May 152013
 

My Creativity Vitamin has traveled to another blog today. (Click on the image above or HERE to go to the post.) I know I get wanderlust and the itch to travel when spring rolls around. It seems my writing has, too.

You can find your dose of Creativity Vitamin at the fabulous Friday Flash Dot Org blog today. While you’re there have a look around. If you are interested in flash fiction or just looking to connect with some fellow writers, there is a great community built around Friday Flash. Of course, there is lots of great writing, too!

 May 15, 2013  Posted by  Creativity Vitamins Tags:  4 Responses »
May 062013
 

How many times have you seen the advice to take a walk when you need some creative inspiration? It’s a common “device” used by many writers and artists. While your body is occupied getting some much-needed exercise your brain is free to play with plots, color combinations or choosing the right fiber to knit the new scarf with. Exercise even improves your brain health. Check out this article on that subject from The New York Times.

I’m all for keeping my brain happy and healthy, but knowing how good exercise is for my entire body doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. It does involve putting down the laptop, getting up from the desk, setting aside a project, etc. and moving. And if you don’t move often, there will be some degree of pain added to that equation. Even the low-stress, and loved by many writers and artists,  exercise of walking can bring about some uncomfortable results – especially when you first start doing it. Blisters, sore muscles, bug bites, sunburn – I know I’ve gotten all of those things from walks in the park. For me, the key to sticking with an exercise routine is constantly reminding myself that the benefits outweigh the negatives. I write “Exercise” in my date book and try to incorporate exercising into my daily routine, so it becomes a habit like brushing my teeth or cooking dinner.

Another key to sticking with exercise is finding a routine that works for you. I am not into exercising in public, so classes are not my thing. Walking the dog at the park is a fine way to fit in some cardio, but that involves getting dressed in socially acceptable clothes (I am a writer. Sweat pants and raggedy t-shirts are my standard uniform.) and then driving to the park. It takes times and sometimes I’m not willing to stop writing that long. So, recently, I’ve turned to exercise “breaks”. Instead of getting all of my exercise done in one, thirty-minute time slot I’ve been doing several short routines. Whenever my brain is feeling sluggish or my shoulders are aching from being hunched over my keyboard, I get up and do a burst of exercise. I often do free video routines that I’ve found on YouTube and I love them. In fact, I’ve found that many of the exercises are double or triple-duty, meaning they work several muscle groups at the same time. I’ve noticed that my heart rate is higher and I sweat more (which is a good thing…really) after doing these short routines than when I do a longer, less intense routine.

Here is a list of 10-minute routines I found on the Fitness magazine website. We have a Wii video game system and I can broadcast YouTube videos on my television through the Wii, so it’s just like watching a fitness DVD. There are some fabulous workout videos on YouTube, something I had never really looked into before because I had to watch the videos on my computer. If you’re interested, here is a link to my 10-15 Minute Workouts playlist on YouTube. I have close to 60 different videos listed there and I add more as I discover them. By the way, my favorite videos are by Jessica Smith. She even has a playlist off all of the 10-minute workouts she has produced. By the way, I’m not affiliated with her, I just love her workout routines!

Do you think exercise improves your creativity? What is your favorite form of exercise?

 

Apr 172013
 

I have noticed quite a few comments about making lists on my Creativity Vitamin series. Many of us use lists to keep organized or prevent forgetting things. Did you know they can also help keep your creativity levels from waning?

Have you ever been working on a project and found yourself thinking about half a dozen other things? You need to call the dentist, remember to buy milk and get the dog an appointment at the groomer. Those little thoughts distract you from your creative project…and then they start multiplying. Often you’ll soon find yourself wandering away to chase around all of the other things you need to do.

One way to ease the landslide of distracting thoughts is to write them down. Make a list. I tend to write those kinds of things down in my date book, but anything will do – from sticky notes to an iPhone app. I’m willing to bet nothing needs to be done right away. Once you’ve written down or scheduled the task, try to let it go. Erase it from your mind. It’s written down, so there is no worry of forgetting it. Free up that brain space for your creativity again.

Sometimes, those distracting thoughts aren’t tasks, but instead are forms of self-criticism. A squirrel could draw better than this. This story is as stinky as a pile of chicken droppings. Nobody in their right mind would want to buy this! We’ve all been there. The vortex of self-doubt. You can make a list to help with this, too. Write down everything that is bothering you and then…destroy it. Tear it up and flush it down the toilet. Burn it in the fire pit. Crumple it up and slam dunk it into the trash can. As you are writing down the bothersome thoughts concentrate on transferring their negative energy to the page. When the list is gone imagine that the fears and frustrations have magically evaporated. And then go back to your project.

Do you have any other creative uses for lists?

 April 17, 2013  Posted by  Creativity Vitamins Tags: ,  4 Responses »
Apr 112013
 

Do you ever feel like there are so many thoughts swirling in your brain you’ll never be able to concentrate on one? I think many of us feel like that now. There are emails to answer, social media accounts to update, phone calls to return and blog posts to write. Then you have those household chores that need to be done. Many times I have been cooking dinner, unloading the dishwasher and washing laundry all at the same time.

I’ve found that this kind of chronic multitasking has even carried over to my creative life. I’ll be writing, but instead of concentrating wholly on that I will also be thinking about a plot hole I need to fix two chapters back, am carrying on a conversation on Twitter and the dreaded internal critic is telling me everything I’m writing is a stinking pile of horse excrement. In fact, as I’m writing this post I have also been reading new emails, checking Facebook and thinking this post is as convoluted as the Appalachian Mountains. That inner critic, that little voice in our head that makes us second guess ourselves, likes to butt into the creative process with reckless abandon. It’s self-sabotage. We know that, but how do we stop it?

I like to multitask the inner critic into submission. Set that pesky part of your mind to work on a simple, often repetitive, task. Then go back to your creative project and see how much better it flows. I’ve actually been using this method for years without even realizing it. Whenever my writing starts slowing down or I hit a creative wall, I instinctively walk away from my computer and do housework. Vacuuming, unloading or loading the dishwasher, sorting laundry – the kind of tasks I can practically do in my sleep. The magic thing is that the hypercritical devil that was on my shoulder starts concentrating on the minutiae of the chore and leaves the rest of my mind to get itself back on solid creative ground. Pushing the vacuum back and forth, putting silverware into the correct slot, matching socks – there is an almost meditative side to those acts. I also find counting works wonders for me, so I’ll pick up an easy beadwork, knitting or crocheting project. The key to that is it must be easy, stitches you have already mastered or a project that is well underway that you understand completely. You don’t want to frustrate yourself by trying to figure out something complicated. Remember, you’re trying to lull that trouble-causing critic to sleep. If you aren’t into cleaning or crafting you could also try doing things like rearranging your desk, playing a game of solitaire or sorting stray files on your computer into folders.

What kinds of things do you do to quiet your inner critic?

Mar 262013
 

How many times have you gotten a brilliant idea while you were taking a bath or shower? Solving sticky plot problems is often a nice benefit of washing my hair. I’ve lost count of the number of blog posts I’ve seen where other people have mentioned coming up with ideas while they were taking a shower. I’m not sure if there is any scientific evidence about why this type of thing happens, but it often feels rather magical. Like creative muses are attracted to water. Showers and baths are, of course, great ways to coax out your water borne creativity. But there are drier ways to incorporate water into a creative routine.

The sound of running water can be very relaxing. A soothing form of background music while you are creating. Have you ever taken a vacation at a beach and felt yourself relax as soon as you heard the rush of the surf? Sitting within earshot of a beach or bubbling stream would be wonderful, but let’s face it, that isn’t possible for many of us. A fountain is a great alternative. You could put one outside or get a small tabletop model for inside. Since spring is here, fountains will be easy to find in garden centers now. You could even do a bit of research and design your own. There are many instructions for how to do that on the internet.

You can also try drinking water as part of a creative ritual. As you drink the water tell yourself that it is time to create. When you are well-hydrated you think and feel better, too. If the health aspect of this interests you, try researching drinking hot water with lemon (here’s a link to one article) or water mixed with raw apple cider vinegar. I’ve seen people talking about doing these things as a way to cleanse your body and aid in digestion. I have never tried either, so I can’t vouch for the health benefits, but I have seen many people mention that they feel better from regularly doing one or the other.

Do you find water boosts you’re creativity? Please leave a comment and tell me if you use any of these techniques on a regular basis.

 

 

 March 26, 2013  Posted by  Creativity Vitamins Tags: ,  6 Responses »
Mar 212013
 

Take a few minutes to read something before you begin working. No, I don’t mean curl up with a juicy novel, read for hours and never get around to your own project. What I do mean is take 10, 15 or 20 minutes to read something that interests you. Think of it as a creative warm-up for your brain. If you’re afraid you will get sucked in by what you’ve chosen to read you can either set a timer or set a goal of only reading one chapter or section. You don’t want to get distracted, rather the point is to get your mind thinking in a creative way.

You can approach this type of reading in two ways. You can research something you need for your project. Find instructions for how to do a new crochet stitch or read an article on a pivotal World War II battle. Or you can read about a completely different subject. If you are writing a novel you could read about how to grow vegetables in planters on a balcony. If you are a watercolor painter, why not try reading a flash fiction story in a genre you don’t usually read? Play around with different lengths of reading times and different subjects, related or unrelated to your creative project. If you are working, but feel your creative energy waning, try taking a few minute break to read again. It might be the boost you need to get back on track.

If you give this Creative Vitamin a try, please stop back and leave a comment about how it worked for you.

Mar 192013
 

 

For the first 30 years of my life I hated routines. They were boring and I considered them a particularly offensive form of drudgery. When I was a teenager I had to getup much earlier than I ever wanted to so I could get to school and go to the same classes in the same order, over and over. After graduation the reality of getting to work on time, to stay employed, brought about more routines. It wasn’t until I had a baby that I realized how valuable routines were. If I kept my children on a predictable nap and bedtime schedule, along with adding in a soothing bedtime ritual, life was easier for all of us. On days where those schedules got upset, long nights filled with fussy kids were almost always the result.

Routines + Rituals = Good

Chaos + No Structure = Bad

Young children aren’t the only people that can benefit from routines. Adding some routines and rituals into your life before embarking on a creative project can be very beneficial. My kids knew that after they had a bath and story time, it was time to go to bed. A set routine triggered a set response. With my Creative Vitamins series I want to introduce you to some routines that you can try before you sit down to create something, whether it be a story, painting or a new recipe. Pick any that sound interesting, try them for a few days and see what happens. Procrastination and resistance can be the worst enemy of a creative person. If you find a ritual to signal to your creative side that it’s time to work, the procrastination will disappear. The first post in this series is coming soon. I hope you enjoy them!

 March 19, 2013  Posted by  Creativity Vitamins Tags: ,  4 Responses »