Sometimes the muse is hanging out on our shoulder, and the words just pour onto the page. And sometimes, the muse has taken a lunch break … or maybe a long vacation. How do you spark creativity in those situations?
First of all, let’s define creativity. Dictionary.com says creativity is “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.” Creativity is not just limited to the arts. It also has to do with invention and the sciences and the way you live your life every day. Being more creative in your artistic life can help you innovate in other areas of life as well by expanding the way you think. So how can we expand or shift the way we think?
(Disclaimer: try not to use these things to put off actually writing)
- Change your routine. It doesn’t have to be something major; it could be as small as going to a different grocery store, taking a new route to work or school, or making a new recipe for dinner.
- Read. If you’re writing, you probably read more than the average person already, but reading new stories almost always gives you a different perspective, at least briefly. Read in your genre to see what others are writing about. Read outside your comfort zone in genres you’d never write in – they will have a different feel than the genres you’re comfortable with. Read nonfiction; I’ve found some of my best inspiration has come from nonfiction that helps me to look at the world in a different way, especially books about how the world works, like Outliers, Freakonomics, and most recently, The New Geography of Jobs (one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in years). Books on writing are always a great source, too, like Writing Irresistible Kidlit, Save the Cat, and On Writing.
- Do something new. Novelty helps your brain create new neural pathways. Go on a little adventure – take a class, go to a new restaurant, go on a trip, learn something new.
- Journal. Observe what’s going on around you. Observing things in detail and/or organizing them into an order of events makes you look at them more closely than you normally would. Free write in your journal; this is also called stream of consciousness writing. It acts like a warm up for your brain. You can set a timer, maybe 5 minutes, and don’t let your pen off the paper (or your fingers off the keyboard) until the timer goes up. This might result in a little babble, but there may be some gems in there, too.
- Change your associations. Associate with people who have similar goals, who work in the same field; these type of associations foster innovation and creativity (there’s a whole section on this in The New Geography of Jobs that I mentioned above – such a great read!). This might mean joining a writing group, going to book signings and book festivals, and going to literary events and conferences. This might mean blogging and visiting blogs of people with similar interests and goals. You could also read books written by writers, agents, and others in the publishing business (this includes listening to audiobooks in the car – such a great use of traffic time).
How do you spark creativity? What have I left off this list?