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Posted by on Oct 23, 2015 in Creativity & Productivity | 27 comments

How To Stay Creative In a Creativity-Sapping World

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.

 

photo credit: dora dora 2 via photopin (license)

27 Comments

  1. Isn’t “I’m looking at you, Wallace” the very problem you’re trying to remove in this post? Tragic, poignant ending. Really highlights the theme of our inevitable decline into automated piles of meat.

    • “I am looking at you in a suspicious and Don’t-Try-That-On-Me kind of way, Wallace.” :p

  2. I don’t even have a smart phone. Yay! Of course … I do have Facebook *slinks away guiltily*

    By the way, are you doing NaNo this year?

    • I am not! I never do the original NaNo, as November is generally the craziest month of the year for me. I’d like to someday.

  3. Absolutely LOVE the post! I could probably stand a little more vacuuming addiction, but this is “a nail on the head” article . . . so PROUD of you! Keep up the good work. I do believe you’ve made a follower out of me.

    • Thank you! ^_^

  4. So true. My phone isn’t a problem… but the internet in general is. I find that the more time I spend on Wikipedia and You Tube and Netflix, and even Blogger, the less I feel inclined to write. After about two days of no wy-fy though, my mind is on fire with stories and words.

    It’s funny that you name your phone- I name my computers. My favorite is Winifred, and she’s working with me right now. But don’t tell Cole (my first computer) I said that- he might feel bad.

    • Haha, I name my computers too! And my vehicle. And my instruments. I have a problem.

      • *Gasp* That can’t be a problem! At least, it better not be, ’cause my family does it too. I’ve never named a piano, but my saxophone’s name is Tobias. And our van is named Perry the Cherry.

        • Perry the Cherry. I like that.

  5. I’d like to know who gets addicted to vacuuming. It does roar so loudly it gets on the nerves that I have and I can’t wait to turn the think off.
    But anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. Out of curiosity, are you left-handed? I’ve hear that they tend to be more creative.

    • Turn the think off? Don’t turn your think off! That’s what I’m talking about! 😉
      No problem. Nope, I’m not left-handed… That’s an interesting thought, though.

  6. Great post! “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.” YES, exactly!!!

    And actually, vacuuming is one of the household chores that really turns on story inspiration for me — somehow my brain can go places under the white noise of it. (But unfortunately — though good and excellent from a health standpoint –we have mostly hard floors at the moment so there’s little vacuuming. ;D)

    • Thanks, Heidi! 🙂 And yeah, I kind of enjoy vacuuming myself for that reason.

  7. Rah! This is a great call to action on a number of levels. It reminded me of two quotes.

    A random Facebook meme, “My IQ decreases my half when Wikipedia is down.”

    And Neil Gaiman’s: “Growing up is highly overrated. Just be an author.”

    One thing I’ve come to realize is there is no such thing as “adulting right.” And there is no reason to be ashamed of a creative lifestyle. God gives us gifts for a reason, and He expects us to use them.

    • I love both of those.
      And WORD.

  8. Bless this post.
    Bless you.
    Bless your cow.
    Curse you, Wallace.
    (my novel last year may or may not have had an MC that named everything including freezers….)

    • My cow extends her humble thanks. Wallace does not, as he mostly prefers to remain in sinister silence.
      Naming freezers? I like this character already.

  9. Wow. This is amazing post. I am definitly filing this away and reading it again.
    I have the problem of being embarrassed about brainstorming and thinking up characters and I never want to tell people that I’m doing it. Hopefully this will be a good remained for me. Thanks.

    • Yeah, don’t be embarrassed about brainstorming! That’s like the best thing ever.

  10. Love it! Especially the creative loitering. 😛 I do that. Actually, I try and see what I can figure out about people in the grocery store by how they act, what they’re wearing and what’s in their shopping carts.

    • Yup yup! A glorious pastime.

  11. My phone’s name is Chris. After my second muse, a child named Christopher Hitchens. (Let’s hope he never finds your blog, he’ll think I’m nuts.)

    • Christopher Hitchens? What a great name, though. No wonder he’s your muse. XD

  12. “I think that people-watching and daydreaming are essential daily practices for the writer.”

    Thank you! That makes me feel a little better. So much goes through my brain on a daily basis, and I worry that it’s a *little* strange. And I get some weird looks if I try to explain any of it… (“oooh, that person in the line at WallyWorld is totally going in my next novel!!”)

  13. You nailed it. I’ve often thought the same thing, but struggled to put it into words that actually make sense. Haha. Good for you! I’m definitely sharing this.

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