How to Be Creative

This month, I broke up a séance.

I walked into a basement room where 20 people had gathered and demanded to know what they were doing. Nervous laughter broke out. Brave members of the group explained that secret clues had brought them to that location and one woman handed me an envelope. I tore it open—a woman had gone missing, one Ms. Soapberry, and we need to complete a chant to bring her back. 

I’m not in the business of breaking up séances, but I am in the business of creativity. I wrote the clues. I wrote the letter. I curated a silly moment of connection between strangers.

All this happened because myself and two others hosted a fantasy ball, a night of live performances, quests, dancing, and good food. The séance was the result of numerous clues dropped throughout the evening and some light coordination with a friend to play Ms. Soapberry.

It was a moment of sheer creativity, surprise, and even trust as people came together in costume and improvised dialogue. It was imagination play for grownups.

While others may have seen this as frivolous—ahem, not work at all— I know it very much was. Breaking from routine is work. Casting aside what others think is work. Building delight is work.

But it all comes together in a delicate web—ideas supporting ideas that will generate new projects, enhancing your creative spirit—so the work becomes a little easier. Now that I’m on my fourth book, sometimes people ask me if I’ll run out of ideas, as if they’re a finite resource. I find it’s the opposite. The more time you spend in the creative sphere, the more comes to you.

Let Your Creativity Grow

My biggest piece of advice is to follow your instincts. If you feel something is calling you, listen. As you start on that project, that book, that artwork and it gets hard, reflect back on what made you pick up the task to begin with. Don’t stop just because it looks bad or you feel embarrassed by your efforts. Developing skill and style takes time and, at the beginning, the goal is not to produce a perfect product, but reward yourself for answering the call in the first place.

Road sign pointing two ways with the words follow your instinct

To continue doing that creative work long term, you will need to learn what your limiting beliefs are. You might not think others see you as an artist. Maybe you think you don’t have the time. Or maybe you’re held back by financial doubt, self- confidence, or a fear of success. 

What I’ve come to learn is that a fear of success is not a fear of good things. It’s a worry about the responsibility that comes with success. Everyone wants to get a book published, host an art show, or win a billion dollars, but thinking about how you’ll manage all the things that come with that success—taxes, how others might view you, media attention, having to do the work to hang that art show you wanted so badly—can be enough to frighten us away. Whatever your own limiting belief is, take time to acknowledge it.

Finally, give yourself grace. Growth in creative fields is filled with uncertainty. It’s challenging. Make it easier for yourself by being kind to your growing creativity. If you’re not, you’ll scare away your best ideas.

Oh, I forgot to mention one thing about that séanceI did it all while covered in gold body paint.

A few other ways to grow your creativity:

In the Moment:

  • Create when you feel most energized (mine’s right in the morning).
  • Take a walk.
  • Try working outside or in another room of your house.
  • Tidy your desk or workspace.
  • Get up and stretch.
  • Take a shower
  • Use placeholders for anything stalling you—you can always come up with the final solution later.
  • Enjoy a nap.
  • Listen to ambient music.

Over time:

  • Journal consistently.
  • Track your creative output with a chart or log.
  • Display your work.
  • Keep a dream journal to remember more of them.
  • Join book clubs, artist groups, or go see a talk.
  • Meet people you admire for coffee. Ask about their process.
  • Decorate your desk or workspace.
  • Go to an art exhibit.
  • Write down affirmations.
  • Do things you’ve never done before.
  • Let the work be bad. 
  • Work with a coach or mentor.
  • Build a vision board or statement.
  • Read good books, watch quality TV, and enjoy fabulous music.
  • Read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
  • Read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
Picture of I'm Rebecca Zornow

I'm Rebecca Zornow

A science fiction author living in Wisconsin, I love traveling, eating good food, and reading long books.

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