Archive for the 'Top Ten / Top Five Lists' Category

Want More Creativity? Turn Your Day Upside Down


If you’re worried you’re not living up to your creative potential, it’s easy to find articles and books on managing your time, setting goals and being more productive. But so much of this helpful advice just doesn’t work when it comes to creativity. It can make you feel tight and uncompromising. It can make your muse pack up her bags and fly away until you allow her more space.

So here’s my advice for turning some of the common productivity wisdom on its head. Try it and see if it makes your muse smile:

  • Write a Not To Do List. Include items like “Don’t check e-mail before I start writing,” “Don’t vacuum until I’ve spent half an hour painting” and “Don’t listen to that voice inside my head telling me I’m being selfish for creating instead of _______.”
  • Let Time Manage You. Instead of making a schedule with blocks of time for each of your day’s activities, simply let the day unfold. This can be difficult if you feel like time is a beast to be tamed and molded to your will. (Believe me, I know. I struggle with this one.) But if you can let go of your schedule even for a little while, you may be amazed at the results. Yes, there are certain scheduled things you must attend to, like going to work and picking up your kid from soccer. But you can findor makesome unscheduled moments in your days and weeks if you really look for them. Make a point of letting go of unessential activities and letting yourself do whatever feels right in the moment at those times.
  • Be Unproductive. Forget about producing a finished story or song or painting. Think of your creativity as play instead of goal-oriented work. Toss unexpected words together. Combine notes in ways that don’t make sense. Paint something silly. Surprise yourself. If it doesn’t work, you’ve learned something about what doesn’t work. It if does work, you may have just produced a masterpiece.
  • Don’t Create a Perfect Space for Doing Your Artistic Work. This one goes against advice I constantly see for writers and other creative people. There’s nothing wrong with having a nice place to write/compose/sculpt/sketch. But you shouldn’t be wedded to that spot. You should be able to pick up a crayon and scrap of paper wherever you are and create something new. Paint at a park. Write while sitting in a waiting room. Compose a song in your head during your commute. Having only one spot where you can create places a severe and unnecessary limitation on your muse (who really just wants to create everywhere, all the time).
  • Watch TV. Another perennial piece of wisdom from both time management gurus and creativity proponents is to completely cut out watching television. It’s a time suck, it stifles creativity and it’s just bad, according to these  people. Yes, if you plop down in front of the TV for four hours every night and turn into a mental zombie, that’s not very healthy. If you only watch uninspiring sitcoms and formulaic movies, you’re not helping your creativity. But blanket comments condemning TV really rub me the wrong way.  I’ve found so much inspiration on television over the years. From documentaries that introduced me to other worlds and ideas. From movies that grabbed my emotions and made me think about things or events in a new way. And yes, even from cleverly written sitcoms that included characters or situations that jumpstarted my creativity. People who believe TV = bad just aren’t thinking creatively enough. And, like the Internet, social networks, video games and anything else that can turn into an addictive pursuit, you need to use it in a way that enhances your life and your creativity rather than as a crutch to avoid life.

Do you have any creative techniques you use that turn conventional wisdom on its head? I’d love to hear about them and add them to this list.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Resolutions for a Creative New Year


I’ve posted this before, but these are still my creativity resolutions, for this and every year. I hope some—or all—of them resonate with you! What are your creativity resolutions for this year?

  1. Do something creatively inspiring every day, even if only for 5 minutes.
  2. Forgive yourself if you miss a day—and then get right back on the creativity horse.
  3. Cultivate an attitude of play when you’re writing, painting, singing or creating in any way.
  4. Let go of your inner perfectionist.
  5. Don’t blow off your muse, even if he/she starts tugging on your arm at an inopportune time.
  6. Share your creativity with people who appreciate it.
  7. Don’t listen to people who discourage you (including your inner critic).
  8. Believe you deserve to take time for your creativity, in spite of all the demands in your life.
  9. Enjoy the creative journey instead of focusing only on the destination.
  10. Realize that every time you make space in your life for creativity—even if it’s just a sliver of space—you’re making yourself a better person and the world a better place.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Ways for Writers to Stay Creative During the Busy Holiday Season

  1. Redefine your idea of creativity. If you don’t have time to write for half an hour, spend that time making up stories with a child in your life while buying or wrapping presents.
  2. Use a tape recorder to write bits of dialogue and scenes while driving to and from errands.
  3. Write in the shower.
  4. If you’re working on a larger project — a novel, a screenplay or even a short story — take five or 10 minutes before bed every night to write the next paragraph or just the next sentence.  You’ll keep your momentum going even when you don’t have much time.
  5. Carry a few index cards with you wherever you go and make the commitment to fill one with something creative every day when you can find a few minutes.
  6. Write a prompt on an index card for each day you expect to be busy, and commit to freewriting for 10 minutes using that prompt.
  7. Enjoy some non-writing creativity. Make interesting holiday decorations, cards and presents. It all stimulates the muse!
  8. Schedule a writing appointment or two for yourself during the holidays. Put it on your calendar like any other appointment. Then go somewhere away from the madness of your life and keep that date.
  9. Turn your holiday stress into a character and write about him/her. You can find an example here.
  10. If all else fails, escape to the bathroom and write for a few minutes!

And the last word: don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to write as much as you planned. Enjoy your holidays and start fresh in the new year.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Inspiring TED Talks on Creativity

creative sparks

Quick post today to direct you to this wonderful collection of talks on creativity: TED’s Creative Spark Playlist.

I haven’t watched all of these, but the ones I’ve seen have been fantastic. The 10 included talks are:

  • Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius
  • David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence
  • Janet Echelman: Taking imagination seriously
  • Stefon Harris: There are no mistakes on the bandstand
  • Tim Brown: Tales of creativity and play
  • Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide?
  • Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity
  • Isaac Mizrahi on fashion and creativity
  • John Bohannon: Dance vs. powerpoint, a modest proposal
  • Kirby Ferguson: Embrace the remix

So, if you need a little inspiration, check out one (or all) of these wildly creative thinkers as they share their perspectives on creativity.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Resolutions for a Creative New Year

  1. Do something creatively inspiring every day, even if only for 5 minutes.
  2. Forgive yourself if you miss a day—and then get right back on the creativity horse.
  3. Cultivate an attitude of play when you’re writing, painting, singing or creating in any way.
  4. Let go of your inner perfectionist.
  5. Don’t blow off your muse, even if he/she starts tugging on your arm at an inopportune time.
  6. Share your creativity with people who appreciate it.
  7. Don’t listen to people who discourage you (including your inner critic).
  8. Believe you deserve to take time for your creativity, in spite of all the demands in your life.
  9. Enjoy the creative journey instead of focusing only on the destination.
  10. Realize that every time you make space in your life for creativity—even if it’s just a sliver of space—you’re making yourself a better person and the world a better place.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Ways for Writers to Stay Creative During the Busy Holiday Season

  1. Redefine your idea of creativity. If you don’t have time to write for half an hour, spend that time making up stories with a child in your life while buying or wrapping presents.
  2. Use a tape recorder to write bits of dialogue and scenes while driving to and from errands.
  3. Write in the shower.
  4. If you’re working on a larger project — a novel, a screenplay or even a short story — take five or 10 minutes before bed every night to write the next paragraph or just the next sentence.  You’ll keep your momentum going even when you don’t have much time.
  5. Carry a few index cards with you wherever you go and make the commitment to fill one with something creative every day when you can find a few minutes.
  6. Write a prompt on an index card for each day you expect to be busy, and commit to freewriting for 10 minutes using that prompt.
  7. Enjoy some non-writing creativity. Make interesting holiday decorations, cards and presents. It all stimulates the muse!
  8. Schedule a writing appointment or two for yourself during the holidays. Put it on your calendar like any other appointment. Then go somewhere away from the madness of your life and keep that date.
  9. Turn your holiday stress into a character and write about him/her. You can find an example here.
  10. If all else fails, escape to the bathroom and write for a few minutes!

And the last word: don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to write as much as you planned. Enjoy your holidays and start fresh in the new year.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

5 Easy Ways to Be Creative Today

  1. Write a haiku about what you’re wearing right now.
  2. Take a walk. Notice everything you see that’s blue. You can just walk around your home or workplace if you’d like, noticing blue. Then write a paragraph about blueness: the blue things you’ve seen, blue feelings, the Blues, blue moons…anything blue that comes up for you.
  3. Write something about the picture above.
  4. Draw a picture that reflects how you’re feeling right now. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece — a simple doodle is fine.
  5. Daydream elaborately for 15 minutes. Some ideas: Imagine you live in a different time period, and create a day of that life in your mind. Put yourself inside your favorite book, movie or cartoon and see what happens. Imagine you’re five years old and discovering something new for the first time — really feel the discovery with all your senses.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Warm Up Your Muse with Some Creative Foreplay

Rerunning an old favorite today:

Once upon a time, I often found myself stuck in the Land of Overwhelm.

I had so much going on that I wrote my To Do lists on never-ending rolls of paper towels. (Okay, not really, but it felt that way.) I tried to do two or three or 15 things at the same time. I left important tasks uncompleted until they became life or death issues. I never, ever had time for creativity.

Since then, I’ve learned to let go of some things. To stop multi-tasking (mostly). To identify and really focus on my biggest priorities. And to embrace creative foreplay.

Creative foreplay is a wonderful practice that keeps my creative flow going even when my days and weeks are crammed with Priority One tasks.

Creative foreplay is:

  • Daydreaming about the story you’re writing, the song you’re composing, the picture you’re painting.
  • Creating in the shower (or bath).
  • Carrying a small notebook with you and writing one sentence or sketching for 30 seconds when you’re stuck in a long line at the grocery store.
  • Singing in the car about your creative project.
  • Taking a walk and visualizing your characters walking along with you: imagining what they would say and do.
  • Taking a walk and soaking in interesting colors and textures for the piece of art you’re planning to work on.
  • Acting out some dialog between your characters for 60 seconds.
  • Humming a line or two of the song you’re composing in your head.
The list goes on…
Why don’t you try some creative foreplay today? (And every day!) It will help your muse stay excited until you can join her for a juicy creative session.
I’d love to hear how you keep your muse happy during the busy times!


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Ideas for Celebrating World Creativity Week

Did you know World Creativity and Innovation Week begins today? Since 2002, people, communities and organizations around the world have celebrated creativity for a week beginning on April 15 (Leonardo da Vinci’s Birthday). The goal is to enliven, encourage, enjoy and express your creative spirit and that of the people around you.

In honor of this week, I’m offering up some ideas for celebrating your creativity that include your family, friends or local community:

  1. Have a dinner party where each guest brings a dish from his/her country/region of origin/ethnic background or an old family recipe. I did this with friends once—it was great fun, and also educational!
  2. Gather with friends and put on a short play, just for fun. Or attend a drop-in improv class.
  3. Work in a community garden. Or start one!
  4. Write poems or create sketches on blank postcards, then leave these little creative bursts around for unsuspecting passers-by to discover: at a bus stop, on a park bench, in a cafe, on the subway, on a library shelf…
  5. Have a salon night with your family or friends—everyone does something creative. Sing a song, read a poem, dance, play an instrument…
  6. Make an international family meal. Each member of the family/household creates one dish. You can make dishes from various countries, or choose one country (not your own) and each contribute an entree, side dish or dessert.
  7. Throw a watercolor painting party.
  8. Write a community story. Each person writes a paragraph, then passes it on to the next person.
  9. Have an old-fashioned quilting party.
  10. Get together with friends and form a band for a night. Everyone plays whatever they can—harmonica, spoon banging on pot, anything. You don’t have to be good, you just have to have fun.

Do you have other ideas for family or community creativity? I’d love to hear about them!


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Resolutions for a Creative New Year

  1. Do something creatively inspiring every day, even if only for 5 minutes.
  2. Forgive yourself if you miss a day—and then get right back on the creativity horse.
  3. Cultivate an attitude of play when you’re writing, painting, singing or creating in any way.
  4. Let go of your inner perfectionist.
  5. Don’t blow off your muse, even if he/she starts tugging on your arm at an inopportune time.
  6. Share your creativity with people who appreciate it.
  7. Don’t listen to people who discourage you (including your inner critic).
  8. Believe you deserve to take time for your creativity, in spite of all the demands in your life.
  9. Enjoy the creative journey instead of focusing only on the destination.
  10. Realize that every time you make space in your life for creativity—even if it’s just a sliver of space—you’re making yourself a better person and the world a better place.


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Ways for Writers to Stay Creative During the Busy Holiday Season

  1. Redefine your idea of creativity. If you don’t have time to write for half an hour, spend that time making up stories with a child in your life while buying or wrapping presents.
  2. Use a tape recorder to write bits of dialogue and scenes while driving to and from errands.
  3. Write in the shower.
  4. If you’re working on a larger project — a novel, a screenplay or even a short story — take five or 10 minutes before bed every night to write the next paragraph or just the next sentence.  You’ll keep your momentum going even when you don’t have much time.
  5. Carry a few index cards with you wherever you go and make the commitment to fill one with something creative every day when you can find a few minutes.
  6. Write a prompt on an index card for each day you expect to be busy, and commit to freewriting for 10 minutes using that prompt.
  7. Enjoy some non-writing creativity. Make interesting holiday decorations, cards and presents. It all stimulates the muse!
  8. Schedule a writing appointment or two for yourself during the holidays. Put it on your calendar like any other appointment. Then go somewhere away from the madness of your life and keep that date.
  9. Turn your holiday stress into a character and write about him/her. You can find an example here.
  10. If all else fails, escape to the bathroom and write for a few minutes!

And the last word: don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to write as much as you planned. Enjoy your holidays and start fresh in the new year.


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

5 Ways to Shake Up Your Writing


(I’m busy fighting dragons, so I’m reposting an old favorite today.)

  1. Write a list of things you’re passionate about. Include everything: chocolate chip cookies, the actor/actress you fantasize about, vampires, jazz trumpet, dreams of flying….Pick two or three of these and combine them to create a story.
  2. Choose something you fervently believe to be true. This could be a political or religious belief, or—perhaps more interesting—the fact that grass is green, your belief that elves might exist, your conviction that Macs are better than PCs. Write something from the point of view of a character who holds the opposite belief. But don’t write directly about this issue. Create a scene where your character is dealing with a difficult relationship problem or a tricky work situation.
  3. Take something you’ve already written and write it in a different genre. Change a memory to a fictional story about a character who’s a woman if you’re a man, or vice versa. Rewrite a literary passage as a pivotal scene in a mystery novel. Change your crime scene into a romantic segment. Get creative!
  4. Write about a secret you never—or rarely—reveal. Be deeply honest. You don’t have to show it to anyone else, ever. You can even burn it when you’re done. But the deep, true writing will still help your creativity grow.
  5. Imagine that something you take for granted doesn’t exist—gravity, being a human, your boss expecting good work from you, etc. Write about life without this thing you’re used to.


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Writing When You’re Feeling Uninspired

(I’m busy fighting dragons, so I’m reposting an old favorite today.)

  1. Take a break and do something else for a while before returning to writing.
  2. Freewrite until new ideas start flowing.
  3. Take a shower or bath—muses are known to be particularly inspirational during bathtime! And here are some products so you don’t have to run dripping for a pen and paper.
  4. Just keep writing, and see if you make a breakthrough.
  5. Work on a different writing project.
  6. Take a walk. Turn off your brain and experience the world through your senses.
  7. Do something else creative for a while, like drawing, singing, making a collage or playing with clay.
  8. Meditate or do a creative visualization—try this one if you’re dealing with a persistent inner critic.
  9. Read a book. Let someone else’s words flow over you.
  10. Write something silly or just plain bad. Don’t judge yourself. Sometimes if you start writing, no matter how uninspired you feel, your muse eventually shows up and sprinkles a little magic on the page.

How do you break through those uninspired moments? Share your creative coping methods in the comments.


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
To learn more, click here!

Warm Up Your Muse with Some Creative Foreplay

Once upon a time, I often found myself stuck in the Land of Overwhelm.

I had so much going on that I wrote my To Do lists on never-ending rolls of paper towels. (Okay, not really, but it felt that way.) I tried to do two or three or 15 things at the same time. I left important tasks uncompleted until they became life or death issues. I never, ever had time for creativity.

Since then, I’ve learned to let go of some things. To stop multi-tasking (mostly). To identify and really focus on my biggest priorities. And to embrace creative foreplay.

Creative foreplay is a wonderful practice that keeps my creative flow going even when my days and weeks are crammed with Priority One tasks.

Creative foreplay is:

  • Daydreaming about the story you’re writing, the song you’re composing, the picture you’re painting.
  • Creating in the shower (or bath).
  • Carrying a small notebook with you and writing one sentence or sketching for 30 seconds when you’re stuck in a long line at the grocery store.
  • Singing in the car about your creative project.
  • Taking a walk and visualizing your characters walking along with you: imagining what they would say and do.
  • Taking a walk and soaking in interesting colors and textures for the piece of art you’re planning to work on.
  • Acting out some dialog between your characters for 60 seconds.
  • Humming a line or two of the song you’re composing in your head.
The list goes on…
Why don’t you try some creative foreplay today? (And every day!) It will help your muse stay excited until you can join her for a juicy creative session.
I’d love to hear how you keep your muse happy during the busy times!


STOP STRANGLING YOUR MUSE!
I’ll help you slay your Perfectionism Dragon,
Herd your Inner Critics into a soundproof room,
Send your Procrastination Monster whimpering back to his cave,
And defuse all your creative blocks.

To schedule a free 30-minute telephone creativity coaching session with me, or for more information, click here.

Want More Creativity? Turn Your Day Upside Down


I’m on vacation for a few days, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

If you’re worried you’re not living up to your creative potential, it’s easy to find articles and books on managing your time, setting goals and being more productive. But so much of this helpful advice just doesn’t work when it comes to creativity. It can make you feel tight and uncompromising. It can make your muse pack up her bags and fly away until you allow her more space.

So here’s my advice for turning some of the common productivity wisdom on its head. Try it and see if it makes your muse smile:

  • Write a Not To Do List. Include items like “Don’t check e-mail before I start writing,” “Don’t vacuum until I’ve spent half an hour painting” and “Don’t listen to that voice inside my head telling me I’m being selfish for creating instead of _______.”
  • Let Time Manage You. Instead of making a schedule with blocks of time for each of your day’s activities, simply let the day unfold. This can be difficult if you feel like time is a beast to be tamed and molded to your will. (Believe me, I know. I struggle with this one.) But if you can let go of your schedule even for a little while, you may be amazed at the results. Yes, there are certain scheduled things you must attend to, like going to work and picking up your kid from soccer. But you can findor makesome unscheduled moments in your days and weeks if you really look for them. Make a point of letting go of unessential activities and letting yourself do whatever feels right in the moment at those times.
  • Be Unproductive. Forget about producing a finished story or song or painting. Think of your creativity as play instead of goal-oriented work. Toss unexpected words together. Combine notes in ways that don’t make sense. Paint something silly. Surprise yourself. If it doesn’t work, you’ve learned something about what doesn’t work. It if does work, you may have just produced a masterpiece.
  • Don’t Create a Perfect Space for Doing Your Artistic Work. This one goes against advice I constantly see for writers and other creative people. There’s nothing wrong with having a nice place to write/compose/sculpt/sketch. But you shouldn’t be wedded to that spot. You should be able to pick up a crayon and scrap of paper wherever you are and create something new. Paint at a park. Write while sitting in a waiting room. Compose a song in your head during your commute. Having only one spot where you can create places a severe and unnecessary limitation on your muse (who really just wants to create everywhere, all the time).
  • Watch TV. Another perennial piece of wisdom from both time management gurus and creativity proponents is to completely cut out watching television. It’s a time suck, it stifles creativity and it’s just bad, according to these  people. Yes, if you plop down in front of the TV for four hours every night and turn into a mental zombie, that’s not very healthy. If you only watch uninspiring sitcoms and formulaic movies, you’re not helping your creativity. But blanket comments condemning TV really rub me the wrong way.  I’ve found so much inspiration on television over the years. From documentaries that introduced me to other worlds and ideas. From movies that grabbed my emotions and made me think about things or events in a new way. And yes, even from cleverly written sitcoms that included characters or situations that jumpstarted my creativity. People who believe TV = bad just aren’t thinking creatively enough. And, like the Internet, social networks, video games and anything else that can turn into an addictive pursuit, you need to use it in a way that enhances your life and your creativity rather than as a crutch to avoid life.

Do you have any creative techniques you use that turn conventional wisdom on its head? I’d love to hear about them and add them to this list.

5 Quick Ways To Engage Your Creativity Right Now

  1. Spend a few minutes writing a silly limerick.* (Quick reminder: Limericks are five lines. Lines 1, 2 and 5 have seven to ten syllables and rhyme with one another. Lines 3 and 4 have five to seven syllables and also rhyme with each other.)
  2. Take a five minute walk (outside, or even around your office) and pretend you’re an alien from a different planet. Really see everything as if you’re seeing it for the first time. This engages your creativity as you connect with familiar objects in new and different ways.
  3. Notice noses today. Look at every nose you encounter. Notice how they’re all different. Then write an ode to noses. Or draw a bouquet of noses.
  4. Pretend your life is a novel. Decide on a good title for the chapter you’re living now.
  5. Make a 2-minute doodle and share it here.

*Here’s my limerick:

My muse kept me up all last night,
Insisting I get up and write;
Now there’s work to be done
And I’m on the run,
And that muse is no longer in sight!

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

10 Resolutions for a Creative New Year

  1. Write or do something creatively inspiring every day, even if only for 10 minutes.
  2. Forgive yourself if you miss a day—and then get right back on the creativity horse.
  3. Cultivate an attitude of play when you’re writing.
  4. Let go of your inner perfectionist.
  5. Don’t blow off your muse, even if he/she starts tugging on your arm at an inopportune time.
  6. Share your creativity with people who appreciate it.
  7. Don’t listen to people who discourage you (including your inner critic).
  8. Believe you deserve to take time for your creativity, in spite of all the demands in your life.
  9. Enjoy the creative journey instead of focusing only on the destination.
  10. Realize that every time you make space in your life for creativity—even if it’s just a sliver of space—you’re making yourself a better person and the world a better place.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

10 Ways to Stay Creative During the Busy Holiday Season

  1. Redefine your idea of creativity. If you don’t have time to write for half an hour, spend that time making up stories with a child in your life while buying or wrapping presents.
  2. Use a tape recorder to write bits of dialogue and scenes while driving to and from errands.
  3. Write in the shower.
  4. If you’re working on a larger project — a novel, a screenplay or even a short story — take five or 10 minutes before bed every night to write the next paragraph or just the next sentence. You’ll keep your momentum going even when you don’t have much time.
  5. Carry a few index cards with you wherever you go and make the commitment to fill one with something creative every day when you can find a few minutes.
  6. Write a prompt on an index card for each day you expect to be busy, and commit to freewriting for 10 minutes using that prompt.
  7. Enjoy some non-writing creativity. Make interesting holiday decorations, cards and presents. It all stimulates the muse!
  8. Schedule a writing appointment or two for yourself during the holidays. Put it on your calendar like any other appointment. Then go somewhere away from the madness of your life and keep that date.
  9. Turn your holiday stress into a character and write about him/her. You can find an example here.
  10. If all else fails, escape to the bathroom and write for a few minutes!

And the last word: don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to write as much as you planned. Enjoy your holidays and start fresh in the new year.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

5 Easy Ways to Be Creative Today

  1. Write a haiku about what you’re wearing right now.
  2. Take a walk. Notice everything you see that’s blue. You can just walk around your home or workplace if you’d like, noticing blue. Then write a paragraph about blueness: the blue things you’ve seen, blue feelings, the Blues, blue moons…anything blue that comes up for you.
  3. Write something about the picture above.
  4. Draw a picture that reflects how you’re feeling right now. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece — a simple doodle is fine.
  5. Daydream elaborately for 15 minutes. Some ideas: Imagine you live in a different time period, and create a day of that life in your mind. Put yourself inside your favorite book, movie or cartoon and see what happens. Imagine you’re five years old and discovering something new for the first time — really feel the discovery with all your senses.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

10 Ways to Amuse Your Muse*



Back by popular demand, here’s a list to help inspire the playful side of your creativity:

  1. Write something silly, like a haiku about your boss’s tie or the dialogue your dog would have with the cat if he could talk.
  2. Make something silly—knit an envelope or create a collage out of pictures of toes.
  3. Watch this video of a typing monkey.
  4. Freewrite about something silly. Use this prompt: When he appears in my life, the closet monster always takes something from me, but I have to admit, he never…
  5. Make a snack that reflects your mood. Like smiley-face pancakes. Or a Ready-to-Erupt volcano Sundae.
  6. Write a list of silly things you would never do. Then do one of them.
  7. Pick the most outlandish thing on your list of silly things you would never do. Write about doing it.
  8. Create a story about a nonsensical image you remember from a dream.
  9. Write a journal entry about your day in a Dr. Seuss-like rhythm. Or tell it as a fairy tale.
  10. Create a character who’s the opposite of you. Then see what this character does when you write about him/her.
  11. Write a story about the two starfish in the picture above.

* plus a bonus Muse-amuser!

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

10 Ways to Get Your Muse Out of Neutral

Life is interfering with my desire to get a new post written, so instead I’m offering one of my most popular lists:

  1. Go somewhere public—a cafe, a mall, a park—and eavesdrop. Write down the most interesting thing you hear and create a scene around it.
  2. Watch an old movie or TV show you loved as a child (for me, it’s “The Partridge Family”). Let yourself really feel what you loved about it when you were a kid. Then do a freewrite from that place of childlike joy. (Write about the movie/show or whatever else comes up.)
  3. Eat something you’ve never eaten before. Eat it slowly, and experience the texture, taste, feel and smell of it. Compile a list of adjectives, verbs and nouns that describe the experience. Make the list as long as you can. Then use the words to write a love scene.
  4. Go to an outdoor place you love—a pond, a beach, a woody path, a park—and write there.
  5. Do a freewrite. Make yourself keep writing for at least 10 minutes. Start with “I remember when…” Or, for something different: “I don’t remember when…” Better yet, do both.
  6. Go for a walk and pretend you’re from another planet. Notice everything—sights, smells, sounds—as if you’re experiencing it for the first time. Then write about something you encountered on your walk.
  7. Make a collage from pictures you clip from magazines. A day later, look at what you’ve created and write about the theme you see in the pictures or a story they tell.
  8. Take an hour for yourself and do whatever you feel like doing. Spend the last 10 minutes of the hour writing about whatever comes up.
  9. Find something you wrote in the past—a journal entry, a note, a list, a homework assignment, an e-mail—and write about the person who wrote it as if he/she were a character rather than an earlier version of you.
  10. (Variation on Number 3): Eat something you loved as a child but never eat now. (For me, it’s a Pop-tart.) Eat it slowly, and experience the texture, taste, feel and smell of it. Compile a list of adjectives, verbs and nouns that describe the experience. Make the list as long as you can. Then use the words to write about someone from your past.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Ten Ways to Woo Your Muse

metal sculpture

Life is interfering with my desire to get a new post written, so instead I’m offering one of my most popular lists:

  1. Do something you haven’t done since you were a child. Slide down a slide.  Eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Play in a sprinkler. Sing a song you liked when you were a kid.
  2. Keep a notebook next to your bed, and write about whatever wakes you up.
  3. Take a little time to stop “doing” and just “be” for a while.  Meditate. Walk. Stare at the wall. Soak in a bubble bath.
  4. Spend some time doing anything you consider fun, even if it seems frivolous. Especially if it seems frivolous.
  5. Go for a walk and look at everything in your path as if you’re seeing it for the first time.
  6. Do something creative. Color. Dance. Play with Play-Doh.
  7. Pay attention to your dreams—both the night kind and the day kind.
  8. Rip up your To Do list for the day or for the afternoon and do whatever you feel like doing.
  9. Go outside at night and count the stars. Or waltz in the rain. Or share your secrets with the moon.
  10. Do something silly. Talk in a funny voice. Walk down the street backwards.  See if you can balance a spoon on your nose.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Ten Effective Ways to Strangle Your Muse

I’m traveling for a few days, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

  1. When you wake in the middle of the night and realize you have a brilliant sentence balancing on the edge of your semi-conscious brain, tell yourself you’ll remember it in the morning and roll over.
  2. Finish your work, make phone calls, respond to all the e-mails in your inbox, clean the house and pluck any unwanted hairs before you let yourself have a creative moment.
  3. Never, ever play hooky.
  4. sea view

  5. Believe you need to wallpaper your existence with hundred dollar bills instead of wrapping it around yourself like a beautiful poem.
  6. Think you have nothing left to learn.
  7. Forget that the shades of gray between the black and white lines are by far the most interesting parts of life.
  8. Believe that playing is just for kids.
  9. Show your half-finished creation to many other people and let them staple their hastily-formed opinions all over it.
  10. Try to be the best at doing what all the other artists are doing, instead of discovering your own unique vision.
  11. Be afraid of looking stupid.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

10 Ideas for Celebrating World Creativity Week

Did you know World Creativity and Innovation Week begins today? Since 2002, people, communities and organizations around the world have celebrated creativity for a week beginning on April 15 (Leonardo da Vinci’s Birthday). The goal is to enliven, encourage, enjoy and express your creative spirit and that of the people around you.

In honor of this week, I’m offering up some ideas for celebrating your creativity that include your family, friends or local community:

  1. Have a dinner party where each guest brings a dish from his/her country/region of origin/ethnic background or an old family recipe. I did this with friends once—it was great fun, and also educational!
  2. Gather with friends and put on a short play, just for fun. Or attend a drop-in improv class.
  3. Work in a community garden. Or start one!
  4. Write poems or create sketches on blank postcards, then leave these little creative bursts around for unsuspecting passers-by to discover: at a bus stop, on a park bench, in a cafe, on the subway, on a library shelf…
  5. Have a salon night with your family or friends—everyone does something creative. Sing a song, read a poem, dance, play an instrument…
  6. Make an international family meal. Each member of the family/household creates one dish. You can make dishes from various countries, or choose one country (not your own) and each contribute an entree, side dish or dessert.
  7. Throw a watercolor painting party.
  8. Write a community story. Each person writes a paragraph, then passes it on to the next person.
  9. Have an old-fashioned quilting party.
  10. Get together with friends and form a band for a night. Everyone plays whatever they can—harmonica, spoon banging on pot, anything. You don’t have to be good, you just have to have fun.

Do you have other ideas for family or community creativity? I’d love to hear about them!

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Want More Creativity? Turn Your Day Upside Down

If you’re worried you’re not living up to your creative potential, it’s easy to find articles and books on managing your time, setting goals and being more productive. But so much of this helpful advice just doesn’t work when it comes to creativity. It can make you feel tight and uncompromising. It can make your muse pack up her bags and fly away until you allow her more space.

So here’s my advice for turning some of the common productivity wisdom on its head. Try it and see if it makes your muse smile:

  • Write a Not To Do List*. Include items like “Don’t check e-mail before I start writing,” “Don’t vacuum until I’ve spent half an hour painting” and “Don’t listen to that voice inside my head telling me I’m being selfish for creating instead of _______.”
  • Let Time Manage You. Instead of making a schedule with blocks of time for each of your day’s activities, simply let the day unfold. This can be difficult if you feel like time is a beast to be tamed and molded to your will. (Believe me, I know. I struggle with this one.) But if you can let go of your schedule even for a little while, you may be amazed at the results. Yes, there are certain scheduled things you must attend to, like going to work and picking up your kid from soccer. But you can findor makesome unscheduled moments in your days and weeks if you really look for them. Make a point of letting go of unessential activities and letting yourself do whatever feels right in the moment at those times.
  • Be Unproductive. Forget about producing a finished story or song or painting. Think of your creativity as play instead of goal-oriented work. Toss unexpected words together. Combine notes in ways that don’t make sense. Paint something silly. Surprise yourself. If it doesn’t work, you’ve learned something about what doesn’t work. It if does work, you may have just produced a masterpiece.
  • Don’t Create a Perfect Space for Doing Your Artistic Work. This one goes against advice I constantly see for writers and other creative people. There’s nothing wrong with having a nice place to write/compose/sculpt/sketch. But you shouldn’t be wedded to that spot. You should be able to pick up a crayon and scrap of paper wherever you are and create something new. Paint at a park. Write while sitting in a waiting room. Compose a song in your head during your commute. Having only one spot where you can create places a severe and unnecessary limitation on your muse (who really just wants to create everywhere, all the time).
  • Watch TV. Another perennial piece of wisdom from both time management gurus and creativity proponents is to completely cut out watching television. It’s a time suck, it stifles creativity and it’s just bad, according to these  people. Yes, if you plop down in front of the TV for four hours every night and turn into a mental zombie, that’s not very healthy. If you only watch uninspiring sitcoms and formulaic movies, you’re not helping your creativity. But blanket comments condemning TV really rub me the wrong way.  I’ve found so much inspiration on television over the years. From documentaries that introduced me to other worlds and ideas. From movies that grabbed my emotions and made me think about things or events in a new way. And yes, even from cleverly written sitcoms that included characters or situations that jumpstarted my creativity. People who believe TV = bad just aren’t thinking creatively enough. And, like the Internet, social networks, video games and anything else that can turn into an addictive pursuit, you need to use it in a way that enhances your life and your creativity rather than as a crutch to avoid life.

Do you have any creative techniques you use that turn conventional wisdom on its head? I’d love to hear about them and add them to this list.

*Thanks to creativity coach Jill Badonsky for this idea.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com


Download a Free E-Book! Click on the Cover Below for your Creative Bursts Workbook

And get fun 15-minute creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week

About Sandy Ackers

Sandy

Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and Writer.

To learn more about Sandy, click here: About Sandy

Connect With Me On Facebook:

Meet My Muse

Click here to read the post discussing my relationship with my somewhat pesky male muse.

Inspiration in your inbox:

Blog Archive

Total Hits:

wordpress analytics
wordpress analytics

Share This Blog

Bookmark and Share
Add to Technorati Favorites
Writing Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

Copyright © 2009-2014 Sandy Ackers. All rights reserved, with the following exceptions:

Writers retain all rights to any comments, stories or other original work posted on this blog in the comments sections or the Readers' Sandbox.

Many of the photos on this blog are in the public domain. If you'd like to reproduce a photo, contact Sandy Ackers at the email address listed in the ABOUT section of this blog for information on whether the image is under copyright.

Reproducing, copying or distributing the writing on this blog without the express permission of the author is strictly forbidden.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 307 other followers

%d bloggers like this: