Jennifer Dinsmore Editorial
Free Your Words
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Simple Ways to Feed Your Creativity

The urge to write overtakes you and you excitedly grab your notebook, sit down at the computer. But then, your mind blanks. The images and ideas, so fresh just moments ago, slip into the ether and you feel as empty as the page before you.

What the heck happened?!

It is unrealistic to expect the muses to be constantly active. All writers have days (or weeks) where they must work through dry periods, hoping the creative juices will be flowing smoothly again soon. But what about that strange state where you feel the urge to write, can see where you next want to take your story, but the inspiration dissipates just as suddenly as it had come? The blank page infuriates, the blinking cursor taunts.

I find nothing more frustrating than this, but what is one to do? I’ve got five suggestions right here.

DO SOME CREATIVE LOLLYGAGGING

I came across the idea of creative lollygagging in Crafting Novels and Short Stories by the editors of Writer’s Digest and immediately fell in love. This is something I do all the time, most times without even realizing! So, the next time your muse suddenly decides they’re not hanging around . . . talk a walk instead.

Bring a notebook and make that count as your writing for the day. Take the little roads you pass by and glance down, yet never follow. Hop in the car and drive to the nearest waterfront. Observe closely the houses and mundane sights you pass each day. What jumps out? What haven’t you noticed before?

Much of my inspiration stems from what I can sense, so being outdoors is ideal. I never know what will re-spark my creativity. It could be the very particular way in which the sun breaks through the cloud and hits the river, it could be the sound of a screen door closing, or it could be the smell of the earth as it wakens from its long winter’s sleep.

These tiny, little-observed details stimulate my imagination and a sequence of events unfold in my mind. Sometimes I manage a few pages, revealing the bones of a story. Sometimes I write only a paragraph or two, simply describing the image but still flexing my creative muscles. Keep it anyways and file it away for later. It may surprise you when the image pops up again and becomes central to another idea.

FREEWRITE

Maybe the weather sucks or you don’t have the time for a leisurely outing; creative lollygagging can also take the form of freewriting. Open to a fresh document or page and select a random prompt. Find one through a quick Google search, scroll through Pinterest boards. (Sarah Selecky has some really unique ones.) Even though it may take some time to find a prompt that feels right (in which case try a mix of images and text), freewriting rarely fails to lead me to new and surprising ideas.

Freewriting may also be used in daily practice, as a warmup before getting back to your WIP. Make a list of the objects in the room, or pick a short prompt and set a timer for five to ten to fifteen minutes. This helps to get the muse stirring, and can be a great way of getting you inspired enough to work past troublesome spots, or the energy to complete the first draft—or whatever else you may be working toward.

OUTLINE

It may sound counter-intuitive, but taking time to plot and plan can actually help fuel creativity. (If it helps, try thinking of this step as Visualization.) This is when I break out the sticky notes and sharpies, open a new file. Each writer has their own approach to outlining, and the depth in which they go varies greatly.

If writing it out isn’t your thing, try and get into character—literally. Close your eyes and visualize yourself as your character. Place them in a scene you already know will occur and try to anticipate their next actions. Maybe you’ll even pace about the room or find yourself talking out loud, narrating actions and playacting dialogue.

(RE)SET GOALS

The other week I talked about the importance of setting goals. One thing I mentioned was to create various deadlines, figuring out what you need to get done and when. Try this here as well, but adjust the goals you’ve already set. If feeling stuck, maybe one of the goals is a little close. Life happens, after all, so try moving it out even just a week further. Putting undue pressure on yourself will kill creativity faster than anything else.

STEP AWAY

If all else fails, simply step away. Think about it like restarting a computer. Sometimes you need to completely shut down before being ready to get back up and running at your best. Burnout isn’t worth it.

Move on to an unrelated task: clean the house, take the dog out, play with the kids, try a new restaurant, or read a book. (Especially read a book!) Allow your brain to reset. Oftentimes, when I go to write again I am pleasantly surprised by what I was subconsciously working on as I did all that other stuff.

And I’m willing to bet that inspiration will strike over dinner, or from the way the person next to you in the grocery aisle scrutinizes the spices. Because you never know when the muse will strike...

Do you have any tips for feeding creativity when things run dry? Share in the comments below!

Until next time, Friends!

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