We’ve talked about workplace environments that distract and detract from writing creativity, but what about items you can add to enhance creativity? Here are a few:
• A flip chart.
Okay, about now, you think I’m nuts. I’m not. If space permits, place a flip chart near your desk, either on an easel or on the wall. When you have trouble sorting through an aspect of your writing—a plot tangle, an article slant, character motivation, imagery, etc.—get out some bright markers and go to town on your flip chart. Write an outline, draw a mindmap, create movie frames with stick figures, whatever works to get you through that rough spot (but no doodling!).
• Brightly colored markers (see above).
No, these magazines are not for reading breaks (and don’t do this if they become a source of distraction…see “The Creative Workplace, Part 1”). Rather, magazines can become a good source of motivation. If you’re stuck on creating or describing the physical features of one of your characters, magazine pictures can inspire a “look” for your character. If you’re looking for a new topic, or a slant on a topic you already have, thumbing through magazine articles may help you find it.
• Idea files.
If you don’t already have one of these, I suggest you start one. These files should contain every writing idea you’ve ever had but haven’t used, both for fiction and nonfiction. Categorize them however you want, but use them. This serves two purposes in maintaining a creative workspace. The most obvious is that, if you’re stuck for an idea, you can rummage through these files and find something you haven’t used, or at least of which you haven’t tapped all the possibilities.
Less obvious is the need to set ideas aside during writing. I personally know that some of my best ideas come to me when I’m trying to work on an entirely different piece—call it a form of mental self-sabotage. Rather than starting on that idea “so it doesn’t get away,” write it down and stick it in your file. You’ve preserved your idea, but you’ve also kept yourself from running away on a rabbit trail.
That’s what I have for now. If you have extra techniques or ideas, I’d love for you to share them with me on this blog!