A Time for Creating and a Time for Editing…

Creativity versus Critical Thought…

Years ago, writing as a hobby, my writing approach was non-existent. Regularly, I’d write, edit, and worry about punctuation and grammar at the same time attempting to be creative. A recipe for mediocrity at the very best.


The writing school of hard knocks taught me a valuable lesson – don’t merge creativity and editing. If you do, your editing or reviewing will impede your creativity – like swimming upstream and getting marginal results.


A better approach, especially if you have time and flexibility, is to become more in touch with yourself  – where you are mentally, spiritually and physically at a given moment? Do you feel creative and insightful? Do you feel critical and want to edit? This might be a better approach – to focus, with all your might and strength, at a given time, being creative or critical.


It’s like choosing a lane on the highway – you have to figure out which one fits at a given time. What works now may not work in 15 minutes – things may get crowded or the weather may change so you may have to adjust to changing situations.


Sometimes, after an idea or insight, I begin writing – running with the wind and trying to capture as much creativity as possible. It’s not about how it looks on paper or how it’s phrased – it’s about ideas, insights and perspective. I call it “idea flow” and messy notes and scribbles might indicate more ingenuity. Don’t worry about misspelled words, run-on sentences, or punctuation. It’s all about doing a “creative brain dump” on paper. Pretend it’s a huge wave in Hawaii – the longer the ride, the greater the prize.


You may find times where you feel very creative but for whatever reason, you may write and edit your work at the same time. Is this a lost opportunity? Like chopping onions – destroying a little creativity after each slice. Wisdom tells me not to succumb to this temptation. I sometimes receive a gift of creativity so I’ll drop what I’m doing and be as creative for as long as I can.


The physical and mental bruises of life tells me it’s crucial to avoid analyzing or thinking negative things when you’re in that creative mode – being too detailed and analytical can inhibit those creative “idea flows.”


There may be times one doesn’t know the best approach. Ask yourself if you’re feeling creative or critical. Even if you can’t tell, begin to write and see the results. After 10 minutes or so, have a “check point” to gauge to see if you’re on right track. Mind you, if you spend 30 minutes writing a letter, chapter, or article and it’s extremely slow going, it might be useful to take a break. You may just be in a different zone and not “geared up” for creativity.


If you also get to the point where your hands or arms are tired from pounding at the PC keyboard and you feel no creativity – time to go outside and hear the birds sing, chat with friends or pretend you’re a cat and begin stretching. Just “chill” with some down time before you can get back into the swing of writing.


Mind you, this approach will not occur overnight. I’ve been using this approach for the last few years and I’m still working through knowing when the time is best spent creating or editing. It’s perhaps an ongoing process.


I read in the Atlantic today that John Steinbeck had 6 recommendations to become a better writer. Indeed, item number 2 captured my attention:

2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.