In the business of librarianship we are often called upon to write. Write articles, white papers, research reports, presentations, blogs, webpages. In fact, we may find ourselves writing so much that our idea well runs dry. And does this seem to happen right when there is a deadline looming, or is that just me? Then you'll probably be relieved to know that there are steps you can take to get your creative juices flowing again and get yourself back in the flow of putting pen to paper (or cursor to screen).
The Big Idea
Sometimes it's a matter of not even knowing what you want to write about. Like with this column. I didn't have a topic in mind when I started. Wouldn't it be easier if I had a big vat of ideas so that when I needed a topic, all I had to do was dip into the vat and pull one out? You can do that. Call it an idea book, a journal, or maybe even a box into which you drop pieces of paper. Whatever the vessel, get into the habit of putting your ideas some place.
Ever been read an article that was so interesting that you wanted to do further research on the topic yourself? Write that topic down. You may not have the time or inclination to write a research paper right now, but you never know when one, two, or five years down the line you might be asked to submit a white paper at a conference and this is the perfect topic.
What about at your desk, writing a blog entry or an article for your department's monthly newsletter, and suddenly an idea for another article just pops into your head? Jot it down on a sticky note and then add it to your journal or idea box when you get home. I can't tell you how many times I was saved by my collection of writing ideas in grad school when semester after semester, class after class, I had to come up with an essay or project. I perused my collection and was always able to find something that was a perfect fit.
Start Me Up
As you have probably ascertained by now, I am a big believer in creativity exercises for loosening up the individual. It's probably my acting background showing through. Actors don't always come to the stage ready to immerse themselves in another world. And writers don't always come to the page ready to spit out an entire essay or white paper. When you find yourself unable to get past the first sentence, you probably aren't focused on the task at hand. You're thinking about that full inbox at work or the jammed garbage disposal at home. In order to write, you really need to be in a relaxed and open state of mind. So let go of all your baggage and try out some of these ideas to clear your creative mind.
- Write non-stop for five minutes. It doesn't have to make sense, and it might even be gibberish on occasion, but just put pen to paper and get your mind out of the misconception that you "cannot" write.
- Listen to music. Letting your mind relax instead of stressing about being unable to write can get you back on track.
- Look through some magazines, especially those with a heavy dose of pictures. Don't read any of the articles; your brain has enough information competing for attention right now. But images are a great way to jumpstart your creativity.
- Go for a walk.
- Take a long bath.
- List 20 things you enjoy doing.
- List 5 new things that you would like to learn.
- List 5 hobbies that you would like to try.
- Think of your idea of a dream vacation, then describe it on paper down to the tiniest detail.
- List 10 things you would buy if money was no object.
- Describe your dream house on paper down to the tiniest detail.
- List 10 things you used to love to do, but don't do anymore.
- Describe your perfect day on paper down to the tiniest detail.
If you relax, prime your creativity, and pull a great idea from your collection, you'll banish that writer's block to the land of Bigfoot and other myths where it belongs.