Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Creative Spark

Hello, friends! I just got back from an amazing trip to Italy (first time in Europe!) and have been up for around 30 hours, so I decided to pull a post from the archives today. It's one of my favorites, and it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. What drives us to write? Why do we love it in the first place, and how do we get back to that love? I hope you enjoy the post, and I'm looking forward to hearing what you all have to say! -- Ashley


How many romance novels have you read that went a little something like this?

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl make stupid decisions. Boy and girl live happily ever after.

Or maybe romantic suspense?

Boy meets girl. Someone dies. Boy and girl make stupid decisions. Boy and girl live happily ever after.

Or literary fiction, as I am all-too-acquainted with:

A lot of weird things happen. Then on a tragic note, the story ends.

Kidding! I'm sorry literary fiction writers--I couldn't resist! Let me just be clear that as a literature instructor, I have a deep appreciation for literary fiction!


The question is, if so many of these stories are the same, how do you make yours stand out?

The answer, get creative! 

Think about your favorite characters and stories in books, movies, and even real life. Chances are, they stand out to you because they are unique and memorable. Strive for no less in your own stories.

So why don't we see more creative stories?

Because Creativity. Is. Hard. 

T.S. Eliot said, "Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity." And here's another great quote from Pablo Picasso: "The chief enemy of creativity is 'good' sense."

Sometimes, in the humdrum of loading the dishwasher and vacuuming the dog hair from the kitchen floor, we forget something very important.

We forget why we love to write.

Creativity ought to influence everything from the scene settings in our stories, to the tags we use, to the characters' quirks. Don't settle for a character who smiles a lot when she might really want to curl her pink-chalked hair and toss her kitten-heels across the room in fury!

So how do we stir the creative spark in the midst of every day life?

  • Find a way to break from the routine. Go to a coffee shop, people watch at the mall, or be a tourist in your own town by visiting a garden or a quaint restaurant. Even if it's only for fifteen minutes a day, break your routine and see what happens.
  • Stop listening to your anxiety. Ever been writing and heard this hovering voice in your mind... "That's not good enough." "Readers will think that's stupid." "A publisher would say this character is too quirky." When you're writing--and especially when you're writing that first draft--silence your inner critic. She can come and edit once you're done. Anxiety will kill the creative spark. Snuff it right out. All you'll be left with is the remnant of a smoky idea.
  • Act out your scene. Yes, I know this is weird. But it makes a difference! If you're wondering how gravel sounds underfoot, walk across it. If you're writing about a woman throwing fist-fulls of sand into the air, find a beach. You'll be surprised what you can come up with when you put yourself in the same physical surroundings as your characters. Even a scented candle or setting-themed screensaver can do the trick!
  • Always list multiple options. Whether you're brainstorming a scene setting or a plot point, don't always go with the first thing that comes to mind. Readers will expect the obvious. Instead, push yourself to come up with alternatives. Make a list of possible plot points, settings, quips, quirks, etc. You may stumble across an interesting twist for your story!
  • Recognize that creativity knows no bounds. You can always go back and edit something out of your story, so when you're writing, give yourself permission to think big!

Have you found that creativity makes a difference in making a memorable story? How do you stir your creative spark?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blogFacebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


Angie Dicken said...

Great post, Ash! so glad you are back!! I have been diving into the story I started in October...and it is slow going! But I really have to remember your point on "Stop listening to anxiety". I found that I kept thinking, "I am not good enough to pull this off" all day yesterday! Gotta just let the creativity flow, and worry about selling later!

Casey said...

Girl, how could you survive being up for over 30 hours?? Surely that is the time zone thing messing with you. Hopefully you are still snoozing away this afternoon! Glad you are back safe.

I love your creative suggestions--no pun intended. It's definitely a good thing to break the routine--write under the pressure and just pull ideas out the hat to get the creative juices flowing. :)

Ashley Clark said...

Ang, I know what you mean! That one is really hard for me! I think it's because we all have a natural tendency to want our dreams to find fulfillment. Sometimes it's hard to catch hold of all the great plans God has in store for us when they're better than our own!

Ashley Clark said...

Case, I wish it was just the jetlag causing me to make a typo, but alas, we were really up that long! To be fair, I did sleep a few hours here and there on the planes, but MAN! I was so disoriented last night! :D

Casey said...

I bet! I get cranky if I don't get my 8 hours of beauty sleep. Hope you rest WELL tonight!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Really good one from the archives, Ash! Loved this!!! Can't wait to hear about your trip! So jealous!!!!!

Preslaysa Williams said...

Great post, Ashley. Loved the part about acting out scenes. I do this sometimes when a scene feels flat to me.

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you, Preslaysa! Love your profile picture by the way-- that necklace is beautiful!

Thank you, Ames! :D