Feeding Your Creativity

Writing Desk – Pen & Ink drawing by Victor L. Doyle

Earlier this month, I was gathering ideas to share with the writers group at the library. Our topic for August was Feeding Your Creativity, an idea I first read in Wild Words by Nicole Gulotta. During my research, I discovered this great article on creativity based on an old book from 1939. Artists and writers looking for creativity is apparently not a new concept!

The author of the book listed five steps to cultivating creativity:

  1. Gathering raw material
  2. Digesting the material
  3. Unconscious processing
  4. The A-Ha Moment
  5. Idea Meets Reality

As I thought about this five step process, I realized that I follow these steps almost unconsciously when I think about my writing, work on a Bible study, plan my goals for the next quarter, and a host of other creative and thinking work.

Then this morning, I came across this lovely video about Training Your Creative Flow by photographer Shaye Elliott.

In her video, Shaye is talking about Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which I started reading but quit partway through because I never conquered morning pages. I tried so many times on my own and did something similar last winter during a writing class. However, the pain in my hands when I write with a pen for more than a few minutes keeps me, mentally and physically, from maintaining that habit. Julia Cameron’s insistence that it must be pen and paper makes sense to me intellectually and the lovely piece of writing on the beauty in pain that came out of the exercise last winter both keep me thinking about this. But until I conquer the very real mental or emotional barrier of my fear of the pain, I know that I won’t do morning pages.

Consequently, I’ve decided to adapt these ways of capturing creativity to make it work for me where I am right now. Rather than just give up, which has been my tendency, I’ve come to the conclusion that if writing is important to me, and it is, then I have to do what works and stop trying to live someone else’s ideal process.

Here is how I plan to use these steps to feed my creativity:

  1. Raw material – This is not a problem. I read so much and so widely that I’m always gathering raw material. The challenge is to organize it for easier retrieval. I have a system that I’m working on but that is for another post.
  2. Digesting the material – I think this is where the morning pages will come in. Rather than fuss myself about doing it by hand, I’ve decided to just type my thoughts. Perhaps this is not optimal but it’s better than not doing anything at all, a sentiment echoed in this article by a leadership coach for lawyers.
  3. Unconscious processing – This requires silence and solitude, which are hard to find in the world today but not impossible. A combination of weaning myself off of social media, planning in slots of reflective time, and adding in more walks, some of which I will make thinking walks, should give me time for the processing that is crucial to idea generation.
  4. The A-Ha moment – I have a small notebook and/or my phone with me all of the time so that when the ideas hit, I’m ready for them. In the past, I’ve jotted down words and phrases on a slip of paper, dictated my thoughts to Siri as I drove, sent myself an email, added a note to my phone, and scribbled down thoughts for a new direction in my notebook. Writing down ideas as they strike is a discipline that is well worth cultivating for every creative. I wrote more about this in my post A Writer’s Notebook.
  5. Idea meets reality – Make time for regular writing! Two other ideas from Julia Cameron’s book are to have a creative date with yourself every week and to practice your art regularly. For me that looks like having a book on writing that I read for an hour a week, as a minimum, and sitting down every day to write—morning pages, a blog post draft, my journal, a book draft—whatever it is to get the words on paper and develop the discipline of showing up to my art.

Have I perfected this process? Not at all. However, the steps are in place and now I need to walk in them. If I can do it, so can you!

Do you think these five steps to creativity are helpful? Do you write morning pages either by hand or electronically? Please share your practices in the comments so we can all learn to live the creative life together.

4 thoughts on “Feeding Your Creativity

  1. Kudos for such a cogent, interesting article that will necessarily be so helpful to creative, budding writers & others. Indeed, in my own case, although hopelessly uncreative, much of the advice struck a chord within me, as am certain will so do with many others. Eg., from my wondrous university days on, after several frustrating “Damn, can’t think of it, why didn’t I write that down!” rueful moments, I started carrying a little notebook in my shirt pocket & jotting down “A-Ha” thoughts, ideas, words, etc that would strike me as worthy of not being casually forgotten. This beneficially carried over into my decades-long, real-world career days with the DA, when readily-available data/notes similarly jotted down in my trusty little notebook stood me in good stead on numerous critical occasions. In any event, thank you once again Joy, for a great article.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lou. I know a lot of people who use their phones now to capture those types of notes. I do myself when I don’t have my notebook but I do love to use my notebook when it’s available. There’s something so real about pen and paper.

      I’m glad you found the article useful. I did, too. What really got me was the fact that the book was written in 1939. Ideas for creativity are always useful, even 80 years later.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a coincidence. I too just explored Julia Cameron’s works and the morning pages practice. It doesn’t really make me more creative, per se, but it does loosen up the writing mind so that I can approach the blank page with less apprehension. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Stuart, thanks for your feedback. Are you writing your morning pages on paper as Julia Cameron suggests? Yes, they help me get rid of the junk in my mind so I write better afterwards, which is why I want this habit to stick.

      Liked by 1 person

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