A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks
Refresh Your Creativity
Who’s the most creative person in the world? A four-year-old child, of course! Four-year-olds are known for asking an endless array of questions (“Why is the sky blue?” “How do birds fly?”). But, by the time that four-year-old grows up, she often discovers that her once creative spirit has fizzled.
Simply put, we have been taught to be mentally compliant; we have not been trained to generate a plethora of creative solutions—particularly when faced with writing challenges. In so many ways, our upbringing, education, and workplaces have standardized our thinking.
As most children’s authors will attest, creativity is a constant undercurrent in all our literary efforts. It often determines how successful we are in creating characters, painting scenes, or crafting plots. To assist you in establishing a more creative environment for your own literary efforts, consider these suggestions:
Dismiss the comparison mindset. Stop comparing yourself to Eric Carle, J. K. Rowling, or Kwame Alexander. They are unique in their own way. And, guess what. You are unique in your own way. Everybody has the potential to write creatively. Changing the name of a character is just as creative as penning a Newbery award-winning book. “Small” acts of creativity use the same creative thinking processes as “large” acts. Do “little” creative acts every day and you’ll notice something interesting happening!
Embrace your inner child. Reconnect with your inner child, rediscover your once imaginative attitude, and play as much as you work. Make fun a regular part of your daily routine. Playful children are creative children. Psychologists have proven that the same holds true for adults.
Eliminate the I’m-just-not-creative mindset. Reroute your thinking from “I’m not creative” to “I have the potential to alter my mindset.” Consider this quote from Albert Szent-Györgyi: “Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”
Reduce routines. Make a list of regular habits. For example, you drive a certain route to work each day, you have the same food for lunch each day, or you shop at the same supermarket every week. Once a day, change one of those routines. Drive along a rural road (instead of the highway) on your way to work; have a veggie burger (instead of yogurt) for lunch one day; or shop at an ethnic grocery store (instead of the oversized supermarket). Alter one habit each day and see what happens to your mind. (Trust me, it’s good!)
Shoot more. As famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Instead of looking for “the best answer” to a writing challenge, generate lots of answers. Don’t focus on the one perfect shot, take lots of shots. You’ll increase your chances of scoring a goal.
Be more curious. How does that happen? Why does that work? How could that be improved? Generate lots of questions as you write and reignite the curiosity you had as a child. Try to learn something new every day. Watch a YouTube video, enjoy a Netflix documentary, or listen to a podcast on a topic you know little about. Talk to people from different walks of life. Investigate the unknown and explore the unseen.
Read outside your area. I read an eclectic array of books that encourage me to look at the world through different sets of lenses. I read books about business, archeology, nature, social psychology, science fiction, mysteries, sports, paleontology, humor, philosophy, poetry, and cartography. Reading extensively opens your eyes (and your thinking) to new concepts and new ideas. Broad reading outside your comfort zone often leads to new ways of conceptualizing current writing projects.
These ideas underscore the ultimate reality of creative writing: Creativity is not a passive process; rather, it is an active commitment . . . practiced on a daily basis!
A retired professor of education and resident of York, PA, Tony (www.anthonydfredericks.com) is an award-winning writer of more than 50 children’s books. He is also the author of the forthcoming adult trade book: Fizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ft9qFv98zR0.