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collaborationI recently read an article about creativity that caused me to breathe a sigh of relief. The article said that creative people thrive in an environment of clutter. As I look over my desk, which features a small city of stacks and piles of papers, odd objects, and disorder, I have to remind myself of what that article said; creative people thrive in clutter.

Perhaps creativity itself also thrives in clutter. For me, whether it is writing, composing, filmmaking, or building a prop for a stage show or movie, the creative process begins with an idea. That idea grows into a mess of junk, rattling, sprawl, and chaos. Just when the whole thing is about to explode, I get to work making order of the mess. This means stacking, dusting, putting things where they belong, and polishing.

This is the model no matter the creative endeavor. Lately, I have been scoring music for a steampunk opera for the Rustmonster band. At the moment, I have a series of rough demos and scores for most of the music. One might listen to the demos and think of them as nothing more than messy approximations of songs. But it is important to remember that this project has not progressed from the clutter stage.

It’s time to clean up. The band meets regularly for rehearsals. We read the charts, marking the sections that don’t work. I then go back to the manuscripts and make changes. We adjust parts. We strive to put in what we need and lay out where we must to create space for other musicians. We play the songs repeatedly to get them under our fingers and to explore further human nuances. We record parts of them. We toss out the recordings and we record again.

Over time, with plenty of pushing and pulling, the songs begin to shine. They become complete. We put them under pressure and end up with a handful of diamonds. But it all starts with clutter.

As you engage in your creative projects, don’t be afraid of the mess. If you write, let it flow in the beginning. let every bad sentence go, every off description, every piece of horrible writing that comes from you. Leave the cleanup work for later. There are two minds that play in the creative process. First is the right brain, which acts like an unruly child with finger paints. Next comes the left-brain, which holds the refining tools to make sense of your work, shaping it into something great.

Good luck,

Craig Nybo


Craig Nybo
Craig Nybo

Craig Nybo writes novels, screenplays, and short stories. He also composes and records music. Craig lives in Kaysville, Utah with his lovely wife and children.

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