So you’re sick of Starbucks and sitting on the sofa only leads to more Netflix. It’s time to jump start those creative juices with a change of location!
- Parks and rec – “Grab your ideas notebook and head outside.” It’s the start of every book, article and listicle on creativity because it’s true. But you don’t have to stick to a bench at your local playground or a walk around your neighborhood. Check out your city’s botanical gardens or zoo. People-watch at a mall or the shopping district. Explore a new neighborhood. Walk the local high school track or cross country trail in the off season. Movement and new sites are the secret here.
- On the metro – Take public transportation. Seriously! As I said in my last post, it’s a great way to meet people. Eavesdrop. Hear their conversational patterns and study their body language. Shamelessly make up backstories if you can’t engage them yourself. Of course, there is common sense involved here. Never give away anything revealing to a stranger you wouldn’t want on a billboard. Also, keep your guard up and a hand or arm touching the openings of all purse/pocket openings. Don’t get distracted in a crowd. But if you have a willing and interested seat partner or a safe view of human interaction, public transport is a great place to put away the earbuds and take your muse for a spin.
- Books of life – Visit some bookstores or your local library. Don’t just sit in the café. Take a walk around the shelves of both books and DVDs. If you are writing fiction, start with the nonfiction section and search for potential settings, plots and characters. If you are looking for a nonfiction topic, start with the fiction you are interested in. Countless research, inventions and discoveries have been inspired by fiction fans bringing an author’s ideas to life. What captivates you? Which shelf can you not walk past without scanning the titles? I’ll bet your notebook is much fuller after this exercise than it was after staring into your coffee.
You might have noticed the key to success with all three of these is to always have your notebook ready to jot down ideas. It’s not just that I have a poor memory. Every writer you ever encounter will swear by them. Realistically? You probably just can’t carry even a pocket journal everywhere you go or have time to whip it out in the moment. Instead, I went digital. My iPhone has saved more than one spontaneous blog post idea from being lost in the busyness of life. I use the built-in Notes app for short-term memory and Evernote for a more permanent filing cabinet. Find a system that works for you, though, because writing down an idea in a place you will never come back to check later is almost as bad as not writing it down at all.
What sparks your creativity? Chime in below or reply on Twitter (@Jenna_DeWitt).