Here are 10 smart, yet simple ways for every writer—from novelists to journalists to poets—to enrich his or her mind and become better at cultivating ideas and putting them to the page.
by MELISSA CLARK
1. Travel the world
Old, young, rich, poor, there are many ways to see the world, soak up other cultures, see examples of creativity in art, food, music, architecture. Lately, I’ve been applying to and attending artist residencies to work on my writing in other countries including Spain, Portugal and Mexico. Even if you’re only able to take a day trip, take it! Soak up any experience you can get that lives outside your day-to-day life.
Not just the “My boyfriend broke up with me” kind. (Though that’s fine, too.) Write down your thoughts, ideas, memories, draw pictures, and record dreams. There are many ways to journal including blogs, Pinterest, and various apps. Who knows what ideas the younger you has in store for the older you. You’ll never know if you don’t record them.
3. Be a student throughout your life
So many colleges and universities offer extension courses. I like taking classes outside of my writing interest and have taken Nude Figure Drawing, Ceramics, Anger Management and Stand-Up Comedy, among others. Ultimately, anything you learn can be useful to your writing.
4. Also be a teacher
I grew up in a family that supported my creativity, but many people don’t and they need a mentor to help them navigate the waters. I not only teach in colleges, but at unexpected places, too, like spas and retreats. I love meeting and being inspired by different types of students all over the country. Why not volunteer your time teaching writing to kids or the elderly? Everyone has a story. How wonderful if you’re able to help someone express theirs.
5. Realize that no idea is too big/small/silly/crazy
One afternoon at lunch with a friend I ate too much (as usual). When I lifted my shirt to show him my bloated belly, he said, “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?” and I said, “Yeah, right, from a lazy sperm!” This off-the-cuff comment inspired my first novel, “Swimming Upstream, Slowly,” about a woman who becomes pregnant from a lazy sperm. Silly? Absolutely! Published novel? That’s right! What ideas are you preventing from being realized because you think they are too big/small/silly/crazy?
Other tips include:
6. When you hear “no” do it anyway
7. Accept your shadow side
8. Invest in a good therapist
9. Forgive yourself
10. Practice gratitude
About Melissa Clark: Clark is an author, television writer and college instructor. She is the author of the novels, Bear Witness, Swimming Upstream, Slowly, and Imperfect. Her essay, “Rachael Ray Saved My Life” is included in the anthology The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage.
She is also the creator of the animated television series, “Braceface,” starring the voice of Alicia Silverstone which aired on the ABC Family Channel. She has written scripts for “Rolie Polie Olie,” “Totally Spies,” “Sweet Valley High,” among others. Melissa teaches creative writing and literature courses both privately.