Ernest Hemingway called a blank sheet of paper the scariest thing he’d ever encountered in his life. Anyone can face writer’s block, and it’s especially difficult to get your creative, imaginative thoughts on paper. Whether you’re looking to write a speech, a novel, or anything in between, these five tips will help you get started on expressing your ideas in a unique way.
1. Collect stories from your surroundings
One of the simplest ways to improve your creative writing skills is to draw from your surroundings. By taking note of ideas from people you meet, conversations you overhear, places you visit, conferences you attend, speeches you watch, and beyond, the potential for creative thought expands. Become a sponge, and be incurably curious. Writer R. V. Cassill called notebooks “incubators” - carry a notebook and write down what you observe.
2. Read, read, and read more
Reading is scientifically proven to expand your vocabulary and increase intelligence - two traits that can both improve and differentiate your writing. Reading a variety of content also exposes you to new styles, genres, and cadences of writing.
3. Write, write, and write more
The more you write, the better a writer you’ll become. As with anything, writing more often can improve your practice. The hardest part is starting! Set aside 10 minutes every night to document your day, or do a writing exercise to challenge yourself, like the Pennebaker Writing Exercise. To begin, think of something - an upcoming event, a stress, etc. - that has been on your mind. For four days straight, write about it for 10 to 20 minutes nightly. Don’t think about style, spelling, grammar, or anything that may distract from your content. Simply write. Which leads to the next tip...
4. Break the rules
To unlock your creative juices, try stepping outside of the traditional approaches you currently know about writing. While understanding the fundamentals of writing and sentence structure can serve as an excellent base when getting started, breaking those rules will allow you to write more freely and uniquely. The outcome won't necessarily be stellar on first attempt, but keep trying to find your voice and utilize writing as an outlet.
5. Find your time of day
Pay attention to the time of day that free-thinking comes easiest to you. You may feel your most creative first thing in the morning, before your mind is pulled away by the hustle of the day. If you're a night owl, 11 pm may be the ideal time to get your creative juices flowing on paper. Take note of when you feel sharpest and play around with a time that works for you.
Want to learn more? Check out these resources for strengthening your creative writing skills.