Please welcome Jennifer Slattery to the Fuel Your Creativity series.
Staring at a blank computer screen can be exhilarating or terrifying… depending on what goes on in your brain. Sometimes my brain feels like it’s on overdrive, with scenes and characters and plot ideas all vying for space. Other times I fear it’s gone comatose. When that happens, it’s easy to panic, for truly, a writer is only a writer when, well, writing.
So what do I do when my brain goes AWOL? How do I squeeze creativity from a stale neuron?
First, I relax, because the moment one starts to stress, they begin to kill off brain cells. Truly. (You can read more about this here. http://www.youramazingbrain.org/brainchanges/stressbrain.htm) And we writers need everyone of those little guys we can get. But more than that, anxiety zaps our creativity and shifts us into problem solving mode instead.
What’s the answer?
Step away. Read a book. Go for a walk. Create something without using words. In other words, give your brain a bit of a vacation. And cut yourself some slack, because once the pressure is off, your brain will begin to relax, allowing your inner muse to come out of hiding.
Second, do more research. This might sound counter to my previous suggestion, but… I’ve found, when I’m having a difficult time plotting a story, it’s often because I don’t know enough of my storyworld. For example, if my main character works for the IRS, I’ll need to know the typical challenges and conflicts an individual performing audits might face. I’ve found this step is often most helpful if I research through reading a relevant novel or biography. Doing so tricks my brain into thinking I’m enjoying a bit of relaxing entertainment, which in turn encourages it to release my muse.
Third, do something mindless, like washing the dishes or weeding the garden. The physical activity will stimulate creative thinking while accomplishing something—anything!—will reduce your stress.
Fourth, gather some buddies together for a brainstorming group. It’s amazing how one idea, even if it’s unrelated, can stimulate another. I have two friends, both of whom write in completely different genres, that I regularly brainstorm with. It never fails, as I listen to their stories, plot holes, and struggles; I begin to view my story and characters in a different light.
Fifth, widen your circle. Have you ever read a series of books from an author and felt as if they were all the same? I don’t mean brand or genre the same but rather the same-same, like youre reading the exact novel repackaged in a different setting? It’s an easy rut to fall in to because let’s face it, research or not, we tend to write what we’ve experienced or encountered. But if we widen our circle of friends and begin to hang out with people who are immensely different from us, our little world expands, as do our stories. (Cue song, “My Own Little Word” by Matthew West.)
Which leads me to my next suggestion: spend more time listening than talking. Everyone we encounter has a story to tell, a perception to share, and a journey to follow. What great fodder! The problem is, we writers tend to be wordy, or busy, or perhaps just distracted. Actually, all of those things combined. But imagine the stories we could tell if we fully engaged, both ears opened, with the lives all around us?
Finally, look up. Worship. Turn your focus—every part of your heart and brain—to the Creator of creativity. No agenda, no demands. Simply rest in Him. He is the one who will fill and inspire you. Because here’s the deal—if God wants you to write that next story, you will.
We all wander into the creative desert on occasion. How do you find your way out? Share your suggestions here. We’ll all benefit from them. :-)
Check out her book:
Beyond I Do:
Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?
Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.
Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignites a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.
Jennifer Slattery writes missional romance for New Hope Publishers, Christian living articles for Crosswalk.com, and devotions for Internet Café Devotions. She also maintains a personal blog at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com and writes and edits for Christ to the World Ministries, an international ministry that shares the gospel, via radio waves, with thirty-two countries.