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Posts tagged ‘creativity’

Generate new ideas by letting your mind wander

Everywhere you look, people are glued to their phones—in the elevator, in restaurants, and unfortunately while they’re driving down the road.

Phone preoccupation has a cost. For one thing, it limits time and the opportunity to mine your subconscious for ideas. If you’re looking for ways to supercharge your creativity, set your phone aside and let your mind wander. Comedy writer David Evans shared this tip on a weekly teleseminar hosted this month by Stephanie Chandler, CEO of the Nonfiction Authors Association.

If you want to generate more ideas, devote time to accessing your subconscious where much of the creative process is at work. You’ll think of ideas, plot twists, and answers to your writing dilemmas by letting your mind wander, says Evans. He calls it, “wandering time.”

Evans talked about what makes comedy—An element of surprise for one thing. But to get there, you need new ideas. Evans started out writing greeting cards. His first big job in comedy was writing for “The Monkees,” a 1960s television show, in which he won an Emmy Award for Best Comedy. He went on to write 19 “Love American Style” television scripts, as well as other shows.

Embrace your wandering mind
Once you divert your attention to your phone, email, texting, or social media, you’ve kicked yourself out of your “wandering mind.” Take advantage of opportunities to let your mind roam: on the bus, at the doctor’s office, or while waiting in lines.

Chandler, who writes about book marketing and publishing, has experienced the power of wandering time. She was struggling to come up with a title for one of her books. “It hit me when I was standing in line at Starbucks,” she said. “If I was on my smart phone, I wouldn’t have thought of it.”

Access magical thinking
The creative process is magical and mysterious. Does it ever seem as though sentences and ideas pop up out of nowhere? Your ideas will bubble to the surface. You just have to create a connection to your subconscious, Try these techniques: Read more

Spark your divine genius to create art

What if your creativity came from a place greater than you—a source of inspiration that never let you down?

Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that art was born out of a divine conduit—or genius. People weren’t geniuses but tapped a divine spirit to create their art.

In Plato’s time, the concept of creativity didn’t exist. Instead, Greeks saw art as a form of discovery through a muse that mediated inspiration from the Gods—a benevolent guiding spirit linked to the divine.

The idea of a muse may be why some artists think they can’t create until they’re inspired.

Don’t wait for your muse to appear. Call it out.

Something magical happens when we put an intention out into the world to create. Dorothea Brande knew this when she said, “Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid.” Read more

Showing vs. telling: Take down the wall between your character and your reader

I’ve heard the phrase “show don’t tell” at least a million times in my writing career. And, mostly, that’s good advice—though there are times when “telling” is more economical and gets the job done.

But in most scenes, and especially when I want to draw my reader into deep point of view, I try to show as much as possible. I draw on the senses instead of my character’s intellect.

In other words, I want my readers to experience the event with my character instead of my character filtering the experience for them.

Below are a few “before” and “after” sentences from my current manuscript: Read more

Nine ways to get out of your rut and create a blast of writing energy

Habits and routines are good. Ruts are not.

A routine is all about established habits. A rut is about feeling stuck or bored.

People can be creatures of habit. Routines are comforting and comfortable. I used to work with a designer who ate the same lunch every day for the 10 years I worked with him. A turkey and havarti sandwich and a container of yogurt. I know this because when I’d go visit him at his desk, I’d see that sandwich all wrapped up nice and snug in Saran wrap sitting there on the window sill. But I digress.

Routines are good when we find a habit that reinforces our writing practice. If you’ve established a writing routine, stick with it. If you examine the habits of famous and productive writers, you will find they have routines. They show up every day at a specific time to write.

In an interview in the Paris Review, author Haruki Murrakami said, “When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

Mesmerization is a good thing.

But, if you’re bored with life or feeling stuck, mixing things up might give you some new creative energy. As writers, we need all the creative energy we can get.

To think of things in a new way, try doing things in a different way. Cultivate a little disruption in your life.

Here are several ideas:

Change up your eating. If you eat Cheerios for breakfast every day, have pumpkin pie once in awhile. Change where you eat. Sit outside on your porch and observe the outdoors.

Write something in a genre you’ve never written in. If you’re a novelist, write a poem. The structure of a poem might throw your mind in a whole new direction. Who knows, you may even find a poem finds its way into your novel.

Read a magazine you’ve never read before. Do you normally read writing magazines? Try reading Scientific American or Architectural Digest or a yoga magazine. Even better, get a couple supermarket tabloids. Scan the ones that feature stories about alien kidnappings and have headlines like: EARTH HUMAN’S SECRET LOVE AFFAIR EXPOSED and TOP CELEBRITIES AND THEIR TOP SECRET CELLULITE TREATMENTS. While you’re at it, give your brain a jolt by writing some practice tabloid headlines of your own.

Wear something different. I used to work with a guy who wore the same outfit every day. I’m assuming it wasn’t the exact same clothes but basically a uniform he’d created for himself: khaki pants, button down shirt in a small plaid pattern, and navy blue blazer. Every day. I loved it. I wanted to create my own uniform. If you’ve found yourself wearing jeans and a t-shirt every day, go for a week like my friend Jimmy. With him, you never know what he’ll wear on any given day. One day he could be wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and another day he could be decked out in a black suit, black tie and white shirt looking like a Secret Service agent. And then there’s his hair. You never know what color it’s going to be.

Travel the world or even just to another nearby town. This is one of my favorite ways to rev up my idea machine. Different weather, different culture, different energy, different scenery, different language equals sensory inspiration. Once I went from working and living in a small town to a big city. Weirdly, my favorite color before I moved was pink. After moving it became red.

Do something you’ve never done. Go visit  your town’s tourist attractions. How many times do people live in a place and never get around to visiting the museum or the zoo or sculpture gardens?

Take a bath instead of a shower. Throw in bubbles. Authors Ben Franklin, mystery writer Agatha Christie, Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov, and French playwright Edmond Rostand reportedly wrote while soaking in their bathtubs. Take a shower outside. I stayed at a hotel once where when you stepped into the shower, you were outside in a cedar enclosure with open sky above.

Order something different at your favorite restaurant. How many people go to their favorite restaurant and order pretty much the same dish each time? I don’t know if there is a piece of research out there about this, let me know. But just anecdotally speaking, I do it and I know others who do it too. If you do this, next time you eat out, order something new.

Watch the Spanish TV or French or whatever language you don’t speak. See how many words you understand. Watch a foreign language film with subtitles.

The point is to do something that makes you feel different inside. Something that creates an emotional reaction. Shake things up to sharpen your creative edge.

Go out and disrupt yourself, and if you feel like it, report back what you did in the comments below.

For more ideas about how to shake up your creative spirit, read Carol’s post, Four ways to stimulate creativity and cure the writing blahs.

How to break out of the writing doldrums

In Carly’s post, “Four tips to defeat your writing funk,” she shares some tips for what to do when you get stuck in your writing project. Her ideas prompted me to share a few of my own. Goodness knows we all get into the writing doldrums from time to time, but there’s no need to panic!

  1. Give your brain a break. The other day I was stuck on a scene but I was tired and my brain just wasn’t working. So I lay down on the couch and dreamed myself into my story. I didn’t force it but just kind of gently played around with some ideas in my mind. Sometimes, I might fall asleep doing this but that day, an idea floated to the surface that fit, so I got up and continued writing. Score one for my muse!
  2. Write somewhere different. I was working on a piece at my desk the other night and just couldn’t get into it. I felt uncomfortable for some reason. So, I made a cup of tea and curled up in my big white chair in the same room. Before I knew it, I was back in the flow of writing and having fun. Routines are great until your brain gets to complacent. That’s when you have to trick it with a new routine. Read more

Create a playground for your imagination with these four attributes

“The impulse to create is like the impulse to breathe,” says author Rikki Ducornet, a contributor to the imaginative, playful book, Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fictionby Jeff VanderMeer.

Writing, she says, is a place to reclaim the initial impulses we are born with—to play and create and love—impulses that society tries to hammer out of us as we grow up. Our parents, and sometimes teachers, tell us to “be quiet and quit asking questions.” But as writers, we’re encouraged to ask questions and be curious. In fact, to be successful in our art we HAVE TO ask questions.  Read more

Doodle to tap creativity and focus

As mentioned in my post “Happiness Projects for Your Writing Life,” I was introduced to doodling by my massage therapist who decided to doodle every day for a month as part of his Happiness Project.

More recently, I learned that practicing doodling while learning new information can increase our retention and understanding of that information by up to 40%. I’ve never really been a doodler, but I wanted to test this idea at a recent two-day seminar to see if it really worked.

It took me awhile to get the hang of doodling while taking lecture notes. I’m not a “natural” drawer so I had to consciously thing of things to doodle at first (I started with a lot of hearts). It felt good and I was having fun. I also did seem to be more aware of what the speakers were saying. Read more