Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Creative Power Outages? No Such Thing

by Saralee Rosenberg

Last night I had the awesome pleasure of helping kick off the new Hofstra Writers Community by discussing the arch enemy of writers-- creative outages. The topic had hit me during Hurricane Irene after the power shut off and major anxiety set in.

First concern? Would there be enough time to eat all the ice cream before it melted (yes!)? And secondly, would I still able to think creatively if my trusty computer was unavailable?

Sounds crazy, but during those long hours of darkness, I felt lost and "brain drained" without my electronic assistant- the one that never complained or called in disillusioned. I could still write with paper, pen and a flashlight, of course, but at my age, the thought of reconnecting with my inner- camper didn't sound fun.

Meanwhile, the lights out experiment did get me to ponder the creative process and figure out where great ideas lurked anyway. How and when did they come to us?

Turns out that for me, and maybe for you as well, we really do our best brainstorming when we step away from the computer.

Plus, it doesn't make sense to fear a lack of inspiration. Our creative powers don't have expiration dates and aren't in limited supplies like NFL tickets. In truth, we have an unlimited capacity to think, ponder and observe. Plus, the ideas that feel divined are more likely to hit us when doing anything but writing.

In that "light", here are 20 great ways to help unleash your creativity:

1. Take a walk

2. Take a bath

3. Watch a movie

4. Read a book, magazine or newspaper that you would normally never look at

5. Talk to a child

6. Talk to an elderly person

7. Meditate

8. Write a letter or email a friend or family member

9. Look through your high school yearbook and think about whatever happened to

10. Run errands

11. Do chores- amazing where the mind goes when you bend over a dishwasher

12. Listen to great music

13. Visit some place new

14. Revisit a favorite place

15. Attempt something new/out of your comfort zone

16. Volunteer

17. Interview an interesting person about their hobby and/or career

18. Go to the library and scan the non-fiction stacks for topics to put on your radar

19. Bring a notebook to an airport, waiting room, beauty/nail salon, etc.

20. Observe a situation or behavior and ask “what if?”

And here is what you should not do:

1. Be negative- there is a no-refund policy on time wasted at a pity party

2. Go online for hours under the guise of doing research. You know the truth- Facebook, blogs, web surfing, etc. are huge time sucks. See #1 about the no-refund policy on wasted time

3. Judge too soon. Don’t assume that your ideas are trite, unoriginal or stupid. If they are on your radar, pursue them and see where they lead. Ask “what if?”

Lights out? Not I. Not ever.

Saralee Rosenberg is the author of four novels from Avon/HarperCollins. DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD, FATE AND MS. FORTUNE, CLAIRE VOYANT, and A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE. She is finishing her first novel for middle grade called, HOTLINE TO HEAVEN.

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  1. "No refund on time wasted..." Ouch. Guilty. Another one of those reminders I need to carve into the walls of my office.

    Great list of suggestions. I have found that weeding my garden can solve problems in life and writing.

    Numbers 17 and 18 are ones I never considered. Appreciate the ideas.

  2. Love all the suggestions, Saralee, and your talk at Hofstra was a treat for all!! xo

  3. Wonderful tips, Saralee. I'm with you on the paper and pencil.

  4. Love this, Saralee! I have gotten some of my best ideas in the shower and on the treadmill!

  5. Perfect advice, Saralee! I'm a big fan of the long walk--I often start off with a question in mind about my MS--and after a couple miles I have all sorts of solutions. The shower is another great place . . . along with long drives and cleaning out closets.

  6. Great suggestions, Saralee! It's hard to remember that a break may be just what we need. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Wonderful suggestions! Thank you for sharing them with us.

  8. Great list Saralee! I have to say Irene didn't do much good for my wip either:). And one thing that doesn't really work for me is driving--unless I have someone riding with me who's willing to hear about my plot blockages...

  9. That what if question gets me into trouble every time... Great post, Saralee!!