A Lesson In Creativity: Guest Blog By Dallas Woodburn

Tips to Boost Your Creativity When You’re Feeling Stuck

Listen to Dallas on What’s Your Story with Hilary Bilbrey

As a writer, creativity is incredibly important to me. I feel fortunate to have found a career I am passionate about, and moreover one that allows me to escape into the magical realm of make-believe on a daily basis. Nurturing my creativity has not only made me a better writer, it has made me a better human being – more optimistic, compassionate, open-hearted, and determined. Creativity solves problems and inspires a love of learning. Creativity unleashes big, beautiful dreams. Creativity helps me embrace rejection and disappointment. Every time I hear, “No,” I remind myself: “That just means I’m one step closer to a yes.”

I founded my organization “Write On! For Literacy” to cultivate creativity in kids, teens – and adults as well. As children, we constantly make up stories and games and play “pretend,” but as we mature into adulthood, much of that unbridled curiosity and imagination is trampled by criticism, doubt, self-consciousness, and “real-world” worries and obligations. How tragic. We would be much more fulfilled individually, and as a society, if creativity were a treasured part of our daily lives.

Perhaps you want to be more creative, but you’re feeling stuck. Or maybe you are working on a project and could use a creative boost. Every writer I know, even the most wonderfully creative, has to face the frustration of writer’s block at some point or another.

Here are some ideas that might help you grow closer to your creative subconscious:

* Try putting yourself in a stranger’s head. Go people-watching in a park, on the bus, in the mall. Pick a stranger to be your “character.” Close your eyes and really get inside him or her. What is she thinking, feeling, worrying, wondering, fearing? Where is he going? What would he do next in this situation? It can be helpful to “freewrite” – write without thinking too much or editing yourself. Write for eight or ten minutes without stopping. Often just fifteen minutes of playful imagining is enough to reconnect with your creative subconscious.

* Set your project aside for a couple of weeks and work on something else. Sometimes, like a watched pot that never boils, an idea never comes when we are fretting over it. In my experience, the best ideas for my stories often arrive when I am thinking about something else — walking my dog, cooking dinner, browsing a farmer’s market.

* Focus on what you DO know instead of worrying about what you don’t know. Is there a part of your project that IS working? Focus on that. The rest will come. For example, many writers (myself included) struggle with “the muddle in the middle” of a book or story. Perhaps there is a later part of the story I want to write or know what’s going to happen, but the middle is tripping me up. When that happens, I skip forward and write the ending. Then, I can go back and write the middle. Ideas tend to come once the ending is in place.

* Sometimes I get blocked when I am at a “fork in the road” in my story: there are multiple routes my story could take, and I’m not sure which one is the “right” one. If you suspect this is the case for your subconscious, I would try just picking one route – one way the story could go, one thing that could happen next – and write that. Just see what happens! If it doesn’t feel right, you can always go back and change it. But maybe it will be the thing to get you through the block.

* Try something new. Nothing fills my “idea well” more quickly than traveling – experiencing new things, embarking on new adventures, meeting new people. But even if you don’t have a vacation or trip planned for the near future, you can still rejuvenate your creative life by trying new things. Learn a recipe for a different type of food than you usually eat. Dabble in a different art form, such as painting or music.

* Change up your routine. Walk or bicycle rather than drive to work or school. When you slow down your daily trip a bit, little things like hummingbirds, squirrels, and the unique hue of the sky on a particular day seem to stand out. Take a notebook with you to jot down notes when you feel inspired.

Hope these ideas help boost your creativity and add a bit of wonder, curiosity, and fun to your daily life!

BIO: Dallas Woodburn is the author of two collections of short stories and a forthcoming novel. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Arcadia Journal, flashquake, and The Newport Review, among others. She has also written more than 80 articles for national publications including Family Circle, Writer’s Digest, CO-ED, Justine, and The Los Angeles Times, and she writes a regular column for Listen magazine. Dallas is the founder of the nonprofit organization “Write On! For Literacy” that has donated more than 11,000 new books to disadvantaged children. Her latest endeavor is starting a publishing company, Write On! Books, that publishes the work of young writers; the first anthology, Dancing With The Pen, will be released this fall and features the work of seventy young writers from all across the U.S. and even abroad. In addition, she hosts frequent writing contests, teaches writing camps for kids, and is Youth Director of the Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN). Contact Dallas at her website www.writeonbooks.org or blog http://dallaswoodburn.blogspot.com.

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