This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #012.
As writers, all of us know what creativity feels like. It’s that magical time where the sky is the limit. Anything is possible. That’s what caused most of us to become writers in the first place. The opportunity to create is just too enjoyable to pass up. Unfortunately, however, there are times where that creativity seems to dry up.
One problem that causes this tragic loss of creativity involves the day-to-day struggles of what we call life. Living is a complicated matter full of responsibilities that require both our time and energy. The older we get, the busier we are, and the less time we have for creativity.
Unfortunately, the loss of creativity can start at a very young age in an individual’s life. While growing up at home, and even in pre-school and on through grade-school, children are encouraged to, even rewarded for, being creative.
Then comes middle-school, and even worse, high-school. Rather than focusing on creativity, students begin to take essays, answer math problems, and work on multiple choice quizzes. By the time they reach adulthood, their days are filled with uninspired work at 9 to 5 jobs which leave absolutely no margin for creativity.
If you currently find yourself in this situation, then you know just how frustrating it is to be staring at the blank page, out of ideas, out of creativity, lacking that fundamental capacity to craft the sorts of epic adventures that your action figures would go on so many years ago.
The frustration of this situation is compounded for those who aspire to channel their creativity into the service of a full-time career. Imagine blocking out an afternoon to get a solid amount of writing done, only to find yourself staring at the keyboard, utterly out of ideas.
Is there anything that we as writers can do if we find that our creativity is waning? Can we revitalize our creativity, refresh our inner-selves, and return to the page fully capable of crafting our beloved tales once more?
Luckily, there are things that we can do to build ourselves back up to creating. So let’s take a look at four steps you can take to revitalize your creativity, so that when you need to step up to the plate, you’ll be ready and raring to go.
1—Input Rather Than Output
Imagine that you are about to go on a car trip across the country, all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Before you take off on a trip like that, you’d need to fill up your tank. You would go to the gas station and pump until it clicks off automatically.
The fuel, of course, propels your car forward further and further across the country. But eventually, your gas gauge is going to hit the big red E. At that point you’ll only be left with two options. You will either have to stop driving or refill the tank. You have to have fuel if you want to reach your destination.
Your writing career is a lot like a car on a cross-country journey. It’s your creativity that keeps you moving forward. Unfortunately, however, it is not an unlimited resource. So, to continue on your writing journey, it’s essential that you find ways to top off your creativity.
What is involved in this process? Is it as difficult as it sounds? The good news is that, more than likely, you already have everything that you need to take in sources of inspiration.
What I’m referring to is your entertainment. What is more inspiring to a story-teller looking to revitalize their career in the craft than to examine movies, television shows, books, and video games that they love? As you take in your favorites, you can’t help but be inspired. Your brain will use those different medium as dots, with your imagination connecting them in new and amazing ways.
The important thing to remember, though, is that it’s not enough to just mindlessly watch the same old television show that you’ve seen two-dozen times before. Rather, you need to input your entertainment with an eye for creativity.
Take these different mediums in with the intent of identifying exactly what you enjoy about them. Then, give yourself the opportunity to build off of those elements. Put yourself in the story and imagine what you would choose to do when faced with the situations that the characters themselves are confronting.
2—Get All Artsy-Fartsy
All the various forms of story-telling in the world aren’t the only things that you can input for the sake of your creativity. There are plenty of other sources of inspiration available to you.
You could listen to podcasts. Try finding a few on the topic of writing, such as Helping Writers Become Authors and The Creative Penn, and allow them to expand your horizons on what you consider to be possible in your creative career.
You could take a trip to a local art museum. Drawings, paintings, and sculptures are so far from story-telling as a source of self-expression, yet they are just as inspiring, if not more. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
You could listen to your favorite genre of music. Open up Pandora and set your station to play the songs you love. Personally, if you’re looking for inspiration, I’d suggest movie themes. These epic sprawling symphonies were designed to guide you through the narrative of an amazing story, and they can be just as good, if not more, in jumpstarting your creativity.
What’s the ideal source of non-storytelling input to refill your creativity? Well, that’s for you, and you alone, to identify. Experiment. Take your time. Try new and different things. Over time, you’ll figure out what revitalizes your creativity.
3—Journal Like A Madman
To a certain degree, I don’t believe that any of us necessarily “lose” our creativity. Rather, we just become too busy to notice its existence. It gets put on the back burner while we focus on more pressing problems.
So how do you get back into the rhythm of creativity? By catching your ideas like one might catch a butterfly with a net.
Why is this so important?
Well, you could have a million ideas cross your mind every day, but if you just watch them flutter away without taking the opportunity to capture them and meditate on them, then they’ll just become more and more forgotten butterflies, lost forever to the winds of your subconscious.
So what do we need to do to fix that?
It’s simple. Keep a notebook, or note-taking app, with you at all times. When even the slightest of ideas flutters past your conscious mind, write it down. It doesn’t matter if it’s just one sentence, an abstract thought, or something even less.
As you write these ideas down, you’ll find the process of note-taking itself will become easier and easier to you. Soon, you will train yourself to search out your creativity and force it to the front, rather than wait idly by on the sidelines for it to come to you.
4—Take A Time Out
More often than not, the greatest step we can take to revitalize our creativity is not an action, but a lack thereof.
We are, as we’re well aware, inundated 24/7 with sensory input. Our eyes scan the screens of TVs and cell phones and the pages of books and magazines. Our ears listen to the conversation of others, the music playing in the background, and the podcast we’ve been binging for the last two weeks.
Sometimes the best choice we can make is to just turn it all off and take some time to let our subconscious minds silently and peacefully organize themselves. Taking a moment to sit and smell the roses is a great opportunity for this.
However, you can often foster this creativity-friendly environment by finding something mindless and rote to do. Painting, sewing, crafting, mowing, lifting weights, running…the options are nearly limitless. As you participate in these activities, you’ll be allowing yourself the chance to daydream, and even be establishing chemical balances in your brain that are favorable to revitalizing your creativity.
One final note to add to this discussion is the possibility of underlying problems hampering your creativity. Statistics say that one in five Americans will deal with mental illness at some point in their lives. Anxiety, depression, attention-deficit, and other conditions may all have a negative effect on your goal of telling terrific stories.
If you feel hopeless, if you don’t see the point of continuing on your projects, or if you feel like what you’ve already written is worthless, don’t despair. You’re not alone.
Thankfully, things can get better. There are all sorts of treatments available to help you overcome whatever difficulties you may face, as well as counseling and therapy.
I can tell you from experience that you would not believe how far you could get in as little as a year with treatment. I never thought I could feel as good as I have these last couple years, and you can have that same experience yourself.
The Writer’s Everything
This article, as well as many others, have been featured in previous issues of my writing journal, The Writer’s Everything, in which I, along with occasional guest contributors, provide essays, guides, encouragement, motivation, writing prompts, character bio development kits, and anything else that can help you turn your dream of becoming a writer into a reality.
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