I did a few comedy improv workshops once for troubled teens in a local high school. Most of the scenes were about sex, so I urged the students to try something else. A young man spoke up.
“You know we’re teens, right?”
That young man illustrated for me what many people believe: the stereotype they accept for themselves (“teens think only about sex”) also includes a belief about creativity (“therefore we can’t think of anything else”).
When I was young, I actually believed that creativity = good writing. I didn’t realize that practice and learning = good writing. By the time I got to university, I’d stopped writing fiction, because I couldn’t remember anyone (except my parents) saying I could write well.
It’s amazing how 16 years, two kids, and a daytime job improve your self-esteem. I’ve allowed myself to write fiction again.
I didn’t do it by setting aside “me time” at the computer, where I’d spend two hours completely immersed in my writing. I did it the old-fashioned way: the notebook beside the bed. (I believe L.M. Montgomery did this, though I’m sure many other writers did and do, too.) If I had the urge to write in the morning or before bed, I wrote, usually about ten minutes or so, and then went on with my day.
I ended up writing a few kids’ stories and sharing one with my little ones. They loved it, by the way, and it’s sparked a new bedtime routine for us: practicing creativity by writing a kids’ story together.
What if they hadn’t liked it? I would’ve been ecstatic with the small step that I’d at least written something. Then I would’ve tried to figure out why they didn’t like it, and I would’ve tried again.
But first thing’s first: break out of your self-defined stereotype, and create.