Tag Archives: ideas

My Creativity Toolbox

I was out of town for a few weeks and to be honest, had zero creative spark. Nada. Not even an ember, it was just plain extinguished. Now that I’m home in my little corner of Oregon and back at it, I started thinking about the tools I use to get those ideas burning again.

Here’s what I rely on the most:

  • Music is a HUGE part of my writing. I think more than anything it helps to keep me from getting distracted. And to get very specific here – I love writing to Celtic music. If I’m writing a really intense scene, bring on the Riverdance! I use Pandora (it’s free if you don’t mind the occasional commercial) and I have some very finely tuned stations to fit my “writing mood.”
  • After many years as I handwritten writer, I finally transitioned to writing direct on the computer several years ago. Maybe not as romantic, but a much more effective use of my time. But when I’m stuck, I always default back to scribbling on a piece of paper. Instead of focusing on writing actual prose, I “talk myself” through a block. Such as “Okay, what I am trying to say here. I’m trying to get this character to____.” Before you know it, your story is off and running.
  • Write/draw/compose/create by a window. Even if it’s dark out, it always helps.

I started getting curious about what other artists use as tools to help with creativity. Here’s a few ideas that I might add to my own toolbox that are easily available online:

  • Allow yourself to get lost on Flickr…there’s some amazing photography on there to peruse and you never know, you may find an image that inspires your own project. (If you actually use it, make sure it’s part of Creative Commons!)
  • Many sites recommended using Pinterest for ideas…now, this is a tricky site for me. I tend to get VERY distracted on Pinterest and before I know it, three hours have passed and nothing is accomplished except 30 more pins. But I found searching specifically for “art journal ideas” or “art therapy”  or “writing prompts” came up with some amazing options! So if you tread carefully, I think it is a great creativity sparker.
  • Motivational quotes can be a big, well, motivator. For me, I have a poster with a Margaret Atwood quote hanging right over my computer.
Proof.
Proof.

To be honest, many of the websites that boasted “motivational quotes” were drowned with ads. I’m recommending my go-to for quote finding…which is good ol’ Goodreads. If you search for “quotes” they have a huge selection organized by tags such as love, knowledge, power, etc.

What are some of the tools you use to help “spark” your creativity?

Advertisements

Brenda Ueland – the Author & Story

I have to admit, I have a lot of books on writing or creativity in general. They range from “Negotiating the Book Contract” to “Writing Down the Bones.” But one of the most influential books on writing/art I’ve read is Brenda Ueland’s “If You Want To Write.” I was given this book in my late teens as a gift from my aunt, who had a writer-friend that recommended it. And here I am years later, recommending it to you.

If You Want To Write

The full title of the book is “If You Want To Write – A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit” and that truly does capture the essence of this book. I love the style and language of the writing (it was originally published in 1938!) and some of the references will definitely feel dated. But the heart of her message is still very relevant – be true to yourself, no matter what. She’s ferocious about it and anything but being true to the story you want to tell is simply not fair to yourself. She will have you convinced of it by the end of the book, trust me.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re writing a story and you create a character that likes to eat cheese sandwiches with a thick layer of ketchup. (Ugh.) But you hesitate, because your Uncle John Doe also eats those strange cheese/ketchup sandwiches. And if you attribute this characteristic to your fictional character, maybe Uncle John Doe will read your story down the line and think that character is based off him. But it’s not. And then it will be awkward. When truly, probably somewhere in your memory, you remembered that strange little detail about cheese/ketchup sandwiches and it’s resurfaced in this fictional character that is a combination of many, many things that is not Uncle John Doe. Here’s what I’m getting at: per Brenda, you better keep that cheese and ketchup sandwich in your book. Because once you start censoring yourself, even though it’s the smallest, insignificant detail –  you are starting down a very slippery slope. Again, be true to yourself, no matter what.

 

Image via Graywolf Press
Image via Graywolf Press

Brenda was born in 1891 in Minneapolis. When she wrote this book, she was very much a part of the “Greenwich Village bohemian crowd” as her biography calls it. You can sense this in her writing – she’s bold! She’s passionate! She worked as a writer, editor and teacher and did a variety of fascinating things later in life (such as being knighted by the King of Norway) before she passed away in 1985.

I’ve found that there seems to be a mix of opinions on Brenda’s writing practices and theories outlined in “If You Want To Write” – and that’s okay. Because it’s getting a conversation going, which I can’t help but think Brenda would have loved inspiring in the first place.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

This last weekend I’ve been thinking about the process of going from Planning A Thing to Doing A Thing.  I’ve been in a season of planning for a while now, and getting the swirl of ideas from my brain, to paper broken down in actionable steps to execution has been a weirdly overwhelming experience.

It used to be that the big impediment to a project was a material component.  I needed some art supply or piece of equipment that I couldn’t afford and for what ever reason could not seem to find my way around, and often this issue would stop whatever plan completely.

Later, when I could Afford A Thing, the stumbling block becomes Time and Space.  I never seem to have the creative space I need, and even if I did I’m aware that I don’t have the glorious chunks of time I had back when I had little money to afford supplies since I wasn’t working the way that I work now.

For some reason (namely, that my brain is used to self-sabotaging and will scramble to cover up my insecurity and laziness with Reasons), I’m pretty sure that someone could come and give me a studio and pay me for my time tomorrow and I would see some other stumbling block that I never anticipated to keep me from Doing The Thing.

 

Planner

I worked with a really great therapist last year, and she started to get me back in the habit of journaling and journaling in different ways.  I started to break my ideas down into small, tasty, actionable steps.  I started to have a written record to keep me accountable to what I needed to accomplish.  I became one of those Planner Ladies that you see on Pinterest who lay out their goals on a timeline, and keep to do lists, and manage their time.  (If you are curious my journal is just a spiral bound sketchbook, and my planner is a MAMBI Happy Planner that I got on sale at Michael’s).  I felt like a fraud.  We will talk more about feeling like fraud another time, suffice it to say that I did not understand how to marry the side of my brain that works in office administration with the side of my brain that likes to make small mythological creatures out of clay and ink.  In fact, part of me really believed that they were antagonistic skills to each other, instead of realizing that they are vitally important parts of a whole.

 

Supplies

I’ve also realized that it is important to address some of these ideas that keep us from Doing, and that as in most things, these ideas are not unique to my own experience.  So I decided to go back to doing workshops/art meets using the kind of supplies you’d find in most kid’s schoolbags.  My big issue with that idea was… Space!  My friend Kiki mentioned we could use the big table in her tarot shop, and I immediately recoiled… I’ve been thinking about the parellels of art space and devotional space deeply for an upcoming post so working in a space where Tarot readings happen was not an easy idea for me.  But as I started praying about it, and looking for other options it became clear… an answer had been provided.  Not in a comfortable way for me, not in the way I expected, but I had opportunity.

So this weekend we made ATC’s at RockStar Tarot.  With crayola supplies and the leftover scraps from my collage work and papercraft.  And drank tea.  And had a good time. And no one “caught” paganism, we all just made art.  And the fraud police did not show up to call me a bad Christian or a fake artist.  So, I mean, I’m just saying… if you Did The Thing, that probably wouldn’t happen to you either.