Want to curate creativity? Be curious, go running, don’t ditch the bad ideas.

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Sign of a creative brainstorm session — the chewed pencil. Also, proof you can buy anything online. (Image via www.coolthings.com)

I’ve had this blog post sitting on my desktop — unwritten aside from title — for two days now. The original title? CREATIVITY. Pretty creative, eh?

Because here’s the thing about creativity…at least MY creativity…it’s usually flowing strong but not always in the direction it needs to be going.

As I write this I have a magazine article, a magazine pitch, two book synopses, and revisions for book 2 sitting in my to-do folder … plus, there’s this children’s picture book idea that won’t leave me alone (I have no idea how to write a children’s book), and another two book ideas niggling at my mind.

Some of these things have short deadlines, others are more malleable – but my creativity and motivation unfortunately do not line up accordingly. The struggle is real, friends.

Managing the flow of creativity aside, the process of coming up with ideas is a little more tried and true. Here’s what I do to keep that creative muscle flexing and in shape, so I can call on it when needed:

  1. Read A LOT. I have always been a voracious reader. Whether it’s fiction, non-fic, magazine and newspaper pieces, my social media streams, or kids books at bedtime, I’m always reading something. It’s amazing how many ideas pop into my mind while reading – both ideas for current books I’m working on, like a setting or character or plot details, and brand new ideas for future stories.
  2. Ask questions, but remember to listen. As a journalist I have learned when to talk and when to listen, and that skill has proved valuable in developing my fiction. The idea for COME AWAY WITH ME came from a conversation I had with my cousin at my uncle’s funeral…and from that five-minute discussion I spun 90,000 words. So like Amy said, always be open to the ideas that come because you never know when they’ll strike.
  3. Go for a run, or do something that’s exactly the opposite of sitting and staring at your laptop screen. When I’m stuck and need to jumpstart my creativity, I go for a run (like Colleen, a shower works too but a run means I get to eat more chocolate later). Usually within 5 minutes the ideas are flowing, and then I run until I’ve sorted it all out – and because I don’t carry a notebook when I run, I repeat the idea in my mind over and over to get it to stick and write it down the moment I get home.
  4. Be curious. When Amy talked about the chicken truck on her drive I laughed. Because the moment she wrote, “chicken truck driver” I had already started creating my own character, and wondered how she might fit into a future book. I drive my husband crazy with this particular inclination – to turn a seemingly mundane detail or moment into a book idea – but it’s one of the most fun parts of writing for me. You never know what you’ll come up with. (Here’s an interesting read on the writer’s brain, and how it differs from a non-writer brain. Pretty awesome stuff.)
  5. No idea is a bad idea (until it’s proven to be). I have a folder on my laptop full of bad ideas. But they all started off as THE BEST IDEA EVER FOR A NEW BOOK, until I dug further and realized the story had no legs. However, I keep the bad ideas because even though they may not work for a book now, elements of those ideas may be useful in the future. I’ve actually pulled scenes and character details from my first two “practice” books, which makes me feel immensely better about their RIP status.

How do you stay creative? (And who else has started crafting the life of this chicken truck driver?)

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Karma Brown is the author of COME AWAY WITH ME (MIRA/Harlequin, September 2015), an emotional story of one woman’s discovery that life is still worth living, even if it’s not the life you planned. Karma is also a National Magazine award-winning journalist, and lives outside Toronto, Canada, with her family and their mischievous labradoodle puppy, Fred.