Lost Gods edited by Joanne Hall and Dolly Garland

Lost Gods edited by Joanne Hall and Dolly Garland

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Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens – SPFBO #6 Finals Review

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New Year’s Creativity Resolutions

Book Art by MarianneLoMonacoCome January 1st, after the fireworks, champagne, and parties wind down, people focus on their New Year’s resolutions. For most of us, that means focusing on our bodies. We resolve to exercise more, eat better/less, or to finish the Couch to 5k program. Well, most of us do, anyway.* But how many of us make a resolution to help improve our creativity?

At some point, many writers sit down to write but come up dry. If not outright writer’s block, it’s at least more of a struggle to write. Words and inspiration simply don’t come, and the page remains blank. To resolve this problem, writers will often take a break and seek out experiences that will refill that creative well and stimulate a new surge of creativity. But what if you made a resolution to do these sorts of activities throughout the year so that your creative well never ran dry? What if you surrounded yourself with new experiences, new ideas, and new people and transformed your well into a spring that continually bubbled over with new stories?

Get Reading

Chapters by boywonderThe first thing you can do is read more. Expose yourself to new stories and new ways of telling stories. You can keep a running tally on Twitter or your blog for public accountability. Or sites like Goodreads that allow users to sign up for annual reading challenges where you can pledge to read a certain number of books.

But you don’t need to stop there. Instead of reading more sci-fi and fantasy, try reading from genres you are less familiar with: history books, science books, or biographies. Try reading classic pieces of literature. After all, a recent study claims reading literature makes you more empathetic, which can only improve your writing. Or try reading essays, short stories, and poetry. Or go for an “all of the above” approach by following the Great Books program of St. John’s College.

Get Out More

Upwards snow path by Matti PiiroinenAnother way to spark creativity is to go for regular walks or hikes. Walking has long been a source of inspiration to writers including Robert Louis Stevenson, James Joyce, and Vladimir Nabokov. Neil Gaiman routinely posts pictures of his walks in the woods. Just let your mind unwind as you walk through a serene environment. Your unconscious will thank you: there’s some evidence that spending time in nature makes you more creative.

Walking and hiking are great hobbies. All it costs is the rubber on the soles of your shoes, or the gas to drive you to the trailhead With a little research, you’d be surprised how close some great trails through the woods, mountains, parks, or on the shore are. But just in case you find yourself seemingly trapped in the most urban of environments, try skipping your shortcut and take the scenic route home. Who knows what you might discover?

Get Cultured

Museum in Berlin by IsacGoulartAnother option is to make a commitment to visit museums. Every major city has an art museum or two. Go check them out, especially if they have a display from a school of art you think you don’t like or are unfamiliar with. Why? Because art makes you smart. Or, to put it in a less attention-grabbing-headline fashion, you can benefit from seeing how others interpret the world around them.

Alternatively, look for a science museum. Or ask your local historical society to point you toward spots of interest. Or look for a smaller museum with an unusual focus. These can be a goldmine for writers, even if the focus is more mundane than Iceland’s Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft or the Phallological Museum (WARNING: NSFW IMAGES AND SUBJECT MATTER). Not only will these museums help you, but you may be also to help them out in creative ways. For example, the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia will let you adopt a skull in its collection.

Get Educated

Pen and Book by JaxImageryA final option is to contact your municipal, county, or state public service departments to see if they offer a tour. If not, maybe you can offer to take one of their public affairs personnel out for coffee. After all, everyone likes to talk about his or her job. And suddenly a writer wants to make sure he or she portrays the Water Treatment, Waste Removal, or Police Department with honesty and accuracy? Who could resist? And what better way to learn something new and improve your world building, especially if your story avoids royalty for the sort of people most citizens ignore?

Some of these suggestions might not be your cup of tea. But that’s really the whole point: pushing beyond your comfort zones into new areas that make you uncomfortable, challenge your beliefs, or teach you something new. There’s plenty of time between now and when you sing Auld Lang Syne with friends and loved ones. So take that time to think about how you will explore in 2014. How will you keep your well of creativity overflowing?

*Of course, I’m excluding Marc Aplin, Fantasy-Faction’s founder. That guy is literally giving lessons on how he stays fit. 😉

Title image by MarianneLoMonaco.



  1. Avatar Aprella says:

    Some great tips in here! I’m looking forward to make 2014 one hell of a writing year 😀

  2. Avatar Bibliotropic says:

    I’m determined to start doing tai chi so that I can increase my mobility and improve my coordination, and because it’s gentle enough that I don’t think it’ll aggravate the pain I’ve been experiencing since I had surgery. I want to be more active and to lose weight and to be healthy in both mind and body.

    I think I’m also going to try to tackle 1 nonfiction book a month, because they’ve been piling up and there are a lot of fascinating topics out there that I want to do some good solid research on.

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