Passion and neuroplasticity vs. inspiration in creativity.
What makes a writer, a writer? Or an artist, an artist? Primarily, their creativity. But then, the world has more creative people than those who have actually pursued their creative arenas and produced something worth remembering. Why is that so?
Why are some people more creatively successful than others? Is it because they are constantly inspired by something and own a think-tank that overflows with the muse? Is it because their well of stories and thoughts never gets dry? Or is it because they put in more effort and prioritize their art over everything?
Passion and creativity
Creative people who realize that they cannot do without what they are capable of, pursue their art. And creativity bursts forth. You cannot say when the muse strikes you.
You cannot predict what elicits a certain idea in your head. So, the way to capture it is to be ready all the time. Passion doesn’t wait for inspiration. Writers better keep some sort of idea-recording tool — a notebook and pen, a note-making app on your phone or other gadgets or a voice-recorder if you like to speak out your thoughts.
Words get strung in the least way we expect and that string of words could portray a whole new world when you look at it later. I remember using such bursts of thoughts in my fiction books later.
“Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.” — Bruce Garrabrandt
Another aspect of creativity is its adherence to habit. Let’s take a glimpse at that — about habituation and prioritization.
Neuroplasticity and creativity
If you wait for inspiration to strike, you might wait a bit too longer than necessary. You might do much better when you make it a habit to sit and write, not to push yourself too hard but to let yourself experiment, make errors and rectify them.
This is because our brain (where essentially all thoughts and emotions originate from) is neuroplastic. Means, you can mold it into just about everything you want to be.
Habituation and prioritization
These are the two processes that press the buttons when you need to knead and mold your brain into what you want it to perform. The brain programs itself into acting upon what we make ourselves do. The more you do and think something, the stronger those synapses grow and the more it becomes a part of who you are.
The changes in neural pathways take place when the brain resorts to synaptic pruning. This is the process by which the brain deletes the neural connections (there’s one for every thought) which are not necessary or useful for us anymore, thereby strengthening the necessary and useful synapses and inculcating what is important to us.
For example, when you decide to work out, you just decide it, think about it and maybe get motivated for a day or two. You slip back to your sedentary state in no time.
But at the same time, instead of planning to work out, if you just start doing exercises, your brain runs the command accordingly — hey, she is exercising to stay fit, you better stay away from junk food or refined sugars.
The bottom line is — just thinking or planning doesn’t really cut the deal. Acting does. Your brain equips you to habituate something if you do it, not if you just think about it. Thinking precedes action anyway.
So you need to begin acting on your thoughts towards your goals. This works for writing and creative pursuits in general because habituating and prioritizing breeds consistency. And consistency is what eggs are in a cake recipe — a binder. Consistency binds together your efforts into one journey and destination, and subsequently, success.
So, when is the best time to be creative?
The best time is now — now when you are idling and poring over social media because you are uninspired.
The best time is now — now when you are constantly making guilt trips because you have not really felt like writing a new page.
The best time is now — now when you stall on opening your work-in-progress (or rather, regress) just because you have not felt inspired by your life or surroundings.
Your inspiration lies right in there — where you have written some words and left them to fend for themselves. Your inspiration dwells in those pages that are waiting for continuity. It is in there that you wove a web of beauty, that’s where you need to get caught again.
Within you. Within your art.
Sometimes, you need to carve out time from whatever mood you are in, and set to work. The mundane moments might as well be transformed by bringing on some words to the page, instead of waiting for the moments to become extraordinary by themselves!
This article was first published on The Brave Writer on medium.com.
What 15 years of writing carved into me
This is one of my most-read articles on my Medium blog. You shouldn't miss it either. :)
Writing, to be straightforward and honest, is a daunting job. Nothing less. Yet, we all want to write. Because, it is also a deeply gratifying thing to do. To be able to put forward our thoughts in words, to be read and to be appreciated for our work is an immense feeling. We all want it. Wanting to write is, for a good number of writers, just like feeding and freeing the soul.
However, many writers who start out quite enthusiastically slacken later. They are not able to get ahead through writing. They fail to find joy in writing. They do not see results. They barely can get themselves to work towards their writing goals. Many a half-written book has littered the bins and clouded the minds of writers. To make it to the end is often a dream they give up prematurely.
Why do they have to end it like that? What are they missing out on? What is it that they need to have to stay in writing? And why is it important to stay in writing for long to see any real results?
No one answer to these questions. But I know 4 P’s that helped me stay in writing. And staying in writing has helped me see my book published traditionally and allowed me the courage needed to embark on the voyage of authorship.
It is not easy. It is not meant to be easy. Because, writing is a job that requires self-discipline. Writing is a job that needs you to show up. It needs you to be ready to do all it takes to be successful.
Realizing these were what taught me about the 4 P’s you need to stay in writing.
Let’s not go all defensive here — Passion is essential. Like in anything you enjoy and want to keep doing, writing, too, calls for intense passion. You need undying passion for the written word to be a writer and to stay as a writer. Only passion can fuel your writing dreams even when you are about to burn out and feel like quitting. If it weren’t for passion, many great works would never have been written. So many great writers would never have been great.
If you want to stay in writing, you need to be passionate about the craft. Writing has to be something you cannot be without. Passion is what distinguishes between a story told for the sake of telling and a story told for the sake of the storyteller. Passion is what makes you write for yourself. Writing as a profession takes time and hard work to be fruitful.
The only thing that can help you to survive the depressing troughs of a writing career during the time it takes to build up is the unrelenting passion for the activity itself.
So when you feel like giving up, ask yourself:
“Are you really passionate about writing?”
Persistence is simply staying. To stay in writing with your whole heart. Whatever happens, if you feel like you are going to keep doing what you have been doing, i.e. writing in this case, you can say you are persistent.
Short stints at writing are not going to yield anything. To see the bigger picture, you will have to depend on persistence to help you remember why you are here writing. It is easy to lose hope very quickly especially when writing is such a taxing work but takes time to show results.
Without persistence, you will never find what you are capable of.
Despite knowing it all, if you still find it difficult to stay in writing, ask yourself:
“Are you ready to write, rinse and repeat, until something clicks?”
Sometimes, persistence is not going to be enough. It is going to take a little more than that to stay in writing. Perseverance is one step deeper than persistence. When you persist in writing against all odds, against all hurdles and disappointments, you have perseverance.
When you keep writing through rejections (which are inevitable in a writer’s life), you need perseverance to stay in writing. Perseverance helps you to see through the curtains of hopelessness. Perseverance makes your efforts goal-oriented. To persevere is to blend the long time that you have waited and survived while hoping for your writing to find a home. Oftentimes, it gets very difficult to persevere — no doubt — but when you have it all based in passion, it becomes a bit easier.
Avoid self-doubt to find the courage to persevere.
Hard work and quality pays off in the end always. If you are not convinced about that, ask yourself:
“Would you rather do something other than writing?”
Perhaps, this should come right after passion, but I have placed it last because most of the time, you need the highest amount of patience while waiting for your writing to catch attention. You can sail through writing a book if you have the passion, persistence and perseverance to do it. But once it is done and you send it out to pique publishers or agents (if it is a book), the months of waiting that follows could be your undoing. Patience becomes vital when you reach this stage. Many people step back from publishing because of this seemingly endless wait. Many writers resort to self-publishing because of this reason alone.
I waited 6 years for my first novel to be published. And now I am waiting for responses from publishers and agents for my second novel. At times, the wait really gets on my nerves and I almost lose it.
But then, I remind myself — this is what I signed up for. This is a pact with my soul.
So, if you do not want to cultivate patience and cannot wait to see results, ask yourself:
“Are you comfortable with spending time for something you cannot wait for? Is writing worth your time if you can’t find the patience to let it fly and find its own way home?”
Every job needs a specific sets of skills necessary to execute the functions needed to get it done. Writing does, too. To write and to stay in writing, you need talent but alongside, you need to work up your passion, persistence, perseverance and patience necessary to complete a project.
Writing is not for lazy-bums. It is pure hard work and very much capable of intimidating you. Garner the courage to polish your set of skills. Ensure you are constantly reminded of how the 4 P’s become indispensable when you consider writing for long term. Every time you slacken and feel like giving up, tell yourself:
“Passion. Persistence. Perseverance. Patience.”
Ask yourself the questions I have highlighted as quotes under each of these. The first step to getting things done is realizing what you are capable of. The rest will be channeled accordingly.
The first month of 2020 has bid goodbye already and we are halfway into the second. How are your reading and writing goals holding up? Hope you all are finding time to read and write.
In the previous post, I talked about Self-Doubt and Self-Confidence was covered in the post before that. My article on writing with self-confidence has been rewritten and accepted into a publication ‘The Writing Cooperative’ on Medium platform and was published on February 4th, 2020 (Tuesday).
Writers, do check out this platform at medium.com – it’s a great place to read other writers and write your own pieces. I am in love with that place and have been writing voraciously there. You also have the option to choose to be paid as per the time readers spend on your articles by being a member in their Partner Program. You can publish your poetry, stories or any kind of articles there.
So, now on to our third part of The Primer series.
Many writers ask me, “How do you manage everything?” meaning the multiple roles I undertake in a day. I am also a physician working the evenings and two mornings in a week. I do not have a weekend, just Sundays. I have a 5 year old daughter, demanding but I believe she is accommodating of me, too. I live with my in-laws who are lovely people and allow me to be.
But still, when you ask me how I manage, my first answer is:
I don’t. I am all over the place most of the time. I do not manage things at all. But somehow, I get things done. I am far from punctual. The only thing I do on time is to be on time for kid’s school bus.
The time on the clock is 24 hours for all of us. Yet, some people do more than others. I am not the right person to talk about time-management – not yet. But most of the ‘not-getting-done’ in our lives is because of wrong prioritization and wrong zones.
Writers have to introspect, brainstorm and do some serious thinking to do their craft. Some people have learned to write in any kind of environment – I used to write in classrooms when the lectures were going on and now I have to write through the preschooler din. Some need a quiet space, a room of one’s own (preferably without doors). This is entirely up to you although I believe it is best not to get too stringent about having a space. There is nothing human brain cannot get used to.
Dissociation and Compartmentalization
The terms don’t have to scare you. It is pretty simple.
Writers are many people in one person – you all know that by now and have experienced that state of mind if you have dreamed of writing stories. It is not easy to conform and be silent when life situations are not exactly how you want them to be. But, we are humans. We are social animals and live in communities. We have families and friends. Few live in isolation. We have day jobs – very few are into writing full time.
So, when you experience dichotomy, when your heart is split between your passion and responsibility, what do you do? When you want to write when you have to be at a family event, when you have to do an errand for someone you love when you would rather sit in your room and type away, when someone expects you to put off writing for something they prioritize, how do you go about it?
I swear by the technique of dissociation and compartmentalization.
In this post, I will elaborate on Dissociation.
"Writers are many people in one person – you all know that by now and have experienced that state of mind if you have dreamed of writing stories."
Dissociation is simply the act of separating. For a writer in the midst of a normal social life, it is crucial to separate your day-to-day life and writing. It is great if you can manage both without dissociation, but most people can’t.
Dissociation, in my experience, allows you to handle emotions and reactions separately. Writers are in general very sensitive and emotive people. This could undermine their personal life. If you drag your emotional baggage pertaining to your writer persona to your personal life, there is going to be unrest and lots of misunderstanding with whoever comes in contact with you. Further, a divided state of mind stumped with confusion is really not a blissful situation.
The best part is, this is all in the mind. No hoodwinking there. You simply decide to have two sides to yourself. And keep those two lives apart. The experiences, observations and perspectives can overlap because the writer in you will need to know what you go through. But the passions and actions can and will have to be kept separately. Dissociation also helps you to deal with guilt if you were to disappoint anybody with regard to mundane social activities and societal expectations, which you are bound to if you are serious about writing. ;)
"If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.” - Stephen King
There are a few ways to dissociate. Let’s list them out.
1. A pseudonym
Having a pen name (pseudonym) grants you a different name and some personal space needed to be that person. When you assume a name for the writer in you, you are giving him or her, a whole new personality with all its good and not so good aspects. It also helps you to channel your writer persona’s public life away from your personal life. A complicated person such as a writer might experience complicated situations and relationships at some point. A pseudonym lets you have an alter ego that can deal with those complications outside your personal life.
Also, when you are writing, you can slip into it effortlessly and remind yourself to stay focused. The pathological diagnosis of dissociative identity does not let you be in control. A voluntary dissociation helps you take your writing seriously and save your precious time. When you are in your writing persona, you do not have to heed about what your real life limitations are, at least mentally. Yet, you can maintain a certain amount of transparency.
Take care not to overlap the two which brings us to the importance of the next method. The slightly uncomfortable truth when using a pseudonym is, your writing will belong to that name and not to your actual self, which might be a total no for many writers.
"A voluntary dissociation helps you take your writing seriously and save your precious time. When you are in your writing persona, you do not have to heed about what your real life limitations are, at least mentally."
2. Dissociation by time
This is easier and more acceptable to those who are not so keen about attributing all your written work to an alter ego and if you are too proud of crediting it to a strange name.
Dissociate your time instead of your personality. Set aside a time exclusively for writing, preferably first thing in the morning. That way, you will not be immersed in guilt throughout the day that you did not write. Having fixed time periods throughout the day during which you will not attend to anything else helps you go forward with your writing projects.
Make sure your family and friends are aware of this time. It can also contribute to them taking your writing seriously, which solves a lot of dilemma and disillusionment.
"Set aside a time exclusively for writing, preferably first thing in the morning. That way, you will not be immersed in guilt throughout the day that you did not write."
3. Dissociation by space
Every job has a job space – an office or a particular field. Writing should, too. If you are someone who can write from anywhere and everywhere like me, you are doing great. I can squeeze in some writing time even on my phone while I am doing laundry or brainstorm when doing dishes or when traveling. But if you are someone with stringent requirements for brainstorming, it is likely that you will wait for the perfect moment and place to write. It can be a tad bit difficult to get things done in that case. But you can have an office.
Be protective of your time and space if you cannot function anywhere and anytime. Convert your table to a workplace. Pick up some habits that will program your brain into associating with your workplace and start writing. Don’t let other things clutter your space. Some writers convert their outhouses or attics or unused rooms to a writing space. Decorate it with motivating and uplifting things like potted plants, flowers, art and necessities like sticky notes, planners, journals, stationary and snacks.
"Be protective of your time and space if you cannot function anywhere and anytime."
To wind up...
This art of living as a writer will be complete only after talking about compartmentalization, too. I will try to bring it on sooner.
These are my findings as a writer. Feel free to share yours, too. :)
Until we meet again!
Love and Peace,
So what have you been upto since New Year? I have been reading and trying to stick to my reading goals. Last year, I had barely pushed myself to overcome the reading slump. But this year, I am going to seriously do it. Because a writer must read, although those days of reading carefree, in abandon, are long gone.
I finished two books in 2020, both of which I had reviewed on Instagram and my Facebook Page. The first one is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. The other, which I completed two days ago, is When I Hit You or The Portrait of the Writer as A Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy. And I am glad I read them both.
I am not gonna drag for today’s post. The previous post on Self Confidence was long since it had the introductory part, too. If you are new here, do sign up on the blog by submitting your email in the subscribe column in the sidebar on your right. And checkout the previous post Writing Your Novel – The Primer – Part 1 if you have not read it, because you are going to need continuity for the topic.
So, the second ingredient in The Primer – Self-Doubt.
What is self-doubt? I don’t intend to define it in formal terms. It is easier to clarify it through the monologues every writer has had at some point of time.
The scenarios go like this, to bring up a few:
This quote has been wrongly attributed to Aristotle and most of the images you will find on the Internet with this quote will have Aristotle credited for it. But anyway, it is so deep and meaningful. There's one way to avoid criticism as a writer - to not write. And that is not an option for you, is it? :)
If none of the above are reasons for getting stuck, close that file or put away that manuscript. Take a book to read. Go on a trip. Bake something. Give yourself some edible treat. And watch movies – yes, it is such a great way to exercise your imagination, to bring out storytelling. Do another creative hobby if there is anything else you are good at. I paint when I’m brain-fagged, it helps immensely to unwind.
Some people have tons of stories in their head, and they ask me: “How do we begin?”
My answer is: Try writing.
Did you just think: “That’s a dumb answer that escapes the actual question.”?
I know. Only that it is not. Because, before writing the story in your mind, you have to find a few things about yourself, like:
And these questions can be answered only if you “Try Writing.”
So, wrapping it up on self-doubt with a note on it:
Self-doubt is a tricky thing. Like salt is in a curry. Like self-confidence is – on the other side of the coin. Too much self-doubt will barricade your very essence as a writer – your writing will never see the world and vice versa. No self-doubt will lead to over-confidence, which is pretty suicidal too. Because, you will not be able to improve or judge your own writing, which is a dangerous state to be in.
Self-doubt is nourishing in little quantities. In healthy portions, it makes you:
When Self-Doubt tells you: “You are not perfect and you will make mistakes, you are not good enough.”, flip the coin and let Self-Confidence come up and tell you: “You are human, you are bound to make mistakes and you are not perfect in everything, but that’s okay. If you are not good enough, practicing will make you better and that is enough as long as you keep striving.” Apply this balance throughout your doubts and you are good to go.
So what are other instances of self-doubt in you as a writer? What monologues other than the ones I have listed do you hear from yourself everyday? How do you fight self-doubt and how do you balance it? Let me know. :)
Love and Peace, Sana
Reading now: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Winner of Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2015)
Happy New Year!
Hope your Christmas holidays went well and that you are all looking forward to a 2020 with fresh hope and realistic and practical resolutions. As promised, although not as early, I’m here to begin talking about how to begin writing your novel.
Oftentimes, I get messages from aspiring writers telling me that they have an idea for a book, a story to tell, a novel to write, but have no idea where to begin or how. This is, I suppose, a dilemma every writer faces when he or she embarks on their journey to authorship. Your concern is genuine and real. It is not easy to begin. You will have a hundred little ideas of how to begin your book but sometimes, when you are confronted by the blank page, your mind and muse black out on you.
So today, let’s put a primer to the canvas of the writing journey.
My humble disclaimer: This series is not a step by step tutorial on how to start writing your book. This is a sort of breaking down the art for you as an author, so that you know the inside dynamics of the writing process from an author’s perspective, seasoned with what has worked for me (which may or may not work for you), and paving a path to kick-starting your work.
This post will tell you what the primer to writing a book constitutes. It has nothing to do with the story in your dreams, nor with writing techniques – we are not there yet.
But it has everything to do with you – as a creative person and as a writer. So here we go!
There are 4 components required to prime your mind with, mixed in a balanced quantity, to be able to take up, stick to and see the finishing line of the process called ‘Writing A Novel’. They are:
Today, I will elaborate on the first in the list – Self Confidence.
Nothing worth your time and effort can be done without self-confidence. This goes for every field of work. If you are not going to believe that you can do it, you are not going to do it. A very simple derivation. And in the field of art, the importance surpasses any other, because art is simply not something a degree or doctorate will equip you for. Writing is entirely an inside process before it is displayed. Without self-confidence, you are going to have a hard time trying to write, despite having a hundred wonderful ideas.
So how do you know that you lack confidence? Let me break the symptoms down for you.
Chances are you might relate to one of the above groups, although this is not the end of the list. There is another group of people who are talented and confident but lazy to take the ordeal of writing a book – this post is not for them, because to write, you definitely have to sign up for hard work. It is nothing less than hard work, but something worth the sweat and the persistence.
So, back to self-confidence: how do you nail it? How do you wade through the swamp called ‘lack of self-confidence’?
Some are born and grown confident. Some are naturally smart and self-confidence is just second nature to them. When I look back to the days when I had just begun writing books – which would be at the age of 14, when I wrote my first novel, obviously dumb and cheesy, and cringe-worthy – I have to admit that I did not lack confidence. I wanted to be an author right from that age. But that confidence stemmed from not knowing enough, as I realized later. Which is why I am eligible to talk about nailing confidence now. Someone who has not gone through a lack of confidence at some point cannot talk about it. And I have been there later.
Technically, in creativity, self-confidence is undermined by self-doubt about which we will talk in the next post. It is a no-brainer that self-confidence and self-doubt are inversely proportional. And the idea is to strike a balance between the two.
But these are immeasurable stuffs. I hear you. How are immeasurable things measured or balanced? The equation allows you to do it. Inversely proportional variables move in opposite directions, in terms of quantity. So if you boost your self-confidence, self-doubt gradually depletes. Or if you work on reducing self-doubt, self-confidence will grow and branch out.
Self-doubt needs a whole new post for itself. So, here are a few tips to boost your self-confidence.
There would be more, if I ponder, but I have wound up the tips here for now because it had gone long already. Feel free to add to it.
What are your ideas on developing self-confidence?
Last year, I made the resolution to complete my second novel and finish editing it and I successfully did. And began Book #3. This year, I resolve to write Book #3 and delve into more serious reading.
What are your writing and reading resolutions for 2020? Share below in comments.
Wishing you all a prosperous New Year 2020!
Love and Peace,
Read Sandcastles yet? If yes, why not drop your review on Amazon so that others know about it? If not, choose from the Kindle edition or paperback.
A blog on the art of writing and life as a writer.