The holidays are the perfect time for working on yourself and starting all those activities you've been putting off all year. Bought a journal in June? Haven't opened it yet?
In a perfect world, there would be a pill that we could take each day to boost our creativity, hone our focus, and get shit done! Sadly, life isn’t this simple!
Instead, most of the time, we feel like we're surrounded by creative and productive people, but our own muse has gone missing (sound familiar?). It’s not true, of course. Creativity lives within each one of us, we just have to draw it out.
So, how can you foster your creative and productive side? By challenging your brain with these short, writing tasks. And what better time to start, than the Christmas holidays?! While you're tucked up under a rug next to a fire or parked under a breezy umbrella by the beach, grab your journal and try some of these prompts to get the juices flowing...
When you’re completely stuck with no idea how to get started, free-writing is a perfect solution. And it’s exactly what it sounds like. When you free-write, there are no rules, goals, or preconceptions. All you need is a blank page in your journal, a pen, and 15 minutes. Then, just write freely.
When free-writing, you can write about as many random topics as you want. You don’t even have to stay on subject. Spend a few minutes describing your scenery and then start talking about your family or what frustrates you at the office. The process trains your brain to tap into the words inside your head and gives them a place to live within your journal. Some of my free-writing entries have been responsible for my best ideas.
Copy a Passage
Sometimes, it just feels impossible to come up with any idea. When that happens, it’s okay to copy someone else. Start by pulling out your favourite book, blog, or magazine article. Then, it’s time to turn off your brain. When copying, there’s no room for analysing, self-depreciating, or hero-worshiping. Just write out the words in your journal and, when you’re done, sit back and take a look at what you’ve written.
The purpose of this exercise is to step into someone else’s skilled writing shoes for a moment and to see what you can learn. Study the passage you’ve just written and see if there are any techniques that you love or hate. Did it unlock any secrets for you? The point isn’t to plagiarise but to gain a fresh perspective.
Choose a Prompt
There’s no shame in writing from a prompt. Once in a while, when I’m feeling stuck, I start writing a story that begins, “On a dark and stormy night…” It’s cliché. It’s silly. And it always works. Sometimes all it takes to boost your creativity is to have something or someone else start the process.
Prompts can come from anywhere. This website will randomly generate first lines, random jobs, exercises, and more. You can even find prompts in your own life; write a story based on your experience on holiday or a day at the office. Prompts don’t have to be outrageously creative. They just have to give your brain a shove in the right direction.
Make a List
When you don’t feel like writing, try making a list instead. Lists are easy. We make lists all day, every day. Lists help you get thoughts out of your head and onto paper. And they can be related to anything. Write a list of things you need at the grocery store. List out the daily tasks you have to do at work. You can even write lists related to life goals for 2017.
A different type of list that can really help boost your creativity is a word association list. It’s simple to start. Simply write down one word and then write down another word that the first word brings to mind. Eventually, this will create a chain of single words or phrases that are all somehow related. For example, journal, writing, pen, desk, fireplace, slippers, comfortable chair, rainy night, howling wind, creeping animals, hooting owl, mystery, murder, key…
Use a Different POV
Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to get outside of your own head. I know that many times the reason I can’t think of anything new is because I’m too lost inside my own head. So, when I want a break, I try writing from someone else’s point of view. And it’s not as hard as you think.
Take a problem. For example: “How to deal with the refugees in Europe.” Then, starting writing the solution from someone else’s point of view. You can get whacky by writing from Darth Vader’s point of view or bring it a little closer to home by writing from your mother’s perspective or from the viewpoint of your favourite actress. This lets you step back from the situation and see it from a different perspective.
There are literally thousands of ways to challenge your brain and boost your creativity and productivity. Try one of our activities above or create your own and get started. The great part about all of these writing exercises is that all you need is a journal, a pen, and a few free minutes each day. By the time the new year rolls around, you will feel more productive, creative and organised for 2017! Bring it on!
- JID x