Tuesday 12 January 2016

Nurturing Creativity - How to Keep the Muses Talking

I’ve written before about 'gathering inspiration' but there’s so much more to creativity than the ideas we have.

Your creativity is your desire to create. It’s your drive, your motivation. It’s the unique combination of influences that you bring to your work. And when it’s flowing, you feel unstoppable. But when it isn’t… that’s when the self-doubt and the uncertainty set in. So how can we keep the creativity flowing? Gathering inspiration is important, but as the wonderful Douglas Adams said:
“An idea is only an idea. An actual script, on the other hand, is hundreds of ideas bashed around, screwed up, thrown into the trash can, fished out of the trash can an hour later and folded up into thick wads and put under the leg of a table to stop it from wobbling. And then the same again for the next line, and the next and so on, until you have a whole page or the table finally keels over.”
If you don’t have the creativity and motivation to persevere with your ideas, even when they’re being difficult and you don’t want to,  you aren’t going to get very far as a writer.

So, how can we nurture our creativity? How can we develop the drive to turn our ideas into finished stories and poems?
I’m afraid I don’t have any concrete answers. As with so much in writing, creativity is different for each of us. My muses may never utter a word to you, and yours are probably strangers to me. But there are likely to be some similarities in what fuels our creativity, so here are a few suggestions for stoking the fire.

Take Up a New Hobby

As writers, we spend a lot of our free time sitting at our writing desks, staying in bed with our laptops or curling up on the sofa with a good book. And there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these pursuits, but they can’t be all we do. We need other influences if our writing is to thrive. It doesn’t matter what your hobbies are, but have some. Find something, anything, that challenges different parts of your brain. Whether it’s bowling or baking, sometimes just doing something different for a while can shake your ideas up.

Read Actively

Active Reading expands your knowledge of writing techniques. It helps you to understand what works for you and what doesn’t. Having this understanding allows you to frame and manipulate your ideas in new ways.

I should warn you: this ability is both a curse and a blessing. When you start to read actively, you lose the naivety of the reader. You start looking at stories from the point of view of the writer. You examine the decisions the author made and the language they used and you think about how you can apply their techniques to your own writing. Reading actively can enrich your reading experience and develop your appreciation of the work that goes into creating the stories you love. But, once you have it, this ability can be hard to switch off.

Go Outside

Explore somewhere new or walk a familiar route. It can be in the heart of the city or the deep in the country side. Anywhere, really. But while you’re out there, notice everything. Take a camera if you can - looking out for things to photograph is a good way to stop your mind from wondering. The same goes for paying close attention to sounds, textures or smells. Observation is an essential skill for a writer to cultivate. Take note of anything and everything that appeals to you and, more importantly, anything that actively doesn’t. If it’s gross and creepy and makes you a little uncomfortable, it’s excellent fuel for your creativity.

Go Inside (Your Mind)

Introspection is important. We don’t want to become overly self-involved, but understanding ourselves is very helpful in nurturing creativity. Think about your influences and how they’ve affected you. Which books from your childhood stuck in your mind? Why is your favourite song your favourite song? What was it about these things caught your attention? Examine your own creativity and try to find what it is that drives you. Look at the choices you make, both in relation to writing and in the rest of your life. What do those choices say about you? What do you want to say with your writing?

For some writers, this self-examination will do nothing. It might make you feel silly, self-indulgent or pretentious. Just the thought of it might have you wrinkling your nose in disgust. And that’s fine. We’re all different. But for some writers, understanding yourself and your creativity can be a huge step in developing your writing.

Keep Your Muses Talking‘Creativity’ means something different to each of us but, whatever it is, we need it. It keeps us writing and helps us turn simple ideas into table-toppling scripts. Gathering inspiration is one thing, but we need more than the big ideas. We need the little ones and the medium ones and the ones that are so small we don’t even think of them as ideas. We need to observe the world and the people around us. We need to cultivate our unique compilations of influences and interests.

We need nurture that spark that inspired us to write in the first place.

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