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Photo Credit: charliebarker via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: charliebarker via Compfight cc

School has started, which means less time for my own creative projects. I’m a little scared, but oddly enough have always worked better when I have many things on my plate.

For the past year or two, I have felt my creativity wane. Perhaps it was because I had finished my memoir and was focused on marketing, the book release, and the events that were scheduled after the book came out. I just was not doing much writing.

This summer I made great progress on my next manuscript, but now I don’t have the two-three hours a day to work on it like I did in June, July, and most of August.

I need to get better at finding those spare 15- or 20-minute chunks during the day when I can do something creative. I’ve been trying to do this the past couple of weeks and I’ve been happy with the results so far. It’s like I’ve told my brain that creativity is important and I expect a cooperative response!

Here’s what’s been working for me so far:

* Lay off social media. I found myself scrolling through my Facebook or Twitter feeds when I had a few extra minutes. Before social media, what did I do with that time? I would read a few pages from a book, or a magazine article, or an essay. Reading good writing has always inspired me and sparked my imagination.

* Take notes. I try to keep a notebook near me at all times, but I’ve also used my phone to take notes. I have an app called Day One Journal on my phone that I’ve used to jot down ideas. Sometimes I’m more likely to have my phone with me than a notebok and pencil.

* Write every day. I’ve rebelled against this “rule” before. Rules are meant to be broken, right? But I notice when I do write every day, it becomes a little easier and more ideas are generated.

* Cultivate silent time. How often are we surrounded by silence? I’ve felt the need for my brain to simply “breathe” lately. I will write in silence, and in the car sometimes I turn off the radio. When I run I generally use my iPod, but on shorter runs or walks with my dog I’ve been leaving it at home. I find that silent exercise after a writing session helps me process my ideas.

My whippet, Nina. She's 15 months old. I take her on a walk every day, sometimes a run. Being with her on the trail helps me think.

My whippet, Nina. She’s 15 months old. I take her on a walk every day, sometimes a run. Being with her on the trail helps me think.

* Listen or read something new. I’m trying to make it a habit to scan New York Times headlines every day. I also am fond of essays in the L.A. Review of Books, and I’m trying to pop onto that site at least once a week. In the car I like to listen to NPR at night or on weekends because of the variety of programming. Just last night I was listening to NPR and the show gave me ideas for an essay I’m working on.

What are your favorite ways to cultivate creativity?