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How to Be Creative in Writing

When the endeavor is to write creatively there are certain strategies generally held to make the process more efficient and effective. It seems that the human mind cannot think in both a creative and analytical way at the same time but rather has to switch attention back and forth between the two modes of function. In this article we will explore some techniques which have been known to enhance one’s creative productivity.

One Thing at a Time

The first important tip for writing creatively is to try to not analyze and create at the same time. When beginning a work of creative art it is recommended to not worry about grammar, spelling, or the like during the first part of the writing project. In theory, it is more effective to write creatively without any attention on technicalities until after the fact than it is to attempt to both create and proofread at the same time.

Censorship

It is generally suggested that self-censorship gets in the way of creativity. Depending on one’s attitude about what is worthy of print, self-censoring could be quite tempting. If censoring must be done, for example if vulgarities are used where not appropriate, it should be done during a proofreading stage after a creative stage.

Warm Ups

Visual artists have a number of exercises to get their “creative juices flowing,” so to speak. Some of these include copying a picture while it’s upside-down, writing with the off-hand, and free association. These exercises can also be used to put a writer in a creative state of mind. A particular strategy used by writers specifically is called the “free-write” which is a form of free association using words.

Free Association

Once the creative part of the mind has taken control, it comes much more fluidly and naturally to pump out artistic material. One way that writers will sometimes unleash their artistic capabilities is through a form of free association known as a “free-write.” The free-write is where one starts writing without any concern for grammar, spelling, or punctuation at all whatsoever. It has been said that Stephen King uses free-writing exercises every day to warm-up.

How to Free-write

If free-writing becomes second nature, sitting down to begin a free-write will be simply a matter of doing it. Until this “second nature” is established, one might find oneself sitting in front of a monitor or staring at a pad of paper not knowing what to do. A few tips on how to get started by be helpful.

Carol Morgan suggests ten different things to do to warm-up for creative writing. She wrote an article, originally posted on 1, Jul 6, 2012 in Article Writing, Blog, Book Writing, Motivation. Her article can be found on Writer’s Inkwell.1)) The ten tips can be found bellow with additional explanation included…

1. For each exercise, write in what I call ‘Stream of Consciousness’ and do not edit anything. Just write. This is another way of saying that one should allow things to just “come to them.” Instead of forcing things onto print.

2. Select an object on your desk & write about it for 2 minutes. Can’t think of what to write about? Pick a random object and write about that. Why not? The question “why not” is central to art. Science asks “how?” Existentialism asks “why?” Creativity asks “why not?”

3. Look out the window and write for 3 minutes about the first thing you see Again, why not? The first thing you seem needn’t be an object; it could be the color blue or green, for example. It doesn’t have to be the first thing you see either. It can be what you feel, initially, when you first look out the window. Write about that sunbeam hitting your face or whatever. It doesn’t matter what you write about so long as you write.

4. Write for 5 minutes about the last book you read. This can be particularly helpful if the intent is to establish good habits for book reviewing projects.

5. Write for 5 minutes about your favorite recurring daydream. When you write your first short story or novel this may be a natural part of generation. It has been remarked that a novelist is like a bottle that fills up, empties onto print, and then has to fill up again before they can write another book. The attribution of this is not readily available for that remark but Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert the Engineer, also has said that one should let dumb ideas go into one’s mind and leave just as quickly. He maintains that if one allows plenty of stupid things to flow through, there is a better chance of getting a few good concepts out there.

6. Write for 5 minutes about planting a summer even if you’ve never done it. Some have claimed that knowing too much about a subject one is writing about can be an handicap. Others dispute this saying that a writer writes about what they know but it seems that writing about something outside one’s own direct experience can do wonders to stimulate the imagination.

7. Write in the first person for 7 minutes about what it’s like to be a pirate. This is an example of a random thing to write about. It doesn’t have to be about the experience of being a pirate but it can. Why not being a pirate?

8. Write 7 minutes about yourself from your pet’s perspective. What creative exercise can be more effective than one that requires one to put themselves outside their own frame of reference?

9. Write 8 minutes in the 1st person about your life in an 1865 log cabin. An old-timey log cabin; absolutely! It doesn’t have to be in the eighteen hundreds either. I could be thirty million years ago on Mars. Why not? Go crazy.

10. 10. Write for 9 minutes about your first day of school. Has one gotten in touch with the “inner child” lately?

What a Free-write is Not

Though Carol Morgan’s warm-up suggestions have been included because it can be helpful getting started, a true free-write will not be written with any sort of intent. A pure free-write is a matter of free-association which is about letting things bubble up from the subconscious. Beginning a free-write with some sort of intent could be called a sort of “modified” free-write.

Another way of starting a modified free-write is by allowing a rhythm in the mind to help shape the form of the work of free association. If one has been listening to music recently or otherwise has a tune “stuck in the head,” this may come much more naturally than simply trying to just write a bunch of meterless nonsense. It is important to be aware that a free-write, generally never done with the intent of publishing, does not have to have rhyme or rhythm. A free-write doesn’t have to have anything in particular; it is simply to be performed.

Free-write Example

The following is a spontaneous attempt at free-association. There might be some rhythm and rhyme in it which is fine but unnecessary. The intent was to show something really “stupid” here to get across the realization that the free-write doesn’t have to be of any sort of “quality” other than just being as free and natural as possible. The word processor used automatically correct some spelling and grammar to the best of its ability, but the example shown was created without concern about spelling, punctuation, or syntax at all. Free-writes are usually not published but can spark ideas for projects which may be published.

Don’t have a way to chicken nugget but frosty tossed behind away its just a matter meter never thought to feed her sickened by the way it sits and grows across the place in face crashing through the forest two trains collide abide me stuck in avalanche of purple rain in fame the sun falls into it growing green its gonna fix it taking trucking mucking about wiggling a pinkish snot grumbling and griming timing is everything but doesn’t take the cake from the hobo on the overpass make it fast wind it down to overflow in a ditch to throw a fit snaking out to catch a fish snide rememberance of a another mine golden gems are not a crime but bring it round to fin silly nilly willy showed the way to eat a pilly killy raving at the loon singing aftermarket tunes throwing rain is sane but never take a foreign plane its ruddy muddy then marbles in the backroom serious as snake eyes on the way byes dripping colors on the paper never made me feel safer in the chaos am controlled in breaking out I tend to fold monkey’s don’t type but if they ever did shakespere would nod an disappear its all about the fear taking my dime giving all the time its psyched and soaked in soapy rope cringing binging and a little bit stingy round eggs as friend never take a turkey from an overcoat on the rubber boat it burns and turns but will not float it flows from groves of no one knows before the ferret glows on snowy ice flows stifled with trifles and truffles that fluffle snuffle us a gus not stain on the remarks of the veins of pain lumpy rump is stumped to jump tacks and go back to the way the name is brought to fame and turned around again…

That is pretty much how a free-write might go especially if you have song in your head. Though you don’t have to stick to the rhythm of the tune, let alone the rhyme scheme, there is no reason to disallow it from occurring either. If an author gets really good at this, they may write for hours without even know what they are writing. It is possible some great work may come to them spontaneously during the process but certainly words will come much easier after the exercise.

What to Keep in Mind

Certain objectives should be kept in mind when attempting a free-write. Achieving these goals is not absolute so success in achieving them will be a matter of degree. When the desire is free association, the state of mind one attempts to put oneself in has certain characteristics. The characteristics of a creative mental process include the following…

No Concept of Time

When in an artistic mind-set, track of all time may be lost. Long periods of time can go by without notice. Time seems to be a concept of the analytical mind.

Lack of Conscious Awareness

Reportedly, if one is very successful in their free-writing or other creative exercise, a lack of conscious awareness may set in. Theoretically, one may be able to write without even knowing what one is writing.

Spontaneous Meaning

The point to free-writing is to write without concern about expressing anything in particular. The idea is to just start writing just to write. However, if one is successful, things like meaning, rhythm, and rhyme will spontaneously appear. To do a good free-write you will attempt to not really creating any patterns but if successful they will occur without, and perhaps even in spite of, conscious intent.

Drafts

When attempting any literary work, whether it be a poem or an essay, a first draft will not be the only draft. The first draft should be as creative and free-flowing as possible. After the first draft, often called the “rough” draft, the work will go through a number of other stages before completion.

Some poems may be completed during the “rough” draft but usually even a poem will require at least one proofreading phase. For any other types of writing, it is probably a good idea to do several alternating creative and then analytical processes before completion. First one can creative a rough, then proofread and edit, and then one can go back through and add adjectives, adverbs, and clever phrases. After the second creative phase another analytical process can take place eliminating drivel and correcting basic errors.

The final draft is the draft ready to publish. Once the piece is both artistic and grammatical enough, it is time to submit it. A trap to run into is getting stuck trying to make one’s work better and better without ever putting it on the market. One may always find a better way saying a certain thing, streamlining the overall work, and other improvements but at some point the work must be completed.

It has been said that a good artist knows when to quit.

How To | Writing | Devtome


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