I taught creative writing for several years at a school of the arts and had such fun convincing my students that we’re all creative. That’s right. . .all of us. Even left- brained, technical folks. What sets some people apart from others?
Some tap into it. Others do not. Some are excited to try new things. Others? Not so much. Perhaps they are terrified at what they might discover.
So, how do we tap in? How do we get past the creative block?
Getting Creative About Being Creative
We have to learn to “think” creatively. We have to expect creative ideas to flow.
Imagine this: You have a computer in your home. It has a really large hard drive. Much of that hard drive space will never be touched. Think of the “untapped” creativity inside you the same as you would that “untouched” portion of your hard drive.
It’s time to use that untouched space. It’s time to think outside the box! It’s time to begin looking for the story inside the story. It’s time for new ways to flourish. It’s time for new experiences, divergent thinking, new skills, new perspectives. Let your mind wander, friend.
The Creativity Test
I once did an experiment with my students. I asked them to take their temperature every two hours over a twenty-four hour period. According to one theory, we are at our most creative when our body temperature is the highest. For me, that time is late afternoon/evening. I’m NOT a morning person. Perhaps you’re just the opposite. Maybe you’re the most refreshed/creative in the morning.
There’s another theory that we’re also more creative when we’re relaxed. Perhaps that’s why great ideas come to us while we’re in the shower. Some of us get our best ideas when we’re “nearly” asleep, or just waking up. That’s why it’s important to keep a pad and pen on your bedside table. Might sound crazy, but my laptop goes to bed with me every night. Well, not actually in bed. But it’s at my bedside all night long, just in case. Rumor has it that Mary Shelley conceived the idea for her novel Frankenstein during “twilight sleep.” You just never know when a great idea might hit.
When Are You Most Creative?
Creative people don’t just need to be aware of when they’re creative, they need to know where they’re creative, as well. Sitting in front of your computer is rarely the place for amazing bouts of creativity, (though it does occasionally happen).
In my case, the seashore prompts creativity. Something about the sound of the waves rippling across the sand just makes me want to write. I also do well in the mountains. Ironically, I also seem to “get creative” at Subway. The restaurant. I’m not sure why, but when I take my laptop into my local Subway, I can almost always count on writing a great scene in my WIP (work in progress). Others swear by their local coffee shop. Perhaps it’s the overpowering scent of coffee that stirs creativity. I’m not sure. But some of their best creative work takes place in their local Starbucks.
Creativity. . .Critical to Survival?
Why do we need to be more creative? If you’re interested in a career in writing, creativity is critical to survival. Anyone can come up with a mediocre story. Bookshelves are filled with them. You want something fresh, original. Something uniquely you!
The chances of selling your work are far greater if you come at it from a creative angle. We also need to be more creative people because it makes life more fun. This is especially true in the workplace environment, where days run together. We must learn to think outside of the box.
Movies and Literature
When you’re creative, you’ll have a blast at the movies. You’ll find stories inside of stories. You’ll look far deeper into the “meaning” than the average Joe and you’ll stretch your imagination in ways it’s never been stretched before. Think of a movie you’ve seen where you discovered a story inside the story—movies like Babe the Gallant Pig, (the story of an unprejudiced heart), for instance.
Fun, right? Of course, literature is filled with creative works with hidden storylines, as well. Take a moment to think of as many examples as you can. As you begin to stretch your imagination, you will grow as a writer.
The Five Part Process
According to one online site: creativity is a five-part process, which occurs in interconnected phases:
STIMULUS: Could be anything from a picture to a song to a person’s face. Could be a perceived need or a story. Anything can stimulate us and cause us to want to act/create. (There are stories all around us. It’s up to us to find them!)
EXPLORATION: Looking at the possibilities, the what if’s. Moving beyond the first ideas, considering the alternatives. (What do you think the author/screenplay writer was really trying to tell us?)
PLANNING: Gathering information/thinking about the task (in writing a story, this is usually the point where I begin to lay out chapters or work off of a plotter or outline). Some people use diagrams.
ACTIVITY: Let the party begin! Create, create, create. It’s one thing to talk about the story you’re going to write or the project you’re going to begin (think home improvement here), it’s another altogether to strategize, to fly into action. Some of us are all about the planning and don’t like to get into the actual work of it.
REVIEW: What have I accomplished? Was it successful? What could be improved next time?
Let’s get our creative juices spinning!
There’s nothing like a little aerobic exercise to get the blood flowing! This is one of the best ways to empty your mind of your worries and allow creativity to flow. Take a short walk. Do five minutes of aerobic activity. Stretch your creative muscles as you give your physical muscles a workout. Getting active will stir your creativity…no doubt about it!
#2: TIMED PICTURE TITLES
Locate a piece of art. Set a timer for two minutes and write down as many titles as you can think of. Allow new ideas to flow.
Once the timer goes off, look at your title choices. Choose the one that speaks to you. Take it a step further. Using the title ONLY (not necessarily the picture) create a plotline for a movie.
#3: FORTUNE COOKIE STORIES
Pop open a fortune cookie and read what’s inside. Talk about a great starting point for a new story! Come up with an idea based on the “saying” you’ve read. Enjoy your creative process. This is a simple activity, but so much fun, one that’s guaranteed to boost creativity.
#4: MUSICAL INSPIRATION
Turn on some classical music and reach for some crayons and a sketch pad. Throw off all inhibitions. Begin to color, stirred by the music. As you move outside your comfort zone, fresh ideas will flow. Creative thoughts will begin to tumble. Innovative ideas will spill forth. The simple process of coloring to music will boost your creativity. Do this on a regular basis and you’ll break through that writer’s block!
Wrapping Things Up
I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey into creativity. Who knows. . .you might have the Great American Novel hiding inside of that creative mind of yours! Perhaps, with some of these great tips it will rise to the surface.
Whatever you take from this lesson remember this one thing: Don’t be afraid to try new things. You can become a creative person, filled with original ideas. I promise. Your creative skills can blossom and grow.
I will leave you with the words of Mark Twain, who spoke words of wisdom when he said: You can’t depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.