The Transformational Magic of Creativity

I got the words for my title from an email sent by Grant Faulkner, Executive Director of NaNoWriMo, (National Novel Writing Month).  He wrote yesterday to buoy up all of us would-be novelists and urge us to keep writing whether or not we actually achieved the goal of 50,000 words last month.  I personally fell far short of that…a mere 6,014 words.

Whose idea was it to make November National Novel Writing Month anyway?   I mean, really…c’mon.  Thanksgiving weekend alone eliminates at least two days of writing…and if you were cooking dinner, maybe two more days for shopping and preparation. Wouldn’t January be a better month?  But I digress.  [See Blog 4 – It’s Hard to Be the Bard for more rationalizing, hand-wringing and complaining about how hard it is to write.]

Of course, I am pleased with the first five chapters I wrote, and delighted that my co-author exceeded that.   We have begun in earnest a novel we’ve only been talking about writing for months now.  And that, after all, is the point of Grant Faulkner’s encouraging e-pistle.  We need to take heart because we “created a beginning.”

”[T]he transformational magic of creativity”…Faulkner’s words have been spinning around inside my head since I read them.  Isn’t that just a beautiful turn of phrase that makes you stop in your tracks and think?

Transformational Magic

Transformational Magic

First of all, transforming, transformative, transformational…any form of that word is awe-inspiring and magical to me.  As a child, I only thought of magic in the most literal sense.  One of my all-time favorite TV programs was Bewitched. How my sisters and I wished we could simply twitch our noses like Samantha Stephens and transform the kitchen sink full of dishes into a spotless, porcelain basin.  As I’ve aged, I’ve broadened my definition of magic to include more than just feats accomplished by witches, warlocks, magicians and Jedi warriors.

My friend and co-author, Nina, refers to the ability to grow things as magical.  I always took my green thumb for granted, figuring anyone could make things grow, but I have to admit that I rather enjoy the idea that it is, indeed, my magical powers that transform seeds, soil and water into a beautiful flower bed or luscious vegetable patch.

I’ve also come to view cooking as magical.  Think about it. A cook takes various ingredients, that uncooked are inedible, and transforms them into a delicious meal that nourishes and sustains us.  Okay, it takes more than a twitch of the nose to produce a tasty dish, but, however long it takes, the result is undeniably transformative and magical.  [If you’ve ever eaten a badly prepared meal, you know I’m right.]

The transformative magic of creativity courtesy of Mary Ellen Handley

The transformative magic of creativity courtesy of Mary Ellen Handley

In addition to her gardening and cooking powers, my sister, Mary Ellen, also has magical abilities of a different sort.  She can take a box of old or broken holiday ornaments and glue various pieces together to create something new and altogether delightful.  She replaced the missing hat of a nutcracker with a small tree ornament resulting in a whimsical new character in my Christmas collection.  Mary Ellen can also take 13 cartons out of her attic and in a few hours transform her home into a Christmas Wonderland.

What I’m saying is that anything that can change or transform something from one thing to something totally different is indeed magical and creative…old clothes into a quilt … seeds into a flower… …words and phrases into a poem, play, or novel. I think not everyone recognizes his or her own creativity.  Especially as we get older, we take for granted all we do and we certainly don’t see it as magical at all. Whether you string words together in a phrase that inspires, or you knit a ball of yarn into a sweater, or turn some boards and nails into a treehouse, you have done something quite magical.  Believe me.

Perhaps I didn’t write a 50,000 word novel this November, but the pansies I planted in October are flowering, the Thanksgiving dinner I cooked was a success, and the 6,014 words I did write got the story started. I even posted to my blog three times and was rewarded with some wonderful comments and emails from people I’d lost touch with…now that was magical.

Thank you for your words of encouragement, Grant Faulkner.   I will keep writing because, for better or worse, I do believe in the transformative magic of creativity. I do. I do. I do.

It’s Hard to Be the Bard

 “…it’s hard to write well about anything — it’s just damn hard to get the words down right.”   David Mason, Professor of English and Creative Writing, Colorado College

Were truer words ever spoken?  David Mason’s observation is so simple, yet so profound.  If you’re wondering what I mean compare the following two quotes:

  1. “I don’t care who’s your daddy.”
  2. “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet”
The Bard

The Bard

Both groups of words say essentially the same thing.  The former is infinitely forgettable.  The second causes you to stop, to smile…perchance to sigh.

Whether you aspire to write the next Great American Novel or you are crafting a marketing proposal to win new business, or you’re writing a letter to your congressman, you struggle to find the precise words that will connect with both the cerebral cortex and the heart of your reader, words that will communicate your thoughts clearly and leave an impression.  The converse is also true.  While it’s hard to get it right, it’s quite easy to get it wrong.  There’s little worse than having a reader ask “I don’t get it. What do you mean?” after you’ve spent agonizing hours crafting your written piece.

Why, if it’s so hard,  do we do it then?  If business writing is part of your job, the answer is obvious.  But November is National Novel Writing Month ( and thousands of people across the world have committed to writing a novel of 50,000 words this month.  While I think most everyone would like to have a best-seller and be able to earn a living writing, I don’t believe this is their primary motivation.

After participating in writing groups with writers of vastly differing genres, ages and backgrounds, I think writers write because they believe they have something compelling to say.  And I think they work really hard at getting the words right —in phrasing their thoughts in just such a way so that a fellow human, a reader, just smiles and says “Yes…I understand perfectly.  I see exactly what you mean.”  Ultimately, we’d also like to hear that as a result of reading our writing you, Mr./Ms. Reader, are motivated to think or behave differently so that the world becomes a better place. We can dream, can’t we?

Last night I attended the Creative Writers of Greenville Meetup, and as always, I left motivated.   Whenever I hear other writers share their experiences,  I am inspired to believe that I, too, can do this.  In spite of its being hard, writing is worth the effort.  Maybe I can write something that will entertain, amuse, comfort or maybe even inspire someone else.  Isn’t that why I’m writing this blog after all?

So to all of you aspiring authors out there, especially my fellow NaNoWriMo writers this month, I’d like to end by sharing with you lines from last year’s Tony Award winning musical Something’s Rotten, the last Broadway show I got to see before I moved to South Carolina.  What follows are the words sung by no less than Shakespeare himself, who, just like us, struggled with getting the words right:

“What people just don’t understand
Is that writing’s demanding
It’s mentally challenging and it’s a bore
It’s such a chore
TO sit in a room by yourself

Oh my god, I just hate it!

And you’re trying to find
An opening line or a brilliant idea
And you’re pacing the floor
And hoping for just a bit of divine intervention
That one little nugget that one little spark
Then Eureka! You find it you’re ready to start
So now you can write, right? Wrong!
You’re not even close, you remember that damn it,
Your play’s gotta be in iambic pentameter!
So you write down a word but it’s not the right word,
So you try a new word but you hate the new word
And you need a good word but you can’t find the word
Oh where is it, what is it, what is it, where is it!
Blah-blah-blah, ha ha, ah-ha -UGHHHHHHHH!”

[To hear Shakespeare’s lament sung in its entirety, click here: It’s Hard to Be the Bard.  And if you get a chance to see this show, don’t miss it.]

Happy Writing, my friends!

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