Saturday, October 19, 2013

Finding Motivation Off the Beaten Path

Are you having trouble getting started as a writer? Enough has appeared in print, notably Mihaly Csikszentmihaly's Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, to show the link between creativity and the ability (or, I should say, inclination) to make connections between people, places, things, or ideas that the average person overlooks. Most creative geniuses will find ideas anywhere for the subject of their next design, drawing, painting, song, dance, poem, play, story, or essay.

Here's a suggestion for the next time you feel stuck when writing: Just do something unusual. Break the routine. For instance, get off the subway a stop before your destination and walk the rest of the way. Or leave the house for work five minutes earlier than you normally do and drive the local route. Or food-shop at an offbeat time and pass the aisles you generally avoid. Or visit a new website that someone recommended and you've been meaning to check out. In any of these scenarios, focus on your specific subject of creation. It doesn't matter whether the topic is a charcoal drawing about the eighteenth-century slave trade in the Caribbean, a protest song about the recent Congressional deadlock, a modern dance about the drudgery of contemporary life, or an article imagining the uses of technology on elementary education in the next decade. Look for connections between what you are experiencing and your topic. The darkened street that you are walking down may suggest how the lack of electrical power in the eighteenth century required the need for slaves to hold torches for other slaves laboring in fields at night for your drawing on the Caribbean slave trade. Or the overflowing refuse beside the trashcan that you see during your local drive may summon an idea about how government services are declining for your protest song about Congress. Or the repetitive motion of a janitor waxing the supermarket floor may conjure up a unique movement for your dance. Or a photo on the website of a mail carrier lugging a half-empty sack may make you think about how the post office and education-related businesses have lost so much business to the Internet for your piece about technology and education. Be sure to write down those thoughts so that you don't forget them when you return to your easel, keyboard, studio, or desk.

As I said before in this blog, ideas are everywhere. It's up to you to grab them and take them somewhere.