Creativity Tip: Break the Mold

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Last year, yes, way back in 2017, I spent time pondering creativity and wrote three posts on ways to employ it to move your writing career forward. If you missed my posts, here’s a summary of each one and links back to those posts in case you find an idea or two that you want to explore more.

To enhance your creativity:

  • Stimulate your senses through Deep Travel. Read it here.
  • Use your shortcomings or setbacks as a way for you to step back and see anew. Read it here.
  • Take a “used” idea and add an element to make it new. Read it here.

Let’s now consider ways to unleash your creativity.

Here are a few tricks I use to jar my my mind:

Drive home not by rote but by taking a new route.

And rather than dashing home as fast as you can, while you’re on that new route, pull over and  look around. Maybe even literally smell the roses. Take in the ways your senses are stimulated.

Read a type of book you’ve decided isn’t for you.

If you’re dead-set against mass paperback romances, take the leap to read one. Look for what you appreciate about the writing rather than being critical of the genre. Ask yourself what readers find appealing about formula stories. Or maybe you should pick up a political commentary that you know is written from a perspective you disagree with. Seeing our society from someone else’s point of view can help you to move beyond caricature in real life and in your writing. Even the bad guys have fascinating motives for their behavior!

Find places where your brain relaxes and goes into daydreaming mode.

For me, I dream when I’m taking a bath. I feel as if I’ve entered into a water world where the typical sounds of everyday life disappear. I’m left with my thoughts adrift. Who knows where they might slip off to?

Now it’s your turn.

What tricks do you use to find your creative zone?

What might you try that you haven’t before?

As we begin 2018, I’m announcing a change in the posting of our blog. We’re going to post twice per week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, based on the rotation we currently employ. So I’ll post, followed by Wendy, then Rachelle, Cynthia, and Rachel. We’ll look forward to providing you with new material Thursday.

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Writers, how do you find your creative zone? Click to tweet.

Ways to jar your mind to be more creative. Click to tweet.

17 Responses

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  1. Yes, Janet, I dream in the bath–hot bath–too. I can’t think on two things at once and accomplish much. I have to focus on one thing at a time regarding plots and writing. I have to give it my full attention. And I’m usually praying and maybe a few tears here and there, focusing on the thing that matters the most … focusing on direction.

  2. Patricia Iacuzzi says:

    My dream time & space? Parked in the car on a beautiful summer day and treating myself to a specialty coffee while reading or writing. (In winter–same treat, except it’s in the living room by the fireplace) Things I’d like to try: take a secondary character from a classic and give him/her their own story.

  3. Consider study of painting:
    * Series such as Monet’s Rouen Cathedral or Haystacks inspire changes in character under changing situation, as the painter saw the ‘character’ of his subjects change under changing light
    * Paul Signac’s pointillism (I don’t like Seurat) is a metaphor for dialogue, with ‘dots’ of pure colour placed to have a specific effect. So too must words in dialogue be carefully chosen, ‘pure’ to advance characterization, mood, plot.
    * Epic sweep of Hudson River School artists, such as Cole, Church, Bierstadt, showing that in the overall plot seemingly minor details deserve attention; consider foreground figures of Church’s ‘Cotopaxi’ (you can see it in Detroit!), so small and seemingly insignificant compared to the brooding volcano, but a necessary animation of that which would otherwise remain inanimate.
    * Innovation such as Remington’s use of jade green to represent moonlight, one of the toughest lighting conditions to reproduce. ‘How did he think of this?’ equates to ‘How can I write this hackneyed ‘departure’ scene in a fresh way?’…and who would have thought of jade green, anyway?

    • Janet Grant says:

      Ooh, you’re speaking to the art appreciator in me! I love the thought of looking at artwork to inspire new views of writing. And seeing the original artwork is an experience unto itself. I don’t generally care for modern art, but when I walked into a roomful of Klee’s work, I laughed aloud as I saw his humor shine through his work.

      • Janet, since Dallas is a regular ACFW venue, I’d suggest anyone going plan a visit to the Dallas Museum of Art, to see Church’s ‘Niagara’. Last time I saw it it was displayed in a rather splendid solitude, and in the silence around I could hear the roar of the waters, feel the spray. It commended me to sit, and simply look.
        * And this is the experience for which it was painted; the major works of Church and Bierstadt were traveling one-painting exhibitions, displayed by themselves in a theatre setting to which viewers would pay admission, and simply sit and behold the work in its magnificence.
        * You can’t do that with many paintings these days; but the Dallas MofA ensured that you could with ‘Niagara’. It’s worth the trip.

  4. Patricia Iacuzzi says:

    Beautifully presented, Andrew. I also learned something new about Vincent Van Gogh’s work just a few yrs. ago, after I saw this quote in a discussion on physics: “In a period of intense suffering, Van Gogh was somehow able to perceive and represent one of the most supremely difficult concepts nature has ever brought before mankind. More than a masterwork of art, Van Gogh’s painting “The Starry Night” turns out to hold astounding clues to understanding some of the most mysterious workings of science. The masterpiece sheds light on the concept of turbulent flow in fluid dynamics, one of the most complex ideas to explain mathematically and among the hardest for the human mind to grasp.” (To think at one time, he wanted to be a pastor). I was blown away when I found out about this. I don’t know how you came up with these inspiring choices, Andrew, (especially my favorites, the Hudson River School), but thank you! Their work is also based on Christian principles. There is a marvelous book about them called “Knights of the Brush: “The Hudson River School and the Moral Landscape”, by James F. Cooper. I’m always amazed at how the Lord speaks to each of us in unique ways. I continue to pray for you, Andrew.
    And thank you, Janet– for the opportunity to share on the subject of God’s gift of creativity!

    • Methinks I should spark my creativity by reading about the Hudson River School–an enchanting idea, since the river closest to us (the Wallkill) runs north instead of south and empties into the Hudson. Yea for the unusual! Thank you, Janet, Andrew and Patricia.

    • The Starry Night tells me the church only knows a small fraction of the magnitude of God. I can’t look at it without worshiping.

  5. There is a 2 mile walk that I do with my dog up here on the mountain. It is along our quiet gravel road and sometimes we see deer, elk, or bear. A raven follows us talking trash and making my dog bark. So many good ideas fill you when the air is fresh and the sunlight slants just right through the trees. Or praying, I’ve started asking God about story problems and you know what? He is faithful, even in this. But it makes sense, who gave us this drive to create and make something lovely, something that speaks? Yeah, I knew it, but to see Him give assistance in my small creative efforts is such an overwhelming joy.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Kristen, I love your description of the ravens talking trash. Perfect! Sometimes walking the same path day after day can be a profoundly moving experience as we see the play of light at different times of day or nature as it’s constantly adjusting to the changing seasons. The secret is to NOTICE.

      • Kelly says:

        These ideas are golden! I will take a new way home today. Thank you, Janet! Exercising the brain is a powerful tool, and it helps us overcome seemingly insurmountable roadblocks. I recently tried coloring with my non-dominant hand to shake loose some ideas, and it worked!

  6. Taking a walk sparks my creativity. A walk on the beach is even better. There’s something about watching the water crash to shore and the birds flying overhead that inspires me.

    I’ve also discovered when you move, you don’t take anything for granted. You wonder about the best way to get from one place to another. You get lost and discover new places. (Yes, I can even get turned around using Google Maps.) Moving is exciting and exhausting and if you’re open to new experiences, it’s invigorating.

    • Janet Grant says:

      The beach is my favorite place to take a deep breath and see anew. Yes, moving startles us out of the slumber routines put us in. And, yes, moving is exhausting–especially when we realize how much stuff we’re dragging around with us!

    • Jackie, I love your beach pictures on Instagram. I know that would spark my creativity. I can’t imagine living so close to the ocean. Just beautiful.

  7. I loved this, Janet. As crazy as this sounds, I love driving my kids to school during this time of year. The sun rises and colors the sky as we drive. I love seeing ribbons of color disappearing behind the mountains. When I have a day like today—a day set aside for writing—my heart is open to creativity. I know I don’t have a list of things to do. I take my time with Jesus and then dig into writing with an open, unfettered heart.
    *Funny you should mention reading a book yo don’t normally read. I’m reading an ABA book right now, to study the genre. Though I’m not thrilled with some of the content, it’s been an eye-opening read. The author writes in a very different style from my own, but I’ve become fascinated with how she drew me into the story.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Kudos for reading something out of the ordinary. I love my book club for that reason. The books those people pick…I’m always glad they forced me to venture forth to places I wouldn’t voluntarily go.