Thursday, November 29, 2007



Although research is incomplete, studies suggest that creative individuals can not only maintain their creativity into their later years, but also resurrect it even if dormant for long stretches. As many writers start writing in their middle years and others pick it up again after they retire, this is excellent news. It heartens, as well, younger writers who struggle to find writing time amidst career and family demands.

The prospect of enjoyment in the task fires creativity more than deadlines, or monetary gain, etc. (I knew that!) But it is not enough for a writer to have a vague idea and a computer. Research from cognitive psychologists shows that creativity also needs the focus of an area of intense interest and a coterie of other like-minded individuals with whom to interact, bounce ideas around, and gain support. (If you don’t know what coterie means, see the entry of September 29, 2007.) This is the science behind the value and motivation we derive from writers’ groups.

Most encouraging of all, is that creativity can be learned—it’s never too late to start getting creative or enhancing what you’ve got, according to the findings of Smith, Ward, and Fink (1995) and, more recently, other researchers.

Here are some tips to increase your creativity:

  • Don’t stop at your first idea or even your fourth. Use your first four ideas as a jumping off point for more, whether it is a book or just a turning point in your novel. Try “What if…?” Exhaust all options!
  • Never judge your ideas at the brainstorming stage.
  • Give yourself time and the relaxed environment conducive to reflection and idea germination.
  • Expose yourself to the work of others, within and outside your genre and passion.
  • Stay curious and highly attuned to everything around you for ideas, new approaches, etc. Keep a creativity journal, a digital recorder, and/or your camera handy.

I think we all have imagination, but those who learn to tap their deep wells of creativity benefit the whole planet with their work.

(First published in The Beacon, Fall 207. For more issues, go to


I came across a wonderful essay on creativity by Emily Hanlon a few weeks ago called "Falling Down the Rabbit Hole." I urge writers to read it at: