Seven Unusual Tips to Stir Your Creative Juices

I’m so happy to share with you today a guest post by Judy Clement Wall. We published her article, Seven Unusual Tips to Stir Your Creative Juices, on FFDO when the #fridayflash community website was still up and running, but since it closed last year, I really wanted to share this article again, with as many people as possible.
Hope you enjoy these tips as much as I have!

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Seven Unusual Tips to Stir Your Creative Juices

Feeling stuck? Try these tips for moving past the occasional (inevitable) bout of writers

1. Go on an adventure (and take notes).

Last month, I went on a 4-day road trip – 1265 miles to drop my son off at college. I was an emotional wreck, as moms saying goodbye to their children often are, but I knew the trip would provide a lot of writing material, so every night, before I went to bed, I made a list of all the interesting things I could remember from the day. When I got home, I had four pages of notes, a lot of them things I wouldn’t have remembered if I’d waited until I got home to start writing. So far, from those notes, I’ve written a piece for Huffington Post, an essay for a literary collection, and a blog

Even if you can’t afford to take four days off and drive, take a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon and go somewhere you’ve never been before. Be observant. Talk to strangers. Watch scenes unfold and then imagine them differently.

2. Shamelessly eavesdrop.

I’ve taken to eavesdropping in coffee shops. It amazes me the stories I can invent over the span of an unsuspecting victim’s cup of coffee. And really, sometimes you don’t even have to work that hard. Once I listened to the first date of a couple who’d met on Match.com. When I got up to leave, he was telling her about his ex-wife’s cat’s urinary tract infection. I wanted to rescue her, grab her hand on my way out and make a break for it. In the story version of that date, I’d have done it.

3. Close your laptop (or whatever you write in).

Most of the time, it’s best to keep your butt in the chair and hammer something out, even if it’s ugly. You can make it pretty later, and it’s better to get something (anything!) down, than give up. That’s how the hard work gets done.

But there are times when sheer, dogged determination isn’t enough to break through the block, and trying to pound through it only leaves you feeling defeated. At those times, go live your life. Plant something, take a friend to lunch, wrestle with your dog. Sometimes when you’re truly empty, there’s nothing to do but go out and fill the well.

4. Wonder about weird stuff.

Recently I was on a hike with a friend, and we were talking about a news story he’d read a few years ago. The story was about a plane crash that killed many people. My friend said that when they listened to the cockpit recording later, it was clear that the pilot and copilot had been fighting over a flight attendant they were both involved

I asked my friend if both men were single, and he said he didn’t know. I said, “Imagine if one of them wasn’t, and his widow hears after his death that not only was he having an affair, he killed a lot of people while fighting over his mistress.”

My friend said, “no one but you would ever wonder about that,” but writers wonder about weird things.

5. Read outside your genre.

I only recently started doing this. I read and write literary fiction and nonfiction, but in 2012 I decided to read at least one book (or manuscript) each year that I wouldn’t normally choose. Reading outside my comfort zone puts me in a less analytical, more easily surprised frame of mind, which is right where I want to be when I sit down to do my own work.

6. Doodle.

The definition of “doodle” is “scribble aimlessly.” How great is that? When you’re stuck, do a little aimless scribbling. Let your mind go. Think of it as recess, then come back to your work-in-progress when you feel refreshed.

7. Use social media as a muse.

Social media is not just for platform building. There are some smart fascinating, funny, talented people on the internet. Follow them. Not the ones who talk only about their impressive word counts or latest book signing, but the ones who make you laugh aloud (or gasp, or blush) with their irreverent updates and observations.

I even have a special suggestion for flash fiction writers. Meg Pokrass writes and teaches flash fiction. Her work has been published all over the place and has been nominated many times for the Pushcart Prize anthology. I follow her on Facebook because her updates are wild, funny, piercing works of flash fiction in themselves, and she often posts several in a day. Inspiration at your Facebook-y fingertips.

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BioPic2More about the author:

Judy Clement Wall’s short stories, essays, reviews and interviews have been published in numerous literary print journals and websites, including Huffington Post, The Rumpus, Used Furniture Review, Kind Over Matter, and Smith Magazine. You can read more of her work at JudyClementWall.com

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6 Comments to “Seven Unusual Tips to Stir Your Creative Juices”

  1. I love ALL the ideas but particularly love the one about taking a trip and writing down everything that I see during the trip. I forget so many things that I’ve seen/heard during the day that it makes sense to write everything down even if I don’t make it on a trip.

    Eavesdropping on a conversation is also a great inspiration. I once overheard someone talking in the grocery store about her son’s arrest. We have no filters anymore in this technology age–at one time, having one’s son arrested would have been a reason to go into hiding, now this woman is talking about it as she puts stuff on the belt at the checkout stand!

    What’s funny about this article is the timing–I was just about to ask someone to be a guest blogger on my site; it seems we are on the same wavelength! Although using one of my daughter’s poems may qualify as a guest post :-)

    • Yes, writing down everything you see is great practice, I think. And like you said, not only with trips. But hey, that’s why I love writing travel articles. Have you written any more travel articles? I really enjoyed reading them!

      Regarding eavesdropping, it’s one of the reasons I don’t talk on the phone while in public places. Maybe if it’s urgent, or a quick “hey, I’ll call you back when I get home”, or when I’m just walking down the street that is fine. But not in cafes, buses, grocery stores…
      Just yesterday a woman next to me on the bus was talking on her phone and telling the person on the other end (and everyone on the bus) that she went to this job interview and among other things she has very high standards, she wants to make her own hours and she won’t accept being phoned on the weekend or told to take her laptop home to continue to work if something needs finishing.
      I was speechless! I mean, I love love love the fact that I can work from home, which saves me the trips to work and buying lunch, I am much more comfortable, and actually get a lot more work done. Plus, when I have meetings and work calls to make, I’d rather talk from home and not bother an entire office floor if it’s more than a 10 minute chat. And why wouldn’t I want to help if something needs finishing, either by doing it from home, or stay in the office a bit later? I’m not saying that I’d work 8 hrs and then another 5 hrs from home. Of course not. But if it’s a one time thing, or half an hour’s worth of work, why not? Companies nowadays are being more flexible, and surely she could take that half an hour for a longer lunch break or maybe even get paid overtime. Why would she consider that a bad thing?

      And hey, your daughter’s poetry would be considered a guest post. Good idea. April is National Poetry Month and right around the corner! Of course, asking others sounds good, too.

      • I haven’t written any more travel articles and I’m starting to miss the experience. Is Milli still keeping up with Milliver’s Travels? I looked at the site and it seems as if there isn’t much activity. I loved writing the articles because it forced me to have a deadline. Without a deadline, I sometimes (often) find many other things to take up my time like laundry and floor washing.

        I recently bought my daughter’s camera. I bought it because I want to learn how to take better pictures for my blog but I’d also like to take better pictures for my writing on other people’s sites and/or magazines or just to learn. I realized I had a wrong assumption and that was I have no artistic talent so I shouldn’t even attempt to take pictures. I think this came from having such creative daughters who can look at the same thing I’m looking at and take a far more interesting picture. But, I figure if I devote time and energy to the practice of photography, I will improve, and that’s all I want–progress, not perfection.

        • I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t written any travel articles since November last year :( Not many writers continued sensing in stories (and I hate that I am one of them!) so MT is a bit behind on regular activity.
          BUT I can give you a deadline if it helps, maybe we can inspire each other to write more travel articles as well since we’re already inspiring each other to blog regularly.

          That is such a great idea to buy your daughter’s camera – the best inspiration to learn is to have a device with which to do so! Never assume you don’t have artistic talent! You’ll improve and progress to taking better and better shots. I can send you links to tips I found useful, if you want :)
          I used to carry my camera with me every single day during my yearly photo challenge. Two of the tips I love the most is don’t photograph food as if it were on a morgue table (okay, except when what you need to show is right on top and not properly visible any other way), and when you think the photos wouldn’t turn out interesting take them from hip-height (awesome for when you’re out and about).

          • I love your idea about sending me a deadline although do you mean for my blog or Milli’s?

            Interesting tips about food shots–I’ve attempted food so many times and with epic failure. My daughter seems to have this skill down pat; I’ll ask her how she makes her food look so delicious. In fact, any of my kids make their food pictures look amazing. I should get schooled by them!

            So…when’s my first due date?

          • Well that’s a good idea, since you like the photos your kids make, go straight to the source and ask for their advice :) Nothing wrong with that.

            And yes, I meant a deadline for travel articles. I’ll go e-mail you ;)

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