• Can Creativity Be Forced?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 61 comments
    Apr
    25

    Discussion questions: Do you ever try to force creativity, and does it ever work? Can movement and/or a change of scenery help you? What methods do you have for clearing the mental clutter? Let’s talk about creativity — and ways to foster it — in the comments.

     

    We’ve hired a new coach and consultant, Stephanie True Peters. Welcome, Stephanie!

    In her Q&A, Stephanie says a few things that speak to this moment we’re all caught up in. Last week we had a discussion about being creative during COVID-19, and a few of you expressed frustration at being unable to produce, despite being stuck at home.

    Stephanie answered these questions before the pandemic, but her answers are arguably more relevant than ever.

    Creativity can’t be forced,” Stephanie tells us when asked to deliver some words of wisdom to aspiring writers. “If you’re staring in frustration at the blank page or screen, take a break from writing and do something completely different. Movement helps jump-start my brainwaves, so I’ll take a walk or clean a room or hit the gym.”

    Take a walk, yes; clean a room, yes. Hit the gym? Oh, the gym. I’m considering moving to Atlanta just so I can return to the gym. (Just kidding. What a horror show.)

    How about you? Do you ever try to force creativity, and does it ever work? Can movement and/or a change of scenery help you?

     

    “You can also try doing a ‘brain dump,'” Stephanie continues, channeling Julie Cameron and her Morning Pages. “Write down everything that’s on your mind — your grocery list, a joke, a conversation you overheard, a description of someone you love (or hate!), a problem you solved. Clearing out the clutter can make room for new ideas to grow. And who knows, you might even find inspiration somewhere in the clutter!”

    Clearing clutter both physical and mental is probably something we can all stand to do right now.

    What methods do you have for clearing the mental clutter? Do you jot down lines of dialogue, jokes, stray thoughts, and the like? What do you do with them? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

    And if you’re interested in working with Stephanie, request a free consult now!

     

    david blogWriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2020 writing project you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. If you have a manuscript that’s ready for some editorial care, check out our various critiquing, editorial, and proofing servicesJoin our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    Raymundo
    1 month ago

    Certainly, I try to force creativity at times. Like when I’m facing a deadline (even self-imposed) for a book review or blog post. Or even when I just know it’s time to make progress on a given project. Usually it works. It seems the very act of writing will often pull creativity from my psyche. Then again, I sometimes hit a wall of inertia so strong I have to stop. At those times, I agree with your new coach that distraction can help. Just doing something else allows the subcon to work on the writing. Sometimes inspirations help. I’ll watch… Read more »

    Kevinw
    Kevinw
    1 month ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    That’s actually something that works for me, sometimes. Music jump-starts my artillery, and the Kowitzer fires…sometimes. I got inspired to work on a story the other day from a line in a folk song. I also heard a heavy metal tune recently and got a great title from one of the lines. Only thing is, I misheard the lyric. My interpretation of what I thought he sang was better than the actual lyric. So…I figure it’s not plagiarism if he actually wrote and sang something completely different from what I got out of it (and no, it wasn’t “Scuse me… Read more »

    KevinW
    29 days ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    Tony Danza, in my hand…On a dark desert highway, Cool Whip in my hair…

    Kevinw
    Kevinw
    26 days ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    We built Miss Kitty on rock and roll…
    …or my all-time favorite, “hey, little sister, what’s your bison wish?”

    Elissa Malcohn
    Elissa Malcohn
    26 days ago
    Reply to  Kevinw

    There’s a website that collects those misheard lyrics. :-) http://www.kissthisguy.com/

    Kevinw
    Kevinw
    26 days ago
    Reply to  Elissa Malcohn

    Thank you Elissa, this is great! I think this is a new type of personality test, the Misheard Rorschach…use your subconscious mind to fiill in the lyrical gaps…

    Charity Marie
    1 month ago

    I find when I’m stuck creatively I do the tactics above but also I like to talk with a writing buddy or a writing group. Sometimes a simple brainstorming/venting session is all I need to really get going. And it helps other authors too who might be going through the same thing. It’s why I host a Zoom meeting each week for my writing friends to join. We keep it open for about 2-3 hours so people can come and go as their schedule allows. It’s a lot of fun and really helps. I blog daily to get the junk… Read more »

    Torria Stevens
    1 month ago

    Hey Y’all! Hmmmm, what I think about this: like Raymondo said there are so many variables to gather inspiration, but to have a good mindset sets the stage, the tone, the mood – and without a good mind you can become lazy among other things. And like Stephanie, that creativity cannot, will not be forced. Personally, I get inspiration in many forms such as reading, sometimes listening to ‘Rumi’ musical ruminations, I do yoga, I do breathing exercises, I jump rope, I talk long walks, and watch film noir often (for the dialogue, the narration, the setting/s, the camera angles,… Read more »

    David K. Fried
    David K. Fried
    1 month ago

    I couldn’t disagree more. Creativity can absolutely be forced. Anyone who’s ever developed a habit of journaling, or committed to sitting down and writing a certain amount every day — and actually done it even (especially) on those days when the desire to write absolutely isn’t there can attest to that. How exactly to force that creativity is another matter. As a previous commenter said, there are a zillion variables. Just sitting down and forcing the words, no matter how terrible they are, is one. For many projects, I find that if I’m not inspired by whatever scene/chapter comes next… Read more »

    KevinW
    28 days ago
    Reply to  David K. Fried

    “A professional is someone who shows up and does a good job no matter how they feel, what mood they’re in or what they’re dealing with”. (And no, I don’t remember where i heard this or who said it).

    david lemke
    david lemke
    1 month ago

    Apparently, writer”s block is like alien spacecraft. According to us whom have experienced it, writers block is real. Ant to those who ain’t seen one, they don’t exist and we are just those loony folk. My Quora friend Mercedes Lackey who has written over 140 books (yes, name dropping) there’s no such thing. That real writers write no matter what. I think that people are writers across a curve; some people can’t write, some are terrible at it, some can write when the muse is near and the stars are aligned, some can write most of the time and some… Read more »

    david lemke
    david lemke
    1 month ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    I’m writing a lot on Quora, 3/4 of a million reads, some writing on MPs. I need to re-read “Outside Interest 2084” I’ve 158 pgs. written that I need to be reintroduced to. I realized while I was beating myself up over Coronawriter’s Block that I actually had less time to write, because I have to entertain Sue to some extent on the two days she used to work, which were, since I had an empty house, my best and most productive times to write. I’m not planning on doing creative writing today though I will read some of “2084”… Read more »

    david lemke
    david lemke
    29 days ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    Well it might include dancing, possible risqué, but usually just sitting with her reading, talking, watching TV. I edited six pages so far today. Good to hear your doing.

    david lemke
    david lemke
    28 days ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    It is at that. So what are you working on?

    Torria Stevens
    1 month ago
    Reply to  david lemke

    I like your thinking David and your creativity is defined in how you express yourself. I thought about: ‘real writers’ write no matter what.’ And that may be true, like that man w/the broken pencil or a man in his journal in the wilderness or last frontier in the Yukon. And, one thing stuck out for me: …writers across a curve…some…. Yes, you may be right in your descriptions tantamount to good writers or wanna-be writers (so to speak) However, such thought would be among the judging or jury; comparable to singers or artists who are really good according to… Read more »

    Torria Stevens
    29 days ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    Yeah, right!

    Barbara Mealer
    27 days ago
    Reply to  david lemke

    Writer’s block is real to those who have it, but I’m like your friend. There isn’t any such animal. You sit down. You write. You edit. You write. If you keep that up, things do happen. The “Muse” everyone waits on doesn’t happen without some work on your part. You make it happen. Get an idea. Expand upon it and keep going. You edit the results into something readable. Once you start writing, even if it’s nonsense, eventually you put down what you wanted to say. As to avoiding putting it out there for others to see…I get it. It… Read more »

    frances hill
    frances hill
    1 month ago

    I won a prize at our local writer’s group called ‘The Writer’s Toolbox’ it has proved to be the most fun. It was created by Jamie Cat Callan. I invited some writer friends over to play with it. Can play solo or with a group. It has 8 prompts which are given in increments of five minutes. A protagonist, first sentence, goals,Non sequitur, obstacle, last straw sixth sense and action. Each person has five minutes to write out his/her prompt. We laughed so much at the stories we came up with, it proved you can write about anything and change… Read more »

    Brigitte
    Brigitte
    1 month ago

    Good afternoon, and hi again. I am not really sure if creativity can be forced. Nothing forced sounds happy to me anyway. Being forced to eat, or being forced to speak or being forced to go on a date with someone we just do not want to go out with can be anything but pleasant. I guess there are times when we as humans want to do something, but cannot. So, we force ourselves to just DO IT! I have been there but find force does not bring about anything overly positive or rewarding. Perhaps it is possible to force… Read more »

    Brigitte
    Brigitte
    29 days ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    When I am blocked creatively..how do I get through it? Hmm..let me see. I like to draw. Sometimes I create work I call Meditative art.I sit by the back screen door, and let the cat cuddle with me and just chill. I make some coffee, grab my fine colored markers with the .4 tip and simply color or doodle weird shapes and animals. Because there are so many ways to allow our creativity to shine through, I allow myself to choose the markers I want to use. That is a creative process in itself. I have different colors and use… Read more »

    Brigitte
    Brigitte
    1 month ago

    Ways to foster creativity…hmm..let me think for a moment. Dumping stuff out of our head is one option. I guess sometimes even opening up a book, and finding a few words that seem to bring about a response helps me. I can find a book, open up to some chapter, read a sentence and just write the first thing that comes to mind. How does that sentence make me feel? If anything? How does the author connect with me or does he or she not connect with me at all?? Can I learn from the paragraph I just read or… Read more »

    Brigitte
    Brigitte
    29 days ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    Thanks for the compliment, David. It does sound like a cool tee shirt saying. I will see about creating a shirt like that one day. I used to love to create on anything!! I made drawings of squirrels and then had them made into stickers and iron ons. THen I ironed some of my art on my socks and shirts. It is just another way to be creative. Yes, choosing a coffee mug is a way to express ourself and that is another way to be creative. What coffee mug we use is important. Yes, it is. How many coffee… Read more »

    RJ
    RJ
    1 month ago

    Great topic! My brain moves in waves…(pun intended) I awoke at 3 am and had to write down my dream. This helps in the long run in terms of weird descriptive situations. Morning is my best time at creating also. Not so much the rest of the day. A cool and effective routine is , at night, I’ll review my current project for a short while , then sleep on it. Our brains consolidate memories when we sleep and mine at least somehow ruminates on the last item Ive worked on, so in the a.m. I’ve got a mental freshness… Read more »

    stephen Glick
    1 month ago

    There are times when I stall out .I infuse caffine with sugar .If thadoesn’t work music and motion to get the heart pumping. I want to thank you , David and Justine I look for the posts on Sarurday. Two questions How do I add my photo to the cite?and What is the standard for two authors to co-write a book?

    Elissa Malcohn
    Elissa Malcohn
    1 month ago

    Welcome, Stephanie! (Metro Boston was my adopted home for 20 years.) I’m going to replace “forced” with “channeled” and say yes. In that way I agree with both David K. Fried and Brigitte. When chemo put the kibosh on my creative writing I turned to digital art and maintained a public cancer blog in addition to my private journal. I simply did not have the brain cells for the creative writing I used to do. (Neither could I read a book; I was ecstatic when I could manage that again.) My current experiment requires daily output in the form of… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn
    Elissa Malcohn
    29 days ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    So far, my re-reading of past material is limited to recent installments (usually just the past day or two) leading up to the new writing so that I can orient myself, with occasional checks farther back for continuity. After each day’s addition I do a debriefing in my journal, laying out what I’ve just done, comparing it to what I wanted to or thought I would do, and then figuring out where I want to go next: action or reflection, whose POV to use and why, what kind of foreshadowing, etc. The journal is also where I free-associate, amassing details… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn
    Elissa Malcohn
    28 days ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    I’m not sure that the attention lessens as much as it differs because my available toolbox changes over time. It’s like painting in monochrome versus a full(er) palette. The medium directs awareness and priorities. In addition to my notes from the first and current days, I’m including a couple of interim days to illustrate. In particular, Day 13 had to be padded out by a couple of words, even though it’s one-ninth the length of today’s installment. On that day, 11 words had been sufficient to convey my basic concept. Another factor is the cumulative word count as the story… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn
    Elissa Malcohn
    27 days ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    It could easily be a companion volume (recommended as a sequel, due to spoilers). I’m not thinking either way about publication at this point, just letting the experiment take its course.

    Barbara Mealer
    1 month ago

    Because I’m used to having my life upset by odd things like hurricanes, no electric, unable to cook, cold showers, etc, this is a piece of cake and part of the normal for me. My brain dump ends up being a video game. I’ll play for a few hours and then get back to work. I don’t force creativity. The muse comes when I sit down at the computer and start to read what I did the day before. Yes, I do write or edit daily missing less than seven days a year. I’ve found that the habit of writing… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer
    28 days ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    Those are the days when life happens and by the time I get a moment to sit down and write I’m too tired to think. It’s all about habit. I developed the habit of writing everyday and my brain and creativity are pulled to the forefront when I sit down and open a manuscript.

    Barbara Mealer
    27 days ago
    Reply to  David Duhr

    I’m okay with it. I accept that I do have a life outside of work but it nursing or writing. I make time for life. I’ve not had a day when I’ve not done something concerning my writing, even if it’s nothing more than reading a book, rereading a manuscript or critiquing other people’s work. On the days where I don’t write new stuff, I frequently am editing or rewriting. I’m actually way behind in this month for putting new words on paper. I only have 58.5K but that is OK. I’m doing a lot of editing and learning the… Read more »

    Glynis Jolly
    28 days ago

    I’ve been trying the “brain dump” but not in the morning. Instead, I’ve been writing out those pesty thoughts that have a tendency to hold me in place at night before turning out the light to go to sleep at night. So far it’s been helping me with more effective sleep but not with getting anything decent on the page in front of me during my writing session. Maybe I need to do this dump in the morning too.

    Barbara Mealer
    27 days ago
    Reply to  Glynis Jolly

    Or take that brain dump from the night before and make it into something great?

    Glynis Jolly
    26 days ago
    Reply to  Barbara Mealer

    Barbara, I’m hoping one of my nightly brain dumps will turn into something more than a rant or rave. So far it hasn’t happened though.




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