Access Your Creativity

“Life isn’t about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.” — George Bernard Shaw

Whenever I teach freshman composition courses, I like to start the class with a quote on the board. Sometimes we talk about it, sometimes we write about it, and sometimes it’s just there. I think it’s a good way to get fledgling writers thinking because before you can write anything, you have to engage your brain. We think first, then we write.

writingAs a writer, I always struggle with the thinking more than the writing. Some writers come to the page full of ideas and struggle to figure out how to write them. I come to the page ready to write, but often wonder who and what to write about next. I think it’s because I’ve already developed a lot of stories. I’m at the point in my career where I need to continually recharge my creativity.

If you’re new to writing, you’ll be surprised how soon this happens! You think you’ve got enough story ideas for a lifetime, but each book requires so many characters, so much conflict and so many layers of backstory. You tap a ton of creative resources each time you put you pen to paper. It’s important to recharge your ideas early and often before you turn to the blank screen and realize—“ack! I’ve got nothing!”

flowerNot that this has ever happened to me. Cough, cough. But I was fortunate enough to attend a fabulous workshop on maintaining creativity early in my writing journey and I’ve revisited the tips from my old mentor Dewanna Pace many times over the years. She advised a lot of practical things, really breaking down how to experience the world around you in a new way. There are the more obvious things like checking out the newspaper, or different news/magazines than you normally would and visiting new places. But she also helped me to see how to experience the world around me in a different way.

Rowan AtkinsonFor example, turn off the television and watch the actors. Learn about their moods and feelings through their gestures. Or explore the world through the five senses, really focusing on sounds or smells. Describe them. Write about them. Think about how your character would experience those same things. What smells have strong memory associations for them and why? What sounds would scare them and why?

eavesdropWriters learn early on in their journeys that as chroniclers of human drama, we must be keen observers. That means staring conversations with strangers. Eavesdropping whenever possible. Searching for subtext within the smallest of gestures. Make it a game and you’ll feel more creative. Try the exercises when you’re not on deadline and you can really have fun with them. – Joanne

wishme***What do you do to kick start creativity? I have a copy of Karen’s debut adult romance novel, WISH ME TOMORROW for one random commenter! If you haven’t read the reviews of her fantastic book for Harlequin’s Heartwarming series, please take a moment to visit her at today!


27 thoughts on “Access Your Creativity

    • My kids’ favorite friends are the talkers!! My sons don’t share much of their day-to-day with me so it’s always fun to have their more chatty friends around! Happy Labor Day Weekend, Kelly!

  1. Great post, Joanne! And of course I love your giveaway 🙂 Thanks! Your advice is terrific. I’ve never thought about turning off the volume and watching the actors to focus on their mannerism and such. I’m definitely trying that! Leonardo DiCaprio is easy on the eyes, but he’d be a great one to watch since he can be such a chameleon in each role…

    • This is also a great trick when you’re too far away to eavesdrop on real life conversations . It’s fun to guess what people are discussing or to try and relate their gestures to moods. Especially people who are most subtle, composed souls. They’re “tells” are more challenging to find but really informative for writing.

  2. Great tips! I am a very nosy person so I am always trying to figure out things about the people around me. And I’ll talk to almost anyone, lol. But yes–it is still hard to find the sweet spot–the story that you want to tell. I think what works best for me is patience–always observe, think, jot down random ideas, then usually when you are most relaxed an idea bubbles up. That’s what happened to me this summer when I was on vacation!

    • I love that, Lisa. The sweet spot is when the right blend of ideas converge! Congrats on the creatively productive vacation this summer… it’s like having a new toy you’re not ready to share when the story idea first arrives. You can’t wait to play with it and see what it can do!!! We’ll be anxious to read the results :-).

  3. I people watch….and listen…. When I worked in a small store in the mall, I would spend non busy time listening to and watching the people that walked by or sat and chatted… We had one lady who would sit on the bench outside my store, and just talk to her invisible friend… She was a sweet sweet soul…. And I really enjoyed eavesdropping on her conversation.

    • Hi Vickie! I’ve heard there is an app for coffee shop talk that writers can listen to as background noise while the work. I guess there’s a proven comfort to the sound of normal daily life going on around us :-).

  4. I love to watch people and see what the do, I help out on a food truck sometimes and its so neat to see their reactions on some of the food we offer, we switch things and love to mingle and get their feedback and all!

    • Hi Carole! I used to work with my dad at a farmer’s market every weekend in the summer and I loved it. We brought fresh produce from upstate NY into Manhattan and people went crazy for it…. you could tell everything was fresh picked. I always had fun chatting with the customers (when i was all of ten-thirteen years old) and learned so much about people who had very different lives from me.

    • It’s always a thrill when you attend a writer workshop that teaches you new things. I always kept my notes from that class because i remember the day as a huge *lightbulb* moment for me!

    • I accidentally set up my English-only speaking girlfriend with an Italian-only speaking gentleman friend (okay, I should have checked him out more carefully ). But I have such a fun memory of the two of them making it work despite the language barrier with gestures and little shared snippets that we could interpret back and forth for them (it was a double date- I was there to witness!). By the end of the evening, we heard them laughing on their own, no interpreter necessary. Truly, sometimes no words are needed!

    • I ask my kids to interpret for me when I hear things I don’t understand. They especially love it when I ask them for the connotations of the words. But seriously, as a writer, a one word definition doesn’t cut it. I need to know the mood of the word/the color/the best time to use it!

  5. this may have nothing to do with the topic but here goes, we have a chinese place we love to eat at and sometime’s two or even three of the girls will be talking thier language and laugh, I often wonder if they are laughing at us? Who know’s what they say? Maybe they are laughing at the way we eat or how it’s been cooked? Maybe we don’t wanna know!

    • Hi Pam!! I think it is human nature to think this when we don’t understand the language, but I’m guessing 99.9% of the time, the joke is about something else completely!! I think it’s the knee-jerk reaction of our emotions when we feel excluded and wish we could understand. Plus… we always want to be *in* on the joke! Thank you so much for stopping by the blog!!

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