I’ve been a fan of Jessica Abel’s work on productivity and creativity for a while now, so it was really exciting to get a chance to interview her about her upcoming book Growing Gills. Read all about her and her book in my new TUBE. Magazine article.
Tag Archives: creativity
Continuing on the theme of jumpstarting one’s creativity with great and unnecessary side projects, let’s talk about Story A Day. Story A Day is a challenge, often called the Nanowrimo of short stories, that dares you to start and finish one story everyday of May (and sometimes September). There are no word limits on the stories and no pressure to publish them. These kinds of challenges are great for loosening up your writing, getting away from the editorial voices in your head, and exploring some of the ideas simmering in the back of your head. Additionally, founder Julie Duffy provides prompts before and during May to keep your ideas flowing. Interested? Me too. Find out all about it here.
I stumbled upon Story A Day through DIY MFA founder Gabriela Pereira’s podcast interview with Duffy. DIY MFA is another great way to jumpstart creativity, by as the name suggests, giving yourself a Do It Yourself Masters of Fine Arts. The self-driven program focuses on this simple equation: Writing + Reading + Community = MFA. It gives writers the building blocks to educate themselves the way they would be in a MFA program, but for free! It’s great if you have good self-discipline or want to direct your writing life with more purpose. I have been trying it for myself and so far I am enjoying reshaping my life to be more constructive for my writing career. It has been especially great for helping me read more around the genre I’m writing in (sci-fi), see what the competition is up to, figure out how I measure up, and what I can compare my book to when I’m ready to query agents. Conversely, Pereira’s advice to read short story anthologies in order to study aspects of storytelling in a more condensed format has gotten me to read more broadly. In all, it’s a great program and writers at any level can gain a lot from it. Learn more here.
I’m going to give Story A Day a whirl as well (wish me luck) and I would love to hear advice from anyone who has done it before as well as anyone who plans to do it this May so drop me a line in the comments below.
I have been in the midst of editing. Editing my work, articles for TUBE., and projects for friends and family. There’s a certain rigid mindset necessary for that kind of work. You have to be able to cut and comment with enough certainty to convince the other person (or yourself) that you are right, that your advice is worth taking. This can be exhausting, especially if you don’t allow yourself to exercise your creative side like I had been. Not to say that editing isn’t creative, but it lacks that spontaneous burst of energy and life that pure creation has.
This is where the beauty of side projects and unnecessary projects comes in. They’re just that, unnecessary. They are no-strings love affairs you can drop the moment the frenzied passion leaves you cold, only to be picked up when you feel the warmth of ideas twitching in your fingers. For me this manifested in a couple hours of manic creation, leaving me a yet-unfinished art piece and paint smeared halfway up my wrists.
Elizabeth Gilbert compares having a creative mind to owning a hyperactive border collie in her article ‘Fear is Boring, and Other Tips For Living A Creative Life.‘ “You have to give it something to do or it will find something to do, and you will not like the thing it finds to do.” I have found this to be true, especially lately as I am waiting for my beta readers to finish tearing open the plot holes in my novel. There’s a definite anxiety to knowing someone is probably (hopefully) reading my book today, and I have no idea what they’re thinking.
To combat this further, I took Visual Verse‘s challenge again this month and came up with a little piece called ‘She.‘ The challenge is one image, one hour, 50-500 words, any style or genre. It’s a great free-writing prompt. I’ve also started the preliminaries on the sequel to my novel. I may never finish the art piece I created in my manic moment and ‘She’ may never see the light of day past Visual Verse’s anthology, but it doesn’t matter because they were magnificent releases with lovely memories and have cleared the way for long term, more important love affairs.
So don’t be afraid to start something just because it doesn’t seem like long-term material, you never know where a great side project might take you. Have a fun side project story? Share it in the comments. I’d love to hear it!
Perspective is something that can be elusive when we need it most. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own problems or even everyday routines and forget to look past our own noses. Here are a few different methods of taking a step back and looking at life from another angle.
Sometimes the best way to get a bit of perspective is to take ourselves out of our normal routine. This can be as complicated as taking off to travel the world or as simple as allowing yourself an actual day off to be sick. Author Sheila Heti has high praise for the latter in her Letter of Recommendation for the New York Times. Her essay expounds on the benefits of lying in bed and letting “all the thoughts of the last few months, all your experiences and memories, float up in your head.” She advocates it as a time to take stock and reflect on your place in life.
If you’re looking for an alternate way to solve a problem with a project, try procrastinating. I have found putting things on the back burner can help them simmer away and mature into something better. In fact, I have been putting off writing this post for almost exactly a month. But don’t take my word for it, Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania has written a very convincing piece on the matter called ‘Why I Taught Myself To Procrastinate.’ “When you procrastinate,” Grant says, “you’re more likely to let your mind wander. That gives you a better chance of stumbling onto the unusual and spotting unexpected patterns.”
Then again, maybe procrastination isn’t your problem, maybe you have too much distance from your projects and too many ideas you’re procrastinating on. Graphic novel author and productivity guru Jessica Abel calls this “idea debt” in her piece ‘Imagining Your Future Projects Is Holding You Back.’ She defines it as “when you spend too much time picturing what a project is going to be like, too much time thinking about how awesome it will be to have this thing done and in the world, too much time imagining how cool you will look, how in demand you’ll be, how much money you’ll make. And way too little time actually making the thing.” Abel suggests breaking down your project into doable steps and doing said steps. So come down to earth, make a plan, and do it!
Note: I found ‘Why I Taught Myself To Procrastinate’ and ‘Imagining Your Future Projects Is Holding You Back’ through Austin Kleon‘s newsletter.
Have any inspiration or advice? Share it below!