No Wrong Way to Tap Into Creativity

You’ve finally set aside a chunk of time for your project. Your writing area is set up and all distractions eliminated. Now you’re ready to make progress on your work-in-progress. Yet the words have fled and the blinking cursor mocks your writing goal.

What happened? you wonder. All the usual elements are in place. You’ve followed all the advice from the pros you’ve read or heard. Why isn’t it working?

Don’t allow frustration in. Trying to force creativity isn’t the answer. Even if it worked for another writer. Even if it usually works for you. Sometimes you need to approach it from a different angle.

This is one of the toughest things I had to learn about writing full time. There is no wrong way to tap into creativity. If you want to make regular progress, you need to have several methods in place to ease yourself into a productive writing session. Try the suggestions you’ve discovered in reading blogs or books, listening to podcasts, or attending conferences. Learn what works for you and adapt whenever necessary.

For example, I like to begin my writing day with my journal. As I jot down thoughts, it helps “clear” my head so I can focus on the day’s writing. When this doesn’t work, I get moving (physically) until scenes play like a movie in my mind. Going for a walk usually works but so does doing housework.

But, sometimes neither of these work. Sometimes it seems to take hours to “settle” into what works on a given day. I’ve learned not to beat myself up when this happens and to instead be grateful when the words begin to flow. I try to keep these “off” days in mind and try whatever worked then whenever I face another “restless writing day.”

Remember, we all have off days. Think back to your routines at work. There were plenty of days when no items got crossed off the To-Do list. But creative endeavors are different. When we prepare and align all the elements and still don’t reach a short-term goal, it’s a real let down.

Some might consider this writer’s block—the well of words has dried up. Often writing anything—even your name, or typing out the issue of not being able to tap into your idea—will free up your mind and eventually lead to writing a sentence, a paragraph, and the next scene.

The result will help you create your personal writing (or creativity) process. Remember when I talk in class about the stages in the writing process? I also emphasize that they are recursive. There is no single step-by-step path. There is no “right” or “wrong” way. There is only what works in the moment. (And this will vary by project as well as by writing session.)

So, don’t despair; simply try something else. In time you’ll know how to tap in on demand and, except for occasional “restless writing days,” you’ll find making progress on a regular schedule is possible.

Equalizing Attitude

Today’s the fall equinox and it’s as good a time as any to re-dedicate my goals and projects. It’s been a chaotic and stressful year so far and to help maintain my sanity I’ve pushed myself to focus on the things that keep my life balanced. When family issues–or life in general–get in the way, it’s far too easy to allow creative endeavors to slide. “I’ll write tomorrow.” “Tomorrow I’ll have more creative energy.” “Tomorrow I’ll make time.”

I’ve pushed myself to do creative projects such as painting, sewing, and even cooking and baking (during which I always “edit” recipes) to keep in tune with my creative self. I’ve also  made short-term goals for little side projects; for example,  a poem decorated with colored-pencil art, or a seasonal craft to cheer up a blah work space. Throughout the summer I’ve celebrated these little artistic victories and tried very hard not to get discouraged when yet another day passed without the opportunity to even write in my journal.

This morning I felt that all that plodding along was worth it. I’m sure it has something to do with the autumnal equinox since I woke feeling more at peace and calm than I have in a long time. It was a true day off and I started it with coffee on the lanai. The air was damp and still. Not a ripple marred the surface of the lake and for once no golfers were out in the early morning. It soon began to sprinkle, and then rain steadily. It was beautiful! The rain seemed to have cleansed away the noise and chaos of typical Saturday mornings around here.

Peace! I poured my thoughts into a very long journal entry and then sipped coffee and watched the rain drops plop into the lake. And soon, I was transported to the world of one of my works-in-progress. Two hours later I took a break, ate breakfast, and then . . .

. .  . joy! I had thoughts for scenes to a different project! This was such a luxury in a challenging year. But I know that the turmoil will pass. I made a few new goals to help me get from today to the end of this year. I feel relaxed and stronger now. I’m confident I can maintain balance. And, I’m looking forward to the adventures — and creative journeys autumn has in store.

Happy Autumn and happy writing!