The Creativity Book: A Years Worth of Inspiration and Guidance

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1. Performing the creative process

That happened recently with Sufjan Stevens — I saw him perform in Prospect Park , and his sound was so huge and poppy that I went home thinking: "I should really try something like that. It's important to look outside the business. There are so many great stories out there that have nothing to do with the theatre, or with other writers. I do a lot of my thinking once I'm in the rehearsal room — I'm inspired by the actors or designers I'm working with. Other creative people are a resource that needs to be exploited. Music is incredibly evocative: find the right piece that reflects the world you're writing about, and you're halfway there.

When I wrote my play Penetrator , I listened to a miserable Sade song on a loop. Listen to a song enough times, and it provokes a Pavlovian response that helps you get back to the place you're writing about. You'll probably do that anyway, but you may as well make it a rule. Shallow-sleep dreams have been the source of many of my best ideas sadly, small children are no respecters of prospective genius. One truly great image or scene astride a broken mess is more intriguing than a hundred well-made cliches. It's the only way to keep going when the doubt sets in.

In the collaborative arts, the more open you are to shared inspiration, the richer the work. Or maybe I'm just getting lazy. The ultimate landscape is only discovered when it's under foot, so don't get too bogged down in its validity. I have a magpie attitude to inspiration: I seek it from all sorts of sources; anything that allows me to think about how culture comes together. I'm always on the lookout — I observe people in the street; I watch films, I read, I think about the conversations that I have.

I consider the gestures people use, or the colours they're wearing. It's about taking all the little everyday things and observing them with a critical eye; building up a scrapbook which you can draw on. Sometimes, too, I look at other artworks or films to get an idea of what not to do. It's very important for inspiration to go elsewhere: to move away from the city into pastoral settings, and to make space for meditation.

I also enjoy talking to people who aren't involved in art. For my recent work, I've had a lot of conversations with people involved in digital technologies. It's useful to get perspective on what you do by talking to all sorts of different people. Writing from a place of safety produces stuff that is at best dull and at worst dishonest.

They are curiously flattered.


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Start from the feeling you want the audience to have at the end and then ask "How might that happen? Usually, I become aware of what has inspired me only towards the end of the creative process, or much later. These are the sorts of things that motivate me:. Focus totally on what people will be doing in the spaces and places you are designing — next year, in five years, in What if this library were a garden?

If this facade could speak, would it be cooing, swearing, silent, erudite? Architectural problems and propositions have many scales simultaneously — keep ranging across them. The rapid bouncing back and forth of an idea can generate compelling concepts at amazing speed.

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Especially if realising the project is a long and demanding process, try to keep true to the spirit of the initial idea. Give yourself plenty of time to do nothing. I try to find inspiration in the character of the place I'm exhibiting in.

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It helps me if I can respond to something that is already there. The things that you found inspiring when you were starting out usually stay with you. I can't listen to music while I work and I need to be alone. Being messy during a tidy phase is never good, and vice versa. I am inspired by the dialogue between two different bodies, two different minds, two different ways of expressing a single idea.

Even after 37 years, I still feel displaced within my own body: I have never felt completely at ease with it. Mostly, I am inspired by children and their grandparents: the way their faces dance. Start by realising an average idea — no one has to see it. If I hadn't made the works I'm ashamed of, the ones I'm proud of wouldn't exist. I did so partly to get out more, as I was spending too much time surrounded by the same objects, within the same walls.

The sense of guilt I feel when my dogs are indoors forces me out at regular intervals. One of my favourite new ideas came about when I stopped to examine a weed growing in the forest I walk in. Your brain needs periods of inactivity. I think of it as a field lying fallow; keep harvesting and the crops won't mature. It is just as possible to be inspired by a film-maker, fashion designer, writer or friend than another artist. Cross-pollination makes for an interesting outcome. This is the only way you get better. You have to practice, which means you have to keep writing.

Every writer started somewhere, and most of them started by squeezing their writing into the cracks of their daily lives. The ones who make it are the ones who show up day after day.

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You can do the same. But they never came to be. And in one way or another, the reason is always the same: the author quit. Worse yet, you wrote a book, but nobody cared about it. Nobody bought or read it. Tweet This. Just sit down and write. They are far more intentional than simply sitting and letting the words flow. Every great writer needs a system they can trust. You and I are no different.

This is the part that I never learned in any English class. Producing work that sells is not just about writing what you think is good.

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In other words, the writing process matters. It matters a lot. You have to not only finish your book but write one worthy of being sold. And if you want to maximize your chances of finishing your book, you need a proven plan. Writing books has changed my life. If you need some help staying motivated, here are another 10 tips to help you keep going in the process:. Write and publish a novel, one chapter at a time, using Amazon Kindle Singles, Wattpad, or sharing with your email list subscribers. The idea of writing a page masterpiece can be paralyzing.

Instead, write a short book of poems or stories. Long projects are daunting. Start small. Getting feedback early and often helps break up the overwhelm. Start a website on WordPress or Tumblr and use it to write your book a chapter or scene at a time. Then eventually publish all the posts in a hardcopy book. This is a little different than tradition blogging, but the same concepts apply. We created a free tool to help you know when your blog posts are ready to publish.

You need it in order to keep fresh ideas flowing. I use Evernote , but use a system that works for you. Then, rewrite the entries in a much more polished book format, but use some photocopies or scans of the journal pages as illustrations in the book.


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The truth is: inspiration is merely a byproduct of your hard work. Instead, plan for breaks ahead of time so you stay fresh: minute breaks, hour breaks, or even multiple day breaks.