Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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Creative Action: Share Some Gratitude

A woman giving her daughter a kiss on the forehead in gratitude.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Writing can be a lonely pursuit. When it comes down to the actual writing process, there’s usually just you and the page.

But in the process of learning our writing craft, and making progress with our stories, there are often many people who help us along the way.

They may be:

  • Partners, spouses, roommates and/or children who patiently allow us to bury our heads in our manuscripts day after day.
  • Friends who ask us how our writing is going, and genuinely listen to the response.
  • Beta readers who take time to give their feedback, even if it’s not what we wanted to hear, so that we can fix story problems and reword awkward sentences.
  • Fellow writers who share tips and encouragement on their blogs, in person or through e-mails.
  • Editors who invest in our stories and go over them with an eye for detail, fixing all the tiny little mistakes that turn a manuscript into a finished product.
  • Cover artists who take our rough ideas and turn them into eye-catching imagery so people will be intrigued enough to read our words.
  • Support people who answer our questions and fix our problems, be they problems with websites, manuscript files, uploading, formatting or any other of the numerous technical issues we may come across.
  • Readers who express their excitement at our releases and take time to leave reviews or pass the word on to others who may enjoy our writing.

I’m sure you can think of many more to add to that list.

How often do we take the time to stop and say ‘thank you’ to those who have helped us along the way, to take more than a moment to actually explain the impact that person has had on our writing life?

Now’s your opportunity. This month’s creative action is as follows:

  1. Think of one person who has helped you (they may be on the list above, or they may be someone else).
  2. Compose a message (be it verbal or written) in which you tell the person specifically how helpful they have been to you and what you have appreciated about the way they have provided that help.
  3. Send your message, or find an opportunity to share your thoughts in person.

 

Why is this important? Because it not only makes the person you chose feel a little better, but it reinforces in your mind that there are people who care about you and your writing.

This month I took the opportunity to write to Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch to thank them for the wonderful information they generously provide on their blogs. I received a really lovely reply from both of them telling me how much they appreciated my message.

So who have you chosen? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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Creative Action: Say Can

A girl looking very grumpy. Obviously she's been saying can't too often.

“Grouch” by Greg Westfall via Flickr

Hi, I’m Jessica’s Creativity and today I’m laying down a challenge!

Are you a little petulant?

Do you say “can’t” too often?

Adults tend to associate the petulant use of “can’t” with small children who refuse to eat vegetables, take baths or enter indentured servitude.

But in my experience, adults are equally guilty of saying “can’t” when they really “could” if they got out of their own way, got off their high horse or got down to rainbow tacks (because brass tacks are sooo passé).

For example, have you ever finished reading a book and thought to yourself, “I can’t write something like that”?

Have you been blessed with the incandescent light bulb of an idea only to say, “I can’t do that idea justice, so I won’t even try writing it”?

Or what about the ever popular, “I can’t write today, because I promised to walk Aunt Mable’s tapir (or whatever common excuse you use)”?

If you spend your life effectively nipping yourself in the bud every time you come close to writing about something brilliant, you know what happens? You end up bushy with no flowers…because you nipped all the buds…

Yes…well…let’s pretend that little flop of a joke didn’t happen and move on, shall we?

Anyway, for this month’s creative action I want you to do one very simple thing which could make an incredible difference to your writing life.

Say can.

The next time you read an inspiring book, say to yourself, “I can write something inspiring like that.”

Why? Because you can. With your own unique writing voice and your own unique writing drive you can inspire someone with your words.

The next time you get a flash of an idea, say to yourself, “I can do that idea justice. I’ll try writing it.”

Why? Because you can. It may take time. You may have to learn some new skills and hurdle a few mountains in the process, but it’s possible.

The next time you’re tempted to find an excuse not to write today, say to yourself and anyone listening, “I can write today.”

Why? Because, you guessed it, chances are you can. Get out of your own way and settle yourself in front of the page. See what happens. Prove yourself right by writing at least one word. Then follow it up with one more. See?! You can!

Right, off you go! Say CAN!

And then don’t forget to pop back here and leave a comment telling us what you did. 😉


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Releasing the Creative Cleanse E-mail Course for Writers

Creative Cleanse for Writers

All month we’ve been talking about what to do when you’re not able to write. We discussed what you should do if you’re faced with a non-writing day, but we also looked into the causes of those stretches when we don’t want to write for weeks or even months at a time.

Too often, the reason why those non-writing days stretch into weeks and months (and maybe even years) has to do with mental, emotional and creative exhaustion.

I’ve faced periods of creative exhaustion myself and I’ve found the best way to get myself out of the creative slump is to follow the five step Creative Cleanse.

Over five weeks, the Creative Cleanse:

  • Provides your Creativity space to rest.
  • Cultivates a trust between you and your Creativity.
  • Fills your creative well.
  • Instils good writing habits.
  • Encourages you to get back into your latest writing project.
  • Helps you learn (or relearn) what makes your Creativity tick.

I know the Creative Cleanse has been effective for me and I’ve spent months considering the best way to share it with you. Finally the big day has arrived.

I’ve turned the Creative Cleans into an e-mail course (no longer available as of 2016) you can take whenever you’re feeling the symptoms of creative exhaustion!

What’s Involved in the Creative Cleanse?

At the beginning of each week of the Creative Cleanse e-mail course you will receive an e-mail with instructions for the creative activity you will be focusing on during that week.

The schedule for the five weeks is as follows:

  • Week 1 – Actively Do Nothing
  • Week 2 – Restorative Reading
  • Week 3 – Freewriting (using the Creative Cleanse writing prompts)
  • Week 4 – Choose a Project
  • Week 5 – Record Your Observations (using the Creative Cleanse Worksheet)

The Creative Cleanse PDF Cover

It will take you 15 minutes to half an hour a day to complete the activities and I will be on hand to answer any questions you may have during the process.

At the end of your course, you will receive a PDF copy of the Creative Cleanse so you can return to the Creative Cleanse program whenever you wish.

 

 

(We regret this course is no longer available as of 2016)


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Creative Action: Freewrite About Your Writing Fears

A little girl looking afraid. Is this how you feel when you're writing?

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Hi, I’m Jessica’ Creativity (you can tell it’s me because I’m writing in purple) and I’m talking about taking some serious creative action!

Today Jessica is over at Write to Done, blogging about how you can complete any project by using Completion Addiction! (I highly recommend you pop over there and shower her with celebratory pompoms.)

You’re probably already familiar with Idea Addiction – that irresistible high you get when a shiny new idea diverts you from your work in progress. One reason the high is so irresistible is because it distracts us from the fears we face on our current project.

All writers face fears of some kind – be it the fear that you’ll never amount to anything, or the fear that you’ve just ruined your best tuxedo by spattering yourself with fountain pen ink.

But there are two important things to remember when facing fear:

  • Number one, fear is changeable. Your fears change as you develop and learn. Therefore, they are not written in stone but are actually malleable.
  • Number two, fear isn’t permanent (unlike fountain pen ink, my condolences to your tuxedo). It can be overcome. It is a challenge for you to take on and conquer – followed by a feast and much dancing.

Fear can be combatted with something you naturally have at your disposal – words!

Discovering the Source of Your Fear

First of all, you need to discover why you feel this discomfort. Fear is your mind’s way of protecting you. If you’re standing on the edge of a sixty foot drop, or considering pitched battle with a pterodactyl, fear is probably a good thing.

But when it comes to writing, and other non-lethal activities, fear steps in too soon. It’s usually there because it doesn’t want you to get your hopes up, to be hurt by other people, or fall flat on your face in front of millions of adoring fans because you chose platform shoes instead of sneakers.

Fear can be nebulous to begin with. It tells you that you can’t write. It tells you the white page is scary.

It’s your job to start fighting back with your words.

Do you know what the best word to use with your fear is?

“Why?”

Seriously.

Try this scenario: You’re afraid you can’t write.

Now ask: Why?

Perhaps your answer is: You think you’re going to make mistakes and people will ridicule you.

Ah, we’ll now we’re getting somewhere. It’s not that you can’t write. It’s that you’re afraid to make mistakes. That’s something we can work with!

From there you can set about carving out a new mindset with your words. And as a writer, your words are your superpower. You can handle words and string them together to change a person’s mind – in this case, yours.

So, let’s give it a go shall we?

Follow these steps:

  1. Set yourself a timer for, say, fifteen minutes.
  2. Start freewriting (using a computer, a pen and journal, or even chisel and stone tablet if that method appeals to you). Do not stop writing until the timer goes off, even if it seems you’re just writing drivel.
  3. Name the fear or barrier you’re facing. (Are you afraid you’re a fraud? Do you think your work is rubbish? Are you worried other people will think you’re wasting your time?)
  4. Next, ask the question: Why? Channel your inner 3-year-old and keep asking questions until you get to the heart of the matter.
  5. Once you’ve discovered the source of your fear, then start writing about how it affects you.
  6. If you’ve still got time in your freewrite, begin sketching out a new way of viewing your situation. Use your works to challenge the fear and work on overcoming it.

This process won’t be easy, and it may take you several freewrites before you feel you’ve properly got a handle on this particular fear – but each time you face a fear and conquer it, you become stronger.

With that strength comes the confidence to take on the white page fright and come off victorious!

What fears are you facing in your writing right now?


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Creative Action: Discover Something New About You as a Writer

A pile of notebooks and folders full of writing. How exciting!

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

While packing for my big move in December, I went through my writing files. I’ve got stacks and stacks of paper, from my most recent drafts all the way down to the embarrassing, sugary-sweet stories I slammed out on my typewriter as a pre-teen.

As a writer, I’m always learning and looking for ways to improve my craft. But on this particular day I took some time to look back over what I’ve written in my life so far and how much progress I’ve made.

Sometimes it’s easy to spend so much time trying to improve ourselves and our writing that we lose sight of what we’ve already accomplished.

Personally I always think I haven’t written enough, or read enough, or finished enough. Going through my files I discovered:

  • Finished manuscripts,
  • Heaps of story ideas,
  • Printed writing articles from years ago, each lovingly highlighted and studied,
  • Notebooks full of handwritten notes from writing conferences and writing books I’ve read,
  • Research on topics I wanted to write about, and
  • Lots of little pieces of paper with quotes that have kept me motivated over the years.

It was a wonderful reminder that I’ve been a writer for many years, and that I’ve done a lot of hard work during those years. The writer I am today is built on the back of the writer I’ve been.

I took a few minutes to admire my younger self’s hard work, tenacity and belief – elements that usually go unnoticed while I concentrate on my writing.

So I encourage you to do the same.

  1. Set aside some time to go back over your writing life so far.
  2. Look through your old files, journals, manuscripts and any other items related to your writing.
  3. Tally up the time you’ve spent on your writing so far. Look for areas where you’ve improved. Discover things about yourself and your writing that surprise or encourage you.
  4. Spend a few minutes patting yourself on the back. Recognise your hard work and your progress as a writer.
  5. Now set your sights on the future. What would you like to accomplish this year?

Remember, make sure you focus on the accomplishments and positive aspects of your writing life. This should be a rewarding and encouraging activity.

Leave a comment below and let us know what you discovered about yourself as a writer.


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Creative Action: Spice Up Your Story with a New Character

An orange-coloured sky, all ready for your newly written character to appear.

Now all we need is a paraglider! Read on, you’ll see what I mean. (Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art)

Hi, I’m Jessica’s Creativity and today I’m inciting you to a writing riot!

Jessica has a song stuck in her head at the moment. It’s an earworm that just won’t go away!

(And may I remind you that we Creativities have to live in the same space as your earworms, so keep that in mind the next time you’re listening to your favourite music. Earworms are self-absorbed little creatures that barrel through your train of thought without so much as a by-your-leave. They’re also repulsively smug. I’m not being petulant…only truthful.)

The song is called “Orange Colored Sky” and the basic premise is as follows: The singer was toddling along the sidewalk one day when love struck her unawares. General chaos and destruction ensues, including falling glass and collapsing ceilings.

I assume this is all figurative, but you can never be sure. Her ‘love’ may have been a window washer… Or a paraglider.

What does this have to do with your writing?

Well, if you’ve got the feeling that you’re just going through the motions with your manuscript and your story needs some spicing up, why not introduce a paraglider?

Or not necessarily a paraglider, but a new character. Throw in a fresh person to mix things up.

This character doesn’t have to be a love interest (although if there is romance, beware of falling masonry). It can be a miserly aunt or a newborn with colic.

How? You don’t need to overthink the process. Try one of these tips.

  • Has someone briefly mentioned a relative or friend earlier in your story? Why not write about them?
  • Write a sudden knock at the door. Get your main character to open the door and then let your Creativity fill in the details. (Seriously, this can work!)
  • If your character is shopping, have them talk to the girl behind the checkout.
  • If your character is walking along the street, let them bump into a passer-by. If that doesn’t work, allow them to wander into oncoming traffic. Either someone will hit them or someone will rescue them. Voila, new character.
  • Get your character lost and then convince them to ask for directions.
  • If worst comes to worst, use the paraglider trick. Or if you’re worried everyone’s doing that nowadays, then have a hot air balloon land in your main character’s backyard.

Freshen up your writing and send your plot spinning in a completely new direction. Give a go!

How do you introduce new characters into your story? Do tell, we’re all dying to know!


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Creative Action: Change Your Writing Implement

A hand using a fountain pen to write delightful words

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

I am currently in Fountain-Pen-Land, a.k.a. England. I’ve had a hankering for a fountain pen of my own for a long time now, but fountain pens seem to be an expensive rarity in Australia.

My husband has been clearing out his drawers at his parent’s place here in Essex and came across an Orient Express Fountain Pen he’d been given but never used. It has now become my constant, and much beloved, companion.

Since using it I’ve noticed a difference in my writing style. With my new fountain pen I’m more likely to use flowery language. I’m also more likely to write an extra sentence or two just to watch the ink come out of the nib.

I enjoy experimenting with many different writing implements to see what impact they will have on my writing style.

My list so far contains the following:

  • Gel pen – When using my favourite gel pen (with comfy grip) I am at my most thoughtful. It’s not unusual for me to spin it around my fingers as I consider the next words I’ll write. I love the feeling of the pen gliding across page after page, guided by my hand.
  • Purple pen – With a different coloured pen I feel bolder, perhaps even a little eccentric, which greatly appeals to my Creativity. I find myself more likely to branch out into new ideas when using it.
  • Mechanical pencil – I feel freer with a pencil, more likely to experiment, safe in the knowledge I can always erase anything I don’t like. I also don’t feel my words are as permanent when writing in pencil so this can help me overcome perfectionism.
  • Keyboard – I love typing as it allows my writing to keep pace with my mind. I use my computer keyboard when my writing mind is in full flight and I have to get all my thoughts or story down on the page as quickly as possible.
  • Typewriter – This is by far the noisiest option, but I love hearing my words hit the page. There’s something special about words that had to be worked onto the world with such mechanical precision. There are also plenty of little knobs to fiddle with if beset by writer’s block.

What about you and your Creativity? How many different writing implements have you tried? Use the list below as a starting point.

Over the next few weeks, spend at least an hour or two with each writing implement and note down the impact it has on your writing.

  • Ordinary pen
  • Coloured pen
  • Pencil
  • Keyboard
  • Typewriter

What’s your favourite writing implement? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever used to write?


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10 Treats to Keep Your Creativity Happy

A dog staring at the biggest bone he's ever seen.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Hi, I’m Jessica’s Creativity and today you and I are going to plan a treat for your Creativity. Ready?!

Jessica is currently on holiday in England for a couple of months. There’s sunshine galore (surprising for the UK, no?) and a plethora of interesting things to see and do. As you can guess, that means very little writing.

Is that a bad thing?

Actually, it’s exactly what Doctor Creativity ordered! In fact, taking a break and immersing yourself in a completely different activity is something you should do for your Creativity on a regular basis, even if you have no plans to toddle across the globe in the near future.

You see, your Creativity is like a sponge. She/he laps up idea juice ready to use when you give her/him a gentle squeeze. But after a while your Creativity becomes tired, parched and…well, cranky. Yes! I’m not the only one! I’m sure there are other Creativities out there just like me! We shall form the CCU – Cranky Creativities Unite!

Ahem.

With this propensity to fatigue in mind, the wise writer schedules time for creative treats.

Like dogs, dolphins and small children, Creativities perform well when coaxed into action by the promise of treats. Small outings or even a simple change of routine can replenish the creative well that keeps we Creativities functioning at our whacky best.

Here are ten examples of treats you could give your Creativity. I recommend at least one per month for a happy, healthy creative buddy.

  • Take a Trip to a Museum. A little piece of history is a great spark for ideas. Each item has a story to tell, a journey that has brought it to this place and time.
  • Visit a Local Site. Have you noticed how rarely you visit your local landmarks and quirky spots? How many interesting nooks and crannies are near where you live? How many historical sites with stories just waiting to be told are within an hour’s toboggan ride from your house?
  • Read a New Book. Keep up the intake of literary goodness. If you want your Creativity to provide fresh words and ideas ,you need to keep up a steady flow of literature. (Isn’t that the perfect excuse to buy a new book? You can thank me later.)
  • Read a Favourite Book. Books that stick in our mind usually have a special what’s-it that draws us back again and again. Rereading those books can help infuse that element into your own writing – like standing too close to burning incense or yak dung…but in a good way.
  • Watch a Movie. If you don’t have the time to indulge yourself with a whole book, why not take a couple of hours to immerse yourself in a good movie (figuratively of course, although I don’t think you can drown in DVDs)? If you need tips on what to look for in a movie, try thinking like a scriptwriter.
  • Go to a Play. Live entertainment is a buzz to watch. Great plays suck you into the performance and make you feel like you’re a part of everything that’s going on. Your Creativity will exit on a high!
  • Take a Walk in a Park. Sometimes your Creativity just needs some space to restore herself/himself to equilibrium. Staring at those tall things with green hair – they’re either called trees or punk teenagers, I can never tell which – has a calming effect. It’s healing to not be in demand, even if only for a short time.
  • Visit an Inspirational Friend. If you’re privileged enough to have one of those friends that gets your creative juices pumping and inspires you to jump straight to a pen and paper, then organise regular visits. Remember to take chocolate or gifts or money so it’s a rewarding visit for all.
  • Go to the Library. If you find being surrounded by books has an uplifting effect, then pop over to your local library and sit among the shelves. Spend a quiet hour or two stroking book spines and reading pieces here and there. You can even take a few home with you, if you ask permission first.
  • Have a nothing day. Every now and then have a day when you do nothing. Just be yourself. Potter where your interests take you but don’t put the pressure of productivity on yourself. Enjoy just existing. Your Creativity may curl up and sleep, but perhaps that’s exactly what she/he needs.
  • Buy Your Creativity Something Nice. I personally love journals and pens, but they have to be the right journal or pen. I’m fussy. If I’m not happy, I won’t grace the pages with my presence. Is your Creativity the same? Why don’t you two go shopping and find the perfect item?

Well there’s the list. If you’ve been counting, you might have realised I sneaked in an extra number 11 treat. But this list is only the beginning. You can add anything and everything that your Creativity finds rewarding.

So comment below. What will you and your Creativity add to this list?

Remember, try to fit one in every month to keep your Creativity happy and healthy…and less cranky.

****

If you and your Creativity are struggling to get through the day, take a look at the free e-book Tips for Those Contemplating Insanity.


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Creative Actions: Record That Bouncing Idea

Children bouncing on balls.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Most of us have at least a couple of ideas bouncing around in our minds at any given time. Some of them are just small ideas (like what to write next in a scene or a great name for a character) and others have the potential to be huge (like a new series of novels or a brilliant twist to our latest plot).

Either way, our ideas need to be carefully looked after if they’re to make their way to fruition.

If we can’t use our ideas right away, then it’s good practice to record them in an idea book. We just recently spoke about how the act of writing changes your ideas.

Getting them out on the page can help you:

  • Preserve the idea for later reference (in case the idea changes or is forgotten).
  • See the flaws you’ll need to fix to keep the idea alive.
  • See connections to other ideas or projects you may not have realised before.
  • Try different iterations and drafts while still keeping a copy of the original concept.
  • Expand your idea into paragraphs of concrete text ready for further work.
  • Get the idea out of your head to free up room for your current project and/or fresh ideas.

Recording the idea doesn’t mean you have to start work on it right away. In fact, writing your idea down is a great way of keeping the idea safe while you move on to other things.

So why don’t you give it a go?

The steps are as follows:

  1. Set aside 15 minutes.
  2. Settle yourself in front of your idea book or computer.
  3. Write your idea out. Note down all the relevant details that have been floating around in your head. Use stream of consciousness if that works for you.
  4. When your time is up, reward yourself for your hard work – perhaps with a snack or a pat on the back. Make this an enjoyable experience.
  5. Come back to your idea in a few weeks’ time to see if there’s anything you can add to it.

Try it out and then comment below to let us know how you went.

*****

A quick note: My plans have suddenly changed and I’m traveling overseas next week. I’m looking for some guest posts help me through the next few weeks while I get my plans sorted and recover from jetlag. If you’re interested in guest posting here on Creativity’s Workshop, take a look at the guidelines and then send me an e-mail.


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Creative Actions: Talk to a Child

A boy lying on a pumpkin...or should that be 'lying over a pumpkin'?

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Hi, I’m Jessica’s Creativity (that’s me smiling down at you from the blog header above). Today I’m inviting you and your Creativity to take creative action!

Every month Creativity’s Workshop encourages you to take creative action by doing something special with your Creativity.

So far we’ve covered crazy research, finding inspiration on Pinterest, declaring yourself a writer with nifty posters and making a writer’s day with a simple message. These are all activities where your Creativity can come to the fore and directly dabble in your everyday life.

This month’s Creative Action requires the following:

  • A young child
  • An open mind
  • Patience
  • An active Creativity

I think it also requires a bag of marshmallows and a yoyo but Jessica insists they’re optional. Sigh.

The Purpose of This Month’s Action

Everyone has a unique viewpoint and voice. When you are able to incorporate these two elements into your characters, you take them from being just words on a page to actual people who talk for themselves. (Your next problem with be getting them to follow along with your plot, but that’s a battle for another day. You can’t have everything, you greedy writer you!)

Your Creativity plays an essential role in crafting your character’s viewpoint and voice. This month’s action will give your Creativity some extra idea fodder to work with.

So what is the action in question?

Instructions

This month I’m encouraging you to have a conversation with a small child.

The goals of the conversation are to:

  • Notice the word choices and grammar hiccups that are inherent to small children, and
  • Discover how the world looks from a child’s point of view.

You might try talking about:

  • School
  • Home
  • Favourite colours
  • Favourite toys
  • What they would like to be when they grow up
  • Disgusting things they’ve recently found in their back garden

Be creative with your conversation but try to talk as little as possible. Let your small friend do the talking. After all, you’re listening for their unique ways of speaking and thinking about things.

When you return to your writing, don’t use the conversation verbatim (treat this conversation with the same thoughtfulness and confidentiality as you would a conversation with any other person), but be inspired by the flavour of the discussion. Let their childish viewpoints and voice infuse your mind with ideas. Use your fresh perspective to create a new character or give an existing character a more distinct voice.

Now potter off and find yourself a small child.

Note: Make sure the child’s parent is happy for you to have a conversation with their child.  This is not an excuse to kidnap children in the name of Creativity.

Now, over to you. Do you remember any of the quirky words or phrases you used to use as a child? Can you remember your perspective on things when you were young? Let us know in the comments.