Today we are talking about creativity and how to get some. Here’s a fun factoid: one of the most interesting things regarding the question of where creativity comes from is where it doesn’t come from. Research indicates that when people are allowed to improvise, the region of the brain associated with planning, inhibition, and self-censorship deactivates itself. That’s correct, writers! In order to do your job well, you must allow yourself to morph into a freewheeling freakshow with no filter. Embrace the drama and really dive in there! This is excellent advice. I mean, we all know nobody’s gonna read a book with no drama.
I write every day, dividing my time between my novel-in-progress, posts for The Debutante Ball, my travelogues, interviews, book reviews, opinion pieces for national websites, and a whole lotta social media nonsense. If I lose creativity, I’m dead in the water. So I’ve developed a roster of five foolproof things to do when my brain freezes up, which I am happy to share with you.
This is first for a reason. Nothing—and I mean nothing—inspires me like reading. I keep a lineup of my favorite books in my office, ones I’ve read a dozen times each, and I open them at random to soak in the prose of my favorite writers. They’re witty, they’re poignant, and most of all, NONE of them is boring. Now that I think about it, though, this sometimes causes me to wallow in non-productive comparisons between the celestial brilliance of their work and the putrid disaster of my work-in-progress. Okay, strike this one. Moving on.
By listen, I mean listen to music. There is no more effective manipulator of human emotion than a beautiful song, amirite? A good song can fire you up to the point where you’re ready to battle the entire offensive line of the Carolina Panthers even if you’re a middle school girl. A good song can also make you weep like a middle school girl, even if you’re on the offensive line of the Carolina Panthers. (I don’t mean to malign the emotional sensitivities of either the Panthers O-line or middle school girls here, because I know members of both groups and realize that both can be equally vicious when insulted. But you get my point.) Find a song with all the feels and blast it over and over again until you and everyone around you are simultaneously homicidal and weepy. You should be good to write now.
I have discovered that the biggest occupational hazard in writing is catastrophic soreness of the ass. There’s a lot of sitting involved. Get up and do something to make you sweat. (Also maybe get a butt massage and one of those bouncy chairs they make for little boys with ADHD.) Oftentimes, this will clear your mind and bring you clarity. Let’s imagine you’re stuck on the thorny issue of how your protagonist—say, a pro-life congressman from Pennsylvania**—will manage to salvage his marriage and his political career after his mistress publicly announces he was all in favor of abortion when she happened to turn up pregnant last week. (I just invented this topic completely at random, using my creativity, by the way.) This is a tough one but I guarantee you’ll think of something if you get up and run around for awhile.
Poll your people: your five year-old, for instance, will always have an idea. (Maybe don’t poll her about the congressman, though, unless you have a lot of time on your hands to answer questions.) Ask your writing group: they’ll be delighted to take their minds off their own devastating case of writer’s block in order to savagely critique yours. Check in with your dog. Yes, he’s nonverbal, but it’s been demonstrated that animals are keen evaluators of human vibes. If he yelps and bolts out out of the room while you are explaining your plot problem, this may be an indication it has too much negative energy.
This is a joke, obviously. You should never steal anyone else’s work just because you are stuck, unless it is very, very good and there’s no chance you’ll be caught. On a separate note, do you know how hard it is to spell plagiarize?
**The congressman could also be from South Pittsburg, Tennessee. Hypothetically speaking.
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