1. Read. Read anything you can find. It’s similar to the advice of copying a phone book when one has writer’s block. The related action fires the kiln of your brain. I prefer essays and works on how people think and make decisions. Or ideas on creativity or novels. When reading novels, I enjoy the Easter egg hunt for great sentences and identifying their construction. Look up words for which you don’t know the meaning, especially words with which you are familiar but could not yourself use in a sentence. This morning I learned unctuous, aggrieved, and erudition.
2. Read and write simultaneously. As you are reading and thoughts, ideas, and concepts develop, write them down. You may begin reading mostly and jotting an occasionaly note. Eventually the writing will take over and the book is placed quietly aside. Stand on the shoulders of giants.
3. Arise early. Starting the day while it’s still night motivates by this simple sense of accomplishment.
4. Think about your writing the evening prior. It’s best t consider the topic about which you’d like to write, but most any topic will do. Last night, I thought about the best way to spend $25 after the responses received from a Craig’s List ad posted for part-time nanny help. A second idea was to hand out 25 $1 bills on a public corner to watch people’s reaction. It’s about pushing the brain into motion.
5. Use paper and pen to start. They allow you to draw associations between ideas you’ve written. Imagine you are Mozart and your pen is a quill as you scratch out a sonata or concerto. Listen for the music in your mind. Find a rhythm in your writing. Write quickly and legibly. Once you become exhausted, ready what you’ve written to add ideas and small corrections. Then later, type your writings into notes. Do your editing then.
6. Travel by train. Planes are acceptable but they are considerably more stressful and include many more variables such as seat mates, space, time, and the exhaustion of energy required to board. Trains maintain a connection to reality, yet transport you from the before to the after in a predictable, soothing way. Using paper and pen may be exceedingly more difficult by train. Be prepared for this.
7. Find your writing music. I do well with piano like Ludovico Einaudi, Will Ackerman, and Brian Crane. Sometimes I can work with new age like Enya and Enigma, but the music must be familiar to me and only if I listen to the beat and mostly ignore the lyrics. Find what works and reserve that genre for your writing.
8. Stand in a familiar room from an odd vantage point, then be still for a few minutes.
It shakes you from your routine. Maybe it’s sitting on the kitchen counter, or standing in a closet, or laying on your belly in the hallway or on your back with your head tilted sideways. New perspectives breed new thoughts. I think this is why trains work so well. The view is constantly changing, yet in a familiar environment.
9. Stop trying. You can introduce writing, but you can’t force it. If you’re not swimming in creative juices, take a moment to recognize it. Then reach for a book and begin reading.
10. Ask yourself questions. This creates a conversation.
11. Know your routine. Find inefficiencies and correct them. I arise early, take a shower, make coffee and breakfast, then sit to write. Thus, I must remember to start the coffee before the shower, have my desk clear and computer closed, pens and note cards ready, and listen to music via my phone instead of a web browser. This flow allows me to dive immediately into writing. If I am traveling, I look excitedly ahead to the early train so I arise enthusiastically with the alarm, as it frees me from my sleep instead of awakening me from my slumber.
More on creativity and ideas from people much smarter than me:
Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit (and the inspiration for today’s post)