9 steps to boost your creativity and improve your novel

It is possible to boost creativity and improve your novel
It is possible to boost creativity and improve your novel

Creativity is an essential part of writing fiction. Sometimes this is easy. Your brain is throwing out ideas and suggestions faster than you can write. It feels like a river in full flow. But, then there are times when there are no ideas. Your brain feels empty. The river has completely dried up and there is only a dried out river bed.

There are ways to boost your creativity so that it does not become a mental block. Especially if you have started writing your initial idea and now you feel stuck because it is hard to push through and turn one idea into a full-length novel. Being creative is what helps us to work through blocks in our story. Or to fix problems like lack of action, or not enough dialogue or any of the many other various problems that are part of crafting a narrative. I wrote more here about how creativity is not a mystical process.

The writer is often portrayed in the media as being so absorbed in their current work in progress that they are not paying attention to what is happening around them. (While it can definitely be part of the writing process, so is spending ages staring at the page or the screen.)

This would be an example of the flow state. When everything works really well and the ideas are flowing and the word count is increasing rapidly. 

Children often experience this state of flow when they are playing and are totally absorbed in what they are doing but athletes can also experience it during training. The flow state is not limited to writing.

Creating a state of flow will help to boost creativity

What makes the flow state really interesting is that it is the process that creates the feeling. Completing a task does not increase or decrease the feeling of flow. It is also possible to deliberately create that feeling. 

The few times I experienced it, I did not fully understand what happened to create the feeling of flow. At the time, it felt like total chance. The stars aligned, the dice rolled in my favour, everything just fell into place except I did not know what the ‘things’ were that needed to fall into place.

Now that I have learned more about the flow state I try as much as possible to recreate the circumstances. It is not always possible and there are days and nights when I sit down to write and I struggle to get any words on the page. But, going through the struggle reminds me that I need to be more deliberate with setting up my writing sessions. Check out this blog post for help with setting up your writing session.

Achieving a flow state in another activity other than writing can help you understand it more. If running or cycling is part of your routine you might have already experienced it during a long run or cycle. Activity is important for writers because writing is so sedentary. It can also help with the production of endorphins as well.

I discuss the flow state in more detail here internal link to how to increase creativity. But here are the requirements needed to create a state of flow.

  • Set clear goals
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Include an element of challenge that you can overcome
  • Choose something you enjoy
  • As skill levels increase you will need to increase the level of challenge.

Benefits to boosting creativity

There are many benefits to boosting your creativity for more than just your writing. Creativity is all about finding solutions and new ways of solving problems and approaching situations. I find creativity is very useful for parenting. Many workplaces encourage employees to develop creative solutions to business problems.

When you are doing creative activities you are also helping your mental health. So, when you skip your writing session, you are losing out on a chance to feel better. If you start to think of your writing as part of your self-care, you will find it easier to make it part of your day or week. Barbara Field wrote a great article on how creativity is good for our mental health.

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.

Franz Kafka

1 Pick a time to be creative

It is easier to be creative when you are relaxed. This is one of the reasons why some people like to write in the morning. They have just woken up and nothing has happened in the day yet. Stress levels are usually lower. 

I write in the evening because it is easier for me to relax when everything has been done. My mind starts making to-do lists in the morning and it is difficult for me to write anything. 

But, I am often carrying stress from everything that needs to be done in a day. So, to relax I do a brain dump and write out everything that is annoying me or at the front of my mind. Once I have gotten these angry, stressful thoughts out of the way then I can be more creative and relax into the writing more.

If you have not yet found which time of day works best for your experiment. When you are writing, monitor how you feel as well as how much you write. When we feel positive and enthusiastic about our writing we are more likely to sit down and write again. So, it does not matter if you get 500 more words written at 4 am if you feel stressed and angry about it. 

If you are struggling to find any time to write, check out this blog post – The comprehensive guide to finding time to write.

2 Keep an ideas journal with you

This could also be a notes app on your phone. Whenever you get an idea, any idea, you write it down. It could be about a character, a scenario, the sound of the waves at the beach or the way the rain is falling on the car window. All of these are valuable because they could start a whole novel or be included in a short story.


3 Write freely about whatever you want

Do not put restrictions on your writing. It could be describing the items on the desk in front of you, the weather outside the window or what is causing you the most stress right now. For me, it is almost like writing it down shows my brain that I am processing my thoughts through words. I often only realise what I am thinking after I start writing. I wrote more about how helpful journaling is here. Internal link.

4 Read and imagine yourself in the scenario

This is effective with fairy tales because there are often not many details included. If you think of the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel as an example. You have to imagine what the house was like as many versions of the story just say that there are sweets on the house. But give yourself time to be specific about what kinds of sweets would have to be on the house to make you get closer. Would it be crisps, jellies or chocolate? A great next step would be to write this scenario out. It might never appear in any story you write but it is good practice for writing descriptions.

5 Change your surroundings

Even if you just sit at a different part of the desk or change the angle of your chair. I fully believe our surroundings can help or hinder us. Often, we do not know which until we experiment and try out different things. I wrote more about setting up your productive and inspiring writing space here.

6 Create daily rituals 

This is interesting because it is almost a direct contrast to the change your surroundings point above.  But routine can also help. It’s one of the reasons showers are effective places for thinking about new ideas. It is a familiar, safe environment where the same actions happen every time. Stephen King uses the same routine every day for his writing. At one stage, he was even listening to the same song over and over again.

Both of these options work for different people and at different times. Knowing about both options means that you can use them and try them out.

7 Listen to music that you love

Listening to song lyrics and imagining the story behind them often helps me imagine scenarios or characters. It works well when you are doing a mundane, routine activity like driving or cleaning. I enjoy painting my house for this reason. It gives me time to let my mind wander.

8 People watching

Maeve Binchy, the author of Circle of Friends and Tara Road, learned to lip read and often talked about how people watching helped her writing.  

You could also combine this with spending time in nature such as a park where people hang out and spend time relaxing. 

9 Writing in a coffee shop

The decibel levels of a coffee shop are perfect for brainstorming. If you do not like the idea of having to buy coffee every day to be able to write, youtube has a great solution with recorded coffee shop ambience that you can listen to instead. https://coffitivity.com/research is a whole website devoted to the sounds of a coffee shop. They have 3 options on their free version.

Action steps to boost creativity

Pick one suggestion from the list above.

Experiment and try out something different.

Try and have fun while you are figuring out which one helps you to boost your creativity. 

More reading on how to boost creativity

Learn how play can help improve your creativity

How to increase creativity

What everyone needs to know about creativity

How to find your writing niche

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