The #1 thing that saddens me as a writer (alongside someone telling me they don't like reading) is when someone tells me they're too afraid to write.
I've had several friends tell me the reason they refuse to write is because they're afraid. Most of the time, they think they just aren't creative. Other times they will tell me they aren't good at finishing, or they're unable to communicate their ideas how they want, or it's too similar to such-and-such a popular movie, etc. The list of fears gets pretty long when you've asked as many people as I have why they haven't written down their story ideas.
Even though I won't claim writing is easy, I always urge people to do it. I mean, telling people about NaNoWriMo has become a knee-jerk reaction for me (I've brought it up in two separate job interviews). I believe creativity is important--really important--and there's no reason people should think they aren't creative. A friend of mine, who I consider one of the most interesting and intelligent I've ever met, once said "If you got up this morning and put together an outfit, you are creative."
That phrase has stuck with me for almost two years now. Given the evidence, I think everyone should take it to heart.
By 'evidence' I mean the natural things human do every day that go beyond the simple eat-work-sleep routines of basic survival. Children, for example, have insanely detailed imaginations; just watching a group of kids play together is fascinating because they will work in tandem to exist in a world they created. No questions, no preconceived groundwork, just imagination. And since every adult was once a child, they can at least in some capacity understand the ease of slipping between made-up worlds. Many will say 'Obviously I grew out of it... I don't even know how kids do that anymore. Creativity just isn't for me.'
No. Stop. Sit down and let me tell you a thing:
Imagination is never lost. It is only put out of practice. Personally, as someone who writes three novel-length projects a year and spends the rest of the time daydreaming about other stories, I'd say I use my imagination quite a bit--and yet when someone tells me 'oh, you're so creative! I could never be like that', I get irked. Sometimes I want to grab these people by the shoulders, give them a hearty shake and yell 'but you COULD be!' You just need to stop thinking of yourself and your life in terms of uncreativity. Remember, if you put together your own outfit, you are creative. If you daydreamed about that killer comeback you would have said in that argument, you are creative. If you thought 'boy, that cloud looks like a duck', YOU ARE CREATIVE. All that's happened is the world has told you to grow up, and you assumed that growing up meant putting your imagination on mute.
Let me say again: imagination is important. Just because society says getting good grades or making money are of greater precedence, that doesn't mean you need to bash your creative side into submission. Society says this because getting good grades and making money are basic, survival-based tasks at their core. Things like writing stories are not, and that's why they sound so out-of-place when we move toward independence. Shouldn't survival take priority? Yes, on a basic level. But when you have the room to amplify your creativity, you should. I know I certainly don't want to lose the magic of my childhood. That's why I write so much. If I were to lose that, I would be denying that God made me creative. All of us being in His image, the most creative Person in existence, it seems like a pretty pertinent issue.
That being said, let's go back to the beginning. Most people tell me they won't write because they're too afraid. Well, breach that fear. If you want to be a writer, write something. A small poem, a 180,000-word novel, I don't care. It will be the first of many steps back toward using your imagination every day. Humans--we--have the capacity to create entire universes from scratch. Don't you think it's worth just a try?