“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou
That quote from the talented poet, performer, and activist who passed from this life in 2014 really resonates with me, as I’ve long believed that we have to keep the creative juices flowing. It's definitely not good for any kind of productivity with our work if we stagnate. What we do to prime the pump, so to speak, can take many forms.
If you’re a writer, write
That seems like a non-starter for writers. That's what we do, right? But too often we get distracted by social media, things life throws at us, or an impulse to play a game instead of getting into the groove. What we need to be doing is writing first.
As the wonderful writer Anne Lamott says, “How to write: Butt in chair. Start each day anywhere. Let yourself do it badly. … Get butt back in chair.”
Back when I was a lot more prolific as a writer, before Ramsay Hunt Syndrome decided to cozy up to me and bring along the gift of optic nerve inflammation and daily head pain, I did go to my office and write every day. Sometimes my optimum writing time was first thing in the morning, other times in the late afternoon, and when I recognized the changing patterns, I tried to be disciplined about working, not playing.
Any time we have to take long breaks away from putting words together to tell stories, our wells can dry up, and getting back into the rhythm of work can be challenging. That has been true for me in the past eight years I've dealt with the health issues of atypical trigeminal neuralgia, also a gift from Mr. Hunt. I've struggled to keep working, to varying degrees of success in those efforts, having brief periods of time when I could write juxtapositioned next to times when I could not.
This past year, I’ve challenged myself to write something, even just a blog post, every day, and that has helped to keep the creativity free-flowing. The alternative is to let that well run dry. Stop writing and just…. what?
I can’t imagine something else.
As a good friend once told me, “Writing isn’t just something we do. It’s part of who we are.” And when I think about not writing ever again, I get this great clutch in my heart that says, "No! No! No!"
So, write on writer friends, and I will do the same. 🙂
If you’re a writer, read
It shocks me to the soles of my feet when I hear a writer say they don’t read. What!?!? Do you not understand how the beautiful and perfect writing from another author can fill your soul with the urge to write words so wonderful?
When I finish reading books like River Sing Out by James Wade or The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian, I’m so taken with the rich language – the perfect descriptions – the flowing narrative – that I vow to bring my own writing out of the ordinary.
Reading and paying attention to the craft involved, helps us to hone our own craft. Learning the best use of dialogue tags – if it jars me in a story I’m reading, maybe the same one will jar a reader if I use it. How does the author balance narrative and dialogue? What makes it work? How are characters introduced? Is a detailed description right for the genre in which you are writing, or can a character be presented in quick brushstrokes?
In a book I'm reading right now, a minor character is introduced as "a hairy tree stump." That brief description tell the reader so much, and I could immediately picture the man.
If you’re a writer, feed your creative spirit
Not that she means weeks and weeks away, but perhaps one day a week – a play date with yourself or maybe with a friend. It doesn’t matter. Go to a movie, a stage play, a concert, or spend a few hours at the library just being surrounded by books and other people who love stories.
At the time that I first read Cameron’s book, I was already frequently going to the movies by myself. I love films – have since I was a kid and saved up nickels until I had a quarter to buy a ticket. But in all those years, I never knew how my passion for film was feeding my passion for story, and then my passion for writing.
Many people can get lost in the magic of a story unfolding on screen, and forget about the real world for the two hours of sitting in the theater. I'm one of those people, and I always come out feeling energized in a way that I never could define, until I read The Artist's Way.
Other writers I know paint, some professionally enough to exhibit and sell some of their work, but one doesn't have to be a pro with the brush to get a benefit from playing with acrylics and oils.
Whatever you decide to do to feed your creativity, my wish is that it does the job, and you have a productive year ahead. If you have ideas of fun things to do, please share in the comments.
|Posted by Maryann Miller, who has numerous credits as a columnist, novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. She also has an extensive background in editing. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page read her Blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her most recent book is a short-story collection, Beyond the Crack in the Sidewalk, released by Next Chapter Publishing and available as an ebook or paperback or audio in English and Spanish.|