19 October 2013

The Secret to Unlocking My Creativity Revealed

One thing I've heard/read a lot in various books and blogs about writing is that authors (or those aspiring to the title) should read, rabidly, ravenously. On face value the advice makes perfect sense -- it's a form of competitive analysis. We all do it (or should) when trying to achieve almost any goal. Want to repaint your house? Look around your neighborhood, see what others are doing, maybe check out HGTV. Looking to redesign your website? Do some surfing, check out your competitors, visit a designer's online portfolio. It makes sense that authors would want, no need, to see what's out there in order to do their very best.

But in trying to live with more intention and turn my writing "hobby" into a "career," I've discovered another use for devouring the written word: inspiration.

And I don't even mean the inspiration that comes from a mood or phrase in someone else's work that sparks an idea to life in yours. I mean inspiration to write.

This realization dawned on me last week when I returned to my desk from my lunch break and wanted more time... to write. Why was I suddenly so jazzed to write? I hadn't talked with my lunch buddy about my stories at all. In fact, the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games series had dominated our conversation. My mind instantly started running through memories like an old film reel, highlighting all the times I could recall being genuinely excited, desperate even, to write. I could finally see a common theme, and it wasn't what I'd thought for the past decade of my life.

Sure, many of those times included lengthy, sometimes hours-long, conversations about whatever idea was at the front of my queue. But some of them didn't; that couldn't be the link. They did, however, all include discussions of the works of others -- mostly whichever writing partner I was plotting with at that time. I've spent years thinking that I didn't do my best work, couldn't get truly invested in writing, without someone to hear me out and help my process along. I was mistaken. I need these friends because hearing about their ideas and their processes fans whatever fire in me fuels my creativity.

To write, I must read. And then discuss. Especially discuss. Blame it on my degree in literature, whose power to draw me in despite the dire warnings of a financially challenged future from my professors suddenly makes a lot more sense.

Either way, now that I've discovered what works, I'm excited to once again allow myself to explore the thoughts and ideas of others. Without fear of procrastination (everything in moderation, right?), and without fear of contamination. I'm going to be inspired. And I'll learn a little more about the world through the words of others while doing it.

What lights your fire? To write, to scrapbook, to garden... to pursue whatever makes you happiest? Let me know in the comments below. And then go do it!

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