Want to be creative in November but don’t want to do NaNoWriMo? Then take a look at this wonderful list over at Abundance Blog. There’s 30 creative things to do each day, and to be honest many could be full-time projects on their own.
It’s the beginning of a new week, or the start of a new day. Or perhaps you’re stumbling on this at some other time. Well it doesn’t matter when. It’s time to think about doing something creative.
What’s the weather like? Go on, look outside if you need to, I’ll wait. Is the sun blazing down? Is the rain hammering into the puddles it has already formed? Is the atmosphere as grey as the mood it has just put you in? Well that doesn’t matter either.
What does matter is that you can use the inspiration of the outside to engage your creative thoughts. What does the weather make you think of: warmth, heat, dryness, arid landscapes, global warming, rising sea levels, end of the world, drowning, depression, moods, angst. ? The list is endless.
Use the weather as a starting point to do something creative today. But don’t just see a shining sun and paint a shining vista. Turn things around, the weather is just the starting point. Let your imagination run and develop the theme. Go and create that subverted weather image, wordscape or aural texture.
Waiting for inspiration is another way of saying that you’re stalling. You don’t wait for inspiration, you command it to appear.
Those words from Seth Godin were quite apt for me this past month or so. I am writing a book. Not just any book, a commissioned 40,000 word novel, with a deadline, the real deal.
The problem was I had come to a full stop. The words weren’t coming and the prose that had seemed so easy for the first 10,000 words had dried up. I was at an impasse and the deadline was fast approaching.
The first hurdle was to renegotiate the deadline. I thought, that if I could reduce the pressure on myself, then the words would return. They didn’t.
I found myself continually staring at the word processor day after day and not getting anywhere. This was not going well, I really had a case of writer’s block. I was becoming overwhelmed and sinking fast.
When things get on top of me, I normally sit down with pen and paper and plan my way out. I list what needs to be done, and that process often shows me the way to go. So I did the same with the writing. I already had the outline of the novel and also the chapter and scene breakdown. But could I break things down even further?
I began to write a sentence or phrase for each paragraph. Slowly the scenes and chapters began to fill up. As they did I found it easier to return to these sentences and elaborate on them, the block had been broken and the flood of words began to flow.
It worked for me and perhaps it will work for you. Keep reducing the task until you have the final version filling the space. As Seth says, you command inspiration to appear!
One of the dangers of living in a highly productive, creative environment is that we can easily neglect one of the most important parts. If you suffer from burn out, or times of creative drought, one of the possible causes is that you have neglected your dreamtime.
Finding time to dream is important. We’re not talking about sleep here either. This is primarily the time to down creative tools and let your mind wander. And this isn’t about sitting down with a blank piece of paper, planning the next stage of your creative master plan. Dreamtime is about space and connection, perhaps even a little spiritual. But it needs to be taken seriously and this is where many of us fail. We don’t see it as important, we squeeze it from our schedule (if it was ever there) and then wonder why we are becoming less effective creatives.
So what exactly is dreamtime? Well first and foremost it needs to be an integral part of a creative lifestyle, we’re not talking huge amounts of time, we’re not even talking every day. But it should be seen as something regular. Dreamtime isn’t wasting or dead time, it is essential for your creative life.
Dreamtime isn’t the same for everybody either, what works for one may not work for the other. Here are a few ideas and thoughts that may be of use to you. They are not structured and I’m sure you can find variations on the theme. This is all about scheduling the time and then finding what works for you:
- walk barefoot in the damp grass while breathing in the air
- watch a film in a foreign language, without the subtitles on
- read a religious book, from another belief system to your own
- listen to music from a musical genre that is not your preferred
- go for a walk or journey without your capture device
- cook a meal with no predefined recipe
These are only vague ideas, but you should be getting some thoughts of your own by now. For now, it is time to dream…
This all boils down to a little critical self-analysis. No really I mean it, we aren’t always great at what we do . Sometimes we will fall short in our creative endeavors because of tiny mistakes or because we are unable to do one part of what we are trying to create. A lot of the time the answer can be found through a learning process. Don’t know how to style that web page? Then find a tutorial on CSS and learn. But it can be a little less obvious than that.
This is where a little self-analysis can help out. We need to find the little blind-spots that we have, and we all have them. Questions like ‘What am I not good at?’, ‘What do I struggle with?’ and ‘Where do I often get things wrong?’ are ideal for this self-analysis. The point is not find out your faults and beat yourself up over them, but to identify them and then find some solutions.
Find out the problem or issue and then look for, and implement a solution. Let me give you some simple examples. Although you’d not notice it by reading the posts (ahem, I do apologise) here, I have a blind spot when it comes to spelling certain words and also grammar issues. I could blame it on the teaching systems in the UK during the 80s and never improve my creative writing. However, realising that I do fall short here I looked for a few simple solutions. One that I found really helpful was to keep a list of words that I always seem to spell wrong. I found the words quite easily by using the spell checker, but I kept spelling them wrong. Now I have the list I am finding I am getting them wrong less often.
In a broader sense you may feel that all your creative output ends up looking, sounding or reading the same. One solution here is to change your process. Again I notice a distinct difference to a song I have written strumming the guitar to one I’ve come up with at the piano.
So, don’t be afraid of a little critical self-analysis. Identify the problem and then act on the solution, your creative output will benefit.
“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
My desk is situated at the top of a modest office block that overlooks the town where I live and work. I am fortunate and have a large window by my desk, there is no cubicle for me! The window is divided down the middle making two panes. The view is interesting. Through one pane / view, I have greenery from some very tall trees, which change colour throughout the seasons. We go from luscious green, through autumnal yellow and brown. Then in winter we have the beautiful contrast of leaflessness and barrenness whilst hiding the latent life that will soon spring forth again.
The other view looks across the top of my town; roofs of slate, concrete and bitumen. A total contrast between panes, but unified in one view. I often sit looking out at this view and try to blur the two, bringing the man-made into the natural or the other way round.
This is one of the most basic ways to be creative, and let your imagination run. So your mission for today, should you choose to accept it, is to take two contrasts and merge them into one. Let your imagination free and let your creativity flow.