Friday, January 22, 2010

Seven Steps to Empowering Your Creativity

Today we're thrilled to host Mary Buckham, who many of you know from her online classes and new book, BREAK INTO FICTION with Diana Love. Be sure to leave a comment to have a chance for winning one of her books!

MARY: I love January, not for the post hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but as a season of reflection, of slowing down and taking stock prior to making New Year’s goals that stick. I usually give myself all of January to decided and clarify. Lately I’ve been reading a book by John C Maxwell: Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work. With lots of quotes, anecdotes and insightful questions Maxwell opens avenue of thought I found helpful to writers or anyone really, in particular a chapter on Creativity. Because being creative and living our creativity is at the heart of every writer. I’d like to share what I learned from Maxwell as well as my own experiences as an author, an instructor and a human being.

Every child is born an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso.

Were you aware that 90% of five-year olds see themselves as highly creative? That in itself is not amazing, but wrap your minds around the concept that by the age of seven, 80% of us who saw ourselves as creative no longer believe we are. That means only 10% of seven-year olds believe they are creative. By the time we reach our teens that number drops to 2% and remains fairly constant throughout our adult lives.

So if you are a writer, or a painter, or sculptor, etc., count yourself among the few who have never, ever given up on a gift given to many, but realized by few.

To savor and honor that gift here are seven steps to continue to empower your own creativity.

Step 1) Remove Creativity Killers. Sometimes the words are said by others, sometimes from within, so if you catch others, or yourself saying any of the following then you’ve run into a Creativity Killer. Follow the Rules. Don’t Ask Questions. It’s Hard. Be Practical. Be Serious. Think of [fill in the blank]. You Can’t Afford [fill in the blank]. Yes, But. You Don’t Have the Time. You Don’t Have the Money. Don’t Be Foolish. The list goes on and on but you don’t have to buy into the Creativity Killers.

Step 2) Develop a Creative Environment. You know best what spurs ideas, fuels your passion, creates energy. Is it color? Certain objects? A wide horizon? A secluded space? Honor your sacred creative space, whether it’s a desk top, a room or something else, and it will honor you. So take a good look at your working environment. Does it foster your creativity? If it doesn’t, how can you change it?

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow” – Charlie Bower

Step 3) Surround yourself by people who support you and challenge you to be the best at what you want to accomplish or do, not what they want you to accomplish or do. The more time you spend with creative people engaging in creative activities, the more creative you will become. Conversely, the more time you spend with nay-sayers or limited thinkers, the more time . . . you can fill in this answer. Who are you surrounding yourself with?

“Reaching new goals and moving to a higher level of performance requires change, and change feels awkward, but, take comfort in the knowledge that if a change doesn’t feel uncomfortable, then it’s probably not really a change.” John C Maxwell.

Step 4) Challenge yourself constantly and be willing to feel uncomfortable. Delight in exploring something new, something different for you. What have you done lately to push your comfort levels? To challenge yourself? When have you broken your routine? Driven a different route home or read in a genre different than the ones you usually read? When have you tasted a new cuisine? Explored a new location? Daily we’re given opportunities to push our limits, so what’s holding you back?

Step 5) Creative thinkers don’t fear failure. Why? Because they hold a different expectation of what failure means. Didn’t achieve what you had hoped for? For many this is considered a failure, but what if it meant something different? Any situation holds the seeds of new knowledge, self-awareness and new direction.

The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.” – John C Maxwell

Creativity requires a willingness to look stupid. It means getting out on a limb, knowing that the limb often breaks! And if it does, take that opportunity to spread your wings and fly!

So what about you? What does creativity mean to you? How have you faced the highs and the not-so-highs of being creative or wanting to feel creative? Feel free to comment and out of those who do comment one name will be drawn for a copy of BREAK INTO FICTION™: 11 Steps to Building a Story That Sells or a Fiction book of your choice depending on the genre you love.

Mary Buckham is an award-winning fiction writer, co-author with Dianna Love of BREAK INTO FICTION: ™: 11 Steps to Building a Story That Sells from Adams Media [June 2009], co-founder of and a highly sought after instructor both on-line and at live workshops around the country. To find out more about Mary, her Manuscript, Synopsis and Query help, her Lecture Packets, Workshops and Writing projects visit her website.


MaxWriter said...

Hi Mary! Being a Maxwell, I thought I'd jump in. Staying positive is critical for me. I pretty much have one day a week to write (Fridays), and I reserve it for writing. When things aren't going so well (and when I see what a long road I have ahead to maybe get a book published), I think: I could be learning to play the cello, or finally cleaning out all the closets, or doing yoga all day, or just catching up on my reading. And then I think: but writing makes me happy! So I keep at it, and keep going to SINC-NE events and my writer's group, and keep in contact with my workshop friends. It works.

Edith Maxwell

RhondaL said...

This is a great post, Mary> Of, course, I'm not surprised about that. ;)

I'm in a rough spot now with my first draft. I'm into the final quarter of the my first novel and, while I know "information," I'm baffled about how to present it in story form. I've had to rethink how I approach writing the ending, even if I'm just listing elements and points I need to accomplish there to jog the process.

Although I have the usual doubts that I'm not sure if I can "pull this off," I keep working with it. I suspect that what I need is already in my notes somewhere and has been there all along.

What's odd for me is that this time, for this, I feel quiet faith that I'll find the solutions when the time is right. Weird, huh? ;)

Of course, if you have some words of wisdom to share that might ease the process of writing an ending, I would be "all ears." ;)

Laura DiSilverio said...

Paradoxically, I'm finding creativity more of a challenge since I finally landed some publishing deals last year. With books coming out in May and Sep of this year, and the nitty-gritty of marketing and promotion dragging on my time and energy, I'm finding my writing time has turned into more of a "have to churn out the words" than a labor of love. To combat that, I'm varying where I write and have signed up for a painting class, hoping to stir up my creative juices again.

Darlene Ryan said...

Hi Mary! Great post, especially the suggestion to develop a creative environment. I'm trying to do that by hanging up some of my paintings instead of hiding them away in a cupboard. I'm finding the paintings inspire the writing.

Of course it could be just the realization that I'm never going to get rich from the paintings so I better keep writing. :)

Mary Buckham said...

Edith -- gold stars you for continuing to move ahead especially when the going gets tough. I know writing is not for wussies -- or making a living at any creative endeavor in this country -- but even determination and stick-to-itness is a form of creative stubborness So keep up the great work - you'll appreciate the rewards ahead all that more!
Cheers and thanks for stopping by ~~ Mary B

Mary Buckham said...

Hello Rhonda ~~ so nice to see you here! Hmmm - creative and inspirational words to face an ending - talk about a hard one On the other hand, yowser you are so, so close to accomplishing a feat that only 1% of the population ever accomplishes. 83% of the American public is said to want to write a book - but only 1% ever finish a draft. You're only a quarter of the way to that 1% so keep going - don't worry if every T is crossed or I dotted - that's what revisions are for - just keep going - every day and before you know it you'll type THE END! I'm rooting you on!!

Thanks for popping in - now back to that draft and please let me know when you complete it do I can do the happy dance for you!
Cheers ~~ Mary B

Mary Buckham said...

Laura D ~~ smart, smart lady! You're realizing that maintaining creativity must be a conscious decision - a daily choice. Fueling your passions - especially outside of writing - is a way to keep the creative well stocked. I collect ethnic textiles and the days the postman brings me a bundle from Uzbekistan or Zaire - is a day I touch the lives of others, connect with creative people worlds away from mine. That type of inspiration makes it so much easier to return to the page. Enjoy your painting class - sounds wonderful!!
Thanks for sharing today ~~ Mary B

Mary Buckham said...

Darlene ~~ LOL! I'm married to an artist and designer and we keep one of his early paintings on hand. This 'masterpeice' was done when my hubby was about thirteen and filled with his greatness. I call it the Italian Ancestor -- which is faint praise for a portrait no one would ever want to claim But my hubby kept painting, kept working at his craft and supported our family of five kids with his earnings. That's creativity taken to the ninth degree and a great road map for me and other artists. So surround yourself with creative juice, in whatever guise it takes to fuel you and go for it!!!
Cheers ~~ Mary B

Alexis Morgan said...

Terrific post. I wrote my early books in the back corner of the dining room, but I still managed to keep a few things sitting around that made me smile.
Now I have an office--my stuffed animal collection has grown, and includes dragons, gargoyles and hedgehogs. I also need music playing in order to work, and my parakeets keep me company. Creating the right place for me to write in has been an evolution over close to twenty years, but it definitely makes it easier for me to concentrate and work.


Dee said...

Mary, it's always refreshing to take a class with you. I always learn a lot and love your positive comments.
Looking forward to taking the class with you next month.
Dee Gatrell

Mary Buckham said...

Hey Dee ~~ How fun to see you here and yes, I'm excited about the BODY LANGUAGE workshop too! Studying the craft can be a very creative endeavor, especially when we allow ourselves to try new techniques or maybe look at our work with fresh eyes. We'll be doing that a lot next month! See you in a few days!
Cheers ~~ Mary B

Mary Buckham said...

Alexis ~~ Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing! Your stuffed animals must have super mo-jo given the great body of work you've produced and I love the image of a stuffed Hedge Hog. Allowing ourselves to be fun and goofy is a great creative well-filler and a contrast to all the heavy emotions we need to bring to some of our scenes on page. Thanks for sharing and making me smile! I hope to see you next month at the GSRWA Thought to Plot workshop.
Cheers ~~ Mary B

Anna T.S. said...

Hi Mary,

When I hit the wall I go to past notes from classes I've taken (especially yours and Margie's) and read the instructors' comments, challenges and encouragements to remind me no matter how stuck I feel, I've got what it takes to push on.

Sharon Marie said...

Hey Mary, FEAR is such a killer of anything. It just stops you cold no matter what you're trying to achieve. If we can "get over it," we're good to go. Loved the "steps." I think I'll stick 'em up over my computer for daily reference. Look forward to Body Language.

ps - To relax I pick up a print brush and do decorative painting. Something about the way the paint glides over the wood...

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Sharon ~~ how fun to see you here today! I've started using a different definition for fear that you may find helpful. I think fear is an action single to simply let us know we've strayed beyond our comfort levels. That's all - and that can be such a good thing. It's why adrenaline junkies keep looking for bigger, higher, faster thrills - to be in the moment when we're pushing those boundaries. So here's a fear as a powerful fun tool . Can't wait for BODY LANGUAGE to start - we have so much fun learning to write stronger, clearer and more emotional body language on the page no matter what genre we're writing. See you there!
Cheers ~~ Mary B

Mary Buckham said...

Anna TS ~~ How wonderul to have you stop by and thank you for the kind words. I think instructors of any kind have a dual edged challenged - to push students toward their possibiities while not crushing them inadvertenly. There's nothing more freeing though when students take what a teacher offers and runs with it as you have in your writing! That's creativity in action!!!
Thanks again for visiting today! ~~ Mary B

Jungle Red Writers said...

Just wanted to pipe up and say thanks for being here today Mary--we're so sorry for the dumb server and blogger glitches that slowed up the process and kept your smiling face and book cover from showing up!

And for those of you wondering, Mary is exactly this enthusiastic and encouraging when you take one of her classes. I highly recommend it!


Mary Buckham said...

Roberta ~~ thank you! It's truly an honor to be asked to be here today. This community of bloggers is a perfect example of surrounding yourself with creative, forward thinking writers - another way to fill our creative wells! So thank you again, glitches come with the territority and I always think it's fun to have at least one small adventure before lunch -- it portends for a good day!!

Cheers and thank you again ~~ Mary B

Jan Brogan said...

Hi Mary,
Welcome to Jungle Red and thanks for such good tips. I'm with Laura, I've found it harder to feel creative after publishing four books. I still feel beaten down by all the promotional requirements and have to force myself to the computer sometimes. But I love your advice. Lately I've been playing a lot guitar and I was worrying that might be sidetracking the writing.

Glad to heat its going to help!

Mary Buckham said...

Jan ~~ I hear you! Juggling the business end of writing tends to drain creativity a lot. Gold stars to you for finding something that sounds relaxing and creative at the same time. That 'shouldn't' voice that creeps into the picture is often a good clue - when you hear it ask yourself do you want to be doing this vs should you be doing it. If the answer is YES - have fun and know it's your psyche giving you a push in the right direction for filling the creative well. Thanks for sharing and taking the time to stop by too!
Cheers ~~ Mary B

Allison Davis said...

Thanks for the great post -- my take away was the creative space. I need to stop dumping in my writing space (omg the books and periodicals and research everywhere) and clear it out for me. I will do that tonight.

I'm editing my second book, the first draft of which I did on Nanowrimo to see if I could write 50,000 words in a month and work full time (I'm a parnter in a law firm). I got to 50,800 and that did more for me than anything.

My other take away point from your post is to surround myself with other creative people. Take the time to spend with my writer folk (who are amazingly and wonderfully supportive) in spite of full time job, and needing time to write.

Lastly, I'll figure out my writing schedule by the end of next week, but determined to finish this draft by end of March (for my b'day). thanks again.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Thanks for a great post, Mary!

Colors and laughter can prime my creativity well faster than anything else. I have a really cool wall mural in my office, a fantasy scene with water, a rainbow, and Pegasus, painted by Nancy Radke. I love it.

Mary Marvella said...

I like to please people and can stall out if CPs find enough wrong with a WIP.

Editing older projects reminds me I can write well.

Mary Buckham said...

Allison ~~ Way to find nuggets and small steps that can produce large results! I once heard that our exterior world mirrors our interior world -- so when my exterior space gets jumbled and cluttered I know setting it to rights will help order my interior world. This is different than cleaning the toilet rather than writing . Have fun implementing small changes that can really pay off and congrats on finishing the NaNoWriMo - that's a huge accomplishment!
Cheers ~~ Mary B

Mary Buckham said...

Jacquie ~~ How fun to see another PNW face here today - thanks for stopping by! I love that you have an amazing mural and so appropriate to what you write. At one time I had an office that was brilliant yellow - it woke me up just walking in there. For someone else that would be too much color but at that time in my life it worked so well for me. Here's to using color and all its powerful ways! Cheers ~~ Mary B

Mary Buckham said...

Hello Mary M - a lovely voice from the Southeast and a great blogger yourself! It can be challenging when CPs come down too hard on our work but a wonderful barometer too as to whether a group works well or not. IMO a great cp is one who can point out what stops them and get you excited to make the changes . If a cp or cps are stopping your writing it's certainly something to take a good hard look at -- see if the issue is with them or the issue is with where you're coming from - either way we all deserve support -- which is not unlimited praise all the time - but constructive support. Thanks for sharing and being here today. Yours ~~ Mary B

Norma said...

Hello Mary. I love your post. I especially like your number 4 comment - try new experiences. That's been my motto all my life.

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Norma ~~ I love meeting a fellow writer who's game for new experiences -- always something to learn even if they do not turn out as expected . Glad you took the time to pop in this evening - thank you!
Cheers ~~ Mary B :-)

Mary Buckham said...

Roberta and fellow Jungle Red Writers ~~ Thank you ever so much for inviting me here today -- I'm in such great company! May all your writing flow and your days be filled with creativity.

Till we meet again ~~ Mary B :-)

Chassily Wakefield said...

Hi, Mary! Something is going on with me, every single time I read or see you these days, I wind up crying! What's that about?? LOL But the statistic on kids who see themselves as creative in kindergarten and just a few years later they no longer do really got to me. That's a tragedy. :( But how wonderful to know that there are people like you out there making sure we give our creativity the importance and honor it deserves. Your posts always inspire me. Thanks. And see you soon!


Lynn said...

I'm always amazed at the number of people who don't think they can. I have two choices -- be positive or be negative. It doesn't take any more energy to be positive.

Thanks for the post.

Daryl a.k.a. Avery said...

Chiming in late, but Mary what a lovely post! Preserving creativity in one's soul is something I encourage all the time, in the young, in the old. If you have the courage to try your hand at something creative, do it! I've been blessed to have family and friends around me who have encouraged me. People who fan the fire! My favorite phrase: Believe you can!


Suzanne Adair said...

Hi Mary! Here I am, bringing up the rear on this eloquent discussion. :-)

I love your definition of fear: a way to let us know when we've strayed beyond our comfort levels. That segues into my definition of courage: the ability to act appropriately in the presence of fear.

Expressing creativity taps into our fears. Those of us who move forward despite fear and express creativity are courageous. And after we're published, our creativity must evolve to accommodate the rigors of promoting one book, editing the next book, and writing the book after that.

For most of my life, I have balanced the "still" creativity of my writing with the "in motion" creativity generated by taking classical ballet classes.

I look forward to learning more from you in February.

Mary Buckham said...

Suzanne ~~

What a stunning description of the balance between fear and creativity! I've not thought of those terms in that way and love it! Thanks for stopping by and sharing and I'm looking forward to seeing you in BODY LANGUAGE class next month.
Cheers ~~ Mary B :-)

Mary Buckham said...

Daryl ~~ How delightful to see you here! Lovely feedback on creativity as expected from the author of The Long Quiche Goodbye - which I can't wait to read come July!! Thanks for dropping by and sharing.
Hugs ~~ Mary B :-)

Mary Buckham said...

Lynn ~~ How fun to see you here and I love the clarity of your choices - how right you are! Thanks for stopping by and connecting.
Hugs ~~ Mary B :-)

Roberta Isleib said...

Rhonda Lane is the lucky winner of one of Mary's books. Thanks to every one of you for visiting Mary at Jungle Red!

Mary Buckham said...

Chassily ~~ How fun to see a fellow PNW writer stop by - thank you! Those tears are the bottled up creative emotions waiting to be set free. I strongly believe that writers feel more than the average person -- we tap into those emotions when we write. When we ignore or stifle our creativity those emotions get dammed up and have to escape somehow - thus tears. Probably not a scientific explanation but close enough. Looking forward to seeing you at THOUGHT TO PLOT workshop in February.
Cheers ~~ Mary B :-)

Mary Buckham said...

Rhonda ~~

CONGRATULATIONS! I'll be getting your autographed copy of BREAK INTO FICTION out to you asap. Thanks for connecting and thank you Roberta and all the Jungle Red Writers for having me stop by!
Cheers ~~ Mary B :-)

Scarlet Pumpernickel said...

Mary, thanks for sharing this, it was just what I needed to hear. Got to get a handle on rejection and turn it into a building block. Rejection is a good thing, it means I sent something out!

RhondaL said...

As the old MTV slogan used to go, "People really do win." :) :)

Thanks, Mary and Jungle Red.