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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Trigger Creativity

So you've done your morning journaling, cleared the sludge from your brain and you're ready to get to work. But nothing stirs. Your imagination is stifled. That part of us that wants to dance, sing, or color out of the lines gets told 'no' a lot during the course of a day. Which is fine, because there's a time and a place for such things. It would be pretty frustrating if the cashier at Walmart was too busy dancing to ring up your purchase (although I'd really like to see this).

Sometimes all we need is a way to signal our creative self that it's time to play, to coax it out into the open. I'm sure you've heard of psychological triggers like Pavlov's dog drooling at the sound of a bell. Your imagination can be trained to respond to a trigger the same way. There are lots of different triggers you can use, so experiment until you find one or a combination of several that work for you. The list is endless, but here are a few ideas that have worked for me:

  • Light a scented candle on your writing desk. Smell is a great trigger. You can use one particular scent to trigger your writing, or have a variety depending on what you're writing about. I have a coffee-scented candle, pine, Yankee Candle's 'Fireside' (yum!), and I also use juniper or piƱon incense, especially when I'm writing outdoor scenes that feature campfires.

  • Particular music. You might listen to the same instrumental background music, or maybe loud rock. I often listen to music with headphones on to drown out the sound of the kids and the tv and the phone ringing. I also listen to a variety of styles of music, depending on what I'm writing. I think of it as my soundtrack and to this day when I put on Jon Bon Jovi's 'Blaze of Glory' I am immediately transported to one particular story.

  • Make a cup of hot tea. I rarely drink hot tea at any other time, but when I sit down to write, especially after a few days away from the keyboard, I fix myself a cup of triple ginseng tea.

  • Solitaire. Use this one with caution and careful discipline. Allow yourself to sit down and play exactly three games of solitaire. Or freecell, or spider, or minesweeper. But after three games, whether you've won them all or lost them all, you must start writing. If you start making deals with yourself that you'll write as soon as you've won three games in a row, remove all the game programs from the computer you use to write. (Don't ask me how I know)

Whatever trigger you use, make it your writing ritual. Don't fix your tea and then sit and play freecell for two hours and never write a word. If tea is your ritual, make the tea, then sit down and make words happen. At first it might take a bit of effort, but before long, as soon as you smell that candle or taste that tea, you'll feel the urge to write.

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