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December, 2015


by Webmaster

What makes you creative?

I seem to get inspired when I'm doing something that prevents me from capturing ideas: taking a shower, driving cross-country, weed-whacking the yard, running late for a meeting.

I've read suggestions about creating a writing space. It should be comfortable, quiet, free from distractions, and contain all the tools a writer needs. Periodically, I see pictures of desks in elaborate libraries or near windows with beautiful views of nature or in an ancient castle. They suggest I would be a more productive writer if I were there.

If I were there, I would be more productive: I would take photographs. I'd explore. I'd find a book to read. I'd be distracted.

If I get inspired to write, I will capture my ideas in a recording app on my phone while I'm driving, in blank pages in the back of my day-timer while I'm in the waiting room at the doctor, on scraps of paper while I'm rushing to leave for a meeting, or next to a stack of top-priorities papers and a dusty printer at my computer.

If I'm not inspired, it doesn't matter where I am. I won't write.

So, what inspires me? Usually a phrase. It might be from a book or magazine, a new song, a TV show, or an imaginary conversation in my head. I jot down inspiring phrases on scraps of paper, create computer files with the phrase as the name of the file, record my idea on my phone with the idea as the name.

Once, I remembered a phrase from a dream. I carried the idea around in my head for months, perhaps years, until I found myself in a bar waiting for a friend. A blues band performed on stage. I found myself writing thyming couplet; each couplet used my dream phrase. My friend looked over my shoulder and said, "If you repeat the first line, you'll have a blues song." Another friend had just written some blues licks. We combined my lyrics and his music and 15-minutes later, we had a song: "Whole Lotta Pain."


I met Dan Navarro at a songwriters workshop several years ago. I'll see him at another workshop this month. He calls them creativity workshops. I don't know what's changed. I'm looking forward to finding out.

The idea made me notice Facebook memes about creativity.

"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." — Vladimir Nabokov

If I visualize it, it will come.

"Don't do it bevause it's an assignment. (Even if it is.)
Don't do it for the money. (Even if you really need it.)
Don't do it because it will look good on a resume."
Draw it because you love it.
Write it because you have something to day.
Play it because you believe it.
Otherwise . . . why do it?"
Lauren Purje, "DOs AND DON'Ts"

How to be Creative

  1. Start something
  2. Don't work, play
  3. Stop watching television
  4. Sing in the shower
  5. Drink coffee
  6. Make lists
  7. Ignore trends
  8. Don't give a f*ck to feedback
  9. Write a letter
  10. Eat with your hands
  11. Listen to good music
  12. Drink
  13. Use Post-its
  14. Think twice
  15. Ask a child for an idea
  16. Fail
  17. Stay up late
  18. Do it for yourself
  19. Identify the problem
  20. Go travel
  21. Break some rule
  22. Repeat mistakes
  23. Have fun
  24. Drink more
  25. Finish something

#15. A friend of mine wrote a song using a phrase his child said, "Your Kiss is in My Heart."
#16 and #22 made me think of something I heard, "Bad decisions make good stories."

Ways to Stay Creative

  1. Carry a notebook everywhere
  2. Try free writing
  3. Get away from the computer
  4. Quit beating yourself up
  5. Take breaks
  6. Listen to new music
  7. Be open
  8. Surround yourself with creative people
  9. Get feedback
  10. Collaborate
  11. Don't give up
  12. Practice, practice, practice
  13. Allow yourself to make mistakes
  14. Go somewhere new
  15. Count your blessings
  16. Get losts of rest
  17. Take risks
  18. Don't force it
  19. Read a page of the dictionary
  20. Create a framework
  21. Stop trying to be someone else's perfect
  22. Got an idea? Write it down.
  23. Clean your workspace

I eliminated duplicates from the previous list. I left in contradictory suggestions. Bottom line: do something different. What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Quote by famous composer on the Classic FM website:

  • Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art. — Claude Debussy
  • To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time. — Leonard Bernstein
  • I am hitting my head against the walls, but the walls are giving way. — Gustav Mahler
  • Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind. — Johannes Brahms
  • There was no one near to confuse me, so I was forced to become original. — Joseph Haydn
  • As a musician I tell you that if you were to suppress adultery, fanaticism, crime, evil, the supernatural, there would no longer be the means for writing one note. — Georges Bizet
  • A creative artist works on his next composition because he was not satisfied with his previous one. — Dmitri Shostakovich
  • I may not be a first-rate composer, but I am a first-class second-rate composer. — Richard Strauss
  • I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones. — John Cage
  • I am an adventurer. I like invention, I like discovery. — Karlheinz Stockhausen
  • The old idea of a composer suddenly having a terrific idea and sitting up all night to write it is nonsense. Nighttime is for sleeping. — Benjamin Britten
  • Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all man’s faculties, and it is manifested in all high artistic achievements. — Giacomo Puccini
  • Imagination creates reality. — Richard Wagner
  • You're stuck because you've been seduced by your own luscious language . . . articulate the concept clearly in new language and out loud.
  • You're stuck because there's a dissonance between form and function. Return to the exploration stage . . . [tease] out . . . the organic form . . . that best illuminates its meaning.
  • You're stuck because of the limits of your genre . . . [change] genres (for a short time).
    Non-fiction → Poetry
    Fiction → Non-fiction
  • Be nice to yourself.
    • Ask for an extension.
    • Go to bed early.
    • Eat.
    • Exercise.
    • Drinkyummy beverages.

Leslie Leyland Fields, “When Throats are Parched: Writing (On Deadline) in the Land of Drought”

I agree heartily with the suggestion to change genres. I write songs, poems, columns, and novels. You don't need to leave the form. There are genres of music. I almost abandoned a song because I couldn't express the story in a 12-stanza ballad. While listening to a Reggae song on an NPR station driving home one night, I cut the song down to 7 unique lines. It works. I cut a 16-verse folk song down to 2.5 verses and a bridge by listening to world-beat music.

write on.
when you have something to say
and when you have nothing to say.

write on.
when you're standing on top of the work arms raised high
and when your nose if vacedown in the stink and garbage of life.

write on.
when you're running the race with patience
and when you are just running away.

write on.
when you are connecting n meaningful ways with those you love
and when you feel as if you are invisible, untouchable and unworthy.

write on.
when you are happy and when you are sad;
when you are inspired and when you are blank.

write on.
when you can't wait to put sentences on paper
and when you can't stand to look at another word.

write on.
when you think what you write is world-changing and when it's not even close;
when you know you have a gift and when you're sure you don't.

write on.
for a write to decide not to write is like a fish deciding not to swim.
fish die for lack of water. writers die for lack of writing.

write on.
it's who you are. it's what you do.
writers write.

write on.

Teresa Shields Parker

In my novel, the main female character takes her team of designers to a new restuarant. They discuss the good and bad points of the restaurant and come up with solutions to the problems. Then she asks them to come up with new ideas for their work project. They do and are surprised. She says, " Creativity creates creativity."

I watch TV shows like Project Runway and Tiny Houses. I have no interest in wearing designer clothes or living in a portable house of less than 400 square feet. But the designs are creative and I feel creative after I watch the show. I'm channeling my creative ideas into my novel and projects around my house now. But I'm starting to think about poems and songs. I writing those again soon.

For more ideas, please see the column, Writers Block.

"My sole inspiration is a telephone call from a producer." — Cole Porter

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