As a writer, it’s common to experience writer’s block – that frustrating feeling of being stuck or uninspired with no idea what to write about. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting out, the inability to produce high-quality content can be discouraging. But, there’s good news: the internet is full of resources to help you break out of your writer’s block and get back to writing. This blog post will explore some online tools to help you manage writer’s block, so you can unleash your creativity and write with confidence.
Sometimes, all you need is a little inspiration to create great content. That’s where writing prompts come in. There are many websites that offer writing prompts with different themes, like fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and more. Use these prompts to jumpstart your creativity and write about topics you may not have considered otherwise.
When you’re facing writer’s block, it can be helpful to brainstorm ideas. There are online tools that allow you to generate ideas and organize them brainstorming board. MindMeister is an excellent tool for brainstorming and creating mind maps. You can organize your thoughts visually and drill down into each idea to explore its potential further.
Distraction-free writing tools
Sometimes, the problem isn’t a lack of ideas, but rather the inability to focus. If that’s the case, consider using distraction-free writing tools that avoid on-screen distractions. Some popular distraction-free writing tools include FocusWriter and WriteMonkey. These tools provide a simple interface and goal tracking features, helping you stay focused and write efficiently.
When you’re feeling stuck, it can be helpful to discuss ideas with others. Online collaboration tools allow you to chat with other writers, exchange ideas, ask for feedback, and collaborate on projects. One of the most popular collaboration tools is Google Docs, which helps users write and collaborate in real time. Other tools, like Trello and Asana, help you create and manage tasks, assign deadlines, and keep track of progress.
Grammar and editing tools
If you’re experiencing writer’s block, it may be because you’re struggling with grammar or the editing process. Luckily, there are online tools that provide real-time editing and feedback, so you can improve your writing skills. Grammarly and Hemingway Editor are two popular tools that help writers enhance their writing by suggesting changes or edits as they work.
With the holidays here with us, it can be difficult to think of ways to keep your young ones entertained. Whether you’re looking for something fun and creative, or educational and hands-on, it’s important to find activities that will keep their minds active during the break. Here are some ideas on how to foster creativity in your young ones during the holidays.
Games and Puzzles
Games and puzzles provide a great way for young ones to pass the time and remain engaged. Board games like Monopoly or Scrabble are great for teaching children about numbers and strategies, while jigsaw puzzles help stimulate problem solving skills by encouraging kids to think critically about how each piece fits together. For younger children, you can find simple preschool games that focus on letter recognition, colour matching, and other basic skills.
Nothing inspires creativity like art! Art projects can be anything from drawing with crayons and markers to painting with watercolours or making things out of clay. This is an amazing way for kids to express themselves while engaging their minds in new ways. Plus, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune; all you need is paper or canvas, a few craft supplies (crayons, paintbrushes, clay), and some imagination!
Creative Writing Exercises
Creative writing exercises are perfect for young writers who want to flex their writing muscles over the holidays. You can start off with basic exercises such as asking them what they would do if they had magic powers or giving them a prompt such as “write about a day at the beach”. As they get older and more experienced at writing stories, you can assign larger projects like creating a short book or play based on a particular theme or character trait. Not only will these exercises help keep their minds active during the holidays but it could also potentially spark an interest in writing which could last into adulthood.
Explore new places.
Going on an adventure is a great way to encourage creativity; whether it’s visiting nearby nature spots, amusement parks, historical sites, or simply exploring a new part of town, getting outside and into new places helps stimulate ideas and foster creativity in young minds.
Read books together
Reading is an excellent way to foster creativity in children; not only does it help expand vocabulary and knowledge, but hearing stories can also serve as inspiration for creating one’s own storylines. Set aside time each day for reading as part of your holiday routine – you might even learn something too.
Nowadays, one of the most in-demand abilities is creative thinking. Companies praise employees that use novel and creative techniques to address issues and overcome obstacles. The value of creativity in businesses is also what helps companies and employees acquire a competitive advantage and increase productivity.
Also with machine learning and also artificial intelligence, organisations want creative thinkers who can contribute fresh ideas. After all, technology is only as good as the individuals who use it.
It is not simple to think creatively in order to solve problems. However, when you combine creativity with passion, effort, and teamwork, you may produce unique and meaningful solutions to any problem.
Another advantage of creativity and innovation in business is that it increases productivity. Coming up with innovative ideas allows you to work on new and intriguing tasks, which might be a motivation to work more. Business innovation also makes employees feel more valued since it allows them to push their boundaries and create something novel. A creative approach also promotes greater input from peers and superiors. With comments, you may identify areas for improvement and work more efficiently.
Utilizing creative thinking to solve difficulties assists you in overcoming hurdles by using them as a springboard to discover new changes and solutions. Creativity, as an innovation catalyst, assists in recreating and rejuvenating your company’s ideas through the lenses of a growth mentality, keeping you ahead of your rivals.
It does not imply that the process is simple because it needs a significant amount of effort, time, dedication, and cooperation to generate ideas that are not only distinctive and creative but also practical and feasible.
I spend a lot of time thinking about creativity and how to address the common misconception of who is creative. Because we conflate the idea of creative with artistic, most people don’t self-identify as creative. They fail to recognize that there is creativity in their work or in their approach to problem-solving.
The truth is, everyone has the capacity to be creative, whether they recognize it or not. For some, it may come naturally, while others take coaching. But the capacity is within us all.
Creativity consists of taking inputs and combining them in a way that is unique to you. When you put your own spin on something and let your individual interpretation have an impact, you are being creative. This happens every day in your life, whether you’re conscious of it or not. When you cook a new dish, put together a killer outfit, or solve a challenge at work, you’re exercising creativity.
By opening yourself to your creative side, you embark on a new path. One filled with solutions to problems in your life, at work, and in your community. The path isn’t always smooth, but it leads to growth and a greater sense of purpose.
Recognizing and Nurturing Your Creativity
To start, you should embrace the reality that your strengths and creativity are already a part of your work. Creativity is not a mantle many of us wear with confidence, so there is a strong tendency to feel like an imposter when applying this term to our work. Moving to a place of confidence is important to grow your outputs.
By opening yourself to your creative side, you embark on a new path. One filled with solutions to problems in your life, at work, and in your community.
When you apply your perspective and your talents to create something, you should be proud of your efforts. But too often, people shrug them off. People who have clearly done creative things will then automatically deflect or minimize them and say, “Oh, well it was just this, or it wasn’t that big of a deal.” Especially in higher education, some of those decisions impact students’ experiences.
In higher ed, your creative output has a direct impact on the lives of others, especially the students. Each of these students experiences an institution on a deep level. It’s their community, their home away from home, and a part of their legacy. If you use your perspective and your ability to create something that serves a larger purpose and makes a difference in someone’s life, you should be proud of that.
I think it’s important for people to feel confident in sharing their impact and to recognize what their creative efforts have meant to the people who were close to it. It may feel like bragging, but it’s worth saying, “Hey, I finished this thing” when someone asks how you are. Responding with something you’re working on is part of the process and an opportunity to explore new ways to expand your work.
I recommend finding a supportive community and using that safe space to talk openly and honestly about your accomplishments. Grow your confidence in your abilities, especially when you’re uncomfortable talking about your work, and you’ll gain validation in your value.
After practicing with a group, you’ll gain the courage to share your successes more naturally when asked in the future. Soon, it will feel like second nature to embrace your accomplishments. It also has the added benefit of keeping you accountable. Once you’ve said something out loud, people are invested in your success.
The Act of Creative Problem Solving
Once you recognize your innate creative strengths, think about any problems you’ve encountered in your work or life that could be improved upon. Use the design thinking model, a solutions-based approach to problem-solving, as a way to structure creative thinking. Then, move into interpretation. Rather than rushing to a solution, recognize the problem and learn as much as you can about that problem.
You want to think it through so you can fully understand the implications of any change that you make as part of the solution. I always encourage people to ask these three questions when vetting an idea:
Who does this idea, project, or solution help?
Who does it hurt?
What can be done to maximize the former condition while minimizing the latter?
We don’t work or live in a vacuum. When problem-solving, you need to stop and consider all of the costs involved with innovation. We’d love to believe our ideas will improve the lives of others, but we have to be open to the possibility that we’re wrong. I think of this as being broadminded in your creativity. We need to think big and explore as many different avenues for ideas as possible. Innovative solutions are coming from far more places than you might imagine.
Take all the time you need, because nothing is moving so fast that you don’t have time to think about it.
Be Flexible and Open
It’s important to be flexible when you’re trying to achieve something new. That comes into play in your capacity to change as a project evolves. I advise taking inspiration from people and opening the creative process to collaboration. This is another reason why it’s so important to offer up your work-in-progress, first in your safe space, but ultimately in your everyday life.
We already know being creative can make us happier and healthier. But while we may think of creativity in terms of writing a novel or painting a masterpiece, experts say it can really mean anything from trying a new recipe to submitting an original idea during a meeting.
Here we’ve got 33 fun ways to fire up that creative spark, from having a drink to taking a nap—seriously.
Jamming out stimulates the part of our brain that controls motor actions, emotions, and creativity.Large-scale brain networks emerge from dynamic processing of musical timbre, key and rhythm. Alluri V, Toiviainen P, Jääskeläinen IP. NeuroImage, 2011, Nov.;59(4):1095-9572. Classical music might give us an extra boost: According to “The Mozart Effect,” listening to Mozart can increase creativity, concentration, and other cognitive functions. Though it’s not clear if this effect works for everyone, but a little classical music probably won’t hurt.
Stuck in a mental rut? When panic strikes, try meditating: It promotes divergent thinking, a state of mind in which we’re able to generate new ideas.
3. Get someone else’s opinion.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A friend might mention something that sparks a whole new stream of thought. The more ideas and perspectives, the better.
4. Think about something far away.
Research suggests our ability to solve problems improves when we think about events far off in the past or future or in another location. So picture New Year’s Eve 2022 or dining at a café in Paris and let your imagination go.
5. Write by hand.
Carrie Barron, M.D., and Alton Barron, M.D., authors of The Creativity Cure, advise us to skip the Word doc and pick up a pen instead. Sometimes the whole experience of writing by hand—the ink on our fingers, the smell of a fresh notebook—is all it takes to get creative juices flowing.
What was I saying? Oh, right. We tend to take a more creative approach to problems when our mind is wandering (less so when we’re hunched over a computer with a deadline looming). So don’t worry about zoning out for a few minutes.
7. Look at something blue or green.
These colors tend to enhance performance on cognitive tasks. Researchers say that’s because we associate blue with the ocean, sky, and openness in general, while green signals growth. Check out that globe the next time a problem pops up.Blue or red? Exploring the effect of color on cognitive task performances. Mehta R, Zhu RJ. Science (New York, N.Y.), 2009, Feb.;323(5918):1095-9203. Fertile green: green facilitates creative performance. Lichtenfeld S, Elliot AJ, Maier MA. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 2012, Mar.;38(6):1552-7433.
8. Gesture with two hands.
Odd but true: One study found using two hands to explain something prompts the brain to consider issues from multiple perspectives.Embodied metaphors and creative “acts”. Leung AK, Kim S, Polman E. Psychological science, 2012, Apr.;23(5):1467-9280. (It’s also possible that using the left hand stimulates creative thought, since left-handed people tend to be more creative in general.)
9. Sit outside a box.
Though it might sound a little strange, in one study, people who sat outside a box (literally) were better at thinking creatively than people who sat in it.Embodied metaphors and creative “acts”. Leung AK, Kim S, Polman E. Psychological science, 2012, Apr.;23(5):1467-9280. No cardboard container handy? Try sitting in the hallway outside a room.
10. Have some booze.
In one study, participants who knocked back an average of three drinks were more creative than people who didn’t drink at all.Uncorking the muse: alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving. Jarosz AF, Colflesh GJ, Wiley J. Consciousness and cognition, 2012, Jan.;21(1):1090-2376. That’s possibly because a little alcohol lets us think more broadly, finding connections between unrelated ideas. But hey, keep it classy: There’s nothing creative about a pile of vomit or other less desirable outcomes.
Creativity — a necessary prerequisite for success, or an over-rated concept that cannot be learnt? The debate rages on. However, in my work as an academic and in community-building, I have been fortunate enough to work with students and community activists who are truly gifted in terms of creativity.
So, what characteristics do they have that make them stand out from the rest of the population? From my observations (although I have not tested these assertions), there are five key characteristics of creative people that they use to plan, construct, implement, and maintain whatever it is that they have chosen to do. These characteristics are outlined below.
This is a key characteristic because it involves a mindset that suggests that there may be more than a single answer or solution to any particular issue or problem. Flexible thinkers are not hemmed in by being overly-focused on one way of doing things and tend to be open to innovation. They also have the capacity to understand when something is not working and then to change to an alternative solution/approach.
A sense of intense curiosity
Creative thinkers are fascinated with the world around them. They ask lots of questions, and tend to develop a very intense focus that takes them into almost a reverie as they try to discover how something works, or the detail of a beautiful structure, or anything else they set their mind on.
A positive attitude is essential for thinking creatively as it is this positivity that spurs the mind on to seek detail, wonder, and, indeed, solutions. This is linked strongly to my previous point about intense curiosity. A person who thinks negatively tends to block out possibilities, and not look at the world around them with such detailed wonder.
Strong motivation and determination
This is where the hard work of the creative comes in. So, we can all have creative thoughts — but what use is creativity if it doesn’t actually show itself to the world in an act of construction or creation? From creating software solutions for major problems, through to creating social capital through community building, or painting a work of art, creativity requires the follow-through that can only come from strong motivation and determination. Without this, creative ideas will only reside within the mind of the individual without having the opportunity to influence society and/or the community.
This is an interesting characteristic because highly creative people tend to believe in the VALUE of the ideas they come up with. Remember, they are also flexible, so they are willing to change; however, they do not seem to be worried about whether their idea is right or wrong because they believe that their idea brings value to the field in which it resides, even if it may later be debunked.
Whether you work in the realm of the arts, or in business, or in community capacity building, it is important to recognise the creative people in your team, but also to cultivate these characteristics, because creativity can be learned.
This is an article by Sarina Raman exploring foods that can boost our creativity.
Creativity block – we’ve all experienced it. The times when you see the cursor repeatedly blinking at the beginning of a Word document…and then five hours pass and it’s still blinking in the same spot. Yeah – been there, done that. Our brain holds our creative network. So whatever we put in (like those sugary but oh so tasty doughnuts), that’s what we get out (five minutes of productivity).
If you want to maximize your time and get in touch with your creative side, try out these seven foods and drinks. Your brain and your homework assignment will be thanking you.
It’s not like you need another excuse to go out and eat sushi. Well, maybe if you already ate sushi three times this week (shhh). Seaweed is actually packed with the essential amino acid, tyrosine.
This plays a major role in the production of various neurotransmitters such as dopamine (AKA it helps control your brain’s reward center and drives creativity). Studies have shown that tyrosine promotes “deep” thinking and taps into your abstract thoughts. So if you are stuck on a problem, chow down some classic sushi rolls or seaweed chips to get your creativity rolling.
Pretty much everyone likes avocado, so here is just another reason why you should fall in love with this wonderful fruit. In order to think creatively, your brain depends on constant blood flow and glucose. This green fruit enhances blood flow and delivers the oxygen needed for your brain cells.
In addition, avocados are a great source of fiber, which reduces hunger. So instead of spending time in your kitchen and contemplating which snack you should whip up, eat these delicious truffles right from the start and you are good to go.
One of the great things about berries is that there are so many to pick from and each of them contains tyrosine. In addition, berries help maintain communication between brain cells and help activate the factor brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. BDNF helps with survival, growth, and differentiation of new neurons, which is needed when it comes to creative thinking.
Fun fact: Steve Jobs went on a fruit diet and he claimed that the fruits he ate greatly impacted his success. But he only ate fruits during that time, which probably deprived him of some essential nutrients. But don’t worry, there are so many fun and easy ways to incorporate berries into your daily diet.
You know when you look at something for too long, you can’t think anymore? It’s like all those creative juices evaporated. Well, researchers at Northwestern University wanted to further study the relationship between alcohol and the Eureka moment.
When a group of students was given alcohol, it was found that the “Aha!” moment was reached sooner compared to students who were not given any liquid luck. Alcohol tends to impede executive thinking and boost up creative thinking. No wonder amazing writers such as Edgar Allen Poe and Ernest Hemingway were also alcoholics…but they also died from that, so drink responsibly.
Looks can be deceiving at times, but the walnut’s appearance does not lie. These nuts, weirdly shaped like tiny brains, are stuffed with numerous benefits that help your creativity. Walnuts are packed with neuroprotective compounds, such as melatonin, antioxidants, and omega-3s, which help limit brain damage during strokes and brain injuries.
Also, a study was conducted in 2011 showing that although walnuts do not improve mood, they help increase cognitive performance and inferential reasoning. So instead of devouring a piece of cake for dessert, try these apple walnut bars to give you all those yummy factors.
Sure, tea doesn’t contain as much caffeine as coffee, but the amount it has and how it is released are good enough to keep you alert and conserve your stamina. Green tea contains theanine, an important amino acid analogue. Theanine helps improve cognition and reduces stress by promoting the production of alpha waves in the brain.
These alpha waves release the caffeine slowly, rather than in a burst, so you avoid that sudden crash and maintain productivity and creativity. There’s a reason why matcha powder is such a trendy ingredient these days.
The sweetest food is saved for last. Flavanols, a nutrient found in chocolate, increases blood flow to brain by dilating vessels. In addition, dark chocolate contains the perfect amount of caffeine and most importantly magnesium, which helps decrease stress and releases the “happy hormones,” such as serotonin and endorphins.
Now you shouldn’t be eating whole bars of dark chocolate when doing your homework (well you can – no one is stopping you), but if you nom on a slab of this decadent dark chocolate bark, you’ll get the right dosage you need to boost your creativity.
Relatocoerto offers a barrage of amazing short stories that aim at inspiring the muse in you to come alive. visit their website https://relatocorto.com for more stories like this one.
Waiting by a cliff, as the cold twilight wind blew around her, Licana Rose watched the light of a lonely house come on. Darkness surrounded her. Little did she know that Death was standing next to her.
“What do we have here?” asked Death. “Who is our target for the night?”
Licana could not hear Death’s words, nor was she aware of its presence. Her mission was simple. Her weakness had been developing a need to see the life leave the body of her victims.
Licana pushed herself off a tree and started walking toward the farmhouse in the distance. A shadow casted by Death surrounded her. All beings in their path moved to avoid being touched by that dark energy. She was used to having Death around her. In fact, she couldn’t remember the feeling of being far from Death.
Once Licana got to the house, she quickly walked in search of an entrance. It would have been too easy to use her weapon from a distance. She craved the fear of getting close to her victims.
There he was. The man she was hired to assassinate. Walking through the kitchen while his mistress prepares a meal for the both of them. Licana knew exactly who her target was. This was the first time she had to kill someone from the inner circle.
Two for the price of one, she thought.
“Make them suffer,” said Death.
Licana entered the house and slipped into the kitchen. The couple continued with their affairs until they saw her—a woman in a black suit hired to kill them.
“Don’t move,” said Licana.
The man took a knife from the counter… the first shot left everyone frozen in time. Finally, the pain traveled through his body. His immediate reaction was placing the hand on his chest, and pressing the wound to control the bleeding.
“Do you like to play with people’s lives?” asked Licana.
The man paused in shock. Then he opened his mouth but couldn’t formulate a response.
Death floated around the counter until it was behind the couple. Savoring the fear that came from the man holding his bleeding hand, and the confused woman trying to understand the situation.
Licana fired before the man had a chance to say a word. He closed his eyes and tensed his muscles. Nothing. He couldn’t feel the bullet in his body. Then, he heard her lover collapse with a bullet to the head.
“What have you done?” he pleaded. “Please…”
“Do not move!” Licana said, pointing her gun at him.
The man hid behind his outstretched arm, while Death savored every moment.
Licana paused, watching him tremble. Letting his fear reach its highest level before pulling the trigger.
Death enjoyed the sequence of events. It stood next to the corpses as eyes of fire blazed within its skull. Death opened its bony hand and dark smoke appeared, leaving an open book; there it saw her name “Licana Rose” printed on the page. Immediately, Death raised its head and saw a young man rapidly approaching her.
Licana was surprised with a dagger in her back.
The book of Death went up in smoke as its black rope appeared in the real world. The bony creature attacked with its scythe, severing the young man’s head. Then he went to Licana.
Licana felt the pain of pulling the dagger from her body and saw the rope of the creature beside her. Then the fire burned her body and the pain from her wound grew greater than she had ever imagined.
The bone hands of Death were covered in fire, using its powers to heal Licana’s wound.
Finally, the pain disappeared and Licana turned to look into her companion’s fiery eyes and saw the skull disappear. Leaving her alone on the kitchen floor.
Death stood next to her and opened its hand for the book to be repaired, then it noticed that Licana’s name disappeared from the page and closed it, turning it into smoke.
The best ideas come out of thinking creatively. If you’re wondering how to get ideas that change the game, there are some activities that can help boost ideation.
Here are ten tried and tested activities for charging up your creativity:
1. Take A Class
Learning something new is like giving your brain a vitamin boost.
Whatever the topic, you’ll feel challenged, energised and reinvigorated. Look for evening classes in a subject you know nothing about at your local adult education or evening college.
Places like City Lit offer evening, weekend and one day classes in subjects ranging from sculpture to philosophy.
If you can’t make it to a physical location, or you’re often on the move, consider online classes.
Masterclass offers courses taught by some of the greatest minds in the world. Dip in and out, or follow a single course through to completion, and you might even get inspired to start a project of your own.
2. Keep a Journal
If you’re wondering how to get ideas, there’s no better method than journaling.
It’s simple, therapeutic and can be done completely in private.
Try writing ‘morning pages’ or ‘evening pages’ – freeform, automatic writing about anything that comes to mind for either a set period of time or a specific page number.
It’s a great way to offload the stresses and strains of the day, so you can open yourself up to new ideas.
3. Use Your Commute
For most people, a commute might as well be dead time.
Whether you’re battling an early start, or exhausted after a long working day, it can be tempting to just sit back and zone out.
Check out while checking in by listening to podcasts or audiobooks.
Non-fiction books are a great way to learn a new skill or perspective, while fiction can spark your imagination and open you up to new ideas.
Plus, if your eyes are tired from looking at a computer screen all day, this is the best way to tackle the classics.
There is a podcast for every possible niche and interest, so spend ten minutes online tonight and line up something for tomorrow morning.
Wired magazine has a great list here, or just see what the BBC Sounds app has to offer.
4. Challenge Your Body
Creativity isn’t just about thinking outside the box; make the most of that mind-body connection and throw the whole box away!
A physical challenge is a great way to disconnect from a busy brain and relax.
If you feel like you need a manageable goal that’s outside of work, consider signing up for something fun but challenging, like a Tough Mudder race.
If you want something more regular, ClassPass is a fun and flexible way to try new and exciting exercise classes in your area, and the act of choosing can feel creative in and of itself.
Need a little pick-me-up right now?
Challenge your body in small and unexpected ways that also work out your brain.
Try brushing your teeth with the ‘wrong’ hand (you’ll know which one this is once you give it a go!).
Meditation doesn’t have to be hard and boring, and the benefits really are incredible.
You can either meditate to clear your mind, or meditate on a particular topic: like how to get ideas!
If you’re new to meditation and want to build a practice, try Headspace for some guidance.
If you just want to try something new or chill out, you could also light a candle and gaze at the flame for a couple of minutes, or listen to some classical music while letting your mind wander.
6. Go to sleep
Have you ever struggled to solve a problem, only to go to sleep and gain some new perspective in the morning?
Our brain processes thoughts while we sleep, meaning that one of the best ways to increase idea generation might be to stop stressing and take a nap!
The benefits of sleep are tangible and significant, from improved energy levels, clearer thinking and an elevated mood – all things that contribute to increased creativity in the long run.
7. Track Your Moods
Our bodies go through all kinds of cyclical changes, both monthly and seasonal.
If you’re trying to be more creative, it’s important that you listen to, and work with, these changes.
If you’re a woman, you may find that you struggle to access creative thought in the days before your period, but have amazing insight into how to have good ideas in the week or so immediately after.
Learn how to anticipate this by tracking your cycle with an app like Clue.
In general, you may find that it’s harder to be creative in the winter months, and easier when the sun begins to emerge in springtime.
Consider using a SAD lamp to boost your energy if you’re feeling particularly lacklustre during the darkest times of the year.
8. Meet Someone New
If you’re like most people, you’re probably spending the majority of your time in the company of the same people: family, colleagues and friends.
Mix this up and spark your creativity by expanding your social circle, even just temporarily.
Explore networking drinks or special interest meet ups in your area, or consider using a targeted app like Bumble Bizz or Bumble BFF.
I’ve been studying writing for 20 years now. I’m at the point where I’ve now taught more workshops than I’ve been a student in, and yet I still feel like I’m constantly on the search for new gems of knowledge about writing to both share with my students, and use in my own practice.
I’m also intrigued by what I remember teachers and writers telling me, and how hungrily I consumed what they had to say. I think this is partly because we see the talented writers that are our mentors as touching some magic that we, too, want to touch. This is, I think, why so many writers are asked questions like: “What is your process? What time of day do you write?” I think the subtext of all of these questions is, “How do you access the magic, the muse?” And, privately: “Would that work for me?”
Here are some things that teachers I was lucky enough to have taught me:
“Just because it happened to you doesn’t make it interesting.” I often repeat this line to students. From a writer who writes a lot of thinly veiled fiction based on her real life, this piece of advice is key for anyone writing nonfiction to understand. The personal is only interesting if it reaches into the universal.
“Don’t go to weddings.” This is a real thing a quite famous writer told our graduate workshop. Her point was this: Don’t miss class. Above all, prioritize your writing and your work here. While we all thought it was rather eccentric at the time, and I personally think you should go to every wedding possible because they are so fun, I do see her point. What I think she was trying to tell us is it’s time for you to start taking yourself seriously as a writer, and to treat writing as your job.
“Research, research, research (for inspiration as much as anything else).” I’d always thought of research as an academic, or even scientific, endeavor rather than a creative one. Boy, was I wrong. Fiction writers, poets, and, of course, nonfiction writers can benefit immensely from research. And research can be traveling, walking through your setting to take in the sensory details, or it can be reading old folk tales. I’d always thought, “Okay yeah, you research to make your work more realistic — but you do it to make it more real?” You do it because your work deserves that kind of investment on your part, but you also do it for inspiration. The details in Hans Christian Andersen (the codfish as paper in “The Snow Queen”!), the actual turns of phrase an old fisherman uses, the smell of the desert in spring — these are the goldmines of good writing. And you won’t find them unless you look.
If you are bored, it’s not because you wrote it, it’s because it’s boring. Margot Livesey actually said, “If you are bored, it’s not because you’ve read that section so many times, it’s because it’s boring.” And it’s really true, and countless times it’s saved me from being boring.
“Take out one dull line and add one stunning detail on every page.” This is from my exquisite writing mentor, Melanie Rae Thon, and is one of the many gems she has given me over the years. It is exquisite advice, and shows the dedication and diligence Thon gives to her own work. It is a really concrete action writers can take to drastically improve their writing. When I take this practice to my own work, it reminds me of adding a coat of oil to dull wood. It just immediately shines it up. It’s also wonderful to ask others to give their writing that kind of attention, and makes writers feel more proud of their work.
“Draw Antonio, draw Antonio, draw and do not waste time.” In her book, The Writing Life, Annie Dillard writes that these are Michelangelo’s words to his apprentice and it’s such an eloquent, history-laden phrase — such a perfect balance between poetry and timelessness — that I’ve tended to use it as a mantra over the years. Whispering it to myself when I’m tired and frustrated. I feel it connects me with artists over time and it reminds me:
Hey, just keep doing what you are doing. That’s really the only way to get better at it.
Sadie Hoagland is the author of American Grief in Four Stages and Strange Children. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Daily Beast, Writer’s Digest, Five Points, The Fabulist, South Carolina Review and Elsewhere.