Chasing Creativity

The muse of inspiration is a very elusive fellow. The mole in Whack-A-Mole comes to mind, or that crafty Bugs escaping poor Elmer Fudd. Maybe it senses my subconscious’s mixed feelings towards creativity (like, why did I choose such violent analogies?) but whatever the reason inspiration is certainly not sleeping in my bed at nights.

Of course, if being inspired isn’t part your day job, it’s much harder to clear the cobwebs from your boxed up dusty mind at whatever odd times you can snatch to first be inspired then find the time and will and consistency to write or paint or choreograph. If you’re not in a state of continuous and conscious open-mindedness (as, for example, in my day job where being closed off happens whether you want it to or not) your task is that much harder.

My problem isn’t getting inspired though. I frequently think of topics I’d like to talk about at length, or story ideas to get on paper (someday) but at the exact moment of inspirational breakthrough I am nowhere near pen or paper or laptop. I’m in a taxi, or about to head out to work, or in the middle of seeing a patient and my brain goes ‘We’ll just file it away for later’ and it goes the way of the Dodo.

(I cannot be the only person whose brain does this).

The obvious solutions are to jot down a quick line on my phone so I can remember at least what I was so inspired about. Or to walk around with a voice recorder (or, again, use the one on my phone. Ha.). But, that quick line on my phone often fails to capture the essence, the vivre, of my brief excitement. The line goes dead and hangs limply in black pixels, mocking me with its wasted potential. Repeat ad nauseam.

Perhaps the real solution is to quit my day job and roam the streets, laptop or notepad in hand, digging for inspiration like a coal miner: grubby, starving and desperately grateful for the light of the sun.

29 ways to stay creative [Pt. 2]

See Part 1 here!

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.

The (famous) 29 ways to stay creative [Pt. 1]

Today I was given the always relevant advice to be critical, never accept something because “that’s just how it is” and always form your own opinions. I’m going to apply this advice to these oft-touted 29 Ways.

There are actually two slightly different versions of 29 Ways, for designers and writers. The one I’ve shared is for the aspiring writer. I believe all writers are aspiring, published or not. Like actors, we’re only as good as our last production. I must admit that not all of these Ways strike a chord in me, like. . .

Making lists. Is this really necessary to the creative process? I thought lists were the pinnacle of un-creativity; I thought they were a cop-out in the endless battle to publish or perish. Now you’re telling me they help your creativity? I’ll take that one with a grain of salt. Carrying a notebook, however, is a brilliant and timeless idea. I forget more than half the good ideas that spring into my head, simply because I’ve nowhere to write them down. I’m behind this Way 100%.

Sketch? I can try, but I’m not promising anything magical. I think exercising your creativity in multiple ways is a good idea though. That way when I get bored of words (never!), there’s still pictures. Getting away from the computer deserves an Amen. Too often, I shackle myself to a screen that does nothing but sap me of all my creative energy. As soon as I look around outside, I realize how wonderful the world is again.

I need to post this one on my wall: quit beating yourself up. There is nothing like guilt for ruining your motivation. And taking breaks? I’m against them when I’m waist-deep in working on a project but they are good for you. Our minds need rest and rejuvenation and forcing it to work for hours on end is like slamming it repeatedly against a brick wall. Eventually something’s gonna give (and it’s not likely to be the brick wall). This isn’t to say I haven’t produced some of my best work after working for nine hours straight, but that work probably could have been better.

For singing in the shower, see my thoughts on sketching and being open.

Being open has got to be the best and hardest to follow piece of advice on this list. Openness is the only way we’ll get a reciprocal flow of creativity where you put stuff out there, but stuff also gets to filter in to you and filter through you. I’m sure not everyone will agree with drinking coffee, but I embrace the caffeinated concoction wholeheartedly. Coffee is the blood that fuels a writer’s veins.

And feedback. That hard to come by, hard to swallow, never quite what you want to hear necessity of the writing process. But I prefer hearing that my story is boring and riddled with typos from a friend rather than the unforgiving internet.

Listening to new music and surrounding yourself with creative people are all about inspiration and avoiding stagnancy. If you can do these regularly, more power to you. As for me, creative people intimidate the hell out of me and give me an inferiority complex the size of Jupiter. But they are still pretty amazing to be around because you pick up all sorts of important, handy stuff.

Practice, and don’t give up. I am bad at this. I give up too easily, and practice bores me. But these are worthy challenges. As a writer, quite frankly, I’m never going to get better if I don’t write. And this includes allowing myself to make mistakes. I have to remember not to beat myself up about them. Making mistakes is the fun part of cooking, painting and many things except probably practising medicine. I really don’t want to make any mistakes there. And yet mistakes are all too inevitable.


My short attention span demands that I continue this post tomorrow! See you then for my thoughts on the next 14 Ways.