The Tao of Creativity

As I peruse blogs and read other people’s books, I struggle daily with a list of shoulds. I should strike every “was” and adverb from my prose. I should add a bunch of controversial subject matter to my stories. I should enter every writing contest that I can. I should build a huge web presence. I should come up with some brilliant ploy to drive rush-hour volume traffic to my blog.

Or should I? Let’s face it—my voice wants to come out more conversational than literary. Edginess is not something that feels natural to my stories, and I don’t think my target audience would like it. I’m not a contest person; words don’t immediately drip from my fingers. In fact, for me, initial ideas are the hardest part of being creative. I am not a daily blogger. Marketing doesn’t come as naturally to me as breathing, the way it does for Shelli Johannes-Wells, and I haven’t been blindsided by any genius inspirations, like Casey McCormick’s Agent Spotlight.

I don’t think I can change these things. Not easily. And the fact is, I shouldn’t. While the writing process takes dedication and hard work, it should also be organic to who you are. If you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing, the creativity will flow. The work won’t seem like work, because your passion and talent will carry you. All these people who I envy and admire aren’t finding their success because they’re trying to be something they’re not. They’re finding it because they’re following their true nature.

The philosophy of Taoism has a name for this: Wei wu wei, “doing without doing”. If you can’t wrap your mind around that, think of water, which is soft and weak, yet can wear away stone. A second concept goes hand in hand with this: P’u, the Uncarved Block. P’u, is a person’s natural state, their innate self, free of prejudices and misconceptions. The idea is that things are most perfect in this state. When you put these concepts together you come up with the following philosophy: By being true to ourselves, rather than striving to be something we’re not, things will come with less effort, and we will be happier.

A lot of envy and self-doubt comes with writing. Not just for the un-published crowd, but for established, award-winning authors. These feelings are a fallacy. A time sink that robs our creativity and distracts us from our work.  We all have our unique strengths, and that’s how it should be. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted from your path by the glitter of someone else’s gifts. Your own are just as dazzling.

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23 Responses to The Tao of Creativity

  1. Roxie says:

    This is why we need each other to edit. The writing comes best when allowed to flow freely, but the river that flows freely often carries a lot of junk. It is the river’s job to flow. It is the editor’s job to pull out the junk. Be who you are and do what you do.


  2. Casey says:

    Too true, Lisa. I used to want to be funny and witty on my blog. I adore funny, witty people. But that doesn’t come naturally to me at all! But I AM a helpful, giving person by nature, so I found something to fit that.

    I’m struggling with the same problem in my writing actually. I want to be like X author and write a Y kind of book but I have a feeling that’s not in my ability, so I’m trying to come to terms with my voice and the kind of book it fits.

    We’re certainly more likely to succeed by doing what’s natural, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t step out of our comfort zones in order to see what we might learn.


  3. macrush53 says:

    This was a great post. I came back to read a second time. Love this especially, “organic to who you are. If you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing, the creativity will flow.”
    Good words to remember when the writing isn’t flowing.


  4. shelli says:

    Be yourself and you will automatically be successful! yay you’re back – I missed you and your heartfelt blogs! 🙂


  5. Charlie says:

    I agree with your post. Writing shouldn’t be forced like a school essay, it should be a source of joy and comfort, something that puts a smile on your face 🙂


  6. Heather says:

    I love this post. When I am telling my self that I should or shouldn’t do something, that’s when things go wrong. When I just let things be, let things flow, then everything is easier. Not that I don’t have to work at things, but just that I don’t have to fight the current.

    Thanks for the inspiration.


  7. Doret says:

    Well Said. I’ve read first novels where it felt as if the author was trying to do too many different things.

    Like a new singer who styles themselves have too many singers.

    The art gets jumbled when an artist tries to do what works for someone else.


  8. You have no idea how much I needed to read this right now. Beautiful post. Thank you!!


  9. Wonderful post, Lisa. I love the concepts of “doing without doing” and “the uncarved block.” So often we’re told we need to work on our weaknesses, and certainly we do, but I think often we forget we need to work from our strengths.


  10. Lovely post, Lisa, and a wonderful reminder for the hard times when or if we begin to doubt and question ourselves. I can see we have much in common, and I’ll be visiting again soon…


  11. What a wonderful post. Too often in striving to be successful we forget to be real. The truth is the more the moments of our lives reflect our authentic self, the more our lives will be blessed with success.


  12. Lisa Nowak says:

    Wow, guys! I’m so glad this hit home for you.

    Roxie, you’re echoing something I’ve heard a lot lately about not letting your internal editor get in the way of your creativity.

    Casey, I think you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing on your blog. You’re goin’ somewhere with that, girl!

    Jone, I’m flattered you came back for seconds. 🙂

    Shelli, I’m so glad to see you back. Hope you liked the plug I gave you. I envy your marketing talents, but I’m working hard to remind myself that they are not my marketing talents. 🙂

    Charlie, Heather, Doret, Amy, and Carol, I know you’re here from the Kidlit blogging challenge, and I think it’s awesome you chose my blog to comment on. I hope you found it interesting enough to come back to. I was especially touched by your comment, Amy. I’m so glad my post was helpful to you.

    Chris, I knew you’d appreciate the Taoist teachings, being such an inquisitive person. You were the first person to make me realize I had to value my strengths instead of coveting other people’s. It was at that presentation you did for Willamette Writers. You told me how much you admired a friend’s writing, because she (he?) was so good with humor. I thought that if someone as talented as you could be eyeballing the grass on the other side of the fence, then maybe my strengths were good enough, after all. (one of which happens to be humor LOL.)

    And you there from The Advantage Point, thanks so much for stopping by. It’s always cool when someone drops in out of the blue. 🙂


  13. Dear Lisa,

    I understand the self-doubt, and I believe we all more or less have this amazing ability to see others’ strength while we struggle with defining our own. 🙂

    It struck me that, in your case, wisdom drips from your fingers at every sentence you type. I can’t speak for others, but it is certainly enriching for me. That’s a pretty cool gift. 🙂


  14. Kim Kasch says:

    Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve

    I don’t pay attention to those words.


  15. Jan@eatingyabooks says:

    A lot of truth in what you have written. While I am not a writer in the professional sense, I have been writing, in one way or another, all my life. My writer’s muse is often very critical and usually a pain in the arse, but I keep plugging along. Keep your voice strong it is after all what makes each writer unique … no apology necessary!


  16. marla says:

    Once again, Lisa, words of wisdom from your lips. Not just inspiring, but permission-giving – to be who you are and succeed anyway.


  17. Z.N. Hively says:

    I can’t say anything that someone else here hasn’t said already… but excellent post! That’s the sort of wisdom I need to remind myself of once in a while, when it seems too tempting to give in to what I “should” be doing and not what I should be doing.


  18. Rose Lefebvre says:

    It is hard to sometimes find something to write on a blog. I just decided to incorportate my photography and it helped. I am always enthusiastic about it!


  19. Shirley Duke says:

    I love your writer’s nook above the garage. It is easier to write there? I’ve been thinking that I’d like to have a place to work like that. Does it help your writing?


  20. Barb says:

    Great post, Lisa. What is it about our talents that we take for granted, and instead lust after other’s talents.
    May the wei always be easy for you.


  21. mad says:

    Great post, though I might argue (if I were the arguing type) that being conversational doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not being literary =)


  22. Lisa Nowak says:

    Nathalie, thanks so much for saying that! I’ve noticed that I seem to get better response to these kinds of posts, and so I’ve been doing more of them, but it surprises me that people think I’m “wise”. I just thought I was geeky. 🙂
    Kim, you are so right.
    Jan, yes, we can be so self-critical. I have to work on this every day. Posting this and getting so much feedback from others has helped the lesson stick a little better.
    Marla, there are those who say that doing what you love (being yourself) will help you to succeed.
    ZN, so true. We all need a little reminder every now and then. I keep learning stuff and forgetting it.
    Rose, I totally love your photography. I’m glad you decided to use it to supplement your blog posts.
    Shirley, I think it does help to have a special place to write. But sometimes I get stuck even in my writer’s nook, so I take my laptop in the bedroom. The different setting along with the different look of the screen often help to jolt the creativity.
    Barb, I have no idea why we lust after other people’s talents. So silly, when they’re often lusting over ours.
    Mad, okay, I’ll give you that. I actually had an agent say I was literary, which blew me away. 😉


  23. Pingback: The Tao of Writing « The Tao of Webfoot

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