Fueling the Creative Tank

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Shuttle Creative Fuel

I‘ve been in that sort of year in review mode, thinking about the topics I have chosen to write about on the blog this year and if they were in line with the original vision I had for Creative Carnage. When I first started the Carnage in the summer of 2013, I had this image in my head that all my posts would be about writer’s block. Not only how to recognize it in all of its varied costumes but to tackle the clever charlatan head on. That ultimately transformed into being an umbrella vision that included many different types of posts, but all with the running theme of providing content that was crafted to foster creativity. That is the cure, I think, for writer’s block. As I read over past posts, I was impressed with some and cringed at others. I realized that I grew up as a writer on here, and seeing old writing is like running into an ex. You’re never quite sure how it’s going to go because it depends on how you and the other person have changed since the relationship ended. Anyhow, during my stroll down memory lane, I had an epiphany about creativity. Well, I guess it was less of an epiphany and more of something I always felt intuitively but just never articulated: Writer’s block is always going to happen in some form. It’s a part of the writing process.

Writer’s Block Is Your Bestie

Where writers get mixed up is that they spot it and think it’s inherently bad. That what they’re working on is garbage and that it’s a sign to ditch it because none of the pros have to deal with this. Writer’s block should be treated like a good friend. You know, the cautionary one that warns you to not go through that door. Writer’s block is just trying to save you from muscling the wrong solution to the problem. You have to backtrack and figure out where you miscalculated. Maybe it’s the unique accent you’re trying to force on a character, or perhaps it’s when you realize, oh right, this character wasn’t supposed to die—at least not yet. So you have to resuscitate them and weave them back in the story. Maybe it’s the setting, or more broadly, the lack of depth to the world building. It’s a friendly reminder that it’s time to don your problem solving hat. Writing is a project, and like any other, it has the potential for things to derail. Part of getting to the finish line is figuring out how to get there when the roadblocks sprout up.

My posts, thus far, have been tools and concepts that I hope people can apply to their own framework of thinking. Whether it’s freewriting, writing prompts, using scenes I’ve created as a starting off point, or considering certain questions about your characters, plot, and setting, these are the things that will help get you past writer’s block—the roadblocks. But all of those potential solutions occur only after it’s time to sit down and write. I completely blanked in my advice and forgot that engineering a way out with creativity starts way before any of the concepts I’ve talked about on this blog. Because creativity means inventing something with your imagination—whether it’s an artistic expression or product or idea—the first step is to fill up your creative tank with trinkets and knick-knacks. You can draw from these things so you’re not running on E. Of course, you can definitely create without fuel, but it’s always a gamble on when and where you’ll sputter out.

Fill Her Up!

Some people fill up their tanks by way of experience. Whether it’s parasailing or traveling or learning a language or meeting new people, they go out in life and embrace things first hand. Others do it by observation. They’re most likely astute creepers, always watching others, or perhaps they’re avid readers, taking in someone else’s experience with words. Whatever the method, it’s important to realize that writing is inherently solitary, but the resources you need to build up to write well involve immersing yourself in the world around you. I like to think that I use both observation and experience because just like having varied sources for the creative tank, some of the best types of creative work have come from melding together two disparate ideas. Filling up the tank is a highly personalized process. Whether it’s flipping through magazines, exercising, meditating, exploring new concepts—whatever it is—you have to find it and continue to draw from the sources of inspiration around you.

As you spend time making sure the creative mill chugs along smoothly, make sure to go back and revisit old sources of inspiration. And not just sources, but also old tools and concepts. An excellent way to fortify the learning experience is to go back to the basics of a given topic and revisit those foundational concepts with fresh eyes. Seeing things again after I’ve already learned them brings new insights that I may not have initially noticed. It’s almost as if the words have a truer ring to them after having gained some level of experience with whatever is being taught. I enjoyed going back to my old posts because I like to think that I’ve matured as a writer and person. Taking a moment to reflect and recognize the progress is a good feeling. If you’d like to hop on the time train as well, below are some old posts worth checking out. They also expand in more depth about some of the topics I mentioned in this one.

The Secrets to Being a Prolific Wordsmith https://medium.com/@als_word/the-secrets-to-being-a-prolific-wordsmith-c35b898eb609
Problem Creation http://www.creative-carnage.com/general/problem-creation/
Eavesdropping for Inspiration http://www.creative-carnage.com/scenes/eavesdropping-for-inspiration/
Ode to Inspiration http://www.creative-carnage.com/general/ode-to-inspiration/
State of Mind http://www.creative-carnage.com/general/state-of-mind/
Freewriting http://www.creative-carnage.com/writing-prompts/freewriting/

[Featured photo credit: NASA]

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