How I Feed My Creativity

This post is inspired by the DIY MFA book, hitting bookshelves this summer! I’m a member of the Street Team helping to promote the book, and Gabriela Pereira (DIY MFA instigator) has been sending us all emails with blog post prompts for the last several weeks. I answered the first prompt with my post Why (And How) I’m DIY-ing my MFA. We’re all the way up to prompt #9 (yikes!) and I feel especially inspired to answer it, given that it’s within the topic of my upcoming blog/book project: 

How do you feed your creativity? 

While Gabriela’s answers centered on physical objects that stimulate her creative juices (read the book for details on the O.R.A.C.L.E. and my favorite, the Angst jar!) I don’t seem able to find creativity in a physical toolbox. My creativity toolbox is more metaphorical. When I want to replenish my creative well, I….

Go somewhere new

I can trace specific story ideas to every single place I’ve traveled to over the last few years. “Amish Girl,” my first published short story, came from a trip to Lancaster County, PA. A contemporary novel popped into my head on last summer’s trip to Maine, and I outlined the entire thing in the car on the way home. When I was in Vermont last winter, I bought a 1952 Life magazine that inspired a short story. Every time I travel, I bring new ideas home with me. (What wonderful souvenirs!)

Have a new experience 

This is partly related to “go somewhere new,” but experiences don’t have to take place away from home. Becoming a mother for the first time brought a whole host of experiences, all of which fed my creative fire. Even through the newborn sleep deprivation phase, I felt constantly brimful of ideas and inspiration. Similar things happen when I try something new at work, or take up a new hobby. On the flip side, when I’m not feeling well (like during the early part of my pregnancy) and just maintaining “status quo” in my life, I struggle to feel inspired in my writing.

Read or listen to writers I admire

I get super-inspired by other writers. Whether it’s a novel, blog post, podcast or writing craft book, when I encounter great writing and passionate voices, my creativity responds. Sometimes I have to stop reading or listening and write down ideas that came to me while my mind was seemingly occupied with another writer’s words.

Give my brain time to wander

I’ve written before that I often seek menial tasks to keep my body occupied while my brain works on story and blog post ideas. Taking a walk, doing dishes and folding laundry are all excellent times for mind-wandering. Unfortunately, sometimes I feel too mentally tired to allow my mind to work that hard, and I defeat myself by listening to something or watching TV instead of opening the door to my imagination. This is part of my toolbox I need to access more often.

Take care of myself

This final component of my metaphorical creativity toolbox is the most important. If I’m not treating myself well, my creativity goes dry. I need regular sleep, healthy food, exercise and a meditation practice. That sounds like a lot, but it’s really not hard to fit into my day as long as it remains a priority; and after many failures to care for myself properly and feeling the consequences, prioritizing is no longer a problem.

Lastly, though I don’t have a physical toolbox like Gabriela, I do have a symbol that I keep on my desk at all times to remind me that I’m a creative person: an old, half-used (by me, as a child) box of Crayola crayons:

What about you? Do you have a creativity toolbox of any kind? What do you put into it? What do you take out of it? 


3 Responses to “How I Feed My Creativity”

  1. Sara L. says:

    Wow. I love this idea. In fact, it makes me want to write my own blog post about it…

    Anyway, I had to think about this for a few minutes, because I wasn’t sure what would be in my creative toolbox. But I thought of a few things that help maintain my creativity:

    – Movies (I don’t watch or go to the movies often, but they often inspire new story ideas, including my current WIP)
    – Books (Why not? I love seeing other writers’ imaginations and, if a story is especially well-written, losing myself in the flow of the words.)
    – Poetry (Sort of along the “books” line… which reminds me that I haven’t read any for a while)
    – Music (They remind me of my story’s settings, my characters, certain scenes… I put together a novel playlist for my WIP for a reason!)
    – Nature (It’s amazing what your subconscious comes up with when you go for walks or spend time outside)
    – Meditation & spiritual practice (I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer or person if it wasn’t for this “tool.”)
    – Sleep & self-care (Ditto on what you said!)

    Btw, I owe you a reply to your latest email – hoping to get to it soon!

    • Leanne Sowul says:

      Great list, Sara! You mention music a lot on your blog too, and I know you like a lot of movie soundtracks or music that relates to books. Have you ever listened to the symphony band piece of The Lord of the Rings, by Johan deMeij? It’s based on the book, not the movie, and it’s gorgeous. I was just listening to it yesterday and I thought you might like it.

      And no rush on email replies!

      • Sara L. says:

        I have the LOTR and Hobbit film scores / soundtracks, but haven’t heard of deMeij’s versions before. Will have to check that out. Thanks!

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