One question I get often is, “How are you so creative?” For the record, I don’t think I’m all that creative, but I do believe creativity can be generated with practice and intent. I don’t subscribe much to the notion of “writers block,” but I acknowledge that there are times when I do feel stuck. I’ve found that this has less to do with a muse gone M.I.A. and more to do with internal resistance, such as doubt, fear, and self-criticism.
So, the best way I’ve found to combat this phenomenon is to meet resistance with resistance. I resist feeling uninspired, I resist feeling uncreative, and I resist staying stuck.
What I do instead is get intentional about my creative flow. I don’t wait passively for an idea or inspiration to strike me; instead, I create the circumstances for my brain to experience peak creativity. I usually do this in one of three ways.
Play the piano to spark inspiration
First thing in the morning, or as the last thing before I go to sleep, I like to play the piano. Studies show that music can help boost creativity. Music can help improve happiness, increase focus, and boost a person’s ability to generate ideas. I also find that it helps me get over that critical, nagging voice inside my head that sometimes blocks my creativity.
I play by ear, so when I’m playing, I’m completely focused on picking apart the song I’m learning and putting it back together. Everything else in the world is tuned out. I don’t have to contend with doubt, distraction, or frustration. It’s just me and the keys. If I make a mistake, I just try again until I get it right.
By the time I’m done, I feel relaxed, focused, inspired, and confident, and I’m in the perfect mood to either get some writing done or have sweet dreams (that usually make for great writing material).
Use the Pomodoro Technique to manage creativity
This might sound counterintuitive to some people, but I like to keep my creativity contained. Using the Pomodoro Technique, I often write in short, 25-minute bursts with 5-minute breaks in-between sessions. I don’t want to waste the focus I’ve just gained from my creativity warm-up on the piano. I also don’t want to exasperate myself and feel like I’m trying to force my ideas out.
The Pomodoro Technique helps me because I find it easier to focus for short periods of time and harder to get distracted or lost in my head. I usually try to write fluidly during this time, without stopping, so that the ideas just have to flow. And then I turn the faucet off and take a break. The 5-minute breaks help me to resolve any creative problems and think about where I’m headed next in the scene I’m writing.
I wrote the first draft of my current project using Pomodoro and I finished it in just two months.
Read, read, read to enhance imagination
When I’m really, really feeling stuck, I actually put my writing away for about a week and just read. I’ll read 2-3 books in that one week and completely immerse myself in someone else’s work. This activates my imagination, helps me to think more visually, and provides me with a much needed break.
But honestly, I’m rarely able to turn my writer-brain off, so when I read, I’m picking books apart the same way I pick piano songs apart, and I’m learning how to “play” them. I read a mixture of novels by established authors and novice authors so that I have a range of material to learn from.
After a week or two of reading, I generally have fresh ideas, new understandings, and a deepened appreciation for writing. Then I get back to it.
So, in conclusion, my response to, “How are you so creative?” is this: I try to be. I mean, some of it is natural but I don’t just sit around and wait for it. I work at creativity.