On writing

Lost Your Creativity? Get it Back!


(Originally posted in 2013 on Anastasia Pollack’s Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers blog, hosted by Lois Winston, a mystery author and crafter extraordinaire).

My guest post, Where did my creativity go . . . and how do I get it back?, is about losing your creative spirit—-and then re-discovering it. Is being creative be as simple as getting out of your chair? Or maybe you have to go zip-lining or hike a forest trail. Read the post below and find out!

Christine Finlayson spends her days conjuring up fictional characters—and devising ways to get them into trouble. When she’s not at the computer, she loves to photograph all things weird or wild in nature, explore the trails and beaches of the Pacific Northwest, and compete in triathlons. Learn more at Christine and her books at her website.

Where did my creativity go . . . and how do I get it back?

On New Year’s Day, my daughter set out her painting supplies: three canvases, a full set of colors, new paintbrushes, and an artist’s palette.

“I’m ready,” she announced, squeezing out the first tube of paint.

“Don’t you want to sketch things out first?” I suggested. “Decide what you’re going to put on each one?” After all, she only had three canvases, and they weren’t cheap. If she made a mistake . . .

“Why?” She gave me a puzzled look. “I’m making art. I’ll just see what happens.” And with that, she dipped her brush into the paint and started tinting the canvas brown. Out came Bilbo Baggins.

I saw no fear in her, no anxiety that the critics might not like her rendition. Instead, she breathed excitement. It was time to CREATE. Oh, the joy!

I envied her.

When I was my daughter’s age, I’d loved creating things, too. I wrote and illustrated picture books, made puppets, sewed doll clothes, experimented with Styrofoam balls and sequins, and spent endless hours crafting dollhouse furniture. (Note the book and old-fashioned typewriter in the photo!)

But somewhere on the road to adulthood, the pure joy of creation—the spontaneity and whimsy—had disappeared.

So on that cold January day, I wondered: Was it too late to add a New Year’s Resolution? I want my creativity back.

Creative Writing

Like most fiction authors, I rely heavily on imagination. Without it, stories wouldn’t come alive. But after my first mystery novel was published, life became more complicated.

Creative writing time had to be balanced with book promotion. Under the steady stream of numbers—Sales up? Fans? Likes?—anyone’s creativity could falter. And mine had. It became harder and harder to shut off the analytical left brain and let the right brain roam.

I wanted 2014 to be different, a year of thriving creativity. So after that New Year’s Day epiphany, I decided to try four things and see what happens. Maybe you’d like to join me in this experiment!

#1. Find the quiet. 

When our minds fill with clutter—errands, appointments, bills to pay, emails to answer—it’s tough for creativity to break through. Not surprisingly, my writing is most productive when I leave town . . . suddenly, there’s a quiet space inside, ready to be filled with innovative ideas. Recognizing this, I’ve planned several writing retreats this year. I’ll head to the Oregon coast and take time to watch the waves roll in.

When leaving town isn’t an option, I’ll do morning pages, the quickest way to get rid of those nagging thoughts. I’ve vowed to slow life down, too—stop and smell the roses, savor that cup of coffee, and watch squirrels play from my office window.

#2. Make a bucket list.

As the Queen of To-Do lists, I have papers littering every flat surface, each one with tasks to complete. But this year, I’ve added a “Things I Want to Do” list.

By giving wishes and yearnings equal weight—missions to check off—I’m hoping to do more of them. Arrange a Police Ride-Along? Check. Attend Left Coast Crime? Coming up. Sip daiquiris in Hawaii? On the docket.

Have you made a list of things you want to do this year? (For inspiration, check out BucketList.org. You’ll find all kinds of interesting ideas, including: Draw funny faces on eggs, take pole dancing classes, swim under a waterfall, and visit Pompeii.)

#3. Do things that are frightening.

I’m not talking about haunted houses and horror movies—but saying “Yes!” to adventure and stretching outside of our comfort zones. Doing any new, intimidating activity makes us feel more alive. Last year, for the first time, I zip-lined through the jungle and had a book published. Both scary. Both stimulating.

This year? I plan to canoe through the Canadian wilderness, swim across a river (an organized event), and explore a seedy neighborhood to research a character. Whatever your adventures are, know that shaking things up can spur creativity. Get ready!

# 4. Exercise more regularly.

Working as a writer (or any desk job) means hours of sitting still. The new wisdom suggests that sitting is terrible for our health, but it can also stagnate the mind. Shifting from mental tasks to physical activities forces the brain to move in different ways.

As a triathlete, I’ve learned that training takes time, but the regular swims, bikes, and runs also enhance my creativity. More than once, I’ve had “Aha!” moments in the middle of a workout—That’s where my story needs to head! Now I can fix that scene!  It’s wonderful to be able to solve sticky plot problems—while moving.

2014 will be the Year of Creativity. Let the experiment begin!

I appreciate this chance to visit Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers today, and I’d love to hear from you. What inspires your creativity? How do you keep it flowing? And what do you do to jumpstart creativity when it falters?