Readers, today we are fortunate to have the second of three installments in Liz Jeffries’ mini-series on creativity and unleashing your inner child. Liz reminds us of the joy we find in writing, and how getting back in creative saddle can help overcome personal challenges. Liz shares her tried and true techniques for unleashing the imagination of our childhood and getting the results from mind to keyboard (or paper). Today, in her final installment, Liz addresses those questions she brought up last week and shares her tried and true creative tactics.
We need to feed that creative spark that lies within us. Oh yes, it’s always there, no matter how much adulthood and responsibility have tried to snuff it out. And we can feed it and help it grow. How you ask? Well here are some things I do for myself. Some of these have been taught to me by other people, some I got from books, some I just came up with on my own.
One of my new favorite techniques that I’ve been introduced to since joining Pikes Peak Writers is improv writing. Basically, take a prompt, give yourself a space of time (like 10 minutes) and just WRITE. It can be anything. There is no right or wrong. No one ever has to see it. It’s not anything that has to be made into a story, or has to go somewhere, or even has to make sense. It’s just a time to get your brain to think, to flow, to push yourself beyond the normal comfort zone of your writing. To exercise your brain. To maybe explore things you wouldn’t consider exploring in a ‘normal’ setting.
It’s easy. There’s tons of apps and websites that will create random prompts for you. And you don’t have to write on the exact prompt. For example, a lot of them are in first person, but maybe you feel more creative writing in third. So write in third! Just take the basic idea of the prompt and let it ignite the fires in your skull. And remember…NO RULES. Handwrite it if you have to, to break your mind out of the mold. I do. I find when I write on my laptop I get too consumed with making the story ‘pretty’ and I’ve barely gotten more than a few sentences in when the timer goes off. But put a pen and a piece of paper in my hand? I’m off to the races and I don’t really care what it reads like. I’m just writing.
A second tactic I use is to find new inspirations. It’s hard to be inspired sitting in front of a screen or searching Youtube. Whenever I find myself running a little low on the creativity meter, I try to find something to energize me. Like going to an art museum, listening to music, or going to the zoo. I especially love music. Listening to music and feeling the story that it speaks to you. Not the story the artist intends, although that’s usually really great too. I mean the story that the song speaks to you. Do you ever get images when you listen to a song? What are the emotions that you feel listening to it? Does it remind you of any memories? To just listen to the song, to let yourself drift into it. For nothing to exist in that moment but you and the song. To being open to whatever pops into your head as you listen to it.
I also journal a lot. Every morning I get up and write. It can be complete total gibberish, but I write. I write about how I feel. What I did the day before. Things I dreamed. Things I was looking forward to during the day. Old scars that cropped up that make me feel bad. Things I’m questioning. Whatever pops into my head, it goes down into the journal.
Another tactic is to use your creativity, but in a different way. I like to go do pottery. I also am teaching myself how to make things out of leather. Making things and writing are both an act of creation. But sometimes you can ‘run the well dry’ just doing one thing. Sometimes you have to try and explore something new to ‘jumpstart’ the creativity wheel for your writing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been bent over the potter’s wheel working on a lump of clay when a random thought about my current story pops into my head, or an idea for my blog.
The last tip I have is to just go out into the world and open your mind up to observing and exploring. You can only write what you know and even the most far flung fantasies have to have some basis in reality, whether it’s emotions or how things act/react. We have to have some basis in reality so that our readers can relate. And the only way to understand the world is to observe it, to live it. I couldn’t write a book about climbing a mountain unless I had really done it. Oh, I could. I could pretend. I could read other’s accounts and try to use them. But it’s not the same as actually being there. Actually taking the steps to walk up the mountain. The breeze on your skin. The sun beating down. The smell of the pine trees. The call of the birds. I could not evoke the same emotion, could not describe the environment, the same way I could if I actually got out there, climbed a mountain and experienced it for myself. Saw it with my own eyes. Sensed it with my own senses.
I like people watching. Looking at how people dress, how they stand, what they might say or the gestures they make. I like taking those observations and creating little stories around them. Who they are. Where they come from. What their day might have been like. Where they are going later on. Of course, the stories aren’t true. But it’s an exercise in taking what I see and looking past the reality to the possibility of what might be. I like watching their mannerisms, their style and incorporating that into my characters. To give my characters a depth of reality.
And don’t stop yourself. What do I mean by that? If you get inspired by something, don’t immediately shoot yourself down by saying “oh that won’t make a good story” or “that won’t make it anywhere”. Don’t analyze! Will every inspiration be a story? NO! But by cutting off your inspiration before it has a chance to grow, by shooting it down before it even gets off the ground, trains your brain that it’s wrong. That it has to ‘think right’. Think like an adult. Be rational. Be reasonable. Be responsible. Don’t be daydreaming. Don’t be stuck in the clouds.
Yet that is precisely what we need to do! We need to be children. We need to daydream. We need to see past reality. We need to feed our ability to create. To forget, if even for only an hour, about bills and responsibilities. To let go of all the ‘rules’. To be silly. To be wacky. To push ourselves out of our comfort zones. To look at the world like a child. Where stuffed animals are real and dragons lie in wait around every corner. Where taking a sled down a hill is skiing down the Alps. Where a stick is a mighty sword, worthy of slaying a gigantic beast.
To be inspired by the world around us.
We need to play, without worrying about the ‘adult’ things waiting for us. To not worry about the hours we spend writing. We need to let ourselves get lost in this passion that we love.
The ways I talked about above are just some of the ways I use to inspire my creativity. Use them or find your own. After all, no one is inspired in the same way by the same things. But we do all share one thing. We all have a flame of creativity within us, just waiting to be used. It may be small, buried under all sorts of layers we put down as adults so we don’t act like kids. But it never dies. It’s there, waiting for you to find it and feed it.
It’s time. Release the child inside. Release your creativity. And just watch all the amazing places your mind takes you!
I have always thought of myself as a writer, writing books while I was still in elementary school. However, as I grew up I started suffering from undiagnosed severe chronic anxiety and depression, and emotional abuse from when I was a child that eventually destroyed my love of writing and art, as well as life. Skip ahead to 2011 when I was challenged by a friend to start living again, and dealing with my issues. I started a blog detailing my adventures learning how to ride a motorcycle and a mountain bike, and my slow understanding of my mental issues, and was amazed at the positive response. Slowly, my love for writing started growing again. Fast forward to 2016 when I hit a dead end with my life in Illinois and needed a new adventure. Within a week of deciding, I packed up all my gear and moved out to Colorado. Since coming to Colorado, my excitement and creativity has blossomed, as well as getting my anxiety and depression under control.
Email Liz Jeffries here.