Monday, March 6, 2017

3 Ways Non-Fiction Helps My Creativity

I loved reading Dani Greer’s "Word" yesterday; it spoke to me on many levels. One thing I particularly liked is that she makes us aware of non-fiction writing we might tend to overlook because it might not be seen as the "real writing."

As for my "real writing," like Dani, the number of words I’ve written for any fiction project can be counted on one hand.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing, however. And the writing I have been doing has helped to keep my creativity thrumming while I’m on a fiction writing hiatus ("writer’s block" just sounds so harsh).

How has non-fiction writing helped my creativity?

I connect with people. Last year, I joined CLMOOC, Connected Learning MOOC - a massively open online collaboration. During one of its cycles, I participated in a postcard exchange where we all sent postcards to random people who signed up for the cycle. I received postcards from the US, Canada, and overseas, and the postcard writing allowed me to connect with writers and educators who are doing great things. I still connect with participants via social media. When I connect with others, I learn their quirks, likes and dislikes, other cultures, rituals, etc. I learn about them as people, and as a fiction writer, connecting with and learning about them deepens the information in my writer’s arsenal.

Two postcards I received from CLMOOC.

I celebrate myself. More than two years ago, I began writing daily love notes to myself that I call #loveaday notes. I started writing them on sticky notes, then index cards, then various styles of colorful paper, and now a planner. Every morning, I get up, prepare for my day, and think about what I’m feeling, what I need to accomplish, what I still aspire to do, and I write a short note to myself—sometimes two words, and sometimes, a paragraph. When I am well, I am able to be more creative; these notes enable me to give myself love that aids in making me well. Every few months, I go back and read the notes because they fill me with love, confidence, and reassurance. They also tap into my creativity because I practice my handwriting, and sometimes, I doodle as well. Which leads me to another point.

I expand my creativity into other areas. One thing I began last year thanks to the talented Angelica Suarez is doodling. Through her Doodle Days (365 Day Art Challenge) group on Facebook, I returned to a love of mine, drawing. Each day, participants are given a word and have to create a doodle based on that word. Dani began her post yesterday with this short statement: "Word counts." And these one-word doodle prompts are no exceptions. One word can explode a writer’s imagination with images, people, stories, and when I read my word for each day, I sit and think about how that word could be presented. I think about how I feel when I’m doodling, and if I capture an essence of that word within the doodle--the same thing I do when I write a story. I want the words in my stories to resonate beyond the words and into images, people, circumstances, etc.

Like Dani said yesterday, "It's important to remember that all words count." And she’s right. My postcard writing, my #loveaday notes, and my doodling all connect to words and to my creativity, and it all helps keep that sacred creative area fertile and ripe and ready for the fiction words to come.

How does your non-fiction writing help your creativity?

Creative Passionista Shon Bacon is an author, a crafter, an editor, and an educator whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. You can learn more about Shon at her website, ChickLitGurrl.


  1. I love your prompts, Shon. You've given me something to think about, a creative avenue as yet unexplored. Thank you. Great post!

  2. Aww, thank you, Linda. I have to give Dani a big thanks because I didn't even think about the other facets of non-fiction writing that I WAS doing. :-)

  3. I actually enjoy reading non-fiction since most read like stories themselves.

  4. LM Preston, thanks for commenting, and you're right!

  5. My nonfiction writing far outnumbers my fiction writing at this point, but it keeps my toe in if you will and keeps the stream from completely drying up. So much time goes into writing that isn't with hands on keyboard or pencil to paper. There is reading other great writers. Reading about writing. Blogging about writing. Daydreaming and plotting while doing other things. Reading nonfiction counts too.

  6. Great post, Shon, and I particularly liked: "...helps keep that sacred creative area fertile and ripe." I believe that all the things we do that are the least bit artistic feed our creative spirit. That goes for things that we don't always consider artistic on the surface like cooking, baking, decorating, coloring, all all kinds of fiber art.

    1. P.S. I love the postcard idea.

    2. I agree, Maryann. Creativity has many faces. Big thanks to Shon for reminding us of this. :-)

  7. I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, mostly related to knitting and sheep farming. Non-fiction jump-starts my imagination because it's real. I can look at pictures that accompany the text and think, "Wow, if I could go there, I'd ..." and then go off on a flight of fancy. Thanks for the prompts!

  8. I've gone back to writing about writing - analysing fiction that works and doesn't work and picking it apart. It is a very useful exercise, and definitely gets the creative juices going as I discover better ways to approach similar scenes in my own fiction.

  9. I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, but they've been political newspaper articles. In fact, they've taken over my reading all together. They've also taken over my writing. These are strange times.

  10. I pretty much only write non-fiction, and I love the avenues for creativity that it affords- and now, thanks to you, I can add several more to my list!

  11. I wrote a non-fiction book about my idea for overcoming the fear of radiation treatments when I was treated for breast cancer. The book had to be creatine to make it warm, funny and human. Otherwise it would read like a text book.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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