Creative Renewal

It’s often difficult to talk about writing and the creative process. So much is instinct, accident, mysticism, etc. And even more than that is simple blood, sweat, and tears. Mostly tears. But I do think there are ways of attending to and fostering creativity that anyone, regardless of their background or medium, can use. So today, I thought I’d tackle one of those ways and discuss creative renewal.

Being an MFA student, I am expected to keep up a certain rate of production. If I’m not in class, at a program event, or working, I really ought to be writing. That’s what I’m here for, after all, and I only have a scant two years to do it. Which means getting as much writing done as possible.

But after a certain point, everyone experiences burn out. The idea of writing makes you want to hurl or throw things and crawl under the covers and never come out. The blank page (computer screen) is a frigid tundra from which there is no return.

Writers are melodramatic people.

Really, though, it can be quite frustrating. Which is why I believe it’s important to keep the creative monsters fed and happy through a variety of other means.

Reading, of course, is the writing mind’s bread and butter. It is more or less impossible to become a skillful writer without reading widely and often. Sometimes, it can be difficult to read simply for pleasure, but I think that is often just as or more important than reading for craft. Pleasure doesn’t mean trashy pulp fiction, although it certainly can. For me, it’s more reading for story than for technique. When I read a book with technique in mind, I examine language, character, pacing. I make notes. When I read for pleasure . . . I just read.

When I can’t write, however, I am more likely to enjoy other art forms, things more removed from writing. When my creative mind is bored or hungry, I watch films and TV series. I listen to hours of different music. I go hiking or walking. I people-watch. I cook. Occasionally I even socialize. When people ask the question “where do you get your ideas?” they’re actually addressing this process. The better question is, “How do you make yourself more open to the ideas that surround you?” Because that’s where they come from. The lyrics of a song. An painting. A photograph. Half of a conversation on the Metro. The guy who bags my groceries at the grocery store. Chopping onions.

And the more I fill my day with these things, the better able I am to produce. It’s not all idea fishing. Maybe 1% of what I expose myself to will lead to a story. But the rest of it serves another purpose. It keeps the edge off the blank page. And it makes me want to write. Inspiration.

Blogging helps, too.

What do you do to foster creativity?


3 thoughts on “Creative Renewal

  1. What do I do to foster creativity?

    It’s nerdy as all get out but it get’s my creative ideas tumbling:
    I play video games and vocalize stories around the character I’m playing (but only when I’m alone, I fear the judgment of others hearing my creative fragments and thinking I’m nuts) – much of the time they’re only loosely related to the context they’re in. It’s still the same world with it’s organization but the character has all this background that’s unclear, what happened before the story began with this one in Particular. I also do these odd vocalized stories when I’m doing activities alone like when I used to do the dishes or doing laundry or even walking down the street.

    Most of these fragments get thrown out but sometimes there’s something that just “grabs at” me that belongs to one of the characters of a story I’ve already started and that ends up getting incorporated.

    I also do these “what if…” story lines where I place myself in a different context and see what a slightly more removed me would do in that situation. I only have one story (short, it was the red clay submission) that resulted from a”what if…” story line.

    And like you I read for fun and listen to music, which I find is good for setting the mood for various scenes.

    • Kelly and I used to make up stories around our video game characters. We got some good ones for Guitar Hero, oddly enough.

      I think talking out stories and characters is a great way to keep ideas alive. Sometimes it feels like they stagnant if they just sit in your head for too long.

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