Here are some of my favorite quotes from writers on writing and creativity. They make great desktop backgrounds or print out and hang over your workspace.
About 2 weeks ago, I noticed that my words were not flowing as well as they should. My work was sounding forced. Major stress at work, too many things on the to-do list, too many distractions, all contribute to this and interfere with my “writing brain”. Anytime this happens, and it does more often than I’d like, I switch gears and move to only visual work.
By forcing myself not to write, it feels as if the well is replenishing itself. I know every book and website on writing advice will tell you that you have to write every day, but I believe that as long as you continue the creative habit you only strengthen your skills and your process.
Many writers I know take a break by switching to photography. My preference is drawing, so I’ve spent the last 2 weeks doing detailed architectural drawings and colorful doodles. It takes all the pressure off, allows the creativity to continue flowing, and eliminates most of the guilt. After a week or so of not allowing myself to write, I regain the excitement and can’t wait to get back to my keyboard. For me, it works every time.
Whatever your chosen art, when you get blocked or too uninspired, try exploring another one of your creative passions, or discover a new one. Immerse yourself in it. Any time you spend on your creative self is never wasted. You’ll be ready to get back to your writing before you know it.
Write What You Love, and Love What You Write
You’re passion and excitement for the subjects you write about shows in every sentence you create and every word you choose. If you’re not interested and excited about your subject, then your readers won’t be either.
There are hundreds of genres and sub-genres in the world of writing. Make a list of all the subjects that you’re passionate about, and all the things that interest you. Find your niche. Connect with people online-google searches, writing groups, twitter…Look for publications, e-zines, newsletters or any other outlet that may be interested in buying or publishing your work. If it interests you, then there are others that are also interested in it too.
Writing is hard work, as we’ve all discovered by this point. You have to put in the time and do the work if you want to create good copy. Think about what you want to say, research it, plan it out, write it down, then rewrite it as many times as necessary to make it exactly the way you want. Choose your words, your sentence length and structure carefully. Read it out loud.
I compare writing to art frequently. We as writers are artists. We create works of art with words. If a painter paints something they have no passion for, it will be flat and uninspired. The same is true for a writer. Write about what you care about, and you will create interesting and insightful works that you will be proud of.
In case you haven’t already noticed, waiting for inspiration to strike before you create something does not always lead to a productive or lucrative body of work.
Inspiration is out there-it’s all around us and inside us, but it doesn’t always just show up and tap us on the shoulder at the most opportune time. Sometimes we have to search high and low for it, then drag it back to our cave and restrain it long enough to fuel ourselves.
This is where so many people falter. How many times have you just not felt like working on that novel or painting? Or anything, for that matter. When you push yourself to do it, when you climb over that wall made of self doubt and lack of inspiration, is when you realize that it’s as much about the process as the product.
Something I’ve found that helps me get started when I really don’t feel like it is the 15 minute rule. I write down a few 15 minute projects, like write just one paragraph, a quick outline, or anything else that I can do in a short burst. Then I start with whatever sounds the easiest, and go from there.
Even if you only do these short bursts, you are still creating, still fueling your creative habit, and you’ve overcome the obstacle of feeling uninspired.
1. Create a wall of inspiration. Every time you see a picture, photograph or saying that inspires you, or speaks to you, cut it out and attach it to a cork board, magnetic board or even a piece of cardboard or wood. You can paint it, cover it in fabric, or leave it as it is. Keep it close to your work space and refer to it as often as necessary. Add your own reminders or ideas. Anything that gets the blood flowing and the synapses firing. Keep adding to your collection as you find new things.
2. Read everything you can about a creative person you admire. Read their biographies, and learn about all the hurdles and obstacles they had to face to get to where they are. See their vision and mimic their determination.
3. Take a different route to work. Very simple, but good proof that we don’t really see what’s around us when we look at it every day. Very much like the artwork on our walls , or even the people in our lives. Drive down a different street and notice your surroundings; the architecture, the foliage, and the people.
4. Look at the city or neighborhood you live in through the lens of a camera. Photograph everything from every angle. Take your best shot and frame it.
5. Memorize a line or passage from a poem you like and recite it on your way to work. Instead of thinking about everything that happened yesterday, or all the things that might happen today, reciting poetry relaxes the mind and enables you to face the day with a little more creative edge.
6. Watch a foreign film. Stepping outside our culture or our routines gives a new perspective to how we view ourselves and our work.
7. Go to a jazz club, art show or museum, or poetry slam. Surrounding yourself with other creative people and creative energy is always a good idea. Taking a class is another great way to add new ideas to your arsenal.
8. Recover or repaint a garage sale table or chair. Sometimes it’s easier to build on something that’s already there than starting something new. When you’re staring at a blank page or canvas, and don’t know where to start, take the pressure off and work on something that’s already begun, whether it’s your own work or someone else’s. Keeping projects in various stages also helps to keep the energy and productivity flowing.
9. Push yourself and your limitations. Give yourself a time limit, whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour or two. Very often the more time we have, the less we get done. Dedicating an entire day to being creative can be overwhelming, so break it up. For the next hour, do something you enjoy, even if it’s just looking at your art supplies, or rereading something you wrote. Immerse yourself in your art for a set time. If it lasts longer, that’s just icing on the cake.
10. Leave reminders for yourself where you do chores to exercise those creative muscles, and come up with new ideas. Inside the medicine cabinet, over the kitchen sink or washing machine, even inside the garbage can lid. Get used to thinking about the things you enjoy doing, and how to continue doing those things as often as possible.
Being mobile is essential in order to be a prolific writer. I myself am a minimalist, so my collection of essential writing tools is sparse: laptop, tablet, legal pad and pen, and moleskine binder are pretty much all I need to complete most tasks. Like all writers, however, I do have a large collection of books.
This small collection allows me to write wherever I choose, and varying my environment helps me to keep things fresh and avoid staring at the same four walls. If I’m stuck on a sentence, I just move to the patio, or get out of the house and stare at someone else’s walls. Sometimes I prefer solitude, sometimes I like someplace loud and distracting. Depends on my mood and my project.
The key to being mobile and making writing part of your daily life is carrying a notebook and pen with you at all times. Every famous writer, every book and blog on writing advice will tell you the same. I carry a small spiral notebook and a space pen. Have a few minutes before work? On your lunch break? Shopping, waiting for the laundry, stuck in traffic? Take out that paper and brainstorm possible writing topics, ways to add creativity to your life, bits of conversation, character descriptions…
Write in it every day. You can use it as a log book and chronicle your daily adventures, a place for random thoughts and sketches, whatever you choose. All that matters is that you write. And the more you write, the sooner you will discover your voice. The key to becoming a better writer is as simple as just writing.
Sharing the progress of whatever you’re working on can be both motivating and scary as hell.
The process of creating a piece of work fascinates most people. What a famous writer did every day before he wrote, where he wrote, what he wrote on, what the first manuscript looked like… Or the story behind the painting, what the artist had to go through to complete it, the obstacles he had to overcome, or what the original drawing looked like.
Knowing the process, knowing the story behind the story, makes us feel closer to the creator and the work itself. Having people able to connect to our work is what we strive for.
Sharing works in progress, either in person or on social media opens ourselves up to all kinds of criticism. It’s a fact. Not everyone will like what you’re doing. But you’d be surprised at how many people will. You’ll also make connections to others who are taking that same risk.
It’s motivating and empowering. And it also gives you credibility. “Yes I’m a writer. You can see some of my latest work on my Facebook page, or my blog…”
1. Be a writer
3. Share your work
Just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you have to do writing exercises to get the creativity flowing. Sometimes it’s best to be creative outside of your passion to get a fresh outlook on your work, or just to work out some general creative muscles.
Here’s 10 of my favorites:
1. Rearrange your environment. Moving furniture around, changing out the artwork on your walls, clearing everything off of your desk, replacing what you stare at while waiting for the Muse to visit, swapping out the photos you have framed… can all work to get the creativity flowing. Frame some pictures from magazines or books that you like, or a quote that you find inspiring.
2. Repurpose something. Whether it’s finding another use for the bread ties piling up in the drawer, refinishing a piece of furniture, or building a shelf from a piece of reclaimed lumber, finding creative uses for things that you have lying around can be a great booster as well as being productive.
3. Cook something wild. Go ahead and try that recipe that you’ve been afraid of all these years, or find one online that sounds like fun. If you are as “cooking challenged” as I am, how about trying a restaurant that you wouldn’t normally go to, and order the most interesting thing on the menu, or ask the chef or server what they recommend.
4. Compose a rhyming poem or a rap song about yourself. How would you describe yourself or what you do?
5. Amp up your car. Try a beach-themed air freshener, a Jimmy Buffett CD and a hula dancer on the dashboard. Or hang that scarf you love but never wear from your rearview mirror. Change out that cd that’s been in there for a year.
6. Do a Paint by Number. Only do it in your own color scheme. Forget the blue sky and white clouds. Make them red and purple. Don’t even bother looking at the instructions. It’s yours to make your own.
7. Learn a few phrases in a language that you always wanted to speak. A few usable sentences or questions in French or Italian can go a long way. Even memorizing a favorite poem can transport you out of your element and give you’re a different view of your life.
8. Plant something and photograph it as it grows. Plant a seed, or a bunch of them in a container, and take a photograph everyday at the same time as it grows.
9. Buy a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store, break it up and spread it around the house in the most creative receptacles you can find. Cut the stems to an appropriate length for each display. Four or Five in a coffee can, two or three in a soda bottle or a coffee cup. Use your imagination-if it holds water, put a flower in it.
10. Take a walk and let your mind wander. After the first 10 or 15 minutes, all the chores and things you have to do will start to fade, and your mind can relax. Make up a story, pretend you’re someone else, or just daydream about your ideal life.
If you want your readers to feel connected to you and your work, it’s important for you to have a physical connection to it as well. It’s not just about banging out words on a computer. Painters, photographers and sculptors have it. Writers need to have it also.
Writing fiction? Then step away from the computer, and maybe do your character studies by hand. Use paper, white board, post its, whatever you need to physically connect to your work. Write down everything you know about them, their relationships with other characters, their back stories…hold their lives physically in your hands.
If you’re writing non-fiction, try doing your outline by hand on paper, or at least jot down some notes and ideas. Think about what it is you want to say, how you feel about it, how it affects you…Readers will be much more intrigued and interested in your writing if they can sense a real connection.
Making a physical connection to your work is establishing true ownership. You created it, so make it truly yours. Your readers will be able to tell the difference.
Some great notebooks I love and always carry are Field Notes.
Great advice from famous writers.
Good all around writing info and tools.
Some music from Jimmy Buffet to start your day.
Facing a blank page, or a blank screen, as everyone can attest to can be overwhelming and intimidating. But you have to show up in order to create. And you have to show up every single day. Waiting until you’re inspired to do it will get you nowhere.
Show up, figure out what it is you want to say, and just start writing. A mere 200 words a day turns into 1400 words a week, which turns into 72800 words in a year. There’s your book. Don’t worry about editing or rewriting. That will come later. Writing and editing simultaneously just slows you down and kills your rhythm.
Just do it. You know you can. Make your coffee or your power smoothie, grab your M&M’s, give yourself just one hour, and start writing. And do it everyday. Be the writer you’ve always wanted to be.
Some practical, no-nonsense writing advice On Writing Well, by William Zinsser.
Fascinating Daily Rituals of dozens of writers, poets, artists, scientists and creative people of all kinds by Mason Currey
Some mellow musical inspiration from Bob Marley
Great tips and advice for becoming a professional writer: Funds For Writers by Hope Clark