Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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Making Orange Juice From Life’s Lemons

A refreshing image of citrus fruit and a jug of juice from aforementioned.

Hello all. It’s been a little while since my last post, but I’m finally getting back into routine!

Yes, life has thrown us some lemons of late. For those who would like an update on my life, there is some good news and some not-so-good news.

The good news is that my health is picking up. After a couple of months being unable to write, I’m working my way back to something resembling normality. The not-so-good news is that my husband’s health has deteriorated further. We are none the wiser as to why he is so ill, though thankfully cancer and a couple of other nasties have been ruled out. It seems this one’s going to be a long haul.

At times like these, writing and creative projects tend to go out the window as you rush from doctor to doctor. Over the past couple of months I’ve learned how to be creative under the deluge of life’s flying citrus.

Here are some of my suggestions. I’d love to hear yours too!

1. Get Back to Basics

Sometimes all you can do is sleep, eat and manage essential household chores. When that happens, don’t be shy about cutting out everything that adds unnecessary stress or takes essential time/energy.

If this includes writing or other creative pursuits, don’t panic. It’s not forever, just during your current showering of lemons.

2. Find Little Outlets for Your Creativity

Doodle, write humours notes, fold paper hats from junk mail or any other little things which give your Creativity an opportunity to show a little flair. Try doing a small creative project that no one is relying on – something just for you.

Creative moments like these help to keep you sane under the pressure. Just remember, stressful situations are not ideal times to be creative. Use creative moments to release tension, not criticise yourself for what you’re unable to accomplish.

3. Return to Your Routine Slowly

Once you’re in a position to return to your creative pursuits, do things gradually. Don’t expect to jump straight back into the same quality and quantity as you managed before.

Be reasonable with your expectations and goals.

4. Be Patient as You Return to Form

After a hiatus, your first attempts at ideas, writing or any creative endeavour will be below par. You’re rusty and out of practice. Ignore your output for the first few days or weeks.

In the same way as an athlete will need to slowly work his muscles back into form, you too are working yourself back into condition. Be patient.

5. Ignore Advice

Waiting in your inbox will probably be plenty of blog posts and articles telling you all the things you should be doing – post to your blog three times a week, write 1,000 words a day, make sure there’s conflict in every scene.

This advice applies to people who are already in routine. You are building yourself back into routine, therefore this advice does not apply to you.

If anything in the article overwhelms you or discourages you, then ignore it. Only expose yourself to positive, gentle, motivating advice.

At this point, getting yourself back into writing is most important. You can polish and refine your work later once you’re able to face that stuff again.

So, that’s what I’ve learned from my recent experiences.

Have you been through anything similar? Do you have suggestions to add? I’d love to hear them.

P.S. If you’re interested in further tips on how to manage stress with your Creativity intact, try reading my e-book Tips for Those Contemplating Insanity.


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The Library: The Pocket Muse Books

The Pocket Muse by Monica WoodI haven’t added to The Library for several months and I’m overflowing with books, movies and music to mention. Today I want to talk about one of my favourite books. If you are a creative writer, you must own this book.

It’s called The Pocket Muse, written by Monica Wood and published by Writers Digest Books.

I have read many books on writing but this one is the pick of the lot. It distills all the necessary wisdom into bite sized chunks, interspersed with writing prompts, gorgeous pictures and quotations. Wood covers an amazing variety of subjects, from prompts to get your writing started, through dealing with writer’s block, to finding an agent. Each new page is a delightful discovery, covered with hilarious and thought-provoking photographs, tasteful use of colour and intriguing designs. Just what Creativity needs to rejuvenate and start sparking again.

Along with the encouragement and eye candy, there is your fair share of “marching orders” regarding procrastination, writing routine and other areas where writers need frequent prompting. But Wood always makes sure she ends with a positive.

If you would like to read excerpts from this book, pop over to Monica Wood’s site.

My only complaint is, because the book is full of random snippets, it’s difficult to find the point you want a second time. I’ve spent ages flicking through the book trying to locate a quote or prompt I want to read again, cursing the fact I hadn’t put a marker in it – but then I love everything in the book so everything would be marked and I’d still be stuck.

The second volume The Pocket Muse Endless Inspiration is just as good. It contains more of everything that made the first book great, as well as extra information which completes the collection of writing wisdom.

In the immortal words of Goldilocks, these books are ‘not too big, not too small. Just right.’ If you haven’t bought, borrowed or secretly absconded with one yet, get cracking.


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Cheesy Advice…The Good Kind

CheeseHave you ever noticed the wide variety of books, magazines, websites, blogs etc. on the subjects of writing and cultivating your creativity? Have you ever noticed how they often seem to contradict each other?

Write with your audience in mind. / Write like you’re the only one who’ll ever read it.

Write, write, write; especially when you don’t feel like writing. / Write only when you feel you have something to say.

Surround yourself with inspiring objects. / Declutter! An empty space provides room for creativity.

Listen to music to get you in the mood. / Silence! Don’t drown out your ideas with other sounds. 

See what I mean? Not just different views. Diametrically opposite views. How do you know which one is right? Is there such a thing as ‘right’ in this case?

Perhaps we should rephrase the question. How do you know which one is right for you and your Creativity? The answer is: Cheese!

Well, not exactly ‘cheese’ but run with it for a bit and you’ll see what I mean.

Cheddar or Bulgarian Feta?

Although most people like cheese, none of them agree on which is the best cheese and how it should be eaten. Some swear by melted cheddar in toasted sandwiches, while others are adamant that feta with coppa and sun-dried tomatoes is the ultimate cheese eating experience. Even those who prefer melted probably started out as kids with tiger bread (grilled cheese and Vegemite), progressed to pizza with extra toppings and then discovered fondue.

Are those who prefer melted cheddar wrong and the feta lovers right? “No,” you say. “Everyone has different tastes.” And you’d be right.

In the same way that people have different tastes and personalities, Creativitys differ. Or should that be Creativities? Making up words is tough! English grammar flummoxes me every time! What was I saying?

There are some truths that apply to just about all cheeses. You can add just about all cheeses to salads (depending on the salad). Just about all cheeses melt. And then there’s cheese and crackers. That’s tradition. Feta, cheddar, edam, bleu, smoked, cream. It doesn’t matter. You can add them all to crackers and yumminess ensues.

It’s the same with creativity. There are some truths that apply to just about all of us Creativitys/ies. We all need input – exposure to information or examples of what we are expected to produce – before we can truly come up with something new. We all need a certain amount of freedom. We all need a little nurture and protection from scathing responses to our work. We all need bright colours, outlandish clothing and permission to dance barefoot on cafe tables in the rainy season. Or is that just me?

Ahem.

There are some situations where a certain kind of cheese is just perfect for a certain kind of dish. For example: lasagna and grated parmesan. One would think lasagna and grated bleu cheese would not work so well (but then I’m not a bleu cheese person). Creativities are the same. There are some situations where they perform brilliantly, and others that are just not their thing. The situations mentioned at the beginning of this post are cases in point.

Some Creativitys are like water pumps. When you first start pumping in the morning, all sorts of icky water comes out. Useless stuff. But it has to be pumped out so the clear water can start to flow. Once you’ve got going, then you start finding all sorts of gems and ideas. But you’ve got to get past the junk first. In this case, ‘write write write even when you don’t want to’ is good advice. It forces out the dirty water so you can get through to the clear.

Some Creativities (I’ve decided I like it better with the ie) enjoy interaction with their intended audience. I personally like to invite an imaginary audience member around to my place for a cup of tea and a buttered pomegranate so we can get to know one another and I can work out what makes him/her laugh. As I get to know them better, I understand what I have to do in order to get (and keep) their attention. However, once I’ve got that worked out, I tend to boot them out and have fun all by myself. Only later do I invite them back. But perhaps your Creativity has a phobia of the intended audience, and clams up completely when they’re around. In that case, ‘write like you’re the only one who’ll read it.’

See what I mean? I’m not saying never take anyone’s writing advice again. I’m saying view writing/creativity advice as trying a new kind of cheese. Instead of reading someone’s writing tips and thinking, “My goodness, I’m doing it all wrong” or “My way’s better anyway,” think of it as a cheese platter. Try it. If you like it, great! Add it to your list of acceptable cheeses. If not, then don’t feel like you’re a failure, or that the other person is wrong because he or she subscribes to a different method. Concede different tastes. Each time you taste, you are coming to a better understanding of your Creativity. And I that’s what it’s all about.

Because even the best writing advice might just not work for your Creativity, and if it’s not working then you’re not getting the most out of him or her. You might even be surpressing the very thing you wish to cultivate. So sit down with your Creativity and try tasting different advice. Work out which work and which don’t. Enjoy the experience and learn from it.

Now, where’s my parmesan? Bring on the smelly-sock-cheese!