How do you keep that creative fire burning in the amphitheater we call our skull? When the spark is burning bright, it’s easy to build up whatever it is you’re writing, and do it well.
What do we do then, when creativity flees from the mind? That happens frequently in the realm of writing, and it can take some writers a while to ‘get it back’ as it were. But the truth is creativity never leaves you, it just gets tired. Like a muscle, you must pace its use, stretch it when it gets sore, and work to improve its longevity in the craft. Here are five tips to help anyone strengthen their creative muscles.
ONE: Read a lot.
Reading is one of the best means of bolstering your creativity, whether you are in a slump or feeling at your peak. I find fiction to be the most beneficial form of reading in this regard, but if you are more into the technical side, books about writing can also be immensely helpful. Stephen King’s On Writing is a fantastic place to start for you technical lovers. King’s philosophies held in that volume are great additions to any author’s repertoire, regardless of previous experience. Reading is like the protein shake in your mental work out; while it will help you bulk up on creativity, you should really couple it with the next steps to fully realize it’s potential.
TWO: Write a lot.
It may seem absurd to think that if you are having trouble being creative that you should simply increase your amount of creative activity; but would it feel absurd to think if you want to improve your lung capacity you should run or swim more? Hardly. The mind is not so different. When we were children, most of us, if not all, had great capacity for imagination and creativity. Why do we lose it as we age? Simple. We stop playing. We start thinking that since we’re adults we can’t do it anymore, for any number of fabricated reasons. The truth is you’re simply out of practice, and a good way to practice your creativity is to write a lot. It probably won’t be good at first. That’s fine. The more you do it, the better you will get at it.
THREE: Play a lot.
Not all creativity happens on the paper. In fact, most of it will happen in your surroundings as you do creative things. Playing doesn’t mean you have to go ask if Billy can come play on the see-saw with you before dinner. It simply means play. Play a game—on a computer or a board at the table. I happen to enjoy table top games like Dungeons and Dragons; that will really get your creative wheels turning. Playing games outside with others will help too. Go to a local improv comedy meeting. It may be hard at first to get back into playing. Again, that’s normal. You wouldn’t expect to run a mile with ease if the farthest trip you’ve taken is to the kitchen. Stretch those creative muscles and play.
FOUR: Share ideas.
Once you’ve started working that creativity, you should share you creative ideas with others. Whether that’s with a group of writers, a friend, spouse, or your kids, sharing your ideas will help you get them out of your head and in the real world. When you say your ideas out loud, it helps solidify them, and can also help you see holes in the plot, or ways to improve your idea. Sharing ideas will often get you talking about new ideas as well. Keep in mind sharing ideas is something you more than likely do in every conversation. Even if that idea is little more than “hey, have you ever wondered whether Disney’s Goofy is a dog?” it will get you talking. And often, those silly experiences you have with friends around a game of Parcheesi are the ones that will sound great in a story. Remember, not all creative elements rest in the action of the story you’re trying to tell; if you want it to feel real, make it real with actual experiences. Or at least experiences that feel real.
FIVE: Get out of your head.
This is a combination of tips three and four, but it still bears important mentioning. The biggest block to creativity is the fear that others will judge you, or dislike your ideas. So you don’t allow yourself to have any. Getting out of your head by playing games, having fun, and freely sharing your ideas will ensure that you have more ideas more frequently, and better ones too. Letting your mind stew on how you aren’t creative or how your creativity isn’t at its peak ‘right now’ isn’t going to help. That is the path to the dark side. Get into a mood where you feel comfortable doing anything (within reason of course). Go dancing. Start a real conversation with a stranger—not about the weather. And make conversations meaningful. Doing these things will really get those creative juices flowing. Make a goal to have someone new say to you that you’re quick witted. It isn’t as hard as it may seem, as long as you are flexing that brain, and getting a lot of creativity from what you do daily.
Go ahead, give it a try.
I dare you. All you’ve got to lose is your writer’s block — which in essence is the same thing as those extra pounds you gain over the holidays. Who wants to hang on to that? Get that brain flexing, and you’ll be on the path to a more toned imagination and a more refined sense of creativity.