It’s easy to plunge headfirst into the reckless abandon of engaging in creative exercise, writing your way a thousand words a day through a story that you’re probably making up as you go along. It’s easy, as well, to attempt to convince yourself to continue working on your creative project. All you really have to do is look at the goal you want to reach, and set your sights onto that goal, for you to push yourself. It may or may not be very effective, but it can work.
But it’s funny, because we talk about what we want to do, and what goals we want to reach, and what highs we want to achieve, without talking about our roots. Sure, we started out somewhere, at some point, finding that writing is an activity we’re comfortable with, for example. Or speaking in public. Or drawing. Or making music. A lot of pursuits stem from something, but it’s important to look back. Way, way back. To your roots, to be precise. And by roots, I mean your inspirations. The people who have influenced you, basically, to pursue your passions. And by influence, I mean both positive and negative.
What we should remember is that just about everything we choose and everything we encounter has an impact on our lives, and when it comes to creative pursuits, a lot of things figure into that. I suppose the easiest and most obvious thing to look at is your favorite author, and the author you really don’t like at all. Or texts, actually. Which texts do you like? Writing styles? Genres? Which don’t resonate with you? Your personal reading library will show you the kinds of things you like, and have been reading, and how these texts you own and like or dislike have somehow influenced your own work. I speak in terms of books and authors but this can also be applied to many other things.
It’s also important to think of why these texts resonate with you, or why these texts don’t. It’s simple to look at a book, read it, and say, “okay, I liked it.” And then what? Which parts of it did you like and dislike, and which parts do you think need development? Why did a certain author even become your favorite, in the first place?
Starting out by answering those questions and digging into the roots of your passion is already a pretty light and easy way of being critical – both of your own work, and of others’ works. Blind devotion to a single author is sketchy, especially when you sit down, start writing, and think of the ingredients that make up your favorite work. So what? They have heroes like this, villains like that. So does every other book. It’s like a meal, isn’t it? Something a chef cooks consists of ingredients that one can get from just about anywhere – it’s what the chef does with it that makes it unique, or gives it its own flavor. Which is true about texts, about writing, about creative pursuits, and about inspiration.
The final thing then, is this: know what you like, why you like it, what you can improve about it, and what you can do about it if you’re given the “ingredients.” Knowing the raw material and digging into the roots will help you eventually craft a better – hopefully – creation than you’ve ever imagined.