Creating Opportunities to be More Creative

As a writer, being a creative person is a pretty big deal. We pride ourselves on how creative we are and yet there are times when we feel we just aren’t creative enough. It’s sort of a Ping-Pong match between the two. Some days it’s one, and a whole lot of other days, it’s the other. There have been quite a few times when I personally felt like I lost the game all together. Many times I found myself asking “Am I creative enough to be a writer?” or “What can I do to be more creative?”. In the end though, maybe it’s more of a question of how can we be the right amount of creative to accomplish our goals?

I want to tell you a story. Something that happened to me over the last few years that changed my life forever (causing me to abandon my blog for awhile too––sorry!) and made me see things in a little different light, especially concerning the way creativity works.

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Writing Exercise: Blue Moon

MC900441149Why are writing exercises are so important? How often should you do writing exercises? Where do you look to find writing exercises?

First, I want to say that I love to write, but it doesn’t come without inspiration and a lot of hard work. Sometimes a writer has to write without inspiration to get the job done, but eventually writers do need to be re-inspired to find that spark of creativity that caused them to write in the first place. A great way to rediscover that spark is through writing exercises.

Every writer is different. Some writers need the jolt of a writing exercise every day before they begin writing. Others just need the help when beginning new projects or to come up with new project ideas. And there are others (like me) who only use writing exercises every once in a blue moon to take a break from regular writing so to relight the candle of creativity inside.

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Writing Exercise: The Peacock’s Friend

peacockI always love doing exercises. Sometimes I do them based off photographs. Sometimes I do them based off phrases or a series of words. I thought I would do something a little different and try an exercise based off an image and random words. Here’s an image I found at Office.Mircrosoft.com. I then picked up a random book and flipped through it picking words until I had six random words; happy, shape, wasp, friend, object, and dead. Now I was ready to be inspired. Here’s what I ended up with.

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Want to Be More Creative? Bring Out the Inner Child

Let’s face it, creativity is the bread and butter of being a writer. It’s the spark that gets the imagination going and is an essential part of coming up with something interesting to write about. It would stand to reason, then, if a writer has trouble coming up with ideas for writing, what a person really might be having problems with is creativity. This problem can be fixed by bringing out the inner child that resides in all of us.

Be a child? Oh, yes, Be a child. Act like a child. Think like a child. Why? Because children are some of the most creative individuals out there. I know this because I have a four year old and I love watching him play because his creativity is so fresh and unencumbered by the restrictions of adulthood. If I need inspiration to write or come up with new ideas, all I have to do is spend some time with my son, and every time I come away with insights I’d never considered before.

The thing what floors me is that these insights are usually so simple and obvious, but most adults (like myself) are too busy to see the simple anymore, though, it’s not just the simple, but really the incapability of looking at things from a different point of view. Sometimes creativity can be sparked just by breaking the brittle rust from our own minds and allowing us a change of view. It’s about having an open-mindedness to embrace new ideas no matter where or how they come, just as a child is naturally programed to do.

It’s a big scary world out there and it’s full of stuff that needs to be done right away. This often has a person running like crazy, or simply consumed by the day-to-day issues that hampers all adult lives. It’s no wonder with all the bill paying, job responsibilities, laundry folding, and rushing kids back and forth to school and soccer practice that the inner child disappears all together to be replaced with a mask of constant responsibility. This mask can be difficult to take off and sometimes it’s just downright inconvenient to do so. Other times, the responsibility of adulthood has consumed a person to the point of no return and the thought of being “child like” is repulsive.

When I have creativity “issues,” I have to remind myself to stop being so serious and let the mask of responsibility be put away from time to time, allowing for something that is so incredible as letting the inner child take control. It’s a freeing and satisfying thing to let happen, and it can do wonders for a mind of stone. Letting the inner child time to play, will loosen up that stone, which will then, morph into a waterfall of ideas that may even be difficult to contain.

Need some ideas on how to access your inner child? Swing in that swing on the playground, dance in the rain, build a sandcastle, eat ice cream with gummy bears, and if you don’t have a child, then borrow one. Get down on their level and play for awhile. If you’re like me, you’ll be amazed at what you discover, and might find yourself inspired to do something never before considered. Just make sure to keep a notebook handy to write down the sparks of creativity, as you let the inner child play.

More on Focused Free Writing

As I already discussed in The Amazing Benefits of Free Writing, practicing free writing on a daily basis can open up writing in a wondrous way. This happens in the best way possible when free writing is focused on a specific topic or question. The topic or question can be anything that you chose, but the more specific the question the better. Having a broad topic to work on can be more confusing than helpful, but allowing freedom to explore inside a narrowed topic or question allows for discovery that might be surprising and quite enlightening. Here’s how I do it…

I like to make a list of things I want to know more about. When I have the time to sit down to write, I chose one from my list to write on. I let the pen take me to where it needs to go. I give myself permission to go beyond the borders of my chosen topic, but only if I think it will help fill in the blanks of the subject at hand. Any stray thoughts that have no relation to the writing “topic” is put in the margins of the paper, so I can come back to it later. At the end of the focused free writing practice, I often find myself surprised at what I come up with. The point is to be flexible enough to explore an idea fully, but not to go off the path so far as to be nowhere near the first original idea. It’s a delicate balance that can only be found through lots of practice.

Not sure where to start in focused free writing? Look at your own work. Do you have questions about the story, the characters, the plot, the ending, the beginning? Do you have questions about a certain topic in your story? Or maybe you have questions about where your writing journey is going? Do you have mixed feelings about the contract deal you’ve just been offered for a new piece of work, or whether to attend a writing conference, or maybe the question is as simple as trying to figure out the optimum time of day to write?

Focused free writing can be beneficial, because it offers a deeper look into current and future writing projects, or even into the actual writing journey. Sometimes just the act of writing out a problem can give a solution that has been illusive for days or weeks. Most often, it is during this act that allows a writer to stumble across solutions never considered before.

The Amazing Benefits of Free Writing

There are many tools in a writer’s toolbox, but none is as helpful as the simple practice of free writing. It’s something that I picked up in my writing journey, which I used––but never fully appreciated––until I learned how powerful it could really be. This happened after reading the book How to Be a Writer by Barbara Baig.

Nearly all her exercises, in the 265 page book, uses different variations of simple free write and focused freewriting. After doing several of the exercises, I found that all the free writing I’d done up to that point was really just a warm-up. I never took it to the next level, because I hadn’t realized I wasn’t doing free writing nearly enough (it should be done everyday), or even asking the right questions to do focused free writing.

Free writing is a remarkable tool that has, in a short period of time, led me to amazing discoveries about myself and my writing. The act of writing my thoughts directly onto the page, without any censorship, has given me the ability to articulate things that I wanted to say, but never knew how to say. It even unearthed things I never expected, and has led me down an entirely new path of writing, which I never would have seen without the process of free writing.

What is free writing and how does it work? It is actually a very simple process of writing either with pen and paper, or computer––whichever you feel more comfortable––for at least ten minutes without stopping (I use pen and paper because I find it’s easier to let go of the editor and just write). Turn that inner editor off! Don’t erase or correct mistakes! Keep writing no matter what! Set a timer, or an alarm if you want to keep the free writing limited in time (at the very least do ten minutes, if not more).

If you run out of ideas to write about, then just keep writing, “I don’t know what to write now,” until something pops up. Believe me, once you let the gate open, a flood of ideas will hit and you might even find it difficult to stop. I usually want to keep going, but have to move on to something else (but will come back later to explore more). Other times, I find that I’ve exhausted my ideas, and move then on to another subject to free write on, or another writing project all together.

The beauty of free writing is that you can free write on anything you chose. It can be a journal; a way to help get rid of the random thoughts, or the list of things you need to get done that day, or an argument you just had with the next door neighbor––or what I like to call “junk”––filling your head any given day. Once that junk has been expelled, other ideas are free to float to the surface.

The free writing can be on a specific subject or topic you want to write about. It can be on a new character that’s been haunting you. It can be, “I don’t want to do this” over and over. It doesn’t matter. Keep the pen moving! The point is to let yourself go and see where it takes you.

In doing this, you may wander into territory you don’t want to touch on, so change the direction. You may even find something new to explore that you never considered before. It’s up to you where you go and how long you want to go there. Just don’t have any expectations for your writing and allow yourself to enjoy the journey. You are in control!

The most important is to keep any free writing you do private. This gives you the freedom and you need to explore without judgment from others. The pressure is off and you no longer feel like you have someone looking over your shoulder. It is just you and your thoughts. Doing this will eventually boost your confidence as a writer, and will also let you just practice being a writer.

As important as it is for others not to judge your work in this practice stage, that goes double for yourself. If you find what you are writing “terrible” or “wonderful”, just ignore it, and move on. There will be plenty of time later to decide to polish up an idea, or just dump it all together. Right now, all that matters are the words being poured onto the page. Those elusive words and ideas are no longer hiding inside your crowded mind, but in solid form ready for you to use in any matter you chose. So keep that pen moving, and let the ideas flow!

Check out More on Focused Freewriting to know more about the free writing process.

The Benefit of Writing Prompts

Picture from www.slideshare.net

Have you ever sat down to write and just didn’t feel the creative juices flowing? Some days can be harder than others to get the muse to do its job. Sometimes it is helpful to have something to visualize and then write about it. This visualization can be take the form of a photograph. Find an image that inspires you to write and just write for 10 to 15 minutes on that photograph. Let your mind roam free as it comes up with a story explaining that picture and what is happening in it. It doesn’t have to be anything grand or elaborate. Just let your imagination run free. You might be surprised where your creativity might take you.

Another writing prompt you can try is by taking an ordinary object around the house like a blender, television, spoon, an apple, a lamp, ect. Then write from that objects point of view. What would a blender say if it could talk? You can also choose an animal: fish, squirrel, spider, ant, bear, ect. Write from that animals point of view. What would a squirrel say if he found a mouse in his nest?

Often when we look at something from another point of view or simply step out of our box of comfort, we can inspire ourselves to see things we never saw before. Using writing prompts not only helps get you into the writing mood, but it can help change your whole way of thinking.

Next time you sit down to write just remember that only a few minutes of free writing can open up the flood gates of creative genius, so that short story or novel you’ve been working on can be tackled with new vigor. In 10 minutes, what kind of story would you come up with to explain the picture above?