Lately, I've been thinking about creativity as a bank account. Our bank accounts need to have enough money to pay our bills, buy groceries, put gas in the car, and take care of all those last minute, unexpected expenses--such as boy scout uniforms, or new brakes, or a root canal. We need even more if we want to indulge in evenings out, vacations, or a day of beautification.
So, what happens when we don't make consistent deposits to our bank account? We run out of money, leaving us unable to take care of the basic necessities, let alone anything fun. I don't know about you, but when this happens, I'm put into a state of worry and fear. How will we pay for food this week? What if one of the kids needs to go to the doctor?
Therefore, we work to earn money. We work to try to stay ahead of the curve, so we don't run our bank accounts dry. After all, a low (or even worse, an empty) bank account means we don't have the necessary resources to deal with everything that needs dealing with. We budget, clip coupons, look for sales, and hope we can keep it together until the next paycheck--or, in too many cases, until a lay-off ends or a new job is found.
As a writer, I have begun to think of my creativity as my personal account of ideas. Following this train of thought, every book I write is a withdrawal from that account. Even partial books are a withdrawal, because even if that book is never finished, I've still taken that idea out of my account. Each time I do that, I have fewer resources available to me for that next book.
Unless, of course, I am also constantly depositing new ideas into my account. Now, this might sound simple--after all, ideas are free, right? Well, yes. But life can be exhausting. The day job, the husband/wife, the kids, other family, friends, daily responsibilities, appointments--the list goes on and on--and the more exhausted we become, the more difficult it is to find the energy to keep our creativity account high.
But it is necessary, and not only because writing is my job. I am a writer, which means I am a creative person. If I can't create, I don't feel whole. So for my own peace of mind and happiness, beyond the practical aspects, I have to be able to create. And that means keeping my account as full as possible at all times.
How do I do this? In many, many ways. One easy answer is reading, because good books will always inspire the muse inside. Another is television. Some television programs (The BBC drama, Sherlock, for example) are so well done that I am amazed by what I'm watching. The characters, the dialogue, the plots, the overall production value all add to my inspiration, all help to keep my creativity account full and thriving.
I've also learned that indulging in other creative activities can assist in keeping my account full. Sometimes, that is as simple as coloring with my children, or drawing a picture. Other times, that might mean playing a game (yes, a game) that either involves creating a character to role-play with (such as World of Warcraft, Sims, etc), or a building/design game (such as Roller Coaster Tycoon) that will allow other sides of my creativity to flourish.
Of course, we all have different interests, which lead to different keys to unlocking our creativity, and filling our individual accounts. For some, that might be gardening, or cooking, or music. Perhaps it is visiting a museum, or sitting outside on a clear, warm day, or taking a walk with your dog. Maybe (as it is for one friend of mine), it's housecleaning with music blaring in the background. Or it might be as simple as soaking in a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine.
Regardless, as writers, we need to find those moments that will allow us to dream, to think, to fill our creative souls with ideas and possibilities. Even when life is hectic. Even when we're so tired at the end of the day, we believe we can do nothing but go to bed and sleep to power up for the next day. There are always moments, even if they're tiny slices of time, that we can take as our own, that we can use to keep our bank of ideas brimming and percolating.
Learning to do this isn't always easy, but it's well worth the effort. By doing this, I've found that when I sit down to write, there is always something there, some story waiting and wanting to be told. Sometimes, in fact, I have a difficult decision in determining which idea to go with next. As a writer, I can't think of a better dilemma to have.
What about you? What are your tricks for keeping your personal bank account of creativity and ideas full? Or, if you're currently experiencing a low ebb of creativity, brainstorm some ideas for filling your account and share them here.
Tracy Madison is an award-winning author who currently writes contemporary romances for Harlequin Special Edition. Learn more about her at her website, www.tracymadison.com.