Sunday, August 11, 2013

Seven Ways to Boost Creativity

After the obvious—caffeine— I can offer a few personal techniques that keep me writing:

1.Don’t vamp for time: there is no perfect clutch of hours in which to write. Establish a schedule and stick to it. "Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work," Flaubert told us. A corollary to this might be, “Don’t wait around for inspiration to strike. It’ll only hit you when you’re at your desk.”

2. If I didn’t believe that writer’s block was a hoax, I’d break it by switching genres. If you’re composing a novel, work on it until you stall, then switch to poetry for instance.  Similar themes can make the overlap easy, and add a layered richness to each, although there is much to be said for widely disparate subjects.  Working another part of your brain can relax your mind creatively. Don’t worry, you won’t suffer whiplash.

3. Read widely and deeply. If you can take classes or workshops that are slightly over your head, do so. If not, when you  read a novel, Flaubert’s Sentimental Education, for example, also read criticism on the same book. In this case, I’d choose Pierre Bourdieu’s Rules of Art.

4. Stay connected to your work. Carry a small notepad everywhere and let your mind wander to your work-in-progress while doing other things. Joyce Carol Oates once said that housework helped her concentrate.  Repetitive movement loosens thinking. Remember how your little nephew would spill all the family business the moment you put him on a swing?  Resting my case…

5.Let your routines and rituals assist you. As soon as they stop helping, change them. Fickleness is its own reward! When I was younger I’d write after the house had been put to bed, when everything was quiet. I insisted I could think better surrounded by the dark. There’s something to the romantic idea of a single isolated consciousness at work alone in the world, but now I do better with shorter writing stints throughout the day, the sunnier the better.

6. Utilize psychological distance.  When you change your way of thinking about a character in  concrete terms to abstract ones, new connections occur. You might develop empathy for an unlikeable character, and drive your story in a new direction, for instance.

7. At the end of the day, leave yourself hanging. If I stop writing in mid-sentence, I’m encouraged to plunge in at that spot the following day. No checking e-mail or fiddling with the lamp. Just you and the words, ready to rumble.

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