Wouldn’t it be marvelous if we could channel creativity anytime we want? Simply close our eyes, chant an “ohm” or twitch our noses like Samantha in Bewitched to summon our creative powers? Unfortunately, there’s no such magic (that I know of…) but it is possible to cultivate an atmosphere and lifestyle in which creativity can continuously flow.
Treat Your Body Like A Vessel
First, prime the pump by taking a hard look at your physical health. I don’t know about you, but I don’t buy into that whole “starving, miserable artist” stereotype of creativity. When I was first pregnant with my son, I was sick and exhausted for weeks on end. (“Morning” sickness might be the worst misnomer in the English language.) During that time, my writing dried up. I stopped blogging, working on my novel, pretty much everything except journaling (so at least I have a record of how awful I felt). Being physically unwell led to a creative drought that didn’t lift until my health improved.
Treat your body like a chalice of creativity. Get enough sleep. Eat a balanced diet. Cut back on stimulants like caffeine and sugar. Do some physical exercise. Get out from behind that desk once in awhile. And if you do get sick, give yourself time to rest.
Be Where You Are
Next, consider your overall mental wellness and brainpower. One of the best means of inspiring creative thought is by being mindful of your world, your reactions to the world, and what you take in through your senses. Mindfulness means different things to different people, but the best definition I’ve ever heard is simply staying present. Be where you are. Collect sensory details. If you’re at a playground with your kids, watch the looks on their faces as they go down the slide. Smell the fresh-mown grass and listen to the birds in the trees. Besides rooting you in the moment, this will also help you recall those details to describe future scenes in your writing.
Meditation can also aid mindfulness. You don’t need mystical music or a fancy cushion or even a lot of time to meditate. Just sit somewhere (it doesn’t even have to be on the floor, but it is a good idea to keep your back straight), close your eyes, rest your hands, and breathe. Focus on your breath and what’s going on around you: sounds, smells, the sensations in your body. Set a timer for just a few minutes to start. It’s not easy to keep your mind on your breath, but the beauty of meditation is that it’s okay to keep failing. When a thought occurs, just recognize it and then dismiss it, letting it float away on the river of your mind. That’s where you develop the skills to keep calm and think more clearly within your daily life.
Control The Flow of Ideas
Once you’ve primed your pump with solid physical and mental health, it’s time to fine-tune your creative flow by figuring out when and where you get your best ideas. Do you wake up with your mind spinning, or are you at your best just before sleep? I’m a morning person, so I write best when I’ve just woken up, but that’s not always when I get my best ideas.
Writers constantly have some sticky problem to solve, whether it’s the behavior of a character, an uncertain plot twist, or a blog post that hasn’t quite driven its point home. If you give yourself the time and space to ruminate for a few days, the answer nearly always comes. Figure out when this happens, and try to decrease your distractions during those times. Some people get their best ideas in the shower, or while exercising. I tend to experience inspiration while washing dishes and taking walks. That realization has caused me to stop listening to audiobooks, podcasts and even music while I wash and walk. When I stay in those moments and let my mind wander past the menial physical task I’m doing, it almost always comes up with the solution I’ve been looking for.
Give Creativity A New Direction
Finally, boost your creative flow by cultivating a creative hobby other than writing. There’s no fixed amount to creativity; it can regenerate as long as you keep giving it fuel. I feel blessed to have a day job that provides this recharging for me. But even if you have a boring or repetitive job, it’s still possible to regenerate creativity in other ways. Cooking, knitting, drawing and even doing puzzles are all ways to stay mentally sharp and ready for the next creative challenge.
To quote choreographer Twyla Tharp: “Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.” You don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike randomly from the sky. By cultivating self-care, mindfulness and awareness of your own habits, you can keep your creativity in constant flow
Leanne Sowul writes historical/literary fiction and teaches music from her home in the Hudson Valley, NY. She keeps herself healthy and sane by journaling, practicing yoga, and planning trips with her family. Her blog Words From The Sowul is a haven for writers, readers and lovers of words. Connect with Leanne at her website, via email at leannesowul(at)gmail(dot)com, or on Twitter @sowulwords.