be your friend!

  8. says

    What a fantastic post!! I’ve thought this a few times myself — why did I let my imagination shut down? — but even in middle school and high school my goal was always publication, so I think that’s part of why I lost my “creative joy” so quickly. Sigh. Anyway, this past year or so, I’ve really opened up and am embracing it again. So far, so good. ;)

    Thanks for this reminder! I hope everyone here heeds your wise words!
    .-= Kristan´s last blog ..Read-search =-.

  9. says

    What a wonderful post! And so very true. We all need to silence those fearful voices and write for the sheer joy of it. And children are absolutely our best guide for creativity–my three year old plays pretend as easily as she breathes. Children have such a sense of wonder about the world that we lose as adults and yet need to recapture and infuse into our writing. Seeing through my daughters’ eyes makes the whole world new.

  10. says

    What a wonderful post!

    I’m embarrassed when my childishness occasionally slips out in public because adults are supposed to be controlled, socially acceptable people who stick to the appropriate. I’m also aware that my ‘childishness’ contributes to my creative abilities. So then comes the dilemma of when to box it up and when to let it free.

    I’ve also had the privilege of watching my 2-year-old niece discover the wonders of language and play with her words as if they were toys. What a shame we lose that ease as we grow older.

    Thank you for the encouragement to recapture the fun.
    .-= Jessica Baverstock – Creativity’s Workshop´s last blog ..Taking the Creative Initiative to Be Kind =-.

  11. says

    Great post! Children are great with stories – they approach them with all the appropriate seriousness that adults can’t seem to manage anymore.

    It’s all about seeing the little green knight sitting on the grasshopper (something my niece told me – with absolute conviction – just the other day).

    Me, I’m one of those weird adults who takes great joy in making up stories never mind everyone telling her she’s to old for such nonesense… thankfully my sister understands what I’m talking about when I tell her that yes, I keep missing the squash balls, but that’s because there’s little green aliens inside them that manouver them out of the way of my racket…. ; )

    Oh, and there is a moster in my washing maschine that eats one of each pair of socks.

    ; )
    .-= Tessa Conte´s last blog ..A new week… =-.

  12. says

    My parents tell me that until I was 12, they thought I was going to be a hippy–always wandering in the woods singing and writing poetry–and then . . . what? The Horrors of Middle School? By the time I was 25 I said often, and with a straight face, that I didn’t have a creative bone in my body.

    It took having children of my own to realize how that wasn’t true, and another ten years to figure out all the ways it wasn’t.

    What a great post. Thanks.
    .-= Sarah Woodbury´s last blog ..Welsh Idioms =-.

  13. says

    Bed sheets and boxes and blankets–the days of tents and castles and houses built under a ping-pong table or staircase are gone but I still have fond memories. My son and daughter are completing their university studies now but I am always thankful for the boost they gave to my creativity when they were younger.
    To me, it was almost magical to watch their imaginations unfold as they created structures, drawings, skits. It had a ripple effect. I started to write again–poems and reflections that I had not attempted for quite some time.
    Thanks for sharing!

  14. says

    Thank-you. I’ve been feeling very creatively ‘stuck’ lately. I need to play. I need to let go of my list of adult ‘shoulds’ and let myself play and imagine. Thank-you thank-you. Good luck in all your writing efforts too!
    .-= Danica´s last blog ..Thursday Morning =-.

  15. says

    Many thanks for the reminder of what’s the right thing to do–I think it’s part of the “staying true” that I wrote about in my last WU post.

    I’m gathering myself for a second online, high-wire, pantser writing of a story about my vampire kitty-cat while people watch. I was feeling a little trepidatious–can I really do this again?–and your post today was just the right nudge to yes, I can.


  16. says

    This post resonated with me on an emotional level from the first read, and it doesn’t lose anything after multiple reads either. Fabulous essay, Heather!

  17. starvinginhisgarret says

    I think all areas of your life, not just writing, can be improved by dreaming, playing, using your imagination.

  18. Sharon Bially says

    Heather, this is superb. It is such a travesty that we adults have been forced to confound creativity with business and certain parameters of success. Especially since real progress begins with the imagination.

  19. says

    It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realized how tied down my imagination had become. Kids, however, are experts at untangling years of restraint. Great blog!

  20. Heather Reid says

    No way! I had no idea my post was up:) Sorry it’s taken so long to reply, but I’ve been eating bbq, soaking up the sun, and visiting with my family in Texas for the last three weeks. It took a real adventure to get past the volcano… planes, trains, automobiles, ferries, 4 countries and 6 time zones to get there, but that’s another story :)

    All I can say is…Wow! Thank you to everyone in the WU community for such a warm welcome and for Therese and Kathleen for giving me the opporitunity to share my voice.

    Becky- I’m glad to hear of another American, married to a Scotsman, living in England. What city are you living in? I would love to swap stories.
    Tessa-I love that your neice saw a green knight sitting on a grasshopper. What an awesome image! I’ve got a sock eating moster in my house too :)
    Anne- I would be happy to be your friend and would love to hear about your Texas transplant sometime.

    Thanks to all of you!

  21. says

    Amen to that “amen.” Long ago I learned this about playing music, and I’m re-learning it now about writing. Writing is fun first!
    Greg Bryant´s last blog post ..haiku 5