Listening to Elizabeth Gilbert narrate her book Big Magic had a profound effect on my relationship with creativity. I enjoy writing and am often thinking in stories, but sometimes find it challenging to actually complete novels or manuscripts.
I have a number of story ideas I have started in earnest, from a spark of inspiration, but which end up lying dormant in the back corners of my digital folders. After some months, I might find them again, read through the work in appreciation of the effort and inspiration, and even add to a story before carefully tucking the documents back into the digital expanse.
It is the ‘shiny ball’ syndrome of the writer. How do we spark creativity, not once, but in a sustained way. As I turn back to my writing and look to completing one of the manuscripts, I have been trying out different ways to invite creativity into my work and life. Here are a few of the more effective techniques, tricks, and practices I have come across.
8 Ways to Invite Creativity
1. Create a self-imposed goal, and #hashtag
There is something exciting about being trying to achieve a goal, that more people than you know about. Especially, when you choose the goal.
Who doesn’t love a good 30 day challenge? My experience in doing 30-day challenges for podcasting, yoga, photo posting, and content creation have done wonders to spark action, invite a sense of creativity, and help create a ‘flow state’.
The great things about 30-day or other challenges is that it puts you in motion. The challenge can be staying amped beyond the 30 days.
Workarounds can include following up with a longer challenge to build the habit of creation and timing your challenge so that the end product has ‘somewhere to go’ (i.e. sending work product from a content creation challenge to an editor or creating an ebook).
2. Make space for sustained creativity
If you are inviting creativity, it can help to first make space for it by letting go of physical and digital clutter. It’s like signaling the creative forces that be, that you are ready for them.
It can help to follow a methodology around decluttering. I have used books by Mari Kondo, Peter Walsh, and my sister, Sejal Parekh to help me through the process of reducing my personal belongings and clothes by seventy percent.
The process has can be extended to our digital lives as well, including unsubscribing from listservs and letting go of a few social media channels.
It’s hard to invite something as profound and subtle as creativity when our hands, minds, and homes are already full. “Nature abhors a vacuum,” seems like perfect invite to declutter and get creativity to come to the party.
3. Do a ‘letting go’ or ‘moving on’ ceremony or ritual
This may be a bit woo woo for some, but sometimes a formalized process can help lift limiting beliefs of ourselves as creative people and can remind us to let go of the thoughts that don’t serve our path forward.
“Sage smudging” — or the act of lighting the end of a bundle of white sage and as it burns out, letting the aromatic smoke seep into a space has been a practice for clearing energy and aura for millennia. There have also been suggestions that the smoke of burning white sage can have antiseptic, purifying qualities for the air.
A ritual or ceremony can help mark a shift in time or mindset, perhaps signaling to creativity that this isn’t a false start.
4. Hit ‘pause’ on digital streaming and audiobooks
It can be incredibly joyful to listen to audiobooks, watch well-written films, and enjoy podcasts…and access to these genres of knowledge and entertainment are often just a few taps away on our smart devices.
In my experience, the ‘creativity muscle’ we use when consuming content is completely different than when we create it. It can be helpful to do a ‘fast’ of consuming copious content when we are trying to create our own.
I have been noticing that I tend to ponder over new ideas for stories or re-think various lines in my work when I am not also reading, listening, and watching new content.
Then as the work moves from creation to editing, it can be helpful to disappear into someone else’s world by hitting ‘play’ on content again.
5. Check vitals
I had been feeling a sense of inertia and lethargy around writing for months. As I shifted to focus on the 30-day content challenge, I also took the opportunity to get a baseline check of my vitals, including iron, vitamin D, and heart health.
Interestingly, I found that my iron was low. Low iron can sometimes cause fatigue and slowness. I have added an iron supplement and also decreased my intake of caffeine (which can block iron aborption from foods). I don’t know if incorporating more absorbable iron can help invite creativity, but I hope I am at least more perky and energetic to receive it!
6. Accept the process
Writing is nothing if not a process. There are moments of euphoria, like now for me as I type out these thoughts, and there can be many ‘lull’ moments when it feels like nothing is happening or moving forward. And the pendulum will swing back and forth, and forth and back over and again.
It’s the process. If we can see it as a process it can detach us from feeling like we are failing or are incapable or unable to complete a writing or creative project. That, in turn, can help us be kinder and more accepting of the spectrum of emotions.
Content creation is personal may seem like inspired work. But more often than not, it involves following some discipline and then accepting that some moments will feel more exhilarating than others, but that every moment is important.
7. Find a supportive community of writers
There is an underground world of writers that my eyes are just beginning to adjust to. This includes weekly writing groups, critique groups, Meetup groups that go to book fairs and festivals together and support each other in submitting works for contests and anthologies.
I recently attended an event hosted by the California Writers Club and was amazed to find over 50 members in attendance for a Saturday morning talk. The audience included seasoned writers, self-published writers, published writers who have had their books optioned, and editors as well as writing newbies.
It felt kind of like a homecoming to be among others who shared similar experiences and questions to my own. On a practical level, joining a group can fast track basic knowledge about how the writing and publishing landscape works and can alert you to opportunities to develop and showcase your writing; on a personal level, I loved seeing that many writers were friends and were deeply supportive of each other’s work.
There are similar robust online forums for writers as well. As creativity touches down, joining a writing group may help give it a few more reasons to stay.
8. Give your future self the gift of non-blank pages
This is a writing hack that has the dual benefit of also being a way to invite creativity. There is the saying “where were you when the page was blank,” that has a certain grit and sincerity. Firing up the laptop to face a blank page and blinking cursor can do wonders to zap feelings of creativity. If however, we go back to a piece we have started drafting, we can go into exalted editor mode, making changes, adding content, and primming and pruning to perfection.
When we perceive ourselves to be in editing mode, we may not even realize writing hundreds or thousands of new words.
As part of my latest 30 day content challenge, I have been trying this out. I have found past drafts of partially-written, and even a few published posts, and have new content, edited tone, and crafted new, improved pieces. It feels lighter to not have to start with a completely blank page. I try to do my future self a solid and at least write a few paragraphs on a new thought.