Creativity is not like a tap. Sadly, you can’t just turn it on when it’s needed and turn it off when your creative cup runneth over. As a writer, when you’re called upon to dredge original content out of the recesses of your mind over and over again, it can be akin to being in an unfamiliar room in a power-cut. You’re grappling around for the light-switch. It’s dark and a little bit scary.
So, how do you get over the hurdle and jump on the creative soul train? Just get writing.
Start with the basics and read the brief (if there is one) and begin by making notes. Get some words on the page and some thoughts on the paper (or screen). Writing begets writing and ideas beget ideas. A mantra to live by - there is no such thing as a dumb idea. I have put some doozies on the page that my clients (and I) might cringe at… but you never know what little 'thought-starter' that wacky idea might spark… e.g., newsletter headline for a dairy provider - 'You herd it here first'.
Read, widely and lots. Poetry is a love of mine, but I will and do read across most genres of fiction and non-fiction, with biographies a big favourite. Join a book club (one that is actually serious about books BUT also enjoys discussing plot-lines and characterisations over wine) to broaden your horizons.
Most importantly, join your local library and get their email updates of the latest titles to arrive. I have found some fabulous recommendations of what to read next, this way.
Listen to music while you put pen to paper. I find classical music helps drown out the ‘noise’ (metaphorical or real) and settles my mind so the ideas flow better. Maybe rock works for you.
Go to the art gallery. Because art, music and words go hand in glove.
Brainstorm! Ask a friend!
I used to work in a big, open-plan, creative and noisy office, where there was always a like-mind to bounce a script, line or idea off of. Now that I (mostly) work solo, it’s harder to get instant creative feedback - which is why it’s handy to have a pool of creative pals you can text, message or email - or if deadline allows, meet up with for coffee. Bouncing off someone else is often the incentive you need to look at an idea or inspiration in a whole new way. In fact, I tapped my creative posse for this very exercise...
What is your top tip to spark creativity? Here’s what they said:
1. I write notes of what I’m trying to get inspired to do… then leave it for a bit.
2. Have a shower. I always think up my best creative ideas there and since you can’t write them down straight away, it’s a good test of whether the idea is memorable/clever enough to stick.
3. Make a cuppa and sit outside to sip it slowly. You’ll come back to the task creatively fresh.
4. Take a walk. However, if you’re asking about nurturing creativity long-term, I like dancing, and being in nature. (I second this!) Also if I’m out somewhere and waiting, like in a café or a doctor’s surgery I resist the urge to pull out my phone. Instead, I look around at stuff. This is apparently much better for your brain and creativity.
5. Check out this book, ‘The Artist’s Way’ - written to help people with artistic creative recovery.
Great tips, thank you creative friends!!
As just mentioned - Take a break. Take a walk.
When I was making multiple TV trailers a week, I often had to walk away (grab a coffee), leave the project for a bit or get outside for sunshine, air and a change of scenery. As with my friends’ suggestions above, often a short break is enough of a reset so you can approach your project with a fresh mindset.
Set a timer and just write shit down. Anything. Start with a word or a phrase and just write ideas that come to mind around that. Remember, there’s no such thing as a dumb idea. You might be surprised what nugget of gold surfaces…. (or you might left be sifting sand…). Who knows what might emerge when you’re against the clock. Diamonds are only forged under pressure, or however the saying goes.
Keep an ideas notebook. I used to do this a lot when I was a TV trailer producer.
Some of my best ideas came to me in the night or upon waking. So, I would keep a notebook and pad handy at all times to jot stuff down. TV promos are often about the pithy one-liners, so the notebook was a handy reference - also used to write down other people’s good ideas/ promo lines, executions etc., anything inspirational.
You tell yourself 'you’ll remember that later' but if you write it down, it’s there forever.
Use Google for synonyms.
I do this a lot for copywriting, to try and avoid some of those repetitive cliches - I google the synonyms for some of the words in my copy and then see where that takes me. Repetitive, boring, dull, monotonous, tedious, tiresome and pedestrian copy is not what you want!
Take an online writing course.
Try the Snowflake Method. Yeah, I don’t know what that is either. I came across it as I was researching this article. Let me know how it goes!
Create a nice workspace conducive to creativity.
I like to write with a clean, clear workspace at a spacious desk with a potted plant, artwork and soothing candle scent... OK, I don’t actually have this.
WFH a lot of the time finds me wrestling for space at the kitchen table, while an old dog whines for food at my feet. All. Day. Long. Luckily, I did years of creative training in the noisiest, open-plan environment ever - media and TV. So, I have trained myself in the ability to drown out most distractions and cut the mind clutter.
If you can’t manage this, I suggest you take yourself off to the quietest room in the house (the bedroom?). Don’t have a desk or flat spot there to plant your laptop?
Set up the ironing board (the cheapest stand-up or sit-down desk!) and get cracking. Looping back to the start of this blog, just get writing. Put a word or two down on the screen. Build it into a sentence. Just begin… and let the magic happen.
This is by no means a definite list of how to spark creativity for writers but hopefully there are a few starters here. Just remember the golden rule. When it comes to writing, there is no such thing as a dumb idea.
What are your tips when it comes to finding that creative spark?