How To Stay Creative In a Creativity-Sapping World
Some would say that words are a writer’s greatest weapon. I would disagree.
In the event of being charged by an angry stegosaurus, a 50-caliber elephant gun would be preferable to standing your ground and attempting to stave off the beast with your impressive vocabulary. (Unless by your loquacity you are able to convince the creature that it is, in fact, extinct.)
Where actual writing is concerned, I would say that words are pretty darn important, but second only to your creativity. The power of your imaginative, oft-misunderstood right brain.
Creativity is your superpower. It is what people are coveting when they read your stories and say things like, “how do you come up with this stuff?” In truth, they are probably pretty creative people themselves. They just haven’t learned to wield the weapon like you have.
Unfortunately, we live in a time and society that is perfectly set up to suck the creativity and imagination from your soul. The technological age, with all its perks, can be kryptonite for the creative individual.
Here are some tips for keeping your creativity alive, sharp, and dangerous.
Resist the Urge for Technological Dependance
My phone’s name is Wallace, and he basically wants me to stop thinking.
Wallace wants me to hand over the keys to my brain, lean back, close my eyes, and just enjoy the ride. Enjoy a nice foot massage while I’m at it. He can fix all my problems, get me where I need to go, and find me the nearest source of coffee in about two seconds.
I am rather a late bloomer when it comes to the smartphone revolution (I’ve had Wallace about a month now), so I’m a little starry-eyed at this not-so-new frontier. But also a little disturbed.
If I let Wallace have as much space in my life as he would like to, my brain would get tossed in a dark and cobwebby corner with my old portable CD player, to be pulled out only as a novelty at parties and such. (”Hey, check out this old frontal lobe—remember when we used to use these?”)
Creativity is a muscle that needs to be exercised, or it goes into atrophy. Make sure that you’re not allowing the convenience of modern technology to do all the heavy lifting.
Root Out Addictions
Anything can be an addiction. It’s not just the “bad stuff” we usually associate with that word. Food. Video games. Exercise. Internet. Vacuuming the carpet.
Addictions are a huge distraction and obstacle to the creative process, because they build an insatiable desire for instant gratification. They steal your focus. And modern science has shown us that certain addictions, like drugs and pornography, actually cause physical damage to your brain.
Examine your life, and be prepared to make changes if a particular habit or activity is becoming an addiction. This isn’t just a creativity thing, it’s a quality-of-life thing.
Recognize the Power of Creative Loitering
I am an avid people-watcher, though not a very subtle one. My intense, wide-eyed, Sherlockian stare is probably not a very comforting thing for an innocent bystander to find turned on them. They would be even less thrilled if they realized that I had just created a tragic backstory for them, in which they were a retired alligator wrestler whose career had been toppled by a severe allergy to river water.
You’re welcome, random citizen.
I think that people-watching and daydreaming are essential daily practices for the writer. They exercise those creative muscles. They seed stories. They keep us reminded of the whimsy and romance that can be found in even the most mundane situations.
Taking five minutes to loiter on a sidewalk and take in your surroundings isn’t laziness. It’s an exercise that will make you a more effective storyteller.
Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Creativity
Artist’s guilt plagues most of us who want to make a living through our art—the unshakable feeling that you don’t have a real job, that you somehow aren’t adulting right. Sometimes we might even feel a little embarassed about the imaginitive thoughts that drift through our minds. We should be having solid, grown-up thoughts right now, not brainstorming stories or wondering how long a desert warrior’s legs would have to be to effectively ride a giraffe.
If you are feeling this way, stop. Obviously, it’s important to have some self-control in this area—you can’t be daydreaming all the time, or you and the people who depend on you will never eat. But your imagination is what makes you good at what you do. It’s one of the things that makes you a storymonger.
Stay creative, guys. Keep those right-brain muscles exercised and in peak condition. Don’t let the distractions and convenience of the 21st century dull the spark that makes you who you are.
I’m looking at you, Wallace.