6 Ways to Be a More Creative Writer

Michael Loren

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For the first 30 years of my life, I didn’t think of myself as a creative person. Even though I was earning a good living as a performing artist, I considered myself an “interpreter” of other people’s work. I sang the songs other people wrote and I danced the steps other people created. Oh, how wrong I was.

The truth is that everyone is, in some way, a creative person. If you’re a writer, you probably aren’t creating new words on a regular basis. This could be construed as being an “interpreter” rather than a creator.

Similarly, many people don’t consider themselves creative because they don’t believe that they have any new ideas to share. The good news is that practically nobody has new ideas to share. Creativity comes when you put your personal lens onto an idea. Whether you try to be creative or not, you inherently are — because your personal experience, your personal word choice, and the way you interpret any idea are. . . creative.

Think of your personal take on any idea as your own language. There are millions of readers in the world. Heck, there are millions of readers just in New York City. Not every person will relate to every author and not every reader will connect with the unique language of every writer. But if you write your own stories with your own personal takes, there will inevitably be someone out there that will relate to you. And, potentially, that someone’s life will be changed by your words. Now, that, my friends, is creativity.

So, first and foremost, you should consider yourself to be a creative person. Second, though, there are a few surefire ways to ensure that you are effectively cultivating all of your creativity. If you are starting on a new writing journey, I highly recommend these six habits to best hone your creativity and create articles that will change the lives and perspectives of your readers.

1. Joyously create crap

We all create and then immediately judge. I have news for you — the stuff you create is likely not crap. Worst-case scenario, anything you create is the first draft. If there is an idea in your brain that comes out through your fingers onto the screen, it is valid in one way or another.

And, much like other things in life, content creation begets more content creation. The more you write, the more you will want to write and the more you will have written.

So many of us get stuck behind perfection. If you let yourself create junk, if you release the ideal of perfection, you will be able to give yourself the freedom to simply create for creation’s sake.

As humans, the truth is that we don’t relate to things that are perfect anyway. Readers relate to the humanity of the writers we read. We relate to the fallibility of other people and connect them to the struggles that we can see in ourselves. If we didn’t, we would relate to robots more than humans. Humanity, imperfection, is what connects us.

Creating is creating. If you judge any of your work as it’s being created (junk or masterpiece alike), you get in the way of the creation process as a whole. There will be time to judge your work, but that’s after you have allowed yourself to create it. If you think, “This is junk, this is not good,” the whole time you’re writing, you are potentially getting in the way of the creation process. Write first. Judge later.

2. You don’t have to create something brand new

One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain:

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.”

The idea that you would need to come up with a new idea for every article you write is absurd. Of the billions of people on planet Earth, it is highly likely that someone has thought of any given idea already. The moment you stop forcing yourself to create new ideas, you open yourself up to the prospect of creating new connections to those ideas.

For instance, I wrote an article entitled 3 Things my Roomba Taught Me about Being an Entrepreneur. Were these three ideas new? Nope. Not remotely. Was likening entrepreneurship to a Roomba a new connection? Maybe. Probably not. Was my personal perspective on how a Roomba relates to entrepreneurship original because it was seen through the lens of my personal experience? Absolutely.

If you connect any idea to your life experience and/or create a new way for your readers to view an old idea, you are creating a piece of writing that is worthy of being read. You can literally look around the room and connect your current thoughts or personal expertise to an object, a feeling, a theory, or . . . the weather.

Humans connect through storytelling. The metaphor is alive, well, and not going anywhere soon. It’s one thing to tell someone that they need to, for instance, sleep more. It’s a whole other thing to tell them about your personal experiences with getting a better night’s sleep. It’s also a whole other thing to create a parallel between sleeping well and putting gas in a car. You never know when the one connection you make could change the life of a reader.

3. Find new connections to ordinary things

As you begin to look for new ideas, you will realize that story ideas are everywhere. There is a connection between your shirt and your coffee consumption. There is a connection between what you learned as a child and the constructs of society. There is a connection between balloons and positivity. The key to finding these connections is keeping your eyes and your mind open to possibilities.

Creativity can strike at any time, but you must be open to it. You can find story ideas in the oddest of places, but if your brain isn’t tuned in to the creative story idea radio station, those ideas disappear into the ether. The best way to find connections is to, first, keep your eyes, ears, noses, and minds open to even the oddest possibilities. Second, though, it’s important to be able to catch those fleeting ideas before they float past your consciousness.

I keep a small notebook by my side at all times and I quickly jot down any idea (crazy or not) as it comes into my head. Sure, not all of these ideas will become viral articles, but there are two benefits of writing these connections down. First, it creates a well of possibilities for your future articles. Second, it gets all of your old ideas out of your brain and leaves it clear to welcome new ones.

4. Keep the creativity train rolling

This point goes back to the idea that creativity begets creativity. Also, nothing you create is junk. If you consistently create, your mind will create what we see as a creative habit. First, though, you have to set the habit up for success.

I recommend setting aside a time every day (or every other day) during which you will create consistently. Set a timer or put it in your calendar as a date with the gods of creation. Whatever you need to do to sit down regularly to write something new . . . do it.

Contrary to popular belief, creativity doesn’t usually happen on a whim. Sure, it does sometimes. You immediately get an idea for an article, you flip open your laptop, and you write for an hour or two until it’s done. Voila! Creativity has struck. However, if you want to do this more often, you are going to need to schedule it. This also means that there are times that you will sit down to be creative where you . . . don’t feel so creative.

It’s akin to taking a college class. If you take one class, you will learn a few things, but you won’t get a master's or a Ph.D. If you don’t take the class, however, you know for sure you won’t ever get a degree. Creating a creativity habit is, in essence, taking one class after another. One day, you’ll get your accolades. However, if you never sit down and allow the gods of creativity to grace your computer, you know you’ll never earn your coveted degree.

Sometimes, you will need to force yourself to create. This is part of the discipline that is required to be a writer and/or content creator. If you’re not willing to force yourself to create, you will miss out on some of the things that you will create after you push past your discomfort. If you open yourself up to making a commitment to creating consistently, you will eventually get to where you want to go.

5. Your new best friend is constraints

A constraint is a limitation or restriction that is placed upon a process or project. So, for instance, an outfit constraint might be that I could only dress in neutral-colored clothes. Or, an artistic constraint might be that the artist could only use recycled materials and paint. While this may seem like a creativity-limiting exercise, I have found that it helps get my creative juices flowing.

As Barry Schwartz writes in The Paradox of Choice, “Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.” So, cutting the number of creative possibilities down from unlimited to (for instance) 20 frees our brain from the overwhelm of too many choices.

Creativity is an individual process, but you can use constraints to find new ways to share your creativity with the world. By introducing different types of constraints like time constraints, resource constraints, and topic constraints (or maybe even all three!), you can catapult yourself to take a step outside of the box in ways you might not have thought to be possible.

In the words of the great composer Igor Stravinsky, “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.”

6. The more you do something, the better you get at doing it

Like most other things in life, the more you write, the better you will become at writing. If you ask Malcolm Gladwell, I’m sure he will let you know that if you put in 10,000 hours of writing, you will be a writing master. Maybe you don’t want to be a master writer. That’s great. So, you put in 20,000 hours of writing and you’re simply a good writer. The fact of the matter is, the more you do it, the better you will become.

Productivity, as far as writing is concerned, is essentially compounding. Yes, if you write 3,000 words per day, you are productive. You have likely written about 3 articles and you can publish them and make a little dough. While that is great, there is another aspect of writing that is underestimated. If you have written those three articles, you have become a better writer while you wrote them.

So, not only are you writing to write words on the page, in writing, you are also practicing writing. And we all know what happens when we practice things — we get better at them and we become more efficient at them. So, productivity when it comes to writing is not simply producing articles out of the article factory, it improves the article factory with every bit of writing produced. With every article you write, you become more efficient and more prolific.

And that newfound knowledge and improved skill folds itself over into your next piece of writing. You will get better every time. In short, the more productive you are, the more productive you become.

Additionally, as we stated before, your idea is its own special creation. Nobody else can create a piece of writing that will be exactly like your own. You never know, the one thing you write today may alter the trajectory of another person’s life forever. I encourage you to share your ideas with the world and take the opportunity to make the world a better place.

Only you can create the special pieces of writing that you were put on this planet to create. If you can cultivate these six habits to boost your creativity, you can effectively share your message with the world and perhaps create a butterfly effect that might outlast your misgivings. Every person is creative in their own way. Taking the time to encourage and nourish your creativity may produce a larger positive effect than you may be able to imagine.

Give yourself that opportunity.

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Professional writer and journalist with concentration in data analysis. I specialize in interpreting data to give you unbiased, understandable information related to the state of California.

Los Angeles, CA
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