“My mother used to have dreams about being a writer and I used to watch her.“
“Creativity is merely a plus word for regular activity. Any activity becomes creative
when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.“
Regular activity focusing on doing something right or becoming better at it. This is a very workmanlike definition of creativity — and yet, from a craftsman like Updike, it makes sense. He saw writing not as a hobby, but as a trade — one that required mastery and courting an audience. He urged aspiring authors not to be content just to call themselves writers, but to find a way to “break through” and get into print.
One of the keys to his success was his regular habits. When his children were little, he rented a one-room office over a restaurant and wrote there for several hours six days a week. Some of his tips of the trade:
“Try to develop actual work habits, and even though you have a busy life, try to reserve an hour — or more — a day to write. Some very good things have been written on an hour a day….So, take it seriously, you know, just set a quota.“
“Try to think of communicating with some ideal reader somewhere…. When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas.“
“Read what excites you…and even if you don’t imitate it you will learn from it. All those mystery novels I read I think did give me some lesson about keeping a plot taut, trying to move forward or make the reader feel that a kind of tension is being achieved, a string is being pulled tight.“
I like the idea of viewing creativity as craft — and focusing on doing it well and getting better at it through regular practice. It sounds doable to me, not something grand or abstract. Sure, there’s mystery to it, but there’s also mastery. Mastery + Mystery = Creativity. That sounds like a recipe for success. Write on!