Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Different Way of Looking at Creativity

I've noticed that as the trend in publishing leans more and more towards speed, productivity, marketing, sales, bestseller lists, and social media followers, authors seem to be more anxious.

Less satisfied with their writing careers.

Constantly comparing themselves to others and finding a perceived failure.


Is there an alternative? Sure. Here's another way to approach writing, or really any creative project. A more mindful way that may offer less stress for those folks who are struggling with the publishing industry right now.

One of the benefits of this type of mindful approach is that it "fills the well" not only for mental well-being and happiness, but also the well of creative inspiration.

I've noticed the term "muse" is mocked these days.

I don't mock it.

I like it.

There is nothing wrong with looking for inspiration.

There is nothing wrong with finding the spark that ignites your creativity.

I hear this a lot..."How do you get your story ideas? I am running out of ideas."

I honestly have so many ideas that I couldn't possibly write all the books I want to in this lifetime.

How do I get so many ideas?

Fill the well.

What does this mean?

If you isolate yourself and focus only on word counts and publication dates, you are shutting yourself off to myriad experiences that shape who you are and the quality of your life.

The "richer" your experiences, the more you have to say, write about, create. This is true of all art: photography, painting, film, sculpture, novels, poetry, etc.

Let's break this down into four components...

1. Explore

2. Engage

3. Absorb

4. Create

#1 is EXPLORE. This can include "active" experiences like travel, taking classes, trying new sports and activities. You can do these things alone or with friends. 

Examples: Big trips like Iceland and Europe, small trips like Audubon parks or a local zoo. Classes could include a cooking class for Italian food, glass-blowing, or even a writing class for a new genre. How about trying karate or yoga? Maybe wine-tasting, wine-making, wines of the world. (You can't go wrong with wine!)

Exploring can also be "non-active" like reading/research/education. Go to the library, do research at a museum, teach yourself a new language or a bit of history. 

You never know what new experience will make your brain hum with story ideas.

#2 is ENGAGE. This is all about interacting with other people and your environment. Instead of isolating yourself, reach out. Join communities. Learn from others. Make friends with people outside your normal friend group.

Get uncomfortable. Yes, UNcomfortable. Why? Because hanging out with the same group of people is safe, but sometimes stifling. Push yourself to engage with new folks.

Engage with your environment, too. Touch, smell, taste, explore. Look at the world around you. Really look, investigate. All of these sights and sounds are stimulating. They will stimulate new ideas for your writing, your art, and most importantly, for your happiness.

#3 is ABSORB. What does this mean? Take the time to think about your new experiences, conversations with people, travel adventures. Keep a journal. What things did you like, what things did you dislike?

Spend time contemplating what is going on in the world around you. Take photos, jot down impressions.

Pretty soon dialogue will start popping into your head. Characters. Stories. 

Let your mind drift and absorb all the new things going on in your life. 

#4 is CREATE. After you explore, engage, and absorb, you are ready to create.



Knit. Garden. Make jewelry. Take photos. Paint. Write. Cook. 

Once you fill the well, your muse will kick in. You'll see things in a new way, maybe have that necessary break-through with your current work-in-progress. 

Maybe come up with a totally new idea that never occurred to you.

I know people who think "doing non-writing things" is wasting time. They are either "writing" or "wasting time."

How can you write effectively, to the very best of your ability, if you shut yourself off to life?

Your writing will shine when you take the time to live a little bit. Or a lot a bit.

Will you make a million dollars or be number one on a bestseller list?

I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not.

But I do know that your anxiety will decrease, your happiness will expand, and your writing will improve.

It's not a bad goal.

Signing off,