I have this friend who makes the best recommendations. The best true crime podcasts, the creepiest movies, the most affordable skincare dupes and perhaps most importantly the finest spoof Instagram accounts… the scope of her knowledge knows no bounds but yet always spot on.
She got me onto Lady Grey tea over a year ago and now I drink it daily. I didn’t know this tea EXISTED and now I wake up in the middle of the night and panic at the thought of running out (you can only find it in the big supermarkets or on Amazon, you won’t find it in your local shop like you would regular tea bags) ANYWAY….. I bring up this magnificent tea choice for reasons that will become clear, I promise.
I’m writing this blog post to share everything, or at least some of the things, that I know about creativity
Because the last twelve months have been a creative headfuck for most writers I know. People who normally have all day to themselves have suddenly lost all that time to homeschooling. Those who thrive in the hustle and bustle of their local cafe feel stifled by their own four walls. We’ve had our worlds turned upside down and routines are out of whack. And while I would never make anyone feel bad about lacking creativity, I think we can all learn to cultivate it in our daily lives. So here’s my two cents…
1. Your environment matters
I listened to a podcast recently where bestselling author Matt Haig revealed that he chooses to work on his sofa instead of a perfectly good desk. My intense repulsion towards this image made me realise how important my setup is as a writer. I just assumed that like me, everyone else was – call me crazy – working at a desk.
But it turns out I’m wrong. Some people write in bed, others on trains and planes. I must admit, I do miss the weird coworking vibe that came from settling into Cafe Nero pre-pandemic, so my setting definitely affects my mental state.
But having an ideal setup, whatever that means to you, doesn’t mean it’s your only setup. Being forced to sit at my desk with no alternative (other than the bed) has taken me out of my head. It’s made me realise that maybe I was travelling to different locations as a procrastination technique and not necessarily for creativity’s sake. But I do stand by the notion that desks are inherently better than beds purely because of the back pain that comes from hunching over a laptop for too many years. You’ve been warned.
2. Focusing on the outcome affects your mindset
And not necessarily in a good way. Writers (and particularly content creators) are often told to think about the audience. To write in a way that targets the ideal reader.
This makes sense of course. If you’re explaining quantum physics to a teenager you’ll need to use language that they’ll understand otherwise the writing will read like wet spaghetti, nothing will stick. Yes, it’s wise to think about who will read your work and how they’ll interpret your words, but what if you wrote without thinking about anyone at all? How much more freedom would you have in your work if you wrote like no one would ever read it? Would you write more fearlessly? Approach subjects out of your comfort zone? Try fiction instead of personal essays? Dabble in a new genre?
Writing for other people serves a function. It provides value. But not all writing needs to be for other people. Value can be the art itself and when you create from a place of selfishness you often create your best art. Because it’s work that you’re intensely passionate about.
3. You’ve been sold a lie about creativity
When you signed up to be a writer, did you imagine sitting in a log cabin, with a stunning view, furiously typing out a bestselling novel? The reality is that a lot of writers have humble beginnings and continue to work in quiet ways.
As part of my Inspire, Write, Repeat course I’ve been getting up early one day a week to write as part of a group. This kind of accountability is not glamorous, but it’s an absolute necessity for people like me who will always find something else to do other than writing. We need to find ways to show up and write regularly, and it can be a struggle. I don’t feel good about everything I write. I don’t feel excited at the prospect of a blank page. I dread writing a lot of the time, but I also know that I love it once I get going. So I commit to doing it repeatedly until I create something I’m happy with.
Want to learn the basics of creative writing from a published author? I got you.
4. Consistency does (kind of) matter
I hate this idea that we need to sit down and write every day. I have anxiety and depression, so the idea of doing anything consistently on a long term basis feels inconceivable to me. My moods are erratic and my energy levels are so unpredictable that I need downtime and days off to prioritise my wellbeing.
So here’s the secret: consistency doesn’t necessarily mean writing at the same time every single day. Consistency means something different to everyone. It might mean writing a few times a week when you feel the urge.
Sometimes I write early in the morning, but most of the time I do it in the evenings or on a Sunday afternoon. I just chip away at my projects when I feel drawn to the page (unless I’m on a crazy deadline and then all my plans go out the window of course) and I’ve managed to build a successful business and write two books this way, so if I’m wrong I don’t wanna be right.
5. We are brilliant at talking ourselves out of creative work
I hate doing housework, so I know I’m procrastinating when I find myself dusting the skirting boards instead of opening up my laptop. The thing about being creative is that it feels vulnerable because it forces us to look inwards and really examine what’s there. We put an element of ourselves on the page and then show it to other people, risking criticism, failure, humiliation. So is it any wonder we put off doing it? Forgive yourself for finding writing scary, but don’t let it put you off. When you let your guard down you might just find what you’re looking for.
6. Stop the information overload
Ok hear me out, but one of the lessons I’ve learned in the last twelve months is that consuming is not the same as creating. I’m committed to honing my craft as a writer, so I’ve read a lot of books on the subject. Here are my recommendations (affiliate link). But there comes a time when you need to press pause on learning about writing from other people and learn from actually doing the writing itself.
I was gifted a membership to Masterclass last year and it’s been amazing to watch tutorials from the world’s best authors, screenwriters and business people. But I can’t help but wonder how spending upwards of ten hours a week listening to the greats compares to spending the same amount of time writing words on the page.
Which option would make me a better writer? Which option would get me closer to my goals? Which option would teach me more about my capabilities as a writer? I think we both know the answer.
7. Tea and toast will make you a better writer
There’s no scientific proof to back this up but just believe me, it works. Because tea and toast means a break. Tea and toast means fueling yourself. Tea and toast means taking a step away before resting and going in with a fresh pair of eyes. Taking a moment to yourself amidst a creative project is like coming up for air, giving yourself a chance to get the energy you need to push on, to create more, to create better.
Seriously, tea and toast….and yes obviously I’m saying Lady Grey tea makes you marginally more creative than regular tea but thems just the facts.
Need some accountabilty? Join my online writing workshop on January 16th!