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Nurturing Creativity for Artists and Writers

Written by Gordon Ramsey // Illustrated by Jillian VanDyke

Falling into a creative rut isn’t as hopeless as it feels, and there are reasons it happens and methods you can use to climb out of it.

A problem many in the world of art struggle with is their creativity. Writers may encounter writer’s block or get distracted by their surroundings, preventing them from writing. Artists may fall into a rut, dislike their ideas, or struggle to formulate any ideas in the first place. Our creativity makes us human. Our struggles to express or dive deeper into our own creative mindset is an issue many have a hard time with, even if only once in a while. Some people will tell themselves that they just aren’t creative, but they are typically wrong. We do not often encounter many instances early in life that necesitate creativity, so using it may not come naturally. For example, in school, art and creative writing classes are the ones that require students to dive into their own minds and produce something unique. School boards don’t seem to find value in this — unlike traditional math or English classes, in which students write essays that typically are uninspired. Our creativity is not just what makes us human, but also unique to each other. Our imagination can create worlds where empires reign with magic, paintings that make one look at the world a different way, and games where one can explore facets of oneself. People can nurture their creativity and even increase it in many ways — from moments quietness to playing tabletop games with friends.

Writers often struggle with the phenomenon of writer’s block — they obstruct themselves from continuing their pieces because they’re not perfect, or they simply struggle to find the right words. In his first lecture of 2020, bestselling author and speaker at Brigham Young University Brandon Sanderson talks about the unique ability writers unknowingly have to “get in the zone.” For someone who writes everyday for 4–5 hours, in the first two hours they’ll write about 200 words an hour; but in the third hour, they’ll write about 1,000 words before going back down to writing the average 200 words an hour. In his lecture, Sanderson suggests having a quiet place to work on your writing. Whether it’s an office space or bedroom, what is important is that you can be separated from other people. In this same manner, it may help to let anyone you often talk to during certain times of the day know that they should do their best to refrain from talking to you when you want to be writing. He says this because interruptions are what set us back. For example, let’s say that you have spent an hour writing an essay. During the second hour, you will start to get really into the writing, but then if your friend or roommate comes and talks to you, that interruption will set you back. When the other person leaves and you go back to writing, you may have completely lost track.

Sanderson also suggests carrying a small notebook for moments when you’re grocery shopping or going to the library — essentially any time you are not close to your usual writing journal. With this notebook on you at all times, whenever an amazing idea strikes, you will always be able to write it down and look back over it later. In my own experience as a writer, I have found that if I am struggling to articulate a thought and save writing it for later, I forget it. If I conjure an idea for something and I don’t have a notebook on me, I type a brief, succinct note with the basics of the idea onto my phone. Even if I am home I will put it in the notebook for later when I am writing.

Drawing and painting is an art form that has been around for just as long writing. Sometimes we struggle to find a muse — something for us to capture with our imagination and put to paper. In Courtney Jordan’s article “8 Ways to Boost Your Creativity”, she discusses exercises and practices for artists who need a good boost. One of her suggestions is to ignore the clock. She says that watching the clock can add pressure. Pressure can be a good thing, but looking at the clock often can do more harm than good; this pressure can make you feel exhausted and drain you of your creativity. For a bit of adventure, she also suggests what she calls a “scavenger hunt.” If you’re a writer, write a single word at the top of a page and write for a short bit of time about what that word makes you feel or just a few sentences with that word. For artists, this can be a bit more adventurous: Simply write a short and simple list of ideas then go outside and find things on that list and draw them. This can cause you to draw more stuff that you wouldn’t draw normally as well as getting you outside.

These tips can be used in shape or form with almost anything if you put your mind to it. And if you are looking for other ways to boost your creativity, you can find a plethora of resources, articles, websites, and even games that can give you some helpful ideas.

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