I never thought I’d be a writer. I certainly never thought I’d be an editor. Yet here I am, as both a writer and an editor, loving both.
I love writing. I love typing out words and twirling them around on the screen. I love figuring out what my story means. I love speaking from the heart and being understood by others. I love the feeling of connectedness when others relate to my experiences. I love realizing that my words may have helped someone somewhere along the line.
And I love editing (or as I like to call it, collaboration). I love empowering people to tell their own stories. I love the privilege of peering into people’s souls and of being able to say, “I see you.” I love finding the gold and precious stones in their words and chipping away at the rough edges until the work shines just so, until we’re ready to present it to the world. And then, after we’ve finished working together, I love the thrill of watching a fellow writer be understood and accepted by their readers.
As I’ve practiced the art of writing over the last four years and, more recently, entered into the world of editing this year, I’ve come to realize three essential ingredients to creativity. There are perhaps more. I only know creativity has these three needs:
- To live life. If I want to write, I have to go outside my door. I have to live life and collect some experiences. I can’t write about something I haven’t lived, and I can’t just stare at a screen all day. It’s not good for my neck and back muscles (or homeschooling, for that matter). I have to let my mind wander and my soul breathe. Usually it’s when I am having the most difficulty at a project that I most need to get up, shut the laptop, and do something else. A new arrangement of words and ideas generally comes while I clean the kitchen or take a shower.
- To be alone. Art is created in solitude. I need time for both contemplation and the actual creating. If I want to write, I need quiet. Not silence – a life with four kids in Phnom Penh is never going to achieve that. But I need to get away by myself to write, even if it’s just another room (which is what it usually is). And I need to get away to talk to God. For me, writing only flows when I’m in communion with my own Creator and my soul is at peace. And I need time alone for that, too.
- To be in community. Art may be created in solitude, but it’s refined in community. When we share our intimate thoughts and vulnerable moments with others, we need both encouragement and constructive feedback. We need feedback so we can tell our stories more clearly and more fully. More resonantly. And we need trusted people to take in our work and to affirm us. Community gives us the confidence that what we have to offer the world is good and valuable, and that in and of itself is good and valuable — and that is what I love about editing.
“Creativity does not truly come from the popularized image of the tormented artist, struggling with the muse. True creativity is born in community as men and women of God listen to each other and to Him: as we seek to understand each other’s woundedness and strengths.” –Michael Card
What about all you other creators out there? Does your creativity need other ingredients?