3 Ways to Improve Creative Writing

Creative writing often seems like a big bad task that’s impossible to scale. Especially if you have ambitions to “be a writer” (whatever that means), you may sit down and get the chills when facing a blank screen, thinking about doing something – anything else.

Creative writing can be whatever you want it to be, and in general I like the things I do to be rewarding, be relatively simple, and create meaning in my life.

Sound good? Here are three simple ways to face down the fear of that abyss of unblinking whiteness and let your creative juices flow…

1. Create More Clarity

Often times when I’m in what my girlfriend calls “thinking mode” – a semi-present state where you can literally see the steam coming from the gears turning in my brain – I’m high on the inspiration and low on the specifics.

High inspiration = “I’ll make a low budget movie underwater! How often has that happened? This is gonna be so great. I’ll set myself apart on youtube, use tried and true love stories in 5 minute clips (to appeal to the lowest common denominator) and market it as WaterStories.com and then I’ll be rich!”

Low specifics = “Umm, what kind of camera, how am I going to get people to be underwater with me, how can I improve visibility underwater, will I need lights, what exactly is my motivation (besides money) for doing this anyway?”

While something is kicking around in my brain causing a pleasing friction it can seem perfect, limitless, amazing. However, it can seem really fuzzy. Once I commit it to paper then I have to create it within the guidelines of the external world. All of a sudden really obvious questions come up.

How long is the project? What format to shoot it on? What kind of stories do I want to tell? Is the domain available? Is it really the best domain name for this kind of movie? Does the concept hold water? (Pun #1!)

While you might think about a concept all day, 5 minutes of writing out why you want to do it, the pros and cons, and a rough outline of how you might achieve it (or even what exactly is meaningful to you) can give you a fair assessment of the ideas value, both to you and your potential audience (even if that’s again, you.)

Once you get it all out on paper, you also clear up the brain space to remember groceries, your doctor’s visit and other annoying real world logistical stuff.

2. Write for New Insight

Writing isn’t just about recording information that’s in your brain. Like when you use your friend as a sounding board, writing can create new offshoots or interesting revisions of your original idea. Whether you’re writing a to do list or your life’s magnum opus, all writing is creative, not just transcriptive.

Not to sound schizophrenic, but it’s like having another persons’ input.

Try this. Take some idea that’s been kicking around in your head for a while but you haven’t written about. Try to write it down every part of it (doesn’t have to be much) that you’re thinking about as closely as possible to what the thought process is like.

Your novel about super intelligent cats? The writing might go something like this:

Cats that can talk and organize into groups.

Cats persuading the animal shelter not to take them.

Cats running for mayor.

But yet as you write you think, hmm, what about dogs? In your mind, you didn’t even think that, but that becomes the obvious question to you. Maybe dogs are super intelligent too? What if the novel was from alternating perspectives of feline and canine? Maybe you like it better if it’s ferrets? Maybe you think of a great band called the Ferrets of Funk?

A simple writing exercise like this can help deepen the idea that otherwise would stay shallow in your brain.

3. Cheap Therapy

There’s a reason almost every self help method out there includes the process of journaling, or writing out how you feel about a certain subject whether it be the day, how often you think about when your goldfish died, or that cute girl in class. The reason is that writing gives voice to the things you care about most deeply in life, simultaneously validating you and allowing you to let those feelings flow out of you.

And best of all, you don’t have to pay a hundred bucks an hour or stare at your shrink’s unattractive mole.

You may be saying to yourself, “whoa this isn’t creative writing. I didn’t read this post to explore my deep throbbing emotional wounds.”

But here’s the thing, your deep throbbing emotional wounds are the source of your creativity, not the blocker of it. In fact, writer’s block appears when you stay in the “safe” writing zone too long.

So with all this writing, aren’t you itching to put a pen to the paper or a finger to the keys?

How do you get the juices flowing?

P.S. This is my absolute favorite book on writing. It’s not like many how to books where there is a formula to follow, but it conjures the feeling of being in the warm presence of a great mentor who wants more than anything for you to express your wonderful unique voice.

One thought on “3 Ways to Improve Creative Writing”

  1. Beautiful Chris. I bought Natalie’s book years ago and have recently reread it. I still have my struggles, but her ideas and exercises have helped immensely in translating my thoughts to paper. Thank you for another inspiring entry.

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