Creativity is a force within us that is susceptible to external energies. The benefit to this relationship is that we can shape and develop our creativity based on our actions, behavior, and mindset. The drawback to this relationship is that we can shape and develop our creativity based on our actions, behavior, and mindset.
Ha. Got that? It’s a double-edged sword.
But here’s the trick: as long as you treat your creativity as a force that responds to you, then you actually have total control. If you treat it with positivity and passion, it will develop accordingly. If you ignore it, get frustrated by it, then you will effectively stunt its growth.
The choice is yours.
Around the time of my creative comeback, I relied on several practices and exercises to inspire and motivate me into my stories every single day. In the beginning, this was a tough sell. I was struggling in a number of areas in my life and I wasn’t all that confident that I was on the right path. Writing had to be fun and pressure-free if I was going to believe in it again.
I found some exercises that actually worked–that made writing fun again! If you’re struggling with writing, maybe these ideas will help you.
My Top Three Creativity Enforcers
1 . CHARADES ON A SCREEN
- Put on a movie or a television episode you’ve never watched before.
- Turn the volume to mute.
- Watch a scene (scenes with people speaking or doing something are preferable to scenes that are passive, or following a character in reflection or thinking mode).
- Stop/Pause the scene.
- Write in your journal what you think happened in that scene. Try to include as much information as you possibly can, including dialogue and emotions. What details stood out to you? Think about what the characters were wearing, scenery, props, weather. Were you able to distinguish time period or time of day? How would you describe the relationship between the characters? What do you think they were saying based on body language, facial expressions, and setting?
Hey, this is IMPORTANT—you are not testing yourself on your memory (even though this can be a great way to see what kinds of things you can remember!). You are learning how to pay attention to what makes a scene. You’re learning what details stand out or feel important in a scene, how you interpret body language and facial expressions, how you might write dialogue based on visual cues. All of these observations are skill-based and will help you write believable characters.
- Play back the scene, this time with the volume on. What are your findings? Anything surprise you? What did you learn? Journal through this experience—it can be very enlightening!
TIP: If you aren’t fond of watching film/television, you can practice this same technique at your local coffee shop or public venue. Just sit quietly in the background and observe, taking notes on anything you find interesting.
2. STORY BOARDS
Suggested supplies (mix/match as needed): foam board, scissors, tape, glue, markers, colored pencils, crayons, glitter, construction paper, a full-size notebook, journal, drawing pad.
One of my favorite retreats is the public library. Not only do I love browsing books just for the hell of it, but I enjoy taking advantage of all their free services.
My library offers magazine swaps (a cart filled with magazines that you can take for yourself; you’re encouraged to leave magazines behind so someone else may enjoy them). This is an incredible opportunity that boosts and nurtures and enforces creativity!
This one takes a bit of prep work because you need to bring supplies with you if you plan to do this at the library. However, it’s just as easy to do this at home so it’s up to you and how you think you’d enjoy it most.
- Select a wide variety of magazines—home & garden, sports, health/nutrition, nature/wildlife, beauty, etc.
- Find a nice, quiet table by a window and spread out your supplies and magazines. (I love working with foam board but I don’t usually drag that to the library – rather I’ll bring a drawing pad and save the foam board for time at home.)
- Decide on a theme (or more if you want), like Betrayal, Love, Friendship, War, Outer Space, Self-Care, Adventure, etc.
- Clip photos and words and headlines that reflect the theme(s).
- Arrange your clipped photos and words and headlines on a piece of drawing paper, notebook paper, construction paper, foam board—whatever surface you choose.
- Decorate with colors and doodles or quotes/words of your own.
TIP: Usually, a story idea or a snapshot of a scene will strike you in the middle of this. Stop what you’re doing, and jot down notes and details of whatever came to mind. Don’t ignore the Muse when she comes knocking!
TWIST: Don’t select a theme first. Instead, randomly pick images and words or quotes or headlines that interest you at first glance. This is a fun experiment to see what kinds of themes or topics or characters emerge from your collection of randomness and spontaneity.
3. THE MAGIC OF THREE
This writing exercise can be done with or without the jar!
I keep a jar filled with scraps of paper. On each scrap of paper is one word, always a noun. I’ll close my eyes, reach into the jar, and pick three of the paper scraps. I’ll write the three words at the top of my notebook paper or computer screen. Then I’ll write a story—on the fly—based on those three words.
Sometimes I challenge myself with a word count limit, or to write only in dialogue, but usually I simply wrIte a couple of pages with the three words as my foundation.
If you choose to do this exercise at the last minute (meaning you have no jar and no scraps of paper), just grab a book, any book, and flip through the pages, stopping randomly on three different pages. The first noun you eyeball on each of the three pages makes the cut. (Nouns are best because they provide more breadth for story, whereas if you’ve only got three adjectives, it’s much harder to write a story on the fly.)
So there you have it! My top three creativity enforcers! Let me know if you try any of these and how it goes for you. I’d love to hear what you do to enforce your creativity! Leave me a comment below!
Have a writerly day!