I went to a family reunion this weekend, not mine, my father-in-law’s family reunion… his extended family reunion. For me it consisted of a lot of standing around by myself, explaining what I do for a living to random strangers, and trying to describe where I live to other Seattleites. However – in the midst of this awkwardness – I had an interesting conversation with a nun-turned-landscape-photographer and she asked me a very pointed question:
How do you stay creative?
It it put me on the spot. You see I work as a user experience designer during the day and that’s a creative gig, at night I come home and write speculative fiction which also requires a lot of creativity. So how do I stay creative? Three answers popped into my head:
1. Study others creative process, and use what works for you.
This is why this and other writing blogs exist, it’s why writing groups are formed, it’s why online forums are created, it’s why we go to workshops and conventions, it’s why Stephen King published “On Writing.” As we post, read, comment, and write we’re forming a community, a community that builds off on another, as we build off each other we strengthen one another. Those connects and the strength that comes from them is just as important for staying creative as anything else.
2. Never stop learning. Read everything.
Read everything you get your hands on. The good and the bad and the boring: books, blogs, articles, tweets, and newspapers and above all don’t read only in a specific types of genre. You can glean great ideas from everything. A lot of writers justify reading only a certain genre because they write in that specific genre. I was one of them. Don’t do that. Branch out. There’s good ideas everywhere use them to fuel you creative fire.
3. Push through creative blocks.
This is the hardest one of the three.
There’s times where I sit down open my laptop and nothing happens. I stare at my screen and… nothing comes… the blinking cursor flashes it’s mocking laugh and I grow more and more frustrated.
It’s easy to close my laptop and walk away, turn on a game, grab a beer, watch an episode of Breaking Bad, basically do about anything other than write. I try very hard not to do this, instead I force myself to write. I write anything, could be a conversation between two random characters, it could be the description of an ancient city, it could be a shopping list, it could be a blog post. I just write! Forcing myself though my block shakes me out of my funk. Before I know it I have put aside my throwaway scribbles and I am back into whatever project I sat down to work on in the first place.
That’s how I stay creative. It’s not anything ground breaking, but it works for me. How about you? What do you do? How do you stay creative? I’d love to hear from others on any and all topics (not just writing) share your ideas in the comments!