Ideas are fun. Writing is sweat.
Ideas are like the fleeting romances in our fantasies. Writing is the marriage. It is the hard work.
Writing is waking up in the morning and putting pen to paper. Writing is going to work.
If you like writing as a creative exercise, then you can find comfort in that old cliché that says, creativity is knowledge having fun. The exercise of putting words to paper will feel less dreary then. Still unconvinced? Don’t worry; with little steps you can spur your writing creativity. To most of us, creativity doesn’t happen overnight. It needs work and drive.
Here are seven things you can do in the iotas of time to improve your writing creativity.
Explore With A New Word
Stocking your word-hoard is the first step in writing. Knowing when and how to use that word is the all-important second step. In the little time you have, learning a new word a day is the easiest thing you can do. With a few new words in your arsenal, let’s look at how you can deploy them by understanding their usage.
- Exemplar: understand how words are used in scientific context.
- Visuwords: an online “visual” dictionary that helps you see inter-related words at a glance. Move the nodes around to see the connections.
- Wordnik: an excellent resource that takes you deep into word usage.
- Contextionary: a simple Chrome extension you can use to select any word while browsing and check its context.
What Makes A Famous Quotation Great
Social media sees a spate of quotes. Don’t dismiss them always. Dig a little deeper and you can “study” a quote and see how it articulates a truth in the shortest sentence possible. Quotes are powerful tools for condensing deep ideas in few words. You can re-work and tweak a quote for use as a blog title, a story prompt, or even creatively use it as a conversation trigger in social media conversations. Give it a creative twist and it can even become a good lede. Let’s not forget their power in PowerPoint.
Experiment With Search
Maybe, you love writing but suck at creative ideas. The best inspiration comes when you are not looking for it. That’s why showers are so great for coming up with ideas. Similarly, creative writing ideas can be everywhere. Think Google. Playing with Google’s search operators takes a few seconds if you know how.
One of my favorite Google Advanced search operators is the “*” (asterisk). Combined with the quotation marks, it can be a powerful tool for idea generation. When we use the asterisk as a wildcard next to a word or phrase (or in the middle of a phrase) and enclose it with quotation marks, we tell Google to display results that contain any words that occur at the position of the asterisk. You can use the wildcard to combine two or more words in a sentence and find different combinations that Google digs up.
Try a search engine like Million Short to see what lies deep in the depths of Google.
Try Something New
Steven eagerly cleaned the kitchen and folded the laundry. Once his chores were finished, Diane would allow him into the bedroom.
— Very Short Story (@VeryShortStory) April 8, 2014
Someone I know writes dull marketing copy by day and poetry at night. When you have a few minutes here and there, try experimenting with shorter formats of writing – like Haiku poems. Take to Twitter with short life observations or publish your own Twitter literature one little tweet at a time. Nancy had looked at the art of literature on Twitter.
You can do much more in the snatches of time –
- Come to MakeUseOf and earn a T-shirt on our funny caption contest.
- Contribute your creativity by writing ad copy or slogans on sites like Slogan Slingers and Get A Slogan.
- Think up greeting card messages. Some of them like Blue Mountain Arts pay well too if you combine the right humor with the right verse. Brook Lundy, co-founder & head writer of the popular Someecards.com has some .
One of my favorite pastimes is creating characters. From the make-believe play of childhood to the serious fiction drivers of today. I know characters will drive my fiction writing, and compelling characters make it easier to create compelling stories. Where do I find them? The World Wide Web, of course.
It is the playground of the rich, the famous, the underdog, the fighter, the neurotic, and also John Smith and Jane Doe. Open your social account on Facebook or Twitter and you will meet them. Social media as a creative writing prompt takes just a few clicks and a few minutes, turning us into voyeurs for the sake of character development.
Even the much abused spam email can be a source in character development. As this GoodReads thread says, you can generate cool character names from a spammer ID.
Write A Story With Someone Else
The clock is running away with whatever free time you have. You could never get down to writing the big novel on your bucket list. Give it another shot with collaborative storytelling. I had covered seven collaborative storytelling sites here. Try a few which have sprouted up since then.
You can even do your own version on Twitter or Google Docs. If you have ever played an Exquisite Corpse like game with friends, you will see the fun in these collaborative jams which don’t take too much of your time.
Create Mashups / Remixes
A mashup usually goes well with web applications (like Google Maps mashups) or music (music remixes?). But it is also a fun way of exercising your creative muscles by interlinking two unlike things together and coming up with a new blend. Hardly a new concept because “combinational / intersectional creativity” has been behind some of our greatest innovations.
Watch Kirby Ferguson talk about embracing the remix in the 9 minute TED Talk above. He has also posted the same ideas in a four-part video series at Everything Is A Remix.
Creative mashups lead to uncharted waters. Think Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The books we are reading for centuries are a result of a mashup between the die-punch and a wine press which led to the Gutenberg printing press.
One of the quick ways to do your own version of a creative mashup is by opening two (or more) favorite online articles. See in how many different ways you can combine the elements from both articles. I often do this exercise to come up with creative ideas for this site. It is sometimes maddening, but then it has its Eureka moments too. For instance, this very article is a mashup of ideas from time-management, procrastination breakers, and creative blockers. I also threw digital tools into the mix.
Wanted: Your Own Idea Nuggets
In a previous article, we saw some ideas on how to easily develop writing skills. One of our readers (Anirudh PN) had commented on the old problem of “finding time”. These seven ideas take only a few minutes in-between other important jobs, but they help to sharpen the axe. At the very least, these little creative exercises can help you crank up the ol’ rusty writing engine and drive it around for a few laps. Who knows what might come out of it.
So, tell us – how do you come up with writing ideas if you are busy punching the clock somewhere else?