Friday, March 27, 2009

Turning Creative Juices From a Trickle into a Flood

By Suzanne Male

Creativity is an odd and fickle mistress. It seems to drop out of the ether at odd times — Incredible ideas, a unique observation, an entire novel or film idea, appearing seemingly out of nowhere and landing in your lap for writing cultivation.

It might seem like there’s no recipe for creativity. It certainly appears completely random — like you are sitting on a train staring out the window a la J.K. Rowling when the proverbial lightning strike hits, or at an Indian zoo like Yann Martel when the Life of Pi light bulb appeared over his head. Creative ideas can certainly land at unexpected times, but there are definitely ways we can summon the muse; encourage her close and turn a dry spell into abundance.

A quiet mind is a fertile field

Truly inspired ideas seem to come to a quiet mind. Very few authors get their inspiration while watching television, but the noise that gets in the way of a quiet mind can come as much from the inside as the outside.

The inner voice is a source of the constant, mostly negative or fearful, chatter in our heads. There are various ways you can tell it to be quiet: Proven methods include meditation, yoga, and journaling. You might also notice that the idea river runs smooth when you are on a holiday or break from work. Stress is a big creativity killer.

Stand near the already inspired

Some creative people are incredibly inspiring. They produce works that take your breath away and you walk away from the experience with a creative itch. It’s not the desire to emulate what they’ve done, but the desire to create something yourself; something equally inspiring.

One way to try to influence this is to experience art, or attend events that you know you will enjoy. It’s no use going to the ballet if such art bores you to tears. If you know the intense prose of Salman Rushdie novels inspire you, or the music of Leonard Cohen makes you feel creative, go there to get the itch.

Rules of engagement

One way to give creativity a boost is to get involved in life. Not just living, but ‘eating’ life. Develop a love of learning, be interested in life and in people, think about things, be passionate and open, and seek out experiences and immerse yourself in them.

Just write

Doing creative writing exercises is a very practical way of adding spark to your writing life. After all, one quintessential truth is the more you write, the more you open up to creativity and the more it flows. Merely concentrating on writing and being creative will bring more creativity.

Invite the muse to a party

There is a Biblical truth that says where two or three are gathered in God’s name that He is there in the midst of them. This works with the creativity muse too. If you gather with one or two friends who are creatively minded and talk ideas, the river will start to flow. The muse loves such events and blesses the party with inspiration.

Party is a good word to use. After all, when it comes to writing, this is the fun part. When your creativity is flowing it makes you feel alive, full of possibilities, positive and excited. It’s obviously the recipe for something amazing.

Suzanne Male is publisher at independent press Smink Works Books ( and is co-founder of the Writers’ Resource Centre ( She is author of the new book A Year of Writing Inspiration: a prompt a day for the creative writer, which contains 365 writing exercises to encourage inspiration and creativity, and generate story ideas.

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