Personal Growth

6 Creativity Tips from Iconic Sci-Fi Author Ursula K. Le Guin

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Ursula K. Le Guin is the bestselling author of 21 novels and countless other works, including short stories, essay collections, and poetry. Le Guin passed away at the age of 88 on January 22, 2018, marking the end of a life and career that garnered such accolades as the Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, and the National Book Foundation Medal. But Le Guin's legacy continues, and to honor this literary giant's death, we've rounded up some of the best tips on creativity that we found in her works and her interviews:

Join a Creative Community

In "Steering the Craft," her informative guide for writers, Le Guin notes the importance of joining a creative community for mutual support, encouragement, and even a little friendly competition. That group doesn't have to be in person: online communities, she notes, can work just as well.

Can't find the right group? Don't despair. Ultimately, Le Guin says, you have to go it alone at some point. You learn by doing, and by exercising that creative muscle.

Set Down Some Roots

In an interview with Room Magazine, Le Guin notes that staying rooted in a place for a long time (and not constantly traveling) helped stimulate her creativity. "It gives me time and room to write," she said, "a fixed space in which my imagination can just move out wherever it wants to."

Don't Force It

You can make space for creativity, but you can't force it to appear. When it comes to her own creative "muse," Le Guin told Room Magazine, "It controls me more than I control it ... But it comes, it goes, you know. If at the moment I just don't seem to have a novel to write, well that's just how it is. I can't make myself have a novel to write until the novel comes to me."

Don't Fear Rejection

On her website, Le Guin included a copy of the first rejection note her agent received after trying to shop around The Left Hand of Darkness (you know, the little book that went on to sell over a million copies in English alone). That editor praised her writing, but called the book "unreadable" and said that "the whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material." Ouch.

Le Guin notes that she hopes the letter will cheer up anyone else who has received a rejection. It shows us that even the best ideas have their critics. If your idea is worth pursuing, you should go after it.

Don't Quit Your Day Job (At Least In the Beginning)

Creativity isn't all about sitting at home, drinking coffee, and coming up with wonderful ideas. It's also hard work, and the pay may not come immediately. In response to a young writer's question, Le Guin wrote, "I spent nearly ten years sending out stories before I got one published. Being a writer almost always means having some kind of paying job too ... and hanging in there!" Remember that even the greats weren't instant successes.

Don't Underestimate the Importance of Your Gift

In "A Few Words to a Young Writer," Le Guin notes that language is extremely powerful — and can be used for good or evil. When exercising your own creativity, make sure that you use your gift in pursuit of truth, not deception. "Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom," Le Guin writes, "and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls."

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Written by Stephanie Bucklin March 1, 2018