This article, written by Denise Agnew is from the October 2020 edition of Nink, the monthly newsletter of Novelists, Inc. (NINC). Nink, which is packed each month with informative articles for career novelists, is a benefit of NINC membership.
Even as a creativity coach, I can have days where I’m not feeling as creative as I would like. This led me to think of other ways I could boost my creativity. Based on what I discovered, I’ve listed more ways you can boost your creativity quotient.
Open up to random thoughts
Writers can sometimes unknowingly stifle their creativity. Remember when you were a kid and someone told you to stop daydreaming? You may be doing something similar to yourself and not realizing it. What if paying closer attention to your random thoughts and fantasies could generate fresh ideas?
We’ve all heard that we have a ton of thoughts pass through our minds each day, much of it useless chatter. As published authors, we often judge both the quality of our ideas and the validity of them. However, as creative people, our imaginations are an integral part of our ability to create story. Many writers who work on building book series have told me they sometimes feel as if they’re on an assembly line churning out the same ole same ole. This adherence to “expected” series parameters can be draining and can strangle creativity. Instead of allowing your imagination to go where it wants, you’re forcing it to go where you think it is supposed to go.
Granted, you can’t stop and write down every single thought or fantasy you have in your head, and you can’t necessarily take your series from the Wild West to outer space (well, maybe you can), but you can harness as many ideas as possible. Are there any story ideas you are dying to write but you’re ignoring them? Do you think the ideas are too far out of the lane you’ve been following for years? Consider how you can write more of what you long to write rather than constantly shoving down your creative desires.
Write down any wild thoughts that come into your head, even if they don’t seem to equate to an actual plot or story line at this time and even if they are completely nonsensical. If you remember your dreams, write them down as well. You never know where these ideas will lead in the future.
Imagine you’re somewhere else
Because of the pandemic, many writers haven’t been on vacation, much less left the house. So let your mind take you.
Find a quiet time where you won’t be disturbed. Put on soothing music. Close your eyes and imagine, in as much detail as possible, a place you long to be. This can be a place you’ve been to before or a new place you would like to visit.
If you want, write down as many details about that vacation fantasy as you can. Go hog wild and enjoy yourself. Why not? Not only is it fun, but you might even get an idea for a story in the process.
Watch more movies and television series
Many people proudly announce that they don’t watch television series or movies. Watching television rots your brain, right? While anything taken to an extreme could have a negative effect, TV and movies can give your brain a mental break. You can also use this time to analyze why you like or don’t like some movies and television programs. This can provide perspective into your own creativity and spark new ideas.
Start with the genre you write. Watch a few movies in that genre. How would you have written the story? If there’s a movie or television series you love, why do you love it? Be completely honest with yourself why you like it (or how you would have done it better). You aren’t showing your innermost thoughts to anyone else. Thinking about why you like or don’t like something can move your creative thinking in a new direction.
In this way, watching a movie or television series is like reading someone else’s book and recognizing why you enjoyed the book or would’ve written it differently. This perspective change can jumpstart the creative part of your brain.
Read screenplays and write screenplays
Writing a screenplay is, in many ways, completely different than writing a novel; it forces you to create differently. When writing a screenplay, a writer relies far more on dialogue and very little on description. It gives your brain a creative workout. How are you going to say, in the dialogue, what you may have left up to description alone?
When I decided to begin writing screenplays, I first read a few to obtain both an understanding of formatting and to get a general feel of how screenplays sound. (Beware, though. Screenwriting formatting has changed over the years, so modern screenplays have some different rules than screenplays written even a decade ago.) Reading and writing screenplays opens your mind to a different way of experiencing storytelling.
Is there something you want to say? Making a meme in a program such as Canva or Book Brush can be a great way to enhance your social media presence and express yourself creatively. Making graphics requires both visuals and the words you want to say. If I want to take a break from writing, I often make a meme or a graphic for one of my published or soon-to-be-published books or some other random thing I want to express. It’s refreshing. After I’ve made a graphic, I am ready to start writing again.
Do nothing for fifteen minutes
I know what you’re going to say. “Denise, I have a busy life and don’t have 15 minutes to spare.” To that I would say, “Are you sure?”
While sitting in relative quiet outside among nature or inside with some soothing music or even no sound can make some people feel twitchy, it’s about balance. As an experiment, to see if it works for you, try doing absolutely nothing for 15 minutes a day for a least three days and see how you feel. The 15 minutes does not need to be formal meditation. Write down how you felt and if you received any creative ideas during that time. My guess is you will not only get ideas, you might feel physically and mentally refreshed because you’re not pushing so hard all the time.
Connect (even just virtually) with others
This pandemic has kept many of us inside, including missing NINC. Is there a dear friend, writer or not, who you used to sit down with in person and hash over creative issues? If you haven’t talked to them in ages, give them a call or set up a Skype or visual chat session. They’ll love it, you will too, and the creative ideas you generate could be some of the best you’ve ever designed.
Denise A. Agnew is the award-winning author and screenwriter of over 69 novels and several optioned screenplays and television series. She’s written in a variety of genres including horror, romance and historical. Over the years she’s also enjoyed participating in archaeology and archery. Reading is a huge love! She was fortunate enough to live in England and Hawaii and travel throughout the UK and Ireland. Denise is also a producer, paranormal investigator, Certified Creativity Coach, Reiki Master, and evidential medium. She lives in Arizona with her husband and a mini schnauzer. You can find her at www.deniseagnew.com and www.agnewcreativemedium.com.