And we’re not even touching on the divine here.
Neglecting the small miracle that creativity is to begin with, how do you feed this essential skill that allows you to do creative work? The typical sources – TV, movies, books – are like a steady drip of creative work from other people’s brains into yours. All good. But creativity is a muscle that must be worked, not just a blender that can be stuffed with all kinds of disparate ingredients and pureed into a smoothie of a story.
Stretching Your Creative Muscles
I’ve long found blog posts a great way to juice my creativity. Consistently creating new content, on a relentless schedule, is a demanding task. More recently I’ve found that marketing juices my creativity as well. Need a new idea for a book launch? A different snippet to tweet out about your book? A fun contest to run? Crank up the creativity engine. I stretched those muscles even further in creating Bonus Content for the upcoming launch of Closed Hearts. A fake twitter conversation? A bit of flash fiction? A Pinterest page? Forcing myself into different forms is like doing creative interval training.
Sometimes the best way to stoke creativity is to put it in a box, either by forcing yourself into one (the confines of story structure) or by figuring a way out of one (extricating your MC from the corner you’ve backed them into). While plotting out Mindjack#3, I found that the emotional pivot point of my story wasn’t lining up with the structural midpoint of the story. Now, there’s no Law of Writing that says these two story turning points must coincide. But I wanted it to – you know that niggling feeling that something’s not quite right? I’ve learned to listen hard to that voice. It’s telling me to keep trying. So I kept banging away at the plot until I found a way for those two points to line up – and when I did, the turning points worked so much better than before! I had the same feeling of satisfaction that hopefully the reader will experience when the story is actually written. In fact, that particular plot solution was so powerful that it invaded my subconscious, created a scene, and forced me to write a 1000 words in a story I haven’t started drafting yet.
That’s a creative engine on overdrive.
Creative Secret Weapons
Sometimes a change of tools or problem or scenery stokes my creativity, even if it’s not explicitly focused on writing: working with my kids to design activities for the summer that will keep them occupied; dreaming up ways to keep in touch with my relatives in California, that I’m particularly missing right now; crafting a plan to finally keep on top of the mutant laundry situation. All these things feed upon each other.
Another creativity super charger is being present in the moment. Instead of letting all the little snippets of life slip into my subconscious, I try to notice everything around me. I observe the body language of the African woman on the plane as she captures and kisses the tightly curled fist of her gorgeous 6 month old baby. I take in every detail of the guy with the black hat and trench coat, scouring for clues as to why he’s clutching that black canvas briefcase slung tight over his chest like it might contain nuclear launch codes. I watch the Swedish musician as he describes the antique guitars he found in Texas and the Blues Clubs he’s going to play in Chicago, and notice which words trip lightly from his lips and which ones have picked up a southern twang while stopping over in Dallas. I jot down the eyebrow rubs and the finger flexing and the neck scratching that comprise the secret body language we all instinctively know but never notice.
It’s amazing how creative a plane ride can be.
What do you do to feed your creativity?