- Within each of us there is a wellspring of hidden creative potential. Practices such as meditation and journaling can help to access that dormant creativity. The following writing exercises can be beneficial in getting that creative flow started.
FREE WRITING: think of a topic and write nonstop for 2 or 3 minutes, giving no thought to spelling, grammar or neatness. If you run out of ideas, keep going even if it is silly or nonsensical.
AUTOMATIC WRITING (a similar exercise, but the emphasis here is to bypass your conscious mind and let ideas flow from a deeper place within you) Relax your hand. Breathe deeply. If possible, close your eyes. Again, don’t stop, no matter what comes out. And above all, don’t judge what you are writing.
WRITE WITH YOUR LEFT HAND: Switching to your left hand is a powerful way to activate your right brain and allow your creative, emotional, intuitive side to have its expression. For more information on this, see Lucia Capacchione’s book, The Power of the Other Hand.
- Trust what comes through you onto the page. Don’t question it or second guess what you write. In other words, try to keep your analytical mind out of the process. Some people work with an outline and plan what they want to include in each chapter. Some even know the ending before they get to it. That’s fine if your mind works that way. My best work comes when I let go of the thinking process and let the characters tell their own story. I love learning details about them as the story unfolds.
- Try not to edit while you write. Although the temptation is to fix a mistake as soon as you notice it, I’ve found that it interrupts the flow. Stay focused, let the creativity take you over and have its way with you. Editing can put you in a critical frame of mind – looking for errors – and that’s not conducive to creativity.
- It’s beneficial to keep a character profile for each of your characters – jotting down details, no matter how mundane. Do this after a session of writing, while the details are still fresh in your mind. If you write something about one of your characters in chapter 2, you don’t want to contradict yourself in chapter 10. You may also want to keep a timeline, so you can see when your characters are doing what. This was very helpful with my trilogy, as book three began, chronologically, before book two.
- If you feel there is a certain word or phrase that would perfectly describe what you are trying to say, but in the moment you can’t quite find it, leave a blank (_______), or write a less than perfect word as a substitute and highlight it. Then move on and don’t sweat it. I’m always amazed that when I come back to that section, the exact word(s) I’m looking for pops right in to my mind.
- Too many cliches – words or expressions that are worn out from overuse – can make your work seem stale and unappealing. Eg: cold as ice, bright and early, sick and tired, take it easy, last straw, fish out of water, garden variety, etc. Be original and keep your work fresh and unique. However the occasional use of trite expressions, slang, even bad grammar used in dialogue may make your character more believable. I found an inexpensive software that locates cliches in your work and highlights them. Go to: http://www.cliches.biz/clichecleaner/index.html
- Active voice vrs passive voice. (This is one I’m still working on.) An active sentence puts the “actor” – the person or thing doing the action – first. A passive sentence puts the object of the action first. “His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the phone ringing.” In the active voice it might read: “The phone rang, interrupting his thoughts.” The second sentence is more concise, drawing the reader into the action that is happening in the moment. Use the passive voice when the actor is unknown, irrelevant, or you want to be vague. “A shiny new tower was built on the waterfront.” (The particular builder is irrelevant.) Or when you want to emphasize the person or thing being acted on. “Mary was often shocked by people’s flagrant lack of regard.” (The sentence focuses on Mary and her typical response to something.)
- Try to set up a writing routine and stick to it for a few weeks to see if it works for you. Make time daily, even if it is just an hour or two. If not, set aside half a day, once a week as your creative time. Begin with a writing exercise or a meditation to get you in the right frame of mind. Guard this time as precious. Mark it on your calendar and tell anyone who asks that you’re busy or already have an appointment. At least once a year take yourself on a writing retreat. Get away from family and business and routine. You deserve it! Whether it’s a week or a weekend, whether it’s at a fancy resort or your friend’s house (while she’s away on holidays), make time for what’s Important to you.
- Sometimes deadlines are unavoidable, and they can even be beneficial. They keep us moving forward to accomplish what we want. But try not to be too rigid. Working under pressure (even if it’s from yourself) can squelch creativity. If you’re feeling frustrated, pressured, or just have plain old writers block, don’t hesitate to get up and walk away from your work. Take a break, get out into nature, watch a favorite movie, play solitaire, go for coffee with a friend—anything to distract you and take your mind off what isn’t working. Come back to your work fresh and relaxed. Your best writing comes when you’re feeling connected to who you really are—and that’s a happy, healthy, creative eternal Being.
- The urgent will drown out the important if you let it. Your creativity is an important part of who you are. Let it find its outward expression, but do so while maintaining balance in your life. I’m still learning to balance my life and my writing. I’ve made writing a priority and I love it. It’s satisfying and fulfilling, but I can get so into my work that I neglect other areas of my life. When I take time to thoroughly clean my house, call up a friend that I haven’t seen in a while and chat for an hour on the phone, or spend a Saturday with my husband, shopping or doing odd jobs around the house or yard, I realize that I enjoy those things, too.