Monday, April 11, 2016

The Circle of Creativity

We’ve all had it happen, that exhaustion of the imagination, the drought, like someone took a straw and sucked up all the creative juices right out of us (okay, that was a weird analogy, but we’re going with it).

I have it happen to me all the time, way more than I’d like. I just don’t want to write. Every word is forced, and comes out horrible and flat because of it. Every second staring at the blank page and blinking cursor feels like agony. I’m like butter scraped over too much bread, as Bilbo would say. A lot of people would tell me to buck up and just keep writing, which isn’t always bad advice, especially if you’re under a deadline. I see the pros of it. Often continuing to write breaks loose a new dam and the juices flow once more. But sometimes we can’t. Sometimes writing on and on drains yet more of our already depleted creativity and leaves us frustrated and ready to give up.

So instead of using up our own supply of creativity all the time, why not soak it in from the unending imagination around us?

This is by no means a new idea, I’ve seen others talk about it, but my first real understanding and awareness of it was a little over a year ago.

I was spending two weeks out of town with my best friend, not writing or blogging or hardly even touching my computer. Merely having a rollicking good time with my partner in crime. Of course, our idea of a good time is shopping for books (there’s no question why were friends).

I had been there for quite a few days already, and as we were on yet another shopping adventure in one of the many thrift stores scouring the bookshelves, a longing slammed right into my very soul. As I slid my fingers over the smooth spines, reading intriguing titles and admiring pretty cover art, I had a sudden urge to CREATE. I wanted to write, make beautiful words, weave intricate and interesting tales and fun characters and wondrous worlds, like the ones I perused. I had not written in a while, and suddenly I was surrounded by stories. Suddenly I was soaking in all the creativity encircling me, and itching to get my hands on a keyboard.

The feeling and experience was so strong and delightful, it stuck with me. Ever since, I’ve been fully aware when that feeling strikes, and have learned how to bring it about.

These days, it comes on me a lot. I work part-time in a quaint little bookstore, so a couple of times a week I get to completely surround myself in imagination. I sell books and shelve books and peruse books and organize books (and yes, sometimes smell books). I see dozens and dozens of titles and covers coming in and out over the course of the day, and my imagination soars. That urge to create sparks almost every time I’m at work. I don’t even have to be reading. There’s something about just being around books and wondering what lies within the pages that fills my creative juices to the brim.

Of course, reading is absolutely a complete, and necessary, source of creativity for writers. Last year I did not read many books at all. I was so consumed in writing the first draft of Burning Thorns and then doing NaNoWriMo, I left myself no time for reading, and I hurt my writing because of it.

I’ve found I always write so much better when I’m reading heavily. I firmly believe our brains retain words, structure, plot devices, etc. even when we’re not trying. Subconsciously, I’m taking in knowledge from well-written books I’m reading at the time and applying it to my own writing. But when I go a while without reading, my writing feels flat and forced. I suddenly forget how to do something as simple as form a proper sentence. In the end, taking time out to read for a while actually helps my own novels, not hurts.

This year, though I’m still reading a bit slower than I’d like, I’m making effort to read at least for a while before bed. Sure, I could be editing, but I need that reading time. To learn, yes, but also to refill my ever dwindling supply of creativity. To remind myself why I love stories so much, and why I want to write my own.

Movies and TV shows can have the same effect (at least well-produced ones). Almost every time I watch ABC’s Once Upon a Time my desire to create is overflowing. That show has such an epic scale and masterful storytelling, I can’t help but soak in its creativity. The Marvel movies do the same. How can a writer not itch to create their own fun, adventurous tales after watching such well-told stories? And what about music? You can’t tell me a beautiful dramatic piece hasn’t tugged at your fingers to write some bittersweet fiction, or an epic score to weave a tale of great heroes and triumphant battles.

The thing is, the world is doused in creative juices. You just have to allow yourself to soak it up. So next time you’re feeling drained, don’t scrape at the bottom of your own barrel. Take a break, but use the break to refill yourself. Go out, visit a bookstore, watch your favorite show, listen to a moving song, read vivaciously, even peruse Pinterest for a while. Dip into the creativity others have already produced. They don’t mind. Because, in turn, you’ll use it to make your own creativity that others can take a drink from.

And the circle of creativity goes round.

What do you do to refill your creative barrel? Who else soaks it up by merely being inside a bookstore (or am I just weird)? Any specific TV show/movie/book/song that overflows your juices? I’d love to hear them!


  1. EEEEEP, I LOVE THIS! (And that picture you created at the top is gorgeous! You best keep an eye on your typewriter, dear. I'm rather jealous of it. *smiles suspiciously*)

    YES, YES. THAT FEELING. I'VE FELT IT. It hits me ALL the time...well, not at all the time but whenever I read/stare at/drool over books, listen to epic soundtracks, or watch a favorite movie. Which...I guess is all the time. XD There's just something about surrounding yourself with wonderful stories--whether they be in print, on a screen, or in an arrangement of notes--that gets me itching to create.

    I'm often the same way with writing. It can be difficult to write when you're not immersing yourself in all the creativity already out there. But, at the same time, I often find myself distracted from my writing when I read. Last month I read seven books. And you know how much I wrote? Zilch. Not a single word made its way into my WIP. *cue obnoxious screaming and demands from my VERY patient characters* *rolls eyes and stares pointedly at one* I think it's just important to find a good balance of the two. I'm not reading maaaybe as much this month, but I've already churned out over 3.5K words in April.

    There are soooo many things that refill my creative juices. I basically inhale everything Wayne Thomas Batson and Bryan Davis put out. Oh, and this new book I'm currently reading called Lady Moon (by Rachel Starr Thomson) is SO. PERFECT. It's whimsical and fun and HILARIOUS and overflowing with creativity. (And yes, I just took that question as an excuse to add another book to your TBR pile. *cackles*) Basically, there are a gazillion things that inspire me, and we would be here all day if I even tried to list them all.

    Lovely post, Lauri! (Can I call you that? I've seen a lot of others do the same.) But then again, so is every post you write. <3

    1. Thank you! (*puts lock on keyboard and eyes you suspiciously* Mine. :P)

      Isn't it the best feeling?? Exactly! Brilliant stories are so motivational!

      Balance is key...and something I'm reeeally bad at. I'll either pour all my time into writing, or mess around and just read. There never seems to be a good mix. So I'm trying really, really hard to find that balance this year. It could be going better... But at least I'm trying!
      You wrote 3.5k words in April so far? AAAAHHHH! MARY. That is awesome!!! You go, girl! *fistpump*

      Now you know I just added Lady Moon to my TBR list. XDD Your evil plan worked. (Like I'm complaining.) But seriously, that story sounds EPIC. And the cover is gorgeous. I wants it. o.o

      You can absolutely call me Lauri! I used to go by Lauriloth (which means shining, golden flower in Tolkien's elven language, because ya know, TOLKIEN AND ELVES) on the internets and thus became Lauri. I was that for yeeears until I switched to just using my real name. I actually still am getting used to people on the internet calling me Christine. Lauri was used so much it just feels natural. XD

  2. This is so true! Sometimes the best way out of a writing slump is to just take in the other stories and art and music in the world.

    I love those moments after finishing a great movie/book/TV episode when inspiration strikes and you want to WRITE ALL THE THINGS! I think maybe it has something to do with seeing a storytelling structure or method in a different light that is so inspiring.

    Working in a bookstore sounds like so much fun!

    1. Absolutely! We have to refuel are own creativity via other's.

      Those are my favorite moments! I think you pinpointed it! It's just so inspiring seeing such well told stories. We can't help but try it ourselves.

      I love it! It's been a real blessing to me. ^_^

  3. Such a lovely post!

    I love bookstores, too. I got to spend the afternoon yesterday in our local BAM (books a million) which is located in an old Borders store that they never revamped the interior on, so it feels exactly like being in a Borders... I miss Borders. B&N isn't the same.

    I love reading old favorites when I need some creative recharging... and listening to celtic music or Gordon Lightfoot.

    Sometimes, though, I get done with a particularly lovely, completely satisfying story... and I feel more drained, more discouraged, because if something that lovely always exists, then why bother even trying? And yet, there's also that delicious satisfaction of, "Ahhhhh, that was perfection itself." and I just want to bask in the enjoyment of finishing a beautiful story.

    1. Also.... I love that first image in your post ;) ;) (of course, I'm biased) :)

    2. Thank you! ^_^

      Oooh, we have a BAM. I love going there! Sadly, I've never actually been in a Borders. We don't have that OR a B&N. Just a BAM. I always feel deprived. XD

      Celtic music is the BEST. I love it myself!

      You know, I think sometimes it's more a paradox than a circle. Because I'm the same way. Some books are just so good, I know I'll never, ever be able to write like that, and it's discouraging. But, as you said, the beauty of it is refreshing. The life of a writer, am I right?

      Out of all the books on my bookshelf, that was my first pick for the picture. It's just too gorgeous--the cover and the contents! <333

  4. I needed this post! Christine you are a genius. I get inspiration from Once Upon a Time too!

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed it!
      Oh, you. *blushes* A genius? Not even sort of! But you're so sweet. <3

      OUaT is just amazing. So inspirational!

  5. I actually soak up most of my creativity in the shower I know it sounds weird but it's true ��

    1. Nooo, that's not weird! I'm the same! I declare over half my ideas have come in the shower or while I'm brushing my teeth. XD

  6. Oh my. I SO needed this. That is EXACTLY how I feel! I haven't written in ages... :[ But you have just inspired me to want to again. Even with all that's going on in my life right now, surely I can give a MINIMUM of ten minutes a day, right?? Thank you, dear Lauri! You are such a blessing! :] <3

    And yes! I get inspired by just looking at all the lovely books lining the shelves of stores. Makes me want to put one of my own up there. ;D Movies and TV shows are great inspiration. And Pinterest!! Yes. I'd have to say I've got a thing for the Narnia stories. They have so many awesome adventures and great characters, but still have that subtle hint of Faith etched in their pages--that's what I want my writing to be like as well.

    1. That makes me so happy to hear!! I understand having a hard time squeezing writing into life. I've been struggling with that for the past few months, and I'm realizing I just have to make time. Like you said, even ten minutes is progress!

      I agree! I can't help but occasionally imagine my own book sitting amidst all the pretty ones on the store shelves. It's very motivational!

      The Narnia stories are fantastic inspiration! I'm with you. They always refuel my creativity. Such masterful tales. Love 'em!

  7. *gapes at typewriter in header picture* Ooo, I must get me one ...

    Wonderful post, Christine, I loved it! I don't get to go to bookstores very often (*cries*), but I bet a visit to one would get some creativity moving (or at least the want to be creative XD)!

    Movies and music get my creative juices flowing quite often :). Sometimes I'll be listening to a song and all of a sudden my brain says 'write! must write! you haven't been writing. WHY AREN'T YOU WRITING?', and thus my brain bombards me with ideas :D. Pictures from Pinterest also gives me good ideas sometimes.

    1. Lol! I do love my typewriter. I found it at a thrift shop and knew it had to come home with me.

      Thank you! Awww, that's sad you don't get to bookstores much. But I understand. Only here recently have I gone bookstore crazy.

      YES. My brain is the same. It's so demanding. >.> Pinterest is one of my biggest sources of creativity...and procrastination, but that's a whole 'nother story. ;)

    2. *peeks into conversation*
      *drools over typewriter*
      That is an epic thrift shop find right there. :)

  8. OOHHHH! Maybe I'm not writing because I'm not reading? *lightbulb comes on* THAT MAKES ALL THE SENSE!! Youtube is what sucks out all my time and creativity. I'm totally addicted to it. Even when I'm not watching videos there, I usually want to be, simply by force of habit. Aaanyway, I should try and work on that. XD Excellent post, Christine! :D

    1. Lol! I definitely go through a writer's rut when I'm not reading a lot. I think reading and writing just have to go hand-in-hand.

      Ah yes, YouTube. Such a time sucker! I understand. I try to avoid it for that very reason, but then I get on Pinterest and waste half my life there instead, so. XD Basically the internet in general. It does like to take all our time. Such a problem!

  9. It's crazy how similarly we work as writers. XD I get inspired by the same things you do. I've been taking more time browsing on Pinterest which has really helped juice get flowing. I've been in a bit of a slump lately. I've also had my sticky spacebar on my computer and it's actually made my thumb sore from writing and I just realized last night that it may actually be a reason why I've had trouble writing, because writing has been physically taxing. I felt bad because I just got a new keyboard last summer, but I'm finally making myself invest in it and hopefully that'll help as well.

    1. It is! I declare our writer brains are on the same brainwave.

      Oh man, I'm so sorry to hear about your spacebar! I had to replace my keyboard on my old laptop one time because the h key kept popping off plus some other things weren't working well. So I understand the frustrations of that! I hope you can get that fix and get back into the flow of writing. Sometimes writing is so hard, not smooth sailing at all.

  10. I've a sad confession to make: there are no bookstores anywhere near where I live. Now, when we lived in a city, on some Friday nights we'd go as a family to a bookstore, and I read more books there than we ever bought. Same with libraries --- I read books there instead of checking them out, unless they're really good. In which case we usually end up buying them anyway. Libraries are a source of inspiration, or at least motivation.
    Reading good books can have the same effect on me, but sometimes they can be depressing, because I know I'll never be that good. I get lots of ideas in the shower. Sometimes a shower has been the efficient cause of the answer to a big problem in one story or another.
    Last Saturday I went to a living history event with the group I'm in, and I've been writing about that day ever since (I'm almost done, and would have finished this morning, but school got in the way), and for some reason, whether because it's nonfiction, or simply the colour and atmosphere and beauty of this other time I call home, I've written over 15,000 words about it this week and haven't burned out --- which is quite odd. I'm beginning to wonder if such events aren't inspiring in themselves. It goes the opposite way with high holidays --- there's too much to write about, and of such great significance, I know at the start I can't do it justice. Too much inspiration, I guess, can be counterproductive.

    1. AGH. That's horrible!!! D: Our bookstores are severely lacking, but we do have a Lifeway and Books-a-Million, and of course the little secondhand one I work at. But they're all pretty small. Still, I hate you don't have any. That's just awful.
      Libraries are amazing! Even the smell stirs creativity in me.

      Oh yes, I do the same with books! Most of the time I get inspired, but there are still plenty of times I just want to give up because why bother when there's so much gorgeous writing out there? But I guess we don't supposed to be thinking that way. Showers, yes! Over half my ideas and plot problems get worked out in the shower.

      Wow! 15k words? You go, Sophia!! I think I write non-fiction (such as these blog posts) faster and easier as well, even though I like fiction much better. But you know, I think you're right. Sometimes too much inspiration can be overwhelming and make us NOT want to write. It's a paradox.

  11. THIS POOOOOST! Yes to all of it. <3 You have such a way with words too! ^_^ My main problem lately is either not having time to write but wanting to, or having time and not wanting to. >.> (Kind of like not managing to comment on this lovely post till a week later. AHEM.) BUT YES I LOVE BOOKSTORES AND LIBRARIES AND JUST LKAJSLKDFJLDKJ. They make me so happy. I don't go nearly often enough, but there's just something about being surrounded by books that's inspiring? And yes, sometimes reading inspires me to, though oftentimes it also just makes me think NO WAY I'M EVER BEING THIS BRILLIANT SO WHYYY SHOULD I TRY. But that's a separate topic. ;) It's weird but I've been getting really inspired this year by random things like blog posts and essays on writing that I was reading... Of course, then I don't usually DO anything about it. >.> *guilt* A deepseated stuck-ness of writerlydom is not fun. Methinks I still haven't recovered from NaNo/Rooglewood writing and my accidentally long break afterwards, and one of the things about that is that GETTING STARTED AGAIN IS SO HAAARD. *flails* But anyways, yes, love this post, and the pictures you used make me positively squeal! ^_^ That Enchanted Roses/typewriter/pen pic is so GORGEOUS and I love the Peter Pan in Scarlet pic (fangirling!) and of course anything with the Avengers is a total win. ;) So... this is getting rambly, but I love this post, thank you for sharing it, and I think I'm going to have to give myself permission to dip into creativity around me and recharge and remember it's okay to be inspired. ^_^ THANK YOU! <3

    1. *tackles* THANK YOU. I'm so happy you like it!

      I understand that! I've been having that problem, too. We only ever seem to want to write when we're too busy to. XD

      Being surrounding by books is sooo inspiring! But I do the same while reading sometimes. Some books are just so good it's discouraging. But we have to remember, we all have different tastes and different styles, and the world needs each of our stories. Just because there are already great stories out there, doesn't mean there shouldn't be more.

      Isn't it so cool how we can get inspired by ANYTHING? I just love how inspiration strikes anywhere and everywhere.

      Getting started again is soooo HARD. I completely and totally understand. It took me so long to get started editing BT after my break in December. Take your time! Soak up some inspiration around you. There is absolutely no reason you have to jump into it while you're still drained.

      You comment has just made my day! Thank you! <333

  12. This is a WONDERFUL post! I think you perfectly illustrated the flipside of that thing I posted a while back ("Write Anyway"), and it's something I need to be reminded of. I can get so caught up in DOING all the time, in plugging along and struggling to churn out words when I just don't have them in me... But I *need* to refuel.

    And we don't just have to sit around waiting for a bolt of inspiration. We can intentionally find ways to soak it up, like you said! (I loved all your analogies, btw.) Bookstores definitely do that to me too, and so does OUAT and Marvel! No surprises there, right? XD I also find Friday mornings often get my creative juices flowing. It's my dad's day off, so if my mom and I are also home, then it's one big family day. We'll often have homemade cinnamon buns or something for a late breakfast, then linger and just talk about all kinds of stuff. Those mornings don't happen as much as they used to, but almost every time, I walk away with my mind churning and ready to WRITE something. ^_^

    Heh, and the other day, I was having a lighthearted-yet-philosophical discussion about time travel with a couple people I know, and one offhanded phrase morphed into a title/novel idea. It's awesome how inspiration is lurking everywhere. :D

    Thank you for another inspiring post, Christine! Seriously, just reading this makes me want to go read for hours or write for hours...or both. XD

    1. Thank you!!! And I LOVED your "Write Anyway" post! Like I said, sometimes just forcing yourself to continue writing is a very good thing. I can literally make an argument both ways. I think it just depends on the situation. Like you, I often focus too much on the work and getting things done and never allow myself time to relax and recharge. I'm *trying* to find that balance, but I'm not that great at it. XD

      Awww, your Friday mornings sound so precious! My Sundays are kind of like that. Usually Sunday afternoons the whole family just sits around talking and watching TV and just resting and refueling before the new week starts. I've really come to value Sundays.

      That's the bessst! It is so very awesome how we can get entire huge story ideas from the smallest things. My enormous Colors of a Dragon Scale series came from one single picture I saw online one time. It's just so fun how our brains do that!

      Oh goodness, you're so welcome! It makes me happy to hear this post was inspiring. ^_^


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