Ten Tips for Surviving Book Launch

We are absolutely delighted to welcome today’s guest, Barbara Claypole White!

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I’ve just launched my fifth novel, which means I’ve lost 5lbs and restful sleep. (Last night I dreamed my office had become a medical triage unit.) Book launch turns me ever-so-slightly neurotic and detracts from the joy of hanging out with my characters in my jammies. However, this time around I’ve figured out how to survive with my humor intact:


Look in the mirror, spread your arms wide, grin like you’re accepting a Pulitzer, and say, “I’m a badass author! I launched a novel into the word.” (Repeat as necessary after every one-star bashing on Goodreads.) Anything that exhibits what I call the it’s-all-lovely mindset helps chip away at anxiety.


Take twenty minutes to stop and enjoy the gifts that will arrive on the UPS truck: smell those roses and eat at least two truffles.


Treat yourself to one thing on launch day, even if it’s only a shower. I had an extended cocktail hour with my beloved menfolk, when we talked about the state of the non-publishing world. (Obviously too much alcohol will not help your anxiety, but hey, a little buzz is good for the soul.)


Accept that you have no control over what happens to your book from this day forth. No, really, you have ZERO control. I live in the South, and we rarely get snow. On launch day the weather forecast turned against me—yes, it’s easy to take everything personally—and the 50% chance of rain or sleet was now a 90% chance of snow. I spent launch day morning creating Plan B for my inaugural reading at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, and then had to sort out the caterer, who was baking a book cake. (Public service announcement: book cakes freeze beautifully.) Then I spent another hour rescheduling hair and dental appointments, which is way harder than it sounds. Both my hairstylist and dentist are rock stars in their fields and booked until May. (And my roots were showing, and I have a killer toothache.)


Yes, you will go down the rabbit hole with social media and messages of congratulations, but the next day, step away from your computer. I learned this accidentally after our 90% chance of winter weather dumped a foot of the white stuff on our driveway and I spent the morning shoveling snow, which leads me to…


This is a toughie, but do not compulsively check your rankings on Amazon. If you find that ‘resistance is futile’, set limits: check in two hours, then three, then five, then only once a day. Get it? Got it? Good.


Amazon rankings are not listed in real-time. You will have a much better sense of how the book’s performing on day two. With THE PROMISE BETWEEN US, reviews started coming in quickly, but the book’s rankings didn’t do anything interesting until day three. (Okay, I was weak; I checked.)


Don’t read reviews that are anything less than 5-stars before bedtime. If you can hold off, binge read all the negative reviews after the book has launched and you’ve rediscovered your happy place. THE PERFECT SON has been out for two and a half years. Yesterday I read all the one-star reviews. As predicted, 50% went after my characters’ use of the f-bomb, 40% were a variation on the theme ‘boring’, and 10% had vaguely useful criticisms that made me nod and say, “Fair enough.” But hey, that book was a Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee for Best Fiction 2015—a category that I shared with Harper Lee—and that fact is tattooed into my soul.


If your deadline is not ticking loudly, take launch day off, but return to writing as quickly as possible. My favorite mantra is, “let writing be the cure,” because the only time I have laser focus is when I write. Writing is also how I process my own emotions and everything that I can’t control (back to anxiety). I spent launch day—ahead of snowmaggedon—co-writing a blog piece with my buddy Laura Spinella. We’ve been sharing the same foxhole since our writing careers began, and as we traded comments in track changes, I shared launch day angst with a sister-in-arms. Perfect.


Newsflash: your novel is unlikely to burst into the world on the bestseller lists, but women’s fiction has a long shelf life, and sometimes the most thrilling part of book launch isn’t the sales’ number. I discovered, by mistake, that THE PROMISE BETWEEN US was included on a list of must-read 2018 books for fans of Jodi Picoult. I’m a huge fan of Ms. Picoult (her books do burst into the world as bestsellers!). That list made me feel like a queen—for far longer that one day.

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bcwBestselling author Barbara Claypole White creates hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Originally from England, she writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina, where she lives with her beloved OCD family. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden, The In-Between Hour, The Perfect Son, and Echoes of Family.  The Promise Between Us, which shines a light on postpartum OCD, released on January 16th, 2018. She is also an OCD Advocate for the A2A Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes advocacy over adversity. To connect with Barbara, please visit www.barbaraclaypolewhite.com, or follow her on Facebook. She’s always on Facebook.


The Reality of the Breakout Book

We are delighted to welcome today’s guest, Aimie K. Runyan

Many authors share my tale of woe. I worked on the book of my heart off and on for a decade. I polished the heck out of it, landed and agent, polished more, then landed a book deal with a major independent publisher. Sounds like the stuff of dreams, right?

It was, until my book flopped with such an audible thud, I’m pretty sure it can still be heard in my publisher’s swanky New York high rise. Sorry about that.

Which of course, meant the second book I was contracted to write received little to no marketing support. I can’t say I blame them. They are a business, after all.

So what next? I licked my wounds, and as any good scribbler does, I started writing. I left behind my beloved French emigrant girls to embrace an era of Historical Fiction that has broader appeal—WWII.

Hold on, hold on, hold on… the advice is always ‘don’t cater to the market’ and ‘write what motivates you’. It’s true, but I’m a firm believer that certain niches have a solid reader base despite the market. WWII is one of those niches. Especially if you add in a hint of a love story.

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But that isn’t enough—people have read zillions of WWII stories, and they crave something new. When I was deluged with articles by friends about the Night Witches after the last surviving pilot had passed, I knew this was going to fill a void in the marketplace. Which is great, but it’s not enough to write a stellar book.

I started my research, and fell in love with these women. They were fierce, driven, and took zero garbage from their commanding officers who resented their presence on the battlefield. These were my people.

I managed to sell the book to my dream house, Lake Union, and I could tell there was palpable excitement for the project. That was the greatest feeling in the world. And when I was selected for one of their key marketing tools, I knew it had the opportunity to break out.

And it did. #2 on the charts in the US and UK and #1 in Australia. I always knew the Aussies were a great bunch.

How does it feel? Surreal. I’m by turns elated and convinced I’m about to wake from a lovely dream.

So what does this mean for my career moving forward? Well, despite my fondest wish to write about 15th century Ireland, I’m going to be relegated to writing about the wars for the foreseeable future. Which is fine. There is so much ripe material to pull from—unmined gems—that I can make my own, that I don’t feel limited for the moment. And the market is bound to change, and my material with it. Which is just as it should be.


It means I now have a reader base who want more books like Daughters of the Night Sky, and it’s my job to produce them regularly. The days of spending a decade crafting a novel are done if I want to keep that fan base loyal.

Overall, the biggest perk of having a book “break out” is really the feeling that what I do is appreciated by a large number of readers. It’s such a lonely business, so rife with self-doubt, that any victory is a huge deal.

Of course, the old axiom is also true—you’re only as good as your next book. Success is just as fleeting as failure, so I have to strive to make each book better than the last.

So back to the purple fountain pen of fury, it won’t weald itself!



Aimie K. Runyan writes to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She has written four historical novels, including the internationally bestselling Daughters of the Night Sky. Her  next novel, Girls on the Line, which centers around the women who served as telephone operators overseas during WWI, will release in November of 2018. She is active as an educator and speaker in the writing community and beyond. She lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two (usually) adorable children.




The Key to Rediscovering Your Enthusiasm For Your Story

We are thrilled to welcome back former contributor Jamie Raintree as today’s guest! 

This year has been a crazy year. When I signed my first book contract, I knew I was signing up for deadlines, more responsibilities, more time spent on promotion, and more focus on my career in general. And I was–and am–100% in. The author life is everything I’ve dreamed it would be and I’m so grateful to have made it to this stage in my career and my life.

What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was how it would impact my creativity.

Up until that point, writing alone had taken up the majority of the time and energy I dedicated toward my career. I’ve been a regular blogger for many years, but otherwise, the best thing I could do was put as much effort into writing a great story as possible. It was almost never easy, but it was rewarding in a way that nothing else in my life was at that time. I loved it. I loved–and still do–watching my characters grow, immersing myself in their story, and the aha moments that hit at all hours.

And then things got busy. Really busy.

The thing about managing a publishing career is that: 1) there are deadlines and often, the things that aren’t as pressing have to get put on the back burner to take care of the things that are pressing. While writing Book 2 has been in the works since I first signed my book deal, the distant deadline meant that it was easy to put it aside to take care of production and promotion items for the more looming release of my debut novel.

And 2) most of those pressing items are left-brained activities and when you spend most of your day in left-brain mode, it becomes all the more difficult to switch into right-brain mode to write.

At first, it wasn’t a big deal. The deadline for Book 2 seemed like a lifetime away. And I was excited to watch my debut turn into a tangible thing. I wrote when I could but many days, I was too depleted to get myself in the headspace to write.

Eventually, though, months passed and that distant deadline wasn’t so distant anymore. I began to feel the pressure to produce, which only added to the difficulty of getting the words to flow. And the more days that passed without writing anything, the sicker I felt when I thought about opening my document back up to write. This book that I’ve been working on is actually the first novel I ever tried to write so it holds a special place in my heart, but I was coming to despise it. It seemed to represent this haunting sense of failure I couldn’t shake.

How was I ever going get it written–in a publishable shape, no less–when I could hardly bring myself to look at it?

This is not an uncommon feeling, I know. I’ve heard many authors talk about how publishing changes their writing processes. I’ve even experienced the struggle myself, during early editing phases when I was spending all my time focusing on what was wrong with my story, forgetting completely everything I once loved about it. Like a scorned lover, I just wanted some space, but deadlines make this impossible.

And thank goodness for that, because without a looming deadline, I may have forgotten what makes us fall in love with our stories:

Consistent progress.

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I know it’s not sexy. It’s not very poetic or artistic in any way, actually, but while we may adore our characters and look forward to writing certain scenes, it’s easy to lose track of that when we go days, weeks, or months without looking at our projects. Distance does not make the heart grow fonder.

It really does come down to Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keyboard. I hate to beat a dead horse here, but I think it bears repeating. I think we’re always looking for that magic tip that is going to suddenly make writing easy (heaven knows I’ve searched for them all). We think that once we sign that contract, then we’ll be able to take our writing more seriously. We’ll have more support and we’ll really make the time to get it done.

There is no magic tip. Writing will never be easy. Life does not get more manageable once you sign the contract.

We must simply ignore the voice inside our heads that says we’re too tired, that we don’t have time, that this story isn’t going anywhere, our writing sucks, and we are complete hacks. That voice is pretty incessant for about the first couple of minutes of each writing session, but if you can work through that–and you can!–on the other side you will find all the reasons you started writing your story in the first place.

I am happy to report that I’ve since resumed my love affair with my story. I think about it all day and plan ways to sneak a little extra time with it when I can, and that is THE. BEST. FEELING. It’s the kind of relationship I always want to have with my writing. It is difficult to make this kind of consistent commitment my stories because the deadlines, they keep on coming. But like with any relationship, when it’s important to you, you just find a way.


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Jamie Raintree is an author and a writing business teacher. She is also a mother of two girls, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, was released on October 3, 2017 by Graydon House. Subscribe to her newsletter for more writing tips and tools, and book news. To find out more, visit her website.

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Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree Cover.jpgSet among the breezy days of a sultry Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel of family secrets, forgiveness and finding yourself in the most surprising of places.

“Raintree’s lead characters are vividly realized, and readers will be moved…” – Publisher’s Weekly

“The most sensational, emotionally raw, and satisfying debut of fall.” – Redbook Magazine

Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound | Kobo



How to be in the top 10% of your industry

We are thrilled to welcome today’s guest, Ryan Decker!

In a world where there are literally thousands, if not millions of people competing to do exactly what you want to do, how will you stand out? How will you ever get noticed?

You may assume there are too many obstacles to overcome or not enough opportunities out there. You might feel like you’re not connected enough, skilled enough, or have what it takes. You may even feel like you have done everything you can already but nothing seems to work. Whatever you’re thinking, you’re right.

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

So why not think you can? Why not you? Why not now?

Good news…

The world has a way of rewarding those who decide what they want and work to go get it.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Step one: start

Begin where you are with what you have. Start down the wrong path if you have to. Explore even your bad ideas. Be okay with failing and start creating. At this point, don’t let creating something perfect get in the way of creating something, period. Do this and you have already beat out 80% of the competition. Most people fail before they even begin. They get a bad case of paralysis by analysis and never begin working to make their dreams a reality. You too may have been stuck in this trap before. But not anymore.

Step two: keep going

The next 5% of your competition will burn out after a while and quit. By being consistent with you craft, you have already placed yourself in the top 15% of the world! Keep patiently and diligently working. One day, your chance will come. One day, you will be heard.

That’s the amazing truth behind consistency. There is a certain compound effect taking place. When you improve even less than 1% every day, before you know it, you’re where you want to be. Exponential growth only comes with time and commitment. This type of commitment isn’t easy. If it were, there would be more people doing it. That’s why by simply following step one and step two, you will already be in the top percentile of your industry.

Start. Keep going. If you want something bad enough. You will make it happen. There will be sacrifices, but when you love what you do they won’t seem like sacrifices anymore. You’ll sleep less, watch less tv, spend less time with friends and doing hobbies. You’ll replace some of those things with getting educated, connecting with like-minded people, testing your ideas, failing a lot and learning a lot. But that’s what you signed up for, isn’t it?

Step three: breaking into the top 10%

After showing your craft the level of commitment it requires, you can now take your performance to the next level. Here’s how:

  1. Find a mentor or hire a coach.

As the proverb says: “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” You will not get to where you want to go without the proper training. People who have been there before or are doing what you want to do can help you avoid certain roadblocks saving you both time and money. The right mentor will help you gain clarity around your unique message. They will help you connect with the right people to help spread your ideas. The wrong mentor or coach can have the opposite effect, so be sure never to take advice from someone you wouldn’t want to switch places with.

  1. Create something remarkable. 

Easier said than done. That is why testing and failing and learning about your target audience are so vital to your success. Your purpose is to gain trust and earn attention. The only way you can do that is to write something people will want to read, sell something people will want to buy, and serve people how they would like to be served.

  1. Be a marketer.

You are a marketer now. It doesn’t matter what your skills are or what you think you role is, if you are serious about being in the top 10% of your industry, you will need to learn marketing. Pay attention to how people respond to what you do and say. Observe what favors people are asking you to do for them. Ask more questions. Listen. Learn how to best fulfill the needs of your market. You have more to offer than you think. It’s time for your market to understand that.

  1. Think like a designer. 

Designers are taught to pay close attention to the details. Because details matter. Everything designers do, from eating to grocery shopping to driving down the street, influence their work. In order to make the most out of what you do, your work will always need to be top-of-mind. A commitment to your work requires a commitment to solve the interesting problems that come your way. They will demand your attention because you have promised your attention. So when inspiration comes your way, go to work. Organizing your thoughts for a later time is good, working on your craft as soon as inspiration comes to you is better.

  1. Do it because you love it.

If you love what you do, stick with it. It’s a marathon – almost everything meaningful you will do in life is. It’s supposed to be hard. Would you do it even if you wouldn’t get paid to? If the answer is yes, then keep going. Think of the many people you can and will touch by creating meaningful work. Think about what might happen if you don’t. Do what you do because you love it. Love what you do because of who it helps.


You are either getting better or getting worse. There is no middle ground, no state of stagnation. What got you where you are today will not be enough to get you where you need to go. Remember, you aren’t doing the world any favors by thinking small. Play big. And then, don’t settle for being in the top 10% of your industry. Instead, ask: what can I do to to get to the top 1%?


RyanRyan Decker is an entrepreneur and blogger who writes and coaches about personal growth, leadership, and marketing. When Ryan is not making lists or thinking about goals he is cooking, cycling, reading, or traveling with his wife, Hannah. Connect with Ryan at ryanwdecker.com.

The Simple Secret to Writing Better

We are thrilled to welcome Ella Joy Olsen as our guest today!

I recently started teaching a course through Lifelong Learning at the University of Utah. The emphasis: How to Write Historical Fiction. While I had one historical fiction novel published and another in the hopper, I couldn’t imagine teaching a class on my process.

But then I started really thinking on it. Being self-taught didn’t mean I didn’t have anything to teach. Sure, I’d cobbled my knowledge from a variety of sources but I’d still written a book.

Where had I learned the very most? From reading. That was my first big ah-ha. And that’s how I decided to teach. During the first session I had the class brainstorm a time period or place they were interested in writing about. Some came to class with an idea already percolating; some didn’t know what they wanted to write about at all. We repeated the exercise three times.

At the end of the class I sent them home with instructions to decide on one historical period then make a trip to the book store and find a recently published and well-regarded historical fiction. One that matched either their chosen time or place (or even better, both). This would be their text book. The best text book ever, in my opinion.

Then they were to read the book slowly, paying close attention . . . like a writer: They were to find the inciting event, they were instructed to make note of what made the characters sympathetic and interesting in the first few pages. I asked them if they wanted to keep reading the book after the first scene, and why? What hooked them? We picked apart how historic facts were interwoven into scenes which added to the texture of the story instead of being info-dumped.

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And then we started writing. Turns out that’s the next big ah-ha. Pretty simple, right? There’s no magic bullet, no secret passed through the ages that allows a person to write the next great American novel. First you read. Then you write. And write. And write. Or as Stephen King put it:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

Sure, there are things to think about as you write: plot, story arc, conflict, language. But until you actually put words on the page these are all abstract ideas. You can’t tell if your story is arcing until you have the story on the screen. You don’t know if your conflict needs to be amped up until you’ve written a tense scene. You can’t read and edit your writing until it’s…wait for it…written.

That’s what my students needed the most. Encouragement or a kick in the pants (gentle, of course) to get their butts in the chair and their fingers on their keyboards. Even if they didn’t have a distinct plan, they needed to write something. Everything else could be worked out, refined, and smoothed after they had actual words on the page.

After imparting all of my sage advice I have a fresh concern: I’m teaching a whole semester on this subject and as it turns out, the secret is really pretty simple. How will I ever fill my course hours?


Ella Joy OlBiophoto2.JPGsen was born, raised and currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, a charming town tucked at the base of the massive Rocky Mountains. Most at home in the world of the written word, Ella spent nearly a decade on the Board of Directors for the Salt Lake City Public Library System (and four decades browsing the stacks). She is the mom of three kids ranging from just-barely-teen to just-flown-the-nest-teen, the mama of two dogs, and the wife of one patient husband.

Though she’s crazy about words Ella is also practical so she graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Finance. After years analyzing facts and figures Ella gave up her corner cubicle and started writing fiction. Fun fact: she now teaches a historical fiction course at her alma mater. She has also lived in Seattle, Washington & Savannah, Georgia.

ROOT, PETAL,THORN (September 2016) was her debut and coming in September 2017 – WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS.

Write. Play. Explore.


As a former high school English teacher and cross-country coach, I love the chance to connect with kids and young adults. It’s the best part of my current job as an author. Since my first book came out 10.5 years ago, I’ve had a lot of experiences with readers across the country and at my own desk, through travel and emails and shared experiences.

There was the juvenile girls’ detention center in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where girls asked me tough and beautiful questions about my own life and about my book Matched, which they had read and discussed as a group. Later that day, I learned from the librarian who had invited me to Kalamazoo that the librarians in the area take turns going over to the detention center at night. While the kids are going to sleep, the librarians read them books over the PA system. For some kids, it’s the first time they’ve been read to sleep. For all of them, it’s a time they can escape into the story. I wept in the front seat of his car and he smiled and handed me a tissue.

There was the day one of my former students wrote me to tell me he’d read my book. “Good job, Mrs. Condie,” he said, and he sent me a picture of his new wife and baby.

There was the assembly in Oxford, Mississippi, where kids called out questions so fast I could barely keep up. They slipped me notes afterwards telling me what they thought of my book, and they had some very good suggestions.

In all of these moments, and many others, I realized that what was happening was not about me at all. Ever. It was about words and what kids bring to them. It was about youth and reading and writing and having the chance to tell their own stories.

Write. Play. Explore.

I started thinking about what I could do in my own community, in Utah. About how I could attempt to bring authors to kids who don’t often see them and authors to places they don’t often visit. My first idea was a Writermobile to drive around and take authors to do school visits or writing workshops in rural areas, but the logistics and costs proved prohibitive. I thought about a writing camp I’d keynoted in Minneapolis, and how wonderful it had been, and thought perhaps we should try something like it in Southern Utah. We could draw in kids from rural areas through scholarship and by using contacts in the school districts. I contacted friends who were writers, teachers, leaders.

And that’s how the WriteOut Foundation was born. It’s a non-profit foundation aiming to create writing camps for rural kids. We’re starting in Cedar City, Utah, with a three day camp that will take kids to a national park, to a Shakespeare play, and which places them in a small classroom setting to workshop with nationally recognized authors. We’re using scholarships for 20% of attendees to make sure we reach those with the greatest financial need. There are also 80 spots open for paying attendees, and we can’t wait until we are at capacity. We are charging only enough to cover the costs of the camp.

I’ve been floored by the generosity of people at SUU (Alisa Peterson, Wendy Temple, and Tasha Seegmiller, among others) in stepping up when our original (and wonderful) liaison left the university. The WriteOut board (Ann Dee Ellis, Krista Bulloch, Brian Jackson, Denise Lund, and Scott Condie) has invested hours and hours without pay. Authors Brandon Mull, Brendan Reichs, Margaret Stohl, and Ann Dee Ellis came on board when it was just an idea and have been extremely generous with their time, with donating books, with staying in local homes to cut down on expenses, and much more.

And the best part of all—we’ve had the most amazing stories shared with us already through the scholarship applications. Students have told us about their battles. Their courage. Their creativity. How much attending this camp would mean to them.

WriteOut Camp is going to be a gathering where it’s safe for kids to talk about and write their stories. If you feel inclined to join us—whether you’re a young writer who wants to attend, a teacher who would like to volunteer, an author who’d like to donate books, or an adult who is willing to donate—we’d LOVE to have you.




Sonya Sones

Ally Condie is the author of the MATCHED Trilogy, a #1 New York Times and international bestseller. MATCHED was chosen as one of YALSA’s 2011 Teens’ Top Ten and named as one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2010. The sequels, CROSSED and REACHED, were also critically acclaimed and received starred reviews, and all three books are available in 30+ languages. Her middle grade debut, SUMMERLOST, is a finalist for the 2017 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery.


She is the founder of the non-profit WriteOut Foundation, which runs writeoutcamp.org–a writing camp for teens that allows students to work with published authors, experience the outdoors, and enjoy other activities (plays, costume balls, rock climbing, and more).

Ally lives with her husband and four children outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, writing, running, and listening to her husband play guitar. Follow Ally on Twitter and Facebook.

Why You Should Practice & Strengthen Creativity

I am not a writer. I write a lot, but none of it is fiction. What I do is teach university students who want to be elementary teachers. I teach them how to teach art and how to teach with art (these are actually two different things). As you can imagine, we talk about creativity a lot. Creativity has been a hot topic for quite a while. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity jump started the topic in 2006. The IBM 2010 Global CEO Study did the same thing. Also the Newsweek article, The Creativity Crisis from 2010, the Kelley brothers’ book (and industry), Creative Confidence, and on and on and on.  

Despite all of this,  I’m often surprised at how many of my students do not understand what it is or why it’s important. These are students who want to work with children, very young children, and they don’t know that according the the National Association for the Education of Young Children, creativity is an “essential mindset for young children.”

So my students and I read textbooks and articles and watch videos and we discuss and discuss and discuss creativity and how nurturing it can change the life of a child. We talk about how to recognize creative behavior when we see it, and of course about how to promote it. We also talk about how a teacher must also nurture his or her own creativity in order to be ready to help their students. It’s like putting on your own oxygen mask first.

When we get to this idea, my students get uncomfortable. They get shifty eyed and fidgety. They look at the floor. It turns out that many of my students are afraid to engage in creative endeavors or activities. They really don’t even want to try. So they avoid them.

Over time I have found that my students all have basically the same four reasons for fearing creative endeavor; they are afraid of looking dumb, afraid of wasting time, afraid of not being able to come up with a new idea – all the good ones are taken, and afraid that their creativity will hurt or inconvenience others.

Why You Should Practice & Strengthen Creativity

To me, all of these reasons for being afraid are also the exact reasons WHY someone should practice and strengthen their creativity. This is what I mean:

Afraid of looking dumb: If you try and fail, you will become more and more okay with admitting your shortcomings. You will recognize that “messing up” is part of learning. All the great ones mess up too. Over time you will feel less dumb and more confident. Being brave is part of being creative.

Afraid of wasting time: When you practice your creativity you will learn how to find successes in your failures. You’ll see the parts that work and find ways that you have grown and improved and changed, even if the entire endeavor didn’t work out. You will recognize that you can learn from all of your creative work, even if it’s a big ol’ flop.

Afraid of not being able to come up with a new idea – all the good ones are taken: You will realize that you are totally right. New ideas really are few and far between. That’s okay though. Our ideas are built on everything we have ever experienced. Being creative is making new combinations based on YOUR experiences – that’s what’s really new and different. No one else has your unique collection of acquaintances, books read, thoughts thought, conversations shared, music listened to, hikes hiked, road trips taken, mistakes made. When you put these all together, even if you’re telling a version the same story you’ve heard before, unless you try to deliberately sabotage yourself, this new telling of that story will be your own.

Afraid that your creativity may hurt or inconvenience others This one counts. This is the one you do need to watch for. In your creative endeavors, be kind. Be aware. Recognize your actions and how they impact others. Find ways to include others when you can, and be sure give them an out as well. Creativity should be thoughtful and compassionate.

Although I teach these ideas semester after semester, I still I have to remind myself that they apply to me as much as they do to my students.  These ideas should matter to all of us. Aren’t we all a little afraid now and then to start a new creative task? Afraid to put yourself out there, in front of others – with people reading or seeing your thoughts, your creative acts? I think it helps to remember that looking dumb is sometimes okay, wasted time can actually be time well spent, old ideas can be awesome when seen through your personal lens, and it’s important to be creatively compassionate and kind.


Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 2.55.50 PMAlisa Petersen is the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair of Elementary Art Education at Southern Utah University. Alisa grew up in Oklahoma in a home where exploration, making, play, and creativity happened every single day.  She studied art and art education at Ricks College, BYU, and Southern Utah University. She has worked as an elementary visual art specialist, a district art coordinator, an outreach artist, and now as a university professor. She teaches courses in early childhood creativity and arts integration.