Trust the Creative Process

Writing about wildlife and wild places is more than my job. It’s a craft fueled by a passion for the natural world, that deep-rooted affection Edward O. Wilson calls “biophilia.”

It’s also damned hard at times. Not the “research” phase—nothing is more fun than going out wandering. Sling a pair of binoculars across my shoulders and I’m entertained for hours (or really, for a lifetime). It’s coming back inside and turning those experiences into art that’s tough.

There’s a chasm between having the experience and writing about it. All writers know this, and some struggle with it at times. When you’re in the midst of a fascinating event or a revelatory discussion, the last thing you want to do is interrupt the flow by pulling out your laptop.

Stopping to write something down in the very moment when you’re doing what you want to write about is especially tough when the subject of your muse is an easily spooked wild animal.

So how do I leap across that chasm between doing and writing? One trick is taking a small notebook with me into the field. It’s just big enough to capture facts and details, but not big enough to hold a first draft. I wait until I’m back indoors (or at least in camp) to attempt that.

When I do sit down to sketch out that first draft, my second bridge across the chasm is a simple mantra: Trust the creative process. There are times when I experience something akin to an actor’s stage fright. Sure, it’s worked before, I’ll think. But will it happen this time? Will the intriguing encounter I just had with a herd of elk translate into words that, if they’re good, could inspire my reader to go out looking for his or her own special encounter with the natural world?

If you’re looking for your own bridge across the gap, just remember what fuels your passion for the written word. For me, it’s nature; for you, it may be food or foreign travel or something else entirely. Knowing what sparks you is key.

The creative spark—the one that transformed experiences into art in the past—can and will do so again. Trust the process.


2 thoughts on “Trust the Creative Process

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  1. Julie,
    Was moved in how you described the process of putting experience into written words and of how ‘stage fright,’ can sometimes still grip you. My field is working with people in the healing arts (psychology) and often I must write detailed reports that describe people’s history and problems they are dealing with. At first glance this might not seem a creative endeavor. But it becomes so once I begin with the goal of writing their stories in light of both struggles and triumphs. I try to conclude with recomendations for what could move individuals closer to their potential, and lessen suffering. Honestly, what gets me past writer’s block is simply that I often work under strict deadlines and so am forced to begin at a certain point. Once I’ve done that, it gets easier.

    Please share more, Julie, of and about your writing. You inspired me to write this comment!
    –Caramel Owl

    1. On the surface, one might not think there is much connection between writing a magazine feature article and writing a psychological case history. But you rightly point out they are both creative endeavors, and subject to the same potentials and pitfalls. I admire the creativity you bring to the task, and agree with you that there’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind, and that just getting started is sometimes the toughest challenge of all.

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