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3 Creativity-Boosting Tips for Writers
Have you ever sat up in the middle of the night to write down a sudden stroke of inspiration? Or made a quick voice memo to yourself? Maybe jotted down a plot twist idea while you’re supposed to be working or studying?
For a lot of writers, creativity comes in waves. This is great if those waves are thrashing around like stormy seas, but at some point a writer is bound to hit a flat spot. And not the kind of flat spot that’s great for water skiing. This is the kind that leaves you stuck in the middle of the lake wondering how the heck you’re ever going to get back to shore.
Here are three tips to keep those creativity waves coming.
1. Write first thing in the morning
Writing when you’re half asleep has some pretty cool effects. You’re still partially in dreamland when you first wake up in the morning, so you end up writing stuff that you wouldn’t otherwise think of. Besides, it genuinely sucks trying to sit down and be creative after you’ve had all the day’s energy leeched from you.
The wee hours of the morning are also interruption-free—and if your attention span is anywhere near as pathetic as mine, this is vital to getting anything done.
2. Go for the third thing you think of
This applies to the big picture (overall plot turns or the outcome of a big scene) just as much as it does to small, seemingly insignificant details (a prop in your character’s bedroom, or a snarky line of dialogue). The first thing you think of is too obvious, and probably a cliché. The second thing is ok, but come on, you can do better. The third? Now we’re getting somewhere.
3. Step back. You’re looking at it too closely.
Seriously, give that story some space! Some aspects of writing can really kill your creativity jam—like spending twenty minutes trying to come up with the perfect synonym for “stumbled”. If you find your creativity IV drip running dry, you need to step back a little. Look at your outline, story notes, logline, whatever. Remind yourself of the overall goal of your story, and the original purpose you set out to achieve. Even better: get inspired by reading some books by other authors.
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Summoning creativity is often just a matter of letting yourself go. Get crazy! Write something totally weird. Don’t try and write perfectly—that comes later, in the editing stage. For now, embrace those waves of creativity.
What about you? What creativity-boosting tips can you share?
What is one of your bad habits? Invent a character who has the bad habit, but a much worse case of it than you have. Write a story where this habit gets your character into trouble.
Just One More Thing
My bedtime is ten o’clock. Naturally, it’s midnight by the time I slip under the covers.
I’m pretty sure the neurons in my brain are vibrating as I stare up at the blackness. I consider turning on a meditation track. But I can’t shake the feeling I’ve forgotten something.
Did I turn the oven off?
My feet find my slippers and I pad out to the kitchen. Yes, the oven is off.
The wintery air sends goose bumps up my arms. I remember to shut the window. Return to bed.
Half an hour passes before I remember I was supposed to email Kevin back about his barbeque on Saturday. My hands find my phone in the darkness. I open my emails to a new message from OkCupid—a rugged-looking hipster who can distinguish ‘your’ from ‘you’re’. He merits a reply. I need to do it now or else I’ll forget. I write back, spending twenty minutes trying to come up with a non-boring answer to “Any plans for the weekend?”
It’s one o’clock. I respond to Kevin’s email. Yes, I’ll remember to grab kebabs on my way over on Saturday.
Plug my phone in. Lie back down.
I still can’t shake the feeling I’ve forgotten something.
I sit up. I never gave Ms. Jennings her misdelivered mail. I pull on my bathrobe and my Uggs. Tuck the box under my arm. It’s a bottle of expensive bourbon. I opened it by accident when I got it. The bottle, I mean.
The thought reminds me that I need to book an appointment with my therapist. I call. Their office is closed. Obviously—it’s one thirty in the morning. I leave a message. Pick up Ms. Jennings’ half-empty bourbon. Hop the fence into her yard.
She’s pissed when she finally answers. I tell her I’m sorry but I couldn’t sleep knowing I might forget to deliver this. She doesn’t say thank you. I tell her the bourbon is good and I hope she enjoys it.
I traipse home. The wind is icy around my legs. The hair (I forgot to shave) offers little insulation.
As I pass the barn, I realise I’ve forgotten to feed the pigs. I throw them some slop. Tell them “good piggies.” Scratch one behind the ear.
What on earth am I forgetting?
Shivering, I’m about to leave when I remember Daisy is due to give birth. I check on her. She’s in labour. I deliver the calf. Name it Ophelia.
I take off my bathrobe and dispose it. I’ll have to remember to buy a new one.
Stark naked except for my Uggs, I trot back to the house. I’m proud of myself when I remember to put air in the tractor tires on the way.
The sun’s rays brighten the horizon by the time I’m in the house again.
I remember to wash my hands.
My toothbrush lies beside the sink, bristles dry.
I finally realize what I’ve forgotten.
I never brushed my teeth before bed.
1. If you could have coffee with any character from your novels, who would it be and why?
Definitely someone from Ice Massacre. I want to say Meela because she’s the protagonist and I love her, but I’ll go sideways and pick one of the warrior girls instead. I’d have to say Blacktail. She’s chill and intelligent and I think we’d be good friends.
2. At what age did you decide you wanted to pursue a writing career?
I’ve always loved writing and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating stories and poems. But I think I really decided I wanted to be a writer somewhere around ten years old. We had this annual thing at my elementary school called “Poem In My Pocket Day”, where you carry a poem around with you all day and at some point you read it to the class. It could be one that you wrote or one you found, and I decided to write my own. My poem, called My Snowman, got such a good reaction from the class and teacher that I decided right there I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. (A testament to how important it is to encourage kids at a young age!)
3. Do you remember the first book you ever wrote? And if so, what was it about?
It was called The Sachmoe, and it was a picture book about some kind of scary creature that bore resemblance to a Sasquatch. I sold it to my grandma for $2.
4. Are you an outliner or a pantser?
I’m still trying to figure that out. I’m pretty sure I’m an outliner. My first book (The Infinite Knowledge of J. T. Badgley) was pantsed, and I think it could have benefited from an outline. Ice Massacre was a bit of both. The sequel, Ice Crypt, has a solid outline in the works, and I like where it’s going.
5. How long did it take you to write Ice Massacre?
Two years. I came up with the idea for it in Disneyland in June 2012.
6. What is your favorite social media site and why?
Vine. It’s hilarious and perfect for those of us with short attention spans.
7. What genre would you describe Ice Massacre as?
Young Adult Fantasy.
8. Where do your best ideas stem from?
Being half-asleep. Writing before daybreak is great for creativity.
9. What would you say has been your biggest success since you began writing?
Ice Massacre. It hit #1 on the Amazon Best Seller list in 3 categories a couple of weeks ago, which is something I only ever dreamed of. To say I’m thrilled is an understatement.
10. What gives you inspiration?
So much! Life! Other books, music, movies, people, places, emotions … Should I get more specific? How about I list a few things. Harry Potter. Empty notebooks. Riding my horse. Disney. Tim Burton. That song by Nicki Minaj, Pound The Alarm (really— I listened to that while I wrote the first battle scene in Ice Massacre). Watching ballet. Funny hats. Being scared. Being happy. Receiving positive feedback. Elton John. Lucille Ball. Tina Fey. I’ll stop now.
Tiana Warner was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada. She enjoys riding her horse, Bailey, and collecting tea cups. Check out her new YA fantasy, "Ice Massacre", the #1 Amazon Best Seller!
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