Dispatches from the Davenport: On Creativity


By Bree Ogden

I’m often asked by prospective clients, “How will you deal with my future manuscripts? Do you want me to run ideas past you first before I write them, or should I give you outlines? Do you have to approve them before I work on them?”

And I always have the same response, “I’m not going to control your creative process.” (Though, for the record, I’m always available to consult with my clients on anything they are working on, at any point in the process. And that’s generally how we work together.)

I say this not to sound like an idealistic dreamer who believes that writing is 100% mystical creativity, but because I’ve been there myself, and I know that if someone is micromanaging my art, as it were, it becomes that much more difficult to achieve.

I’m fully aware that what goes into a manuscript takes more than just letting the creativity flow. It involves knowing the market, knowing your audience, understanding the mechanics of language and writing and so on. But when you are about to jump off the cliff of insanity into a new manuscript, you need to make that jump alone. If you sit there, waiting for your agent to push you, waiting for your critique partner to hold your hand, looking back longingly at your mom, willing her to pull you away from the edge, you will have such a harder time writing what it is that you really want to write; writing what’s there, deep inside your creative mind.

Falling into your creative abyss is going to be scary, at times terrifying, other times extremely rewarding. You may hurt yourself a little, but it will be an exhilarating fall. One of my favorite quotes is from Rita Mae Brown, she says, “Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.

To trust your instincts is a creative jump of its very own. Learning to trust your instincts is so important in this industry. You’ll have readers, you’ll have an agent, you’ll have an editor. And they can help you with all that boring stuff I mentioned above: market research, copy editing, etc. But only you know what you want to accomplish with your writing. Only you know where you want to land. The wind may knock you off course a little, you may hit a rock and stumble into a dark place. And that’s why you have others to help you back on course. But you alone must take that initial jump. You alone must fall.

I implore you, dear writer, never be afraid to jump into your creative abyss. Never let others micromanage your dream. I’ll be honest: there are times in which you will fall so hard that the landing simply doesn’t stick. In other words, your book doesn’t sell, maybe it sits on the proverbial back burner for a few years. Or maybe it sells and it tanks. Maybe no one gets it, the reviews are terrible. But in the words of everyone who ever lived: How will you ever know if you never try? So trust your instincts. Without trust, there is no creativity.




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  1. Susan Mary Malone on September 16, 2015 at 11:46 am

    This is so spot on, Bree. SO many writers focus on a plethora of “outer” issues when they write. But as you say, true creativity lives in the abyss. I just love: “But you alone must take that initial jump. You alone must fall.”
    Oh, so true!
    When we descend into a novel, inspiration flows upward from that deep place, and the extraneous stuff just stops us. I know this from my own writing, and from counseling writers as well.
    Thank you for this!