Question: How can we boost our creativity?
Answer: Ah, creativity … that fickle Muse! Without getting too much into the inspiration-versus-discipline debate, I often return to (and highly recommend) Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2009 TED Talk “Your Elusive, Creative Genius.” She reminds me that, sometimes, we just need to “show up” – at our desk, at our laptop, wherever we write – so the Muse knows where to find us.
For me, gatherings like the Antioch Writers’ Workshop (disclosure: I serve as Assistant Director, but that’s not why I think it’s great!) and those offered at several local colleges are wonderful places to recharge. Mingling with “my tribe” – folks who don’t think I’m crazy when I talk about listening to the voices in my head – can do wonders for a flagging spirit and an empty creativity well. Of course those are sporadic and not always accessible, so on a more regular basis, meeting with a handful of like-minded writers in a regular writers group, even if it’s online, is a great way to keep ideas flowing.
But we writers tend to be solitary people. The introvert in me doesn’t like to get out much, so I turn to books. I can’t read fiction while I’m writing fiction (at least in the same genre), because I tend to mimic the voice of the author. Fortunately, I also love nonfiction. Whether it’s a classic like William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, or one of my favorites, Stephen King’s On Writing, I’ve found a good craft book can do as much through the guidance it offers as in the language it uses to stir creativity and give the Muse a place to light.
If I’m feeling philosophical, I love Gail Sher’s One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers or Dinty W. Moore’s The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life.
More recently, as I’ve hit a particularly rough patch in my writing life, I’ve found a measure of comfort in an odd little book written by Marcel Bénabou of France’s Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, “workshop of potential literature”), Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books. It’s a parody of sorts, but because of that quirk in me that loves Dalí and all things surreal, it resonates and inspires.
Another, more logical, book I’m finding fascinating these days is Peter Turchi’s A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic. I’m a puzzle fanatic, too, in addition to writing, and Turchi explains why.
But in the end, all of us must return to Gilbert’s advice: just show up. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard/pen/crayon, and if we’ve sufficiently primed the well with good words from whatever source – books, videos, puzzles, or stimulating conversation – the brain will find a way to transfer them to the page.
C.L. (Cyndi) Pauwels holds an MA in creative writing from Antioch University McGregor in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Her debut novel Forty & Out, released through Deadly Writes Publishing in September 2014, is a police procedural set in Toledo, Ohio. Her short fiction has appeared in Mock Turtle ‘zine, Over My Dead Body!, The View from Here (UK), and other journals. In 2009, she published the award-winning non-fiction Historic Warren County: An Illustrated History. Sugati Publications has selected two of her essays for their Reflections from Women anthology series, and Sinclair Community College’s literary journal Flights has published several of her pieces over the past few years. In addition to writing, Cyndi’s portfolio career includes book editing (The Enduring Legacy of Kahlil Gibran and The Essential Rihani), teaching as an adjunct at Clark State Community College and at Yavapai (AZ) College, and serving as assistant director for the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Yellow Springs with her husband of thirty-eight years, three spoiled dogs, and six chickens. Find her online here.
Upcoming literary events
TUESDAY: Dan Rather, January 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm. WSU Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy #430, Dayton, OH 45324. For more than 50 years, former CBS News anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent Dan Rather has been the embodiment of the intrepid broadcast journalist. From the Kennedy assassination—where he was the first to break the news that the president had been killed—to the Indian Ocean tsunami, he has covered every major story of our time with distinction and a fierce dedication to hard news. More.
THURSDAY: Kickoff for Breaking bad writing with Breaking Bad and Katrina Kittle (5-week workshop). February 2, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Oakwood Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, OH 45419. One of the most critically acclaimed series ever produced, Breaking Bad unfolds like a great novel. Much about the craft of fiction can be learned from studying this five-season, ground-breaking, multi-award winning show. Each night of this five-week course, we will view and focus on an iconic scene from the show, and will use those scenes to dissect and discuss the brilliant use of dialogue, character arc, symbolism, foreshadowing, character voice, and amazing lessons in plot—how to start and finish a scene, how to end a “chapter,” and more. You are not required to have watched the series, but you will benefit more fully if you have. LOCATION: Oakwood Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, OH 45419. DATES: Thursdays — 2/2, 2/9, 2/16, 2/23, 3/2, 6:30-8:30 pm. Price: $165. More.
LOOKING AHEAD: LitSalon: Tim Waggoner. February 12, 2017 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Home of Kate Geiselman, AWW Acting President. Tim Waggoner, author of more than 30 published novels in the fantasy, horror and sci fi genres will chat with Dayton Daily News editor Ron Rollins. Tim’s publications include his own original work as well as television series tie-ins and feature film novelizations, so he will offer insight not only into his own writing life, but into these unique areas of fiction writing. Learn more about Tim and his achievements at www.timwaggoner.com. $20.00 per individual or $35.00 per couple. More.
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