Creative (To Be, or Not to Be)

I am happy to say that, for the most part, I have been able to do creative work for most of my adult life.

That does not mean that my work has been widely viewed or held in high esteem. And it does not mean that I have been well or adequately paid.

But I have managed to be creative.

And I think anyone who manages to be creative, even for a short while, should give themselves a pat on the back.

I have had times of exciting, joyful, fluid creativity. Some of those times lasted for days, occasionally they lasted for years.

When you’re in the flow, creatively, you feel like you’ll have a never-ending burst of energy. But the reality is, creative juice comes and goes.

Many things are not creativity, but they are part of the recipe:


There are many other things that can or should go on the list but, in this moment, I don’t feel the ability within myself to remember them. That’s part of creativity, the engine within your brain that can find the needed answers. Sometimes it’s running smoothly and other times it feels empty, or the opposite, that it’s running over capacity.

It is nice to occasionally – or often – look back at past creativity with a sense of nostalgia. There was a time when I would make six short films a year. There was a time when I would blog daily. There was a time when I would write ten showreel scenes in a day.

None of those versions of me are the me I am now, but I remember them well and have, for so many years, assumed I would become that guy again.

There are many things that stop creativity:

A lack of ideas.
Some guy who emailed you 9 years ago to tell you you have no talent.
Gaming consoles.

When you look back at all the creative goals you didn’t fulfill, do you know why you didn’t?

Maybe your goals were:

Too difficult.
Too easy.
Not that important to you.
Too important to you.

Who knows why you didn’t do the things you said you’d do? A few years ago I decided to write one new feature film or sitcom script every single month, for an entire year.

I wrote one piece in January and then I stopped.


I don’t know.

Maybe it wasn’t as important to me as I thought.

Maybe I just couldn’t be bothered.

Maybe something better was coming along.

I have, in the past year, hit a rich vein of creativity in writing and directing football comedy sketches. People have been connecting to the videos and they’ve been getting millions of views.

But how long will I have the creativity for these types of videos?

It could be ten years. It could be three weeks. How would I know?

One of my favourite writers, Joseph Mitchell, was a prolific writer for ‘The New Yorker’, writing essay after essay. He wrote a poignant piece called ‘Joe Gould’s Secret’ in 1965, and then not a single new piece before his death, in 1996.

Maybe he was too tough on himself.
Or not tough enough.
Maybe he couldn’t be bothered anymore.

Who knows.

But I don’t mean to talk about creativity like it’s this mysterious thing we have no control over.

Our decisions and our intentions are a huge part of it.

I could write a TV Pilot in a week if I really wanted to. I’d just need to put down my phone and start typing.

Of course there are reasons to not be creative:

Bills to pay.
Loved ones to see/take care of/argue with.
Waiting for the right idea.
Waiting for the right time.
Waiting for dessert.

But if you’ve ever found 30 minutes to scroll Instagram, or 30 minutes to watch reality TV, then you’ve had 30 minutes where you could have been creative.

Or maybe that kind of thinking is toxic. Toxic productivity I think it’s called.

But don’t worry, I’m not shaming you if you’ve let yourself down creatively, I’m only shaming myself.

But not really because, as I said, I’m pretty happy with how creative I’ve been.

I just want to find more ways to keep choosing writing rather than not writing. Creating things rather than creating reasons not to.

Like this blog post right here. It feels nice to write. It even feels nice to worry over whether it might be pointless and unreadable.

That’s what creativity is all about. Creating a thing and shipping it to the world, regardless of what the world thinks.

Some days, we do nothing. Today, I wrote this article you’re reading, and I shared it.

Tomorrow, there’ll be something else that I want to do. And all I need is to decide to do it.

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Daniel Johnson
Writer, Director, Author