Step Away From Your Desk: Non-writing Ways To Inspire Creativity
If you’ve been writing for a few years, chances are you’ve experienced the jarring sensation of staring at a blank page or screen with a blank and/or anxious, unproductive mind. Or, even if you can think of things to write, what you have to say is so cliché and trite you can’t imagining putting such thoughts on the page.
There are numerous writing practices to help you get back in the game. These range from timed writings to picture prompts and beyond. Turning to one of these practices is often the best solution when the words don’t come. However, there are other ways to inspire creativity on the page which require completely stepping away from your computer or notebook and pen.
The first way is to do something physical like take a walk, water or weed a garden, or wash a big stack of dishes. Physical activity like this, unless it demands more attention than normal, can help inspire your brain to wander freely. You may be surprised by the inspired, out-of-the-box thoughts which may appear to you under these circumstances. For instance, you may be on a long walk around your neighborhood when you get the flash of insight about your main character which helps the rest of the plot unfold. Or else you may have a fleeting, intuitive thought about the motivations of another character which you were previously unaware of. Walking is also a great opportunity to clear you mind and simply enjoy existing. As Frederic Groc once wrote, “You’re doing nothing when you walk, nothing but walking. But having nothing to do but walk makes it possible to recover the purse sensation of being, to rediscover the simple joy of existing, the joy that permeates the whole of childhood.”
If physical activity isn’t appealing or possible, another option is to take a long drive out in the country. This will obviously be more feasible for some writers than others, and, for those who live in densely populated areas, a drive in an area with less traffic within the city may have to suffice. A long drive, especially without distractions like the radio, phone calls, or too many other drivers, can open up the creative, non-linear part of your brain. You may want to have a miniature tape recorder along in order to record your idle thoughts during the drive. Such an outing is a prime opportunity to resist the urge to immediately analyze your thoughts. Instead, try to enjoy the thoughts which do and do not come without worrying whether they will directly help you with any of your writing projects.
A miniature tape recorder can also be used to record, with permission from all other parties, of course, the conversations you have during the day. By listening to this tape, you may get a better grasp on how to write dialogue. It is easy to assume that people always speak in full sentences until you listen to a conversation on tape and recognize how often sentences are incomplete because someone is interrupted or unable to finish a thought. Listening to your voice or the voices of others on tape will also give you a chance to think about how best to describe what the voices of your characters sound like. Using this prompt will hopefully inspire you to move beyond overused expressions like “she had a breathy, sexy voice” or “He sounded like a radio announcer” in order to describe the vocal inflections of your characters uniquely and accurately.
Creativity can also be encouraged by outings to stores with exotic or colorful items. Visual stimuli can work wonders to help a writer realize what details are worth describing in a story and which are not. If you decide to visit a clothing store, perusing the isles is one way to think about in concrete detail what kind of clothing your characters would wear. Or, at the very least, help you realize what kind of clothing they would never wear. You may even be inspired to create a new character, even only a minor one, based on a particular outfit you find on such an outing.
A final way to boost your creativity without doing the traditional writing exercises is to clean out a closet or cupboard. This may seem like tedious, uncreative work, and perhaps it is in one respect. In another way, however, cleaning out a closet can be an ideal way to clear free space in your mind by better ordering your physical surroundings. It can also be a way to recognize that you have the option to step away from your notebook or computer if the words aren’t coming and work on other things. This isn’t the best option to take every time you feel stymied and uninspired, yet sometimes walking away from your current story, poem, novel, essay, and so forth is a wise, necessary move and may help you write a much better piece because of your decision to step away from it and recharge you creativity in other ways.