Tag Archives: creativity

Writing: Rehab, Prehab, Strength

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

When I wrote about writing exercises having a “therapeutic” value for creativity, I shared it with several friends. My core idea was simple enough – that writing exercises helped me recover creatively, and that metaphor was useful. However, my friends provided insights I want to revisit.

My friend Kate Tremaine, a roller derby enthusiast, pointed out that there was not just “rehab” in sports. There’s also what she called “prehab” – pre-emptively strengthening one’s body to prevent damage. Thanks to her, I want to “roll out” a new concept of writing exercises.

I’m old enough to be allowed dad jokes, thank you.

I realized from Kate’s input that we can think of writing exercises as serving purposes similar to physical exercises. Consider this model:

Development: Development exercises are those writing exercises that improve your work beyond your baseline. Examples would be improving one’s vocabulary, learning to write faster, or create better plot outlines.

Protective: “Pre-hab” exercises designed to protect your writing from the damages of things like stress, bad habits, or disruption. Examples include methods for developing focus, learning to break down work into smaller pieces, and self-esteem building.

Therapeutic: These are exercises to help you get “back on track” after a disruption. Examples may include setting aside writing time each day, word count goals when your count is now zero, or “freeform” writing for fun.

I realize my examples for each category may be argued. That’s good because these categories are helpful for the classification of writing exercises. Using these categories requires you to ask additional questions:

You have to ask what your “baseline” writing is in areas like quality or word count. That helps you understand when you need Therapeutic exercises versus Development exercises.

You have to ask what your areas of vulnerability are in writing. That may mean a chance to find Protective exercises – or you may already need Therapeutic ones.

Finally, you have to ask what exercises fit these categories for me. Though I’m sure you and your fellow writer may agree on how to categorize practices 70% of the time, that 30% is significant. You’ll need to ask the right questions for you – and maybe ask when you should stop evangelizing a method to another writer.

I will be analyzing these ideas further in my own work and would like to hear if you have any thoughts. This model has promise.

In closing, I also think this model is helpful to challenge the idea that “A writer must do X or you’re not a writer.” We’ve all heard the “you must write X words a day” kind of pronouncements, and we know they’re wrong. This model suggests that such goals don’t always fit an individual writer’s needs or their baseline.

Therapy is individualized. So is health – in body, mind, and writing.

Steven Savage

Physical Therapy For The Soul

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

My creative side has felt, for lack of a better word, arthritic throughout the Pandemic. It was there, I created, but neither as fast nor as joyfully as I had before. Sometimes I was scared, as it felt part of me was ossifying – creativity is part of me.

My remedy was to do what I do – organize. I kept to a regular plan for things like writing my blog posts. I planned – and re-planned my various works. I made time to read and to write. Even when I didn’t feel it, I did my best to move forward.

It wasn’t always joyful – sometimes I had that bone-on-bone sensation of grinding grimly forward. There were days my only pleasure was checking off a task or noting I’d written for an hour. If I kept knowing, I knew I’d get back to being myself.

While I persevered, I would feel that creative spark, that joy of making. It might be for a day or a week, but it was there. As long as I kept moving forward, the drudgery gave way to bright shining moments of creation.

In time, especially as of late, I began to feel like my old self. That spark, that flexibility, that urge would come more and more. I’m sure some of it was hope as the Pandemic promised an end, but some of it felt like another experience.

A few times, I’ve had to have physical therapy for an injury. I realized what I experienced here with my creativity was similar. I’ve had pulled, damaged, or stiff muscles addressed with regular and specific exercises. My creative returns felt the same as those days I realized that the pain or stiffness of a damaged muscle was going or gone.

What I did with my planning and scheduling and at-times repetitive drudgery was doing “physical therapy for the soul.” With enough exercise, my old mental flexibility and ability returned. I had given myself creative therapy without knowing it.

A lesson to take from this is that perhaps we can treat creative damage like a physical injury. We may need a rest or a break, but we may also need regular stretching and work to restore ourselves. The key is to see it as treatment – we should not treat the creative loss as a reason to punish ourselves. Some injuries you can’t “walk off.”

Instead, we should treat ourselves. We should find what will help us return and heal. I could have been more gentle with myself, and if I face this situation again, I can be more prescriptive.

Steven Savage

Conspiracies and Creative Inoculation

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Teaching people to write, draw, and more can protect us from conspiracy theories. Let me explain since such a statement requires a lot of explanation.

In my last few posts, I explored how Conspiracy Theorists activities are a creative act, how their actions mapped to my creative theories, and the theorists’ motivations. People wanting a sense of power and real power turn to conspiracy theories, fueled by their creative energies. I think this view of conspiracy theories having a creative element provides additional ways to protect ourselves from them.

In David Niewart‘s excellent book “Red Pill, Blue Pill,” he explores the current grip such theories have and ways to cure it. You should get his book, but his recommendations include empathy, how to work with people, and how to inoculate people against disinformation. I’d add teaching people to use their creativity is part of that inoculation.

Previously I identified three ways creativity helps spread conspiracy theories:

  • People’s creativity is harnessed to spin theories – often to serve their egos and insecurities.
  • People maliciously use imagination to create wild tales to manipulate others – for profit and their egos.
  • Of both of them, there is an addictive rush to using creativity.

So let me propose that we inoculate people against conspiracy theories by encouraging them and teaching them to use their creativity. Allow me to go into detail:

Creativity is about communication. When one learns about creativity, one learns both how to communicate and how communication works. They will better understand what people are trying to say – and identify manipulation.

Creativity teaches one how their mind works. When you learn how to be creative, analyze your art, and understand yourself, you see how you think and imagine. One is better armored against deceiving oneself.

Creativity lets one see how others are creative. A person versed in creative acts – combined with good information practices – can easily detect conspiracy theories. In short, one knows how others imaginatively manipulate information.

Creative experience also lets one find healthy and responsible ways to use their creative ability. The conspiracy world bursts with failed actors and scriptwriters, the ambitious, and those feeling unappreciated. A healthy appreciation for creativity may give them healthy outlets.

(If you’re one of the people who’ve been annoyed at less emphasis on the humanities, this sounds familiar I am sure.)

Will encouraging creativity solve everything? Hardly. This is merely a useful addition to what we have to do, albeit a fun one.

As for how to implement this, such detail is a post of its own – and one requiring more thought. Let me give some starters.

  • Each of us who is a creative can support and encourage others to use their skills.
  • We can push for creative and media education, alongside information health.
  • We creatives can increase awareness of responsible and irresponsible creativity – my posts are a humble example.
  • We can share our knowledge with those fighting disinformation.
  • Also, encourage teaching the humanities, as noted.

Hopefully, my own work has provided a useful clue for readers. Certainly, it’s given me something to think about and to explore in future posts. For now, we creatives can use this as an additional tool in our arsenal as we battle conspiracy theories – and remember each person we help grow may be further armored against them.

Steven Savage