Writing gives you the opportunity to feel the flow of creative juices, allows you to be heard, serve your readers, clear your mind of extraneous thoughts and focus on what really matters. But even on a good day, writing is a challenge. Here are seven ways to help you access more creativity and increase enthusiasm for the writer’s journey.
1. Write in different media.
While your writing will most likely end up in your word processor, you should be open to writing in another medium at least a percentage of the time. Sit in a park and write in a notebook, try talking into a recorder, or use an old typewriter. Even if you’re using a computer, it’s a good idea to stir things up every now and then: try an unusual font or color, type with your non-dominant hand (some say this encourages creativity because it stimulates your right brain) , type super fast, or type really slow, or experiment with different types of music while writing. It’s also a good idea to print often and annotate in the margins. This gives you the bigger picture you need for clear and powerful writing.
2. Intertwining reading with writing.
If you feel blocked from writing, go to the bookstore or library and read topics similar to the one you’re working on. This is not so much an exercise in “comparison” to feel that you “can do better than them.” The greater benefit of reading more is the awareness of the interconnectedness between writing and reading. School teachers often make reading and writing sound like they are two completely different activities, but they are intrinsically linked. When you read, you open up and make room for new ideas that come to mind. Writing is essentially no different.
One way to see the connection between the two is to practice active reading. Active reading is reading the text as text, not being completely absorbed in its meaning, and instead devoting a small amount of attention to learning new techniques and styles.
Use the connection between reading and writing to your advantage by dancing between them until you can feel their relationship. This shorts out writer’s block faster than anything I know of.
3. Focus on solutions.
Don’t forget to bring your attention back to the solutions to the “problems” you see in your writing. Powerful writing is about turning your attention inward to find new ideas in a field of infinite ideas. There is a great benefit to redirecting your attention in a surprising and positive new direction. You do this by paying attention to your inner database of writing tips: Show don’t tell, say more with less, keep the tension high for your main character, emphasize the benefits for your reader, and so on.
The main consideration for editing your work should be, “What can I add or remove to create a stronger next version?” This question takes you out of your self-judgment and puts you in a solution-oriented framework.
4. Use Emotions to Stimulate Creativity
Be it calmness, fear, or passion, any emotion can fuel the creative pot and help you become a better writer. Realize that there is a connection between your emotions and your future readers. Consider this: the quality of your emotional state as you write will affect the quality of your future readers’ emotional state. When you write, turn your attention inward to the sense of the creative flow and the emotions that accompany it. Bask in the flow. All your emotions will help.
For example, if you’re writing a piece that you hope will elevate readers, be as mindful and calm as possible while writing. See if you can tap into the feeling you want your readers to feel. To breathe. Stretch every now and then. The brighter and more peaceful you are as you write, the brighter and more peaceful your readers will feel down the line.
Likewise, if you’re writing a thriller, do everything you can to get your adrenaline flowing as you write. You can do some push-ups, play loud music or write by candlelight. Watch your body and posture. If you want to scare future readers, you could purposely take shallow breaths for a while or literally sit on the edge of your seat. Your posture is important. It helps you turn everything you feel into creative inspiration.
5. Give Help to Another Writer .
Helping someone else is a great way to help yourself. It is an art to give useful feedback. Here are a few tips:
a. Help the other writer brainstorm new options. Suggest another metaphor, another example, a new direction, or another word. Try to open doors.
b. Ask questions: What is the meaning of this paragraph? Can you explain this idea better? Who is your target audience? How do you want your audience to react to this?
c. Again, focus on solutions, not problems or personal reactions. For example, if you criticize someone’s crime thriller and start to lose interest, say “How about more danger here?” instead of just saying, “I was bored.”
No matter what you don’t like about writing, know that there is always a solution.
d. Keep it real. Express the negative in a way that encourages the writer to improve.
Distinguish your response from the writing itself. See your opinions as opinions, not as external facts.
6. Get help from another writer.
Hiring a writing coach or getting feedback from other writers will improve your writing better than anything I know. Or start or join a writing group. But you still have to stay true to yourself and write what lives in your heart. There is an art to taking advantage of the feedback of others. This is what I propose:
a. Ask for the specific help you want. Do you want the other person to help you with character development? Organization? Grammar? Or maybe you’re “wide open” to all input, which is fine, but it’s okay to say this in public.
b. The sting! How do you deal with it when the feedback you get is negative? You dig deeper and rewrite! When someone mentions something about your writing that you couldn’t see, it’s a gift to you, no matter how much it stings at first. But you still have to stay true to your own message. Perhaps you’ll keep your writing as it is and quietly decline the feedback. Be grateful to the other person for reassuring you that you are already on the right track with your writing. You know what you want to say. Stay true to your craft.
7. Put your writing out there.
Be prepared to say goodbye to perfectionism and share your writing with others. Share it for the joy of being seen or the joy of serving others. It’s not easy going to the stock market, but it can get easier. One way I’ve found to make it easier is to think about the following idea: Sharing writing with a small number of people is not fundamentally different from sharing with a large number of people. Suppose I share a piece of writing with three other people: one person doesn’t like it; it is thought to be good; and people love it. The feelings I experience when I hear their reactions can be as intense as if I were sharing my writing with thousands of people! Suppose ten thousand people didn’t like it, ten thousand thought it was okay and ten thousand thought it was great. I’m not necessarily going to feel any different than with three people.