Creativity

Rituals, Routines, & Real-Talk for Getting Inspired.

Inspiration can seem like a random occurrence. An act of fate. You might wonder why some people seem to be brimming over with ideas all of the time, while you can never figure out what to write, paint, [insert your creative passion here]. And when your job or your passion project depends on your creative output, a lack of inspiration feel fatal. Luckily science (and personal experience!) has shown that you can jump start your inspiration and become a more creative person over time.

Here's how you can get started.

Rituals

When I wrote about creating a daily writing routine, I talked about choosing rituals that get you in a writing mindset. You can also use rituals to trigger your creativity. Do you find that you have your best ideas when you're out for a walk or taking a shower? That's because most of the time when our brain makes new connections, it happens subconsciously. So the next time you're struggling with a challenge or need to come up with a new idea, spend a few minutes meditating on what it is you need to figure out and then do something else. Dance to your favourite song. Walk in a beautiful park. Go to an art gallery. Read something completely unrelated. Phone a friend. Play dress up. Draw a picture. Write a poem. Experiment and see what rituals are the best creativity triggers for you.

Routine

In fact, an anti-routine has been shown to be an important ingredient for inspiration. Changing your routine regularly stops your mind from going on autopilot. Providing new sensory inputs by trying new things or doing something in a different way, will trigger your mind to think more creatively. But there are some things that, when done regularly, will turn you into a prolific idea machine. Borrow a page from James Altucher and create a list of 10 new ideas everyday. Consume a wide variety of culture - not just stuff related to your field or things you easily understand. Read, watch, and look at diverse sources of material. And always carry a notebook to write your ideas down right away. Ideas are tricky things and they'll vanish quickly if you don't do something with them.

Real Talk

Inspiration happens when you do the work. When you sit down every day and put your hands on the keyboard, pick up the paintbrush, or practice your moves - whatever it is that you do. It's natural that your ideas will be bad at first. Our brains are lazy and at first push they're basically regurgitating memories. So we need to stick with it. Push through to the slightly better ideas and the even better ones after those to the completely genius strokes of inspiration that make our spines tingle with our excitement. It's why we need to write, re-write, edit, and then re-write again. Saying that you're not creative or don't have any ideas is a cop out. Do the work and the ideas will come to you.

What do you when you're feeling uninspired? I'd love to hear!

How to Create a Daily Writing Practice.

“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” – Steven Pressfield

I really enjoyed sharing my tips for budding writers and I was glad to hear that many of you found them helpful.

DOWNLOAD THE DAILY WRITING PLANNER

I've created worksheets that will make figuring out how to create a daily writing practice that keeps you motivated and inspired super duper easy. Click below to download them.

It can feel daunting - this dream of becoming a writer. But like with anything, the trick is to just start and then keep at it.

If you want to be inspired, have better ideas, improve your writing, or “find” your voice, you need to write everyday.

It really is that simple.

There’s no magic formula or course you can take that will make you a writer. Of course reading a lot, learning the tricks of the trade, and getting critical feedback will push you further. But the simple act of writing day in and day out is how you'll finish your projects. It’s what will make you a writer.

Creating a daily writing practice is what’s allowed me to amp up this blog, create my ecourse, and get back on track with finishing my ebook. If you're setting out to create your own daily writing practice, here are my suggestions.

Choose a project. Rather than facing a completely blank screen, set yourself a task. Participants in NaNoWriMo challenge themselves to write a novel in a month. Perhaps you want to do morning pages to get the creative juices flowing, write a magazine article each week, or try your hand at poetry. Knowing what you’ve set out to accomplish will help keep you motivated.

Carve out time. For me, I’ve set aside 30 minutes each day to work on my ebook – which is in addition to all of the other writing I do. Depending on your project, you might want to set yourself a daily word or page count. But it’s essential to figure out where this time will fit into your day. Consistency is key.

Determine the where. I’m happiest writing at my desk or curled up in my favourite café. Either way, a mug of tea is always close at hand. I’ve learned to write wherever I am, whether it’s typing away over my lunch break or stealing some time to work between finishing work and meeting up with friends because that's what it takes. But as much as possible, I write where I feel most inspired. Xandra feels most like a writer in coffee shops and Rebecca wrote most of her book in the rose garden near her house. Where do you feel most writerly? And if the sidewalk cafes of Paris are calling you but you're bound to the practicality of life amidst the 9-5, figure out how you can infuse a bit of Parisian chic into your writing routine - buy a croissant to nibble while you type or wear your favourite beret as you scribble.

Create a ritual. Steven Pressfield recites a prayer from Odysseus before he sits down to write. When I’m at my desk, I smudge myself with sage and light a candle. These rituals bring a sense of intention to the writing practice. They note a beginning and mark the time as sacred. Your ritual might be as simple as disconnecting the WiFi to get rid of distractions, but I encourage you to find something that brings purpose to your practice.

I’d love to know: do you have any thoughts on starting a daily writing practice? What projects are you working on right now?

DOWNLOAD THE DAILY WRITING PLANNER

I've created worksheets that will make figuring out how to create a daily writing practice that keeps you motivated and inspired super duper easy. Click below to download them.

Writers Gonna Write.

writers-gonna-write

After talking about blogging and personal transformation, I dedicated the second half of my talk at the Nuffnang Useful + Beautiful Workshop to offering some advice for aspiring writers. I no longer work full-time as a freelance writer. Monday - Friday I manage the marketing and communications of a local East London charity, while writing and blogging on the side.

When I moved to the UK knowing no one, I was really craving the community and companionship of a 9-5 job (I know, I could hardly believe it myself). I'd been freelance writing for about a year but all of my clients were in Canada, so the exchange rate was making it really difficult to get by on my earnings. The UK freelance market looked really healthy, but I had no network here at that point. I knew that getting a full-time job was the best way to relieve my financial stress, start building a network, and find the community I was craving.

But I know freelance writing is something many people aspire to - whether for their career or a passion project. My experience editing magazines and working as a writer have given me a lot of insight into the current publishing world, so today I wanted to share some tips if you’re just getting started.

“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” - Steven Pressfield

For anyone pursuing a creative career or dreaming of being an artist, I recommend reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Read it, reread it, and then read it again. It's that good.

The simple fact is writers write. Probably everyday. There are so many reasons why you might want to write - to make a living, to establish yourself as an expert, or because you have thoughts you can't keep to yourself. But you'll never move forward by just talking or thinking about writing. You need to set some goals, create a daily writing practice, and get to it.

Admittedly it can be difficult to know where to begin when your dream is to see your name in print, share your unique wisdom through your favourite publications, and start making a buck from your words. Here's my advice.

Defining your niche

Just like a good blog has a niche, so should a writer. It’s important to think about exactly what kind of writing you want to do and for what audience. Establishing your niche will help you gain credibility and connect with the right readers, while also keeping you focused. What do you want to achieve with your writing? What do you want to be known for? Start asking yourself what you’re already an expert on or have valuable experience in. Whether it's traveling luxuriously on a budget or how to make the perfect lemon meringue pie, what are three things you know that most of your friends probably don't? Who would this information help? Keep drilling down until you've defined a clear niche that you feel excited about.

Building a portfolio

You don’t have to be a published author to start building a portfolio, otherwise how would any of us get started? If you blog and your writing niche is going to be similar to your blogging niche, start there. Ask yourself, what are the three blog posts you’re most proud of? Where are the gaps in your portfolio? Start creating content to fill them in. If you’re going to be writing about a topic that doesn’t fit with your blog, look for sites you could guest post on before you start pitching to bigger publications.

Perfecting your pitches

Pitching can be a peculiar and daunting beast until you get the hang of it, so set a goal to pitch a different publication each week or month (whatever feels good for you). When you go about writing your pitch, be sure to pitch a story, not just a subject you want to write on. There needs to be a “so what” - why is this going to be important to their readers? This is the difference between writing about vegan food and writing an article on "How to Transition to a Vegan Diet in 30 Days."

Editors are busy and get a lot of email, so try to keep the pitch to 300 words or less.

Make sure you explain why you’re the right person to write this particular article - perhaps it's because of your personal connections (someone you know that you could interview), education, first-hand experience, or something else that gives you a unique angle on the subject.

Find out the name of the editor and address them by name. You likely want to pitch to a subeditor rather than the editor-in-chief. You can find this information on their masthead, website, or through some creative googling.

Write the pitch in the tone of voice you intend to write the article in to give the editor a taste of your style and link to 2 or 3 articles or blog posts you have written that are relevant to the pitch.

If you're still feeling lost or intimidated, I'd recommend taking Grace Bello's How to Write a Killer Magazine Pitch class on SkillShare.

Knowing your worth

How much you get paid will vary greatly by the type of article you’re writing, your experience level, and the budget of the publication. Unfortunately there are many places who will take advantage of people willing to write for free. When you’re first building a portfolio, you might want to do some writing for free but I would be selective about the publications- make sure they're going to help build your credibility and provide exposure that is valuable for you. Eventually, you’ll need to decide what you’re worth and stick to your guns and this will mean saying no to writing opportunities sometimes. To get a clearer on what you should charge for an article, have open conversations with friends in the industry about what you're all being paid; I've found this to be really valuable in terms of blogging and it helps you avoid being taken advantage of.

Find an accountability partners

Whether you're writing your first book or creating a daily writing practice, finding an accountability partner is valuable for bloggers and budding writers as we don’t have bosses or coworkers to help keep us on track. Find someone with similar goals who you can check in with regularly. My friend Xandra and I email each other daily with a list of blogging tasks we're going to accomplish that day. It's great knowing someone else is expecting you to get the work done and to have someone to bounce ideas off of.

These strategies helped me while I was getting my first work as a writer, but ultimately you'll find your own way through research, trial and error, figuring out what feels good for you and, of course, writing.

Do you have any particular questions about writing you'd like me to address? If you're already working as a writer, what tips would you add to this list?

 

Top photograph by Shell De Mar.