The Indiana Writers Consortium recently posted a question on Facebook: What are the top five important pieces of advice to give someone to boost their creativity in their writing?
I offered my five:
1. Read as many different genres as you can: If you primarily write fiction, reading a memoir or poem might spark a story idea. Maybe a sonnet erupts from reading a science fiction-zombie-romance.
2. Listen to as many different music genres as you can: I can’t tell you how many times a song has ended one of my creative dry spells. Sometimes the music and/or the lyrics provide inspiration.
3. Travel more than 50 miles from your home: This speaks to the visual aspect of writing. Different images, cultures and walks of life can invoke a creative streak.
4. Attend critique groups of varying genres: Not only does this speak to #1, but you can gain inspiration from learning what fellow writers do to get more creative in their writing.
5. Write from your heart (echoed from another member’s five): While you may be in the midst of writing the next great romance novel, you might want to try penning that poem you’ve been hearing in your head for years.
But I didn’t add an important one because the post only asked for five, and because when I tell others that not writing boosts my creativity, they tend to look at me, mouth agape, and exclaim, “Why on earth would you do that?!”
Why? Well, because it works…at least for me. I’ve just spent the last forty days dying for a pencil, a keyboard, a drop of blood from my fingertip in order to write. No blogging, no editing, no character sketches, no plotting. This is the second year I’ve refrained from writing during Lent. And despite the obvious theological reasons why I chose Lent for my writing fast, the separation from writing truly does help my creativity. I don’t have to battle self-doubt about becoming a success. I don’t have to beat myself up for staring at a blank screen for an hour because nothing– I mean nothing— came to me. I don’t have to worry if whether this dream I’ve chosen to pursue is actually just a wisp of smoke from my mind.
I spent the last forty days just being…me.
Instead of writing, I spent those days reading genres outside of my usual enjoyment zone. I’ve continued to participate in my critique groups. I spent those forty days privately conversing with characters populating my work-in-progress. And because I wasn’t actively writing, the voices in my head (writers know what I’m talking about) go quiet unless I summon them. There isn’t this cacophony of thoughts buzzing in my mind about the direction a short story I’m trying to map out should go, or why I can’t get this next scene in my work-in-progress right, or why my characters are refusing to do what I tell them to do on the page (writers understand this, too).
I can just be still.
So now the writing fast is over and I can start wading through words I’d left behind on the page. I can see them now, with fresh eyes, with brand new directions I’d never thought about following. I can welcome the constant noise my characters are about to make for next 345 days. And there is something–always something–that comes out of that much needed surrender to NOT writing.
Above picture, Surrender by Sharon Hinchliffe