Brett, a long-time Performancing reader and semi-regular contributor, commented on my last post, about indecision, that sometimes you have to just do it to get your articles/ blog posts written. Crack out a thousand, two thousand words, then edit after the fact. That’s his Zeroth Law of writing productivity. A similar approach applies to other types of creative work.
I couldn’t agree more with Brett, and this in fact is the nature of most of this post: building creativity and just writing. In my over-long creative drought since about mid-June of this year, one overwhelming fact escaped me until a few days ago: I was denying my creativity, which is necessary to get your creative juices flowing. Sounds obvious, but this can be become overlooked.
To write every day is an important goal if you’re a writer/ blogger, but sometimes the words just don’t want to come. To write is to create, to be creative, and to be creative, you have to create something. It’s a bit of circle, really, and while not a “vicious circle,” if you deny yourself, you sink into a creative block, finding it ever harder to pull yourself out of.
You have to create something each morning, to get your creative juices flowing, and it really doesn’t matter what. Build a morning “creativity routine” and change it as necessary. Spend 20-30 minutes on it each day. Here are some creativity tips that I’ve picked up over the years, either from reading about other writers’ writing processes or simply discovering them.
- Write a wishlist.
Write down what you want out of your writing life, but not as a list, rather as a passage in a book, in present tense, as if you’ve already achieved it.
- Write gibberish.
Take lessons from Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss. Emulating their style is not only a great deal of fun, but can often help stimulate creativity. Combine their styles. Come up with your own variations of passages of their work. None of it has to make any sense, and you don’t need to show it to anyone. Though sometimes, if you’re really tapped into your creative muse, you’ll even get “usable” nonsense. At the least, you’ll loosen up, maybe even consciously realize why you’re having a mental block.
- Ask “what if?”
Extend the “gibberish” approach by imagining a meeting of two famous figures from different times in history. What would they do together, what would transpire? Write up a passage about such a meeting, even if it’s just that they smoke cigarettes together and play pool, or dissect someone else’s poetry. Just make it fun, whatever you write.
- Sing, write lyrics or a song.
Yestermorn, I pulled out my acoustic guitar and for the first time in many many years, wrote a song for someone special — a creative act that I’d been denying myself for several months. The song started off as a bit of gibberish, but the real lyrics formed with a little bit of nudging on my part, and the chord progression revealed itself, based on the cadence of the lyrics and what I wanted to express vocally. My creative block finally lifted, and I wrote two blog posts later that day. That’s a far cry from the 10-12 posts /day that I wrote regularly in 2007, and nothing compared to my peak of 25/day in 2006, but still important. Letting go and being creative in one form helped being creative in another form. When you are in a rut, it’s easy to forget that. You don’t have to write a love song, but playing a musical instrument even for a few minutes each day might be all you need to feel creative.
- Write your “obit”.
Write up how you’d like to be remembered/ thought of years from now, the accomplishments you will have made, what people think of you. Try variations, explore. You might discover something new about your goals and aspirations.
- Write “reviews” of your work.
Planning to be a top blogger, an author or a novelist? Put yourself in another POV (point of view) and write a “review” of your masterpiece of writing. Why wait for someone else to do it? Write your own reviews, try variations of what you might like to read or hear about your work.
- Code, draw, design, paint.
Whatever type of creative work you do, try something else to spark creativity. I am originally a programmer. I sorely miss that work, and it put me in a funk for a few years. Meanwhile I let my skills slide, but just creating a snippet of functioning code often stimulates my writing, as odd as that may seem. A creative act is a creative act. Sketching/ drawing every day also always stimulated my writing. If you can’t do any of these, try mind mapping, as it stimulates both creative and logical processes, which is ideal for freelance writing.
Find what works for you, in terms of stimulating creativity. You might need to try a multi-faceted approach on some days. Ultimately, if you are trying to write, then you must keep writing, even when you don’t feel like it. This is a technique that many fiction writers have used effectively for decades. It also works for non-fiction.
When you are just “exercising” your creativity during your morning routine, you do not have to be entirely original. Most of the exercises above build on something that has come before, be it writing style or musical style, or what have you. Once you’ve spent 20-30 minutes either writing “frivolous” content, or created something, you should feel creative juices flowing. Now give your articles/ blog posts another try.
Example: Here’s a snippet of content, created from combining tips #2 and 3. It’s total nonsense, but illustrates what I’m getting at, in terms of having some fun and stimulating creativity. This is an approach that has often worked for me.
the slithy toves of red oak groves
proves to me that world woves
woves and woves in pithy droves
watch out for the toadstool stoves
dylan thomas meets matt dillon
women and wine and they’re just chillin
music and cusack and bob dylan
leonard cohen sulks in the corner
crushing plum pies with little jack horner