How to be more creative every day

For the past 4 years, and particularly the past 2.5 years, I struggled with writer’s block. For all this time, I’ve been unable to create a single thing. I’ve been plagued with self-doubt and criticism, telling myself that my stuff isn’t good enough, that my stories and thoughts don’t matter, and nobody will listen to me when I have something interesting to say. I allowed people to cut me down creatively and I listened to people who laughed at my ideas. After such a long period of silence and repression, I thought my creativity was dead.

It wasn’t. And yours isn’t either. You are just burying it.

Over the past few months, a strange concoction of events has spawned a creative charge inside my head: Discoveries, creations and ideas that blow me away when I look back at them later and process the fact that they came from my own brain. I can’t go into the events here as this is a public blog post, but the important thing to remember is one simple thing that I have realized, remembered over the past few weeks. And that critical thing is:

Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Ignore the people who do not. 

Because when you are a creative, you must create or you will die. You may not cease to exist, but your soul will be stepped on, you will be constricted and you will feel this in every area of life.

When I say ignore people who do not, I mean ignore them completely. Give them no area of your brain. They are not creative, they do not understand your process, and they have never had one original thought in their lives. They cannot process anything new and you cannot change them. They will forever fail to experience life in a full way.

Just throw them into the trash of your brain and blow right past them. Keep going down that spiral. It’s there for a reason – you see things that other people don’t, and there’s something that you were meant to do. Chase it.

It doesn’t matter if nobody is listening. The real expansion comes when we create just for the sake of creating, just because that thing needs a channel to bring itself into the world. Because the truth is, if you do not open yourself as a channel for that thing, someone else will.

Right now, go:

  • Find a musician who you believe to be a genius and whose music puts you into a trance (mine is Maynard James Keenan of Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer, and here’s an example of his work). Read about the person’s life, immerse yourself in that music and the headspace of that person. Read the lyrics of their songs and think about why the person might have written them. Listen to the music between the beats.
  • Read something by someone who you believe brilliant (mine is David Foster Wallace, and right now, this is my favorite piece of his).
  • Call someone who inspires you, who has a crazy passion that drives them. If you’ve been in a slump, you probably haven’t called them for awhile. Ask them to coffee or a drink and get them talking about whatever inspires them. Their inspiration will feed that thing inside of you that cries out to make things that matter. And you will realize that they do matter.

When you finally believe that – really believe that – you will be unstoppable.

Great stories happen


Quote on emptiness

Here are some chill, moody beats for writing on a cold day

If you like electronic music, tune into these when it’s overcast and full of dreariness. It helps if there’s a pot of chicken broth simmering on the stove.

(The lyrics to this one especially caught me.)

Inspiring quote nuggets for your snacking pleasure

A personal journey has me on a quest for good thoughts. So I’ll share some of my favorite ones with you.


Apparently this pilot was hired to write this into the sky as a joke. But I’m sure that many of us can identify with this message, at many points in our lives.

Accept misfortune as a blessing. Do not wish for perfect health or a life without problems. What would you talk about?

– Zen Judaism by Someone Clever (from Puscifer’s website)


The best life advice I’ve heard in awhile

This. A hundred times this.

Okay, okay. I was wrong. I need a portfolio, and here it is.

Admissions of error are easier swallowed with a donut.

Admissions of error are easier swallowed with a donut.

After writing an entire post about not needing a portfolio, I made one. It’s a bit sparse right now, but it will grow as things get pushed out over the next few months.

There you go, haters. Now I’m off to smell the rain that has gloriously touched down in California today, curl up with a cup of tea, and forget all of you.

(Except those of you who need a writer. I’ll listen to anything you say.)

On another note, I’m currently enamored with this artist. Suits the rain quite well, or a drive at night on a lonely road.

2 ways to be more creative right now

I gave this as a speech recently.

I’m a freelance copywriter and every day, I work on projects that require me to think creatively. Creative thinking is a big theme right now in the world of work, and sometimes we have a hard time finding creative juice when we need it. So today I’ll share a few ideas on how to get unstuck.

Both of these have helped me in a slump:

  1. Messing up my desk.
  2. Wasting time going for a walk.

Let’s start with the first one:

  1.  Messing up my desk.

I’ll confess: my desk is always a mess. (Maybe my entire house actually, but we won’t discuss that.) I wrote this piece on a desk so messy that I had to carve out space for the keyboard. For me, a messy desk makes it easier for me to jump from lily to lily in the creative pond. Ideas don’t hide in boxes, but sit tucked away in jagged corners. A mess on my desk keeps my brain from becoming too comfortable with its surroundings.

And there’s a scientific basis for you logical thinkers out there. In one study, people were given 2 environments to complete a creative project. The first was a messy room–jagged lines, stuff strewn all over–and the second was a neat and tidy room–straight, clean lines, everything in its right place. The two groups sat in these rooms and collected ideas based on a theme.

When all of the ideas were submitted to an independent panel, who do you think had the better ideas?

The ideas from the messy room. They were rated as much more creative and innovative than the ones from the tidy room. That’s because we work more freely in an environment that encourages messy thought. We don’t restrict ourselves.

And a fun fact: Even Einstein seemed to know this trick.

  1. Wasting time going for a walk.

I’ve had some humdingers of delicious problems handed down to me from clients lately. One afternoon I was working through something so intensely that I realized I hadn’t taken the dog out for 8 hours. (Whoops.) To atone for my sin, I took him to the dog park. It takes about 20 minutes to walk there.

To be honest, that kind of break is a big waste of time for me when I’ve got a big push. But something happened to me on that walk: As I walked, I felt my brain relaxing. The structure of the problem in my head began to rearrange itself. Thoughts and ideas started coming faster and faster–so fast that I started talking to myself out loud about what was going on in my head.

(At this point, I put headphones on so I looked like I was on a call. I couldn’t be “that crazy lady” at the park.)

When I got back to my desk, my brain had somehow worked out the problem I had been struggling with for the past three hours. I looked it up and found that my experience is backed up by science:

This year, a Stanford University study found that the simple act of walking can boost your creativity up to 60 percent.

That means if you are working on a specific problem, you are measurably more creative while you are walking and for a short period of time after you finish walking. It doesn’t matter where you walk – people experienced the same effect when they walked around a drab office and when they walked on a green, tree-lined street.

So next time you’re on a desperate deadline, throw a few papers around the room and then waste some time by taking a walk. What happens in your brain might surprise you.

Creativity is a state of mind you can choose. Last year I had another big breakthrough in creativity, and you can read about that one here.