Sometimes it feels like my creativity is drying up—or that I never had much creativity to begin with. Where do story ideas come from? Why aren’t I brimming with new ideas? These are the questions I’ve recently been asking myself, and I’ve been trying to find ways to feed my creativity.
A few years ago, a writer friend of mine who I admire and respect recommended a certain “spiritual path to higher creativity” called the Artist’s Way that basically involves journaling three pages every morning and taking yourself on an “artist’s date” once a week. There was an Artist’s Way book to buy, a workbook, and even a “morning pages” journal. So me being the worst kind of optimistic enthusiast, I bought all three.
And then those three books (which aren’t small and inconspicuous, by the way) sat on my kitchen table for two years. Seriously. Two frigging years. And other things got stacked on top of them—my son’s half-filled notebooks from past school years, a really nice pencil sharpener that needs batteries, some decks of Magic cards that I keep meaning to play… Now obviously I don’t use my kitchen table much, but every once in awhile I would notice these three brand-new Artist’s Way books and think to myself, “I should really put those away somewhere” (notice reading them didn’t cross my mind), but my bookshelves are already spilling over, and honestly, I didn’t want to see them on my shelf and be reminded that I had bought these books with the best intentions and then let them mock me with their presence, as useless to me as the yoga workout tapes that I bought with the best intentions but finally stuck in a drawer.
I recently finished a YA contemporary novel, and now I’m searching for my next idea. Did I mention I have a hard time with ideas? So guess what? I dug out those Artist’s Way books and I started doing what the author said to do–that is, I started journaling in the morning, and I even went on my first “artist’s date,” which is basically something you do by yourself that is fun or peaceful or spiritual.
I chose to go to the bookstore, something I haven’t done in awhile (unless it was for author events or for my friends’ book-launch parties). And it’s not like I don’t read. I average two books a week, but I mostly shop for books online and read from the Kindle app on my iPad, because, as I mentioned earlier, my bookshelves are overflowing.
And yes, I’m one of those evil people who prefers ebooks for their practicality, and also I’m one of those evil people who goes into a bookstore to take pictures of books that I want buy for my Kindle. But not this time! (Well, I did take a few pictures of books that I want to add to my reading list.) This time I bought actual real books—for myself and for others—and can I just say? The whole bookstore experience was so rewarding! Not only did I discover some really great books for myself, but I also bought a few holiday gifts—and furthermore, I saw my novel A Work of Art on the shelf (always a thrill), ran into an author acquaintance who works at the store, and got a call from my agent that she had not only started submitting my YA book to publishers, but that she’d already had three requests for the full manuscript.
Now obviously my agent submitting my work had nothing to do with me going on an artist’s date. But I can honestly say that I came home from my bookstore experience feeling rejuvenated, excited, and confident that my next idea will come. (It’s already brewing, in fact.) Because being in that bookstore reminded me that I am a writer, a lover of books, a creative person. And it might take me two years to tackle something I know will be good for me, but damn it, I will tackle it. And I’ll give it my best effort. And someday (I’m almost certain) that effort will be good enough.