When you first get an idea, creative energy comes in spurts. It’s a little chaotic and you don’t know when it will strike. However all successful artists know how to turn crazy (and temperamental) inspiration into an actual piece of art.
The other day I came across the perfect metaphor for all that chaotic energy we store up. At the time I was watching Blaze and The Monster Machines with my two-year old. Turns out children's educational television is a goldmine for productive writing habits.
The cartoon explained that extraordinary fete of engineering genius: a spring!
Fact is, spirals are one of the most frequently recurring patterns in nature because they channel creativity (Fibonacci's sequence, the formation of galaxies, DNA, I could go on forever...).
Why is a spiral so creative? It's merely a cycle (or circle) that advances through time.
Excuse me if this seems too simple but it really is the key to all creativity. You just keep circling back to the same idea, blog, novel, etc. and it advances through time. It creates a spring or spiral.
This is important to remember because as writers, we're so hard on ourselves when we go over a draft for the 70th time, or we revisit a character sheet AGAIN. But nothing in nature advances in a straight line. More often than not, it advances in a spiral. So when you feel you're going in circles, actually you're not, you're spiraling, just like all natural creativity.
Here are some conscious ways you can leverage the spiraling nature of your creativity. I promise it will speed up your creativity and make it more enjoyable.
Our months, weeks and days make up the regular spiraling progression of our lives, so anything that get's marked down on it grows and becomes more productive and creative. If you're a parent, or have a full time job (like me) you might be used to catching writing time on the sly. I encourage you to write it into your calendar. You'll be amazed at how more you can advance if you plan your writing time into your week, just as you would a work meeting or a play date.
As you plan it into your week, you will also want to plan it into your mind. The advantage of regular cycles and spirals, is they take the wild material of creativity and channel it into a force that feeds off it's own progress. Don't just write at random, set goals at the beginning of each week, and figure out how you'll accomplish them. You'll quickly find, that if you use this simple trick, you won't be as likely to clam up in front of the blank page.
Some of us are better at setting goals than celebrating them. That just leads to burn out. Especially for writers. Often writing can be a solitary process, where you have a long haul of steady progress before you surface with a published product. You might want to find a regular writing buddy. Someone to help you celebrate your weekly process. I meet my writing buddy at a coffee house on Tuesday afternoons. It's really nice to get a dose of mutual validation, once I've had my nose to the grindstone.
As Blaze and The Monster Machines so elegantly reminded me, engineers love springs because they easily convert potential to kinetic energy. This is one of the most beautiful principles of Newtonian physics that we learn in middle school and, unfortunately, forget.
Kinetic energy is motion, and potential energy is what builds up when that motion is withheld. It's the energy of possibility.
When you press down on a spring, you know there's potential energy building up. There's a force wants to be released. That's how it feels to be a writer without any regular patterns, or cycles of writing. You build up all these ideas in your mind, but you don't know where to put them.
You'll be surprised how easily creativity flows onto the page when you create regular patterns and follow through. Quite literally, everything "snowballs" from there.