“I am writing this book because we are all going to die.” — Jack Kerouac. I suppose that’s why all books are written. Books, whether the study of seashells or Shakespearean verse, help us to live. Books deepen our appreciation, awaken our senses, and strengthen our resolve to live in a meaningful way. This book is my attempt.
All creative acts, especially books, begin with uncertainty and risk. The lack of certainty provides a clearing for the creative impulse to grow. Free from the restraint of self-assured confidence, curiosity kicks in and we begin to wonder “What if?” and “Why?” It’s here that the creative spirit revs up and asks, “What can I do?” and “How can I make the most with what I have?”
Such questions help us grow. And the best part of writing this book is how it has shaped who I am. By narrowing my own focus on creativity it has enriched my life and clarified who I want to become. That’s what creativity does and that’s my hope for you—that it enlivens your soul and inspires you to live the life for which you are designed.
We are all born with natural capacities to create, and we all have creative potential of which we are unaware. Everyone, including you, has untapped potential that is patiently waiting inside. Yet the creative spark can easily get snuffed out. It must be tended to like a campfire on a cold and rainy day. Neglect it and it will quietly dwindle, dissipate, and die. Keep it alive and you will thrive. This book will point the way.
For starters, creativity isn’t something we passively receive. You have to go after it to claim its prize. Creativity requires fight. When we were young we were willing to take the risk and put in the time. Unfettered by self-doubt we created on demand. Now older, we’ve lost what we once had, unless we make the choice to change. It begins with deciding to stop waiting for inspiration and start taking action ourselves. When we begin the fight it’s like steel striking flint, and it deeply affects what we create, how we see, and who we are. And when we begin pursuing living life as if it were a work of art, our creativity swells.
At first glance, riding this swell seems simple, easy, and fun. But this thinking falls short—the creative spark is a much more complex and unpredictable force. And the pursuit of creativity is a much more interesting and adventurous ride. To become more creative we need to unlearn old ideas—like the idea that creativity is a gift for an elite few or the myth that inspiration comes while we sit around. And we need to be reminded of what we easily forget, like the idea that creativity requires guts, confidence, and hard work and that creativity isn’t a gift but a life force that courses through our veins.
Creativity fuels a drive to live the life for which we were designed. It despises those who live half-hearted and half-lived lives. Creativity reaches for good, provokes change, and calls us to strive, stretch, and try. Yet such creative efforts require risk. Afraid of failure and uncertain how to move ahead, most of us have forgotten what to do. We want to become more creative, but we don’t know where to begin. Or worse, when inspired we don’t know how to keep the spark alive. This book can help.
This book will show you that becoming more creative isn’t just about thinking happy thoughts or using colorful crayons; the path to creativity is a much wider trail. As Plutarch wrote in the first century, “Music, to create harmony, must investigate discord.” And to help you become more creative, this book will investigate a range of topics, from climbing ladders to tenacity, grit, and death. The goal is to find melody amidst discord and to rekindle your fire for creating your best work and making the most of your time.
As nice as that sounds, this isn’t a book about thinking your way to happiness or wishing your way to a more fulfilled life. It is about effort and fight. The secrets to becoming more creative are always accompanied by habit, practice, and work. As Theodore Roosevelt, an exemplar of the creative fight, once said, “I may be an average man but by George I work harder at it than the average man.” Average to excellent is up to you and it’s less about talent and more about drive.
So this book is written for those of us who are driven to live a better life. And it’s a guide for igniting and sustaining the spark no matter what you do or who you are. Yet this book can’t do anything by itself. It relies on you to take the lead. To give you a nudge, at the end of each chapter you’ll find exercises that provide reflection questions and practical steps. Use these questions as a springboard to create your own. Think of these as small sparks that can be used to ignite big flames.
Most importantly, this book will work only if you take action and respond. Read passively and the book will diminish to an interesting collection of stories and ideas. Overanalyze and you’ll miss the point. Creativity is not a problem to be solved but a practice to be enjoyed. Like a good travel book, it will become better when you take the journey yourself. The book invites you to join in.
And the best books are those that rarely stay pristine. Rather, they are worn thin from reading on the train and parched from being read in the sun. After some time these books resemble a vessel that has traveled far from home. Such books become marked up and taken over by the readers so that it is no longer the author’s work but their own. That is my hope whether you’re reading this in digital or print form. This book is my gift to you. No longer mine, it’s now yours.
As you read, you’ll discover that the book isn’t a foolproof formula or a promise of increased creativity by following seven simple steps. The creative fight is more fluid, flexible, and open than that—sometimes suggesting quiet and other times being loud; sometimes asking you to go slow and other times to sprint. Distrust anyone who tells you that creativity can be figured out. Creativity is a wild elusive force. You can’t trap it in a cage, but you can learn how to harness its strength. This book is your guide.
While you read, don’t hesitate to drop me a line. I would love to hear about your story and learn about the wisdom you have. You can send me a note (and find more resources) at the book companion site: thecreativefight.com. Lastly, I hope that someday we cross paths so that we can compare notes and share what we have learned since this adventure began. Either way, let’s keep in touch.
Finally, I’m humbled and honored that you have picked up this book. May it be one that brings change and helps you find the ladder that leads to a more creative and meaningful life and emboldens you to accomplish your dreams.