Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Staying Creative, Part 6: Change Your Ways

You’ve heard of the who, what, when, where, why, and how (5W&H) of reporting, but I like to think of these six keys as my approaches to the writing process—ways that can soon become stale even though I am a creature of habit. I use the 5W&H as gauges for how fresh I’m being as a writer. Each word generates a different question to answer:

  1. Who are my interviewees for articles, the characters of my plays, or the subjects of my poems? If they are always the same, I’m not expanding as a writer. To overcome this creative ennui, I'll try using any of the techniques I mentioned in the previous five posts.

  2. What are my genres, topics, and themes? If I write only nonfiction for long stretches, I feel stifled. While nearly all the income I generate as a writer is from nonfiction, shifting to drama for a short play or poetry for a verse or two occasionally brings me back to nonfiction with a fresh outlook, approach, and style.

  3. When do I write? I need to be as productive as possible at the time that I write, so I periodically must assess the best time of day for to work. Typically, I like the morning hours, but my consulting practice takes up most of my daylight time. In a busy week, I will schedule an early or late evening hour to write.

  4. Where do I write? My business office can be stifling with its clutter, so a change of scene can generate a burst of creative ideas. I’ll move to another room or to a library or to a coffee shop. When I'm on business trips, hotel rooms are great places for uninterrupted writing.

  5. Why do I write? Sometimes I write to explore creativity, or reveal a truth underlying an issue, or reflect on my own beliefs, or examine the consequences of an action by a person or group of people, among many other reasons. If I am repeating myself too much, then it’s time for a change. I'll often find the means for a change by reading, but more about that in the next post.

  6. How do I write? As I write almost exclusively on a computer these days, I notice a benefit from breaking away briefly for my old-fashioned notebook, where I sketch characters, layout scenes, and structure books, chapters, essays, or arguments. I might see something on the page that was hiding right under my nose on the screen.

Try using the 5W&H to stay creative—and be open to changing your ways.