Collaborate (preferably with creative people), because collaboration opens you up to different points of view. My issue is that I’m sort of a control freak, and I need to learn to let go of the reins sometimes. Taking risks? I am not there. Too lazy. This is something I need to work on, because I’ve realized that whether it works or not trying something new always leaves me feeling revitalized. Getting lots of rest makes my brain feel good. The mornings after I get a good night’s sleep I wake up feeling I could write the world.
Going somewhere new wakes my brain up! It shakes up all my preconceptions and stagnant old ideas and forces me to look at everything like its brand new. Counting my blessings helps to remind me that I am awesome (despite beating myself up sometimes). Dancing stretches my muscles and gets the blood pumping to my brain, plus the sheer movement leaves me feeling electrified all the way to my fingertips.
Don’t force it. Seriously, don’t. Every time I force my writing it ends up sounding strained and unsatisfying. Kinda like how straining on the toilet bowl doesn’t leave you with half as much relief as when everything flows freely. Not that I’m comparing writing to poop. But there may be hidden connections.
Break the rules. But first you have to know what the rules are, right? People who have bad grammar and spelling because they’re lazy are not being creative. I think having a healthy respect for the rules allows us to use them in novel ways, not necessarily breaking them but bending them a little. Plus the rules are more like guidelines any way.
Except this one: Read a book. Read a book. Read a book. Read more than one. Read them all. A clever Harry Potter fan once told me that the progression of fandom was thus: first you read, then you write [fanfiction] then you RPG. For me, reading was the water to my seed of creativity and the world around me was the nutrients in my soil. The sun is sometimes hot but you can always bring much-needed rainfall by opening a book and disappearing into its world. Reading directed the turn of my thoughts and marshalled the flow of my words; reading taught me to think and speak and write. The act of reading (and reading critically) is indispensable to being a writer.
And while you’re at it, stop trying to be someone else’s perfect. I need to tape this one to my wall too because goodness knows I have pushed myself and pushed myself to be what other people want, and all it leads to is frustration and a whole lot of guilt. We humans have about 70 years to enjoy this world, try to be happy and somehow leave behind a legacy. Most of the time the perfection we are trying to achieve is a figment of our imagination and that someone would have been just fine with us being ourselves. The important thing is to find what perfection is to you, and be that. Or as close to that as possible. (And if you figure out how to do that, tell me).
Just like making lists, it’s really important to write down your ideas. No matter what you tell yourself, they are not going to stay in your head. This has happened to me several times. What I’d like to try is writing out my ideas as soon as they pop into my head, not just one or two lines but a whole paragraph of novel thought.
Cleaning your workspace works for the simple equation that a clutter-free workspace = a clutter-free mind. When I am surrounded by unnecessary crap, my brain feels surrounded by unnecessary crap and I get this mental image of piles of garbage I have to dig through before I find that one nugget of inspiration. It’s much easier to tidy my desk than it is to go searching through the layers of my mind.
We’re winding now, and finishing something gives you such a boost of confidence that you can harness to start something else. I am at my most prolific when I can finish a good draft in one sitting because it spurs me on to write two or three more. I have learnt not to underestimate the power of feeling accomplished.
And, of course, along the mad, creative journey we’ve all chosen to embark upon it’s important to have fun. I have learnt this time and time again. As long as you’re having fun, you’re not doing badly at all.