Being creative is “having the ability to make unexpected connections, either to see commonplace things in new ways — or unusual things that escape the attention of others — and realize their importance,” as Georgetown University psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal describes it in this Washington Post article titled Creativity may be key to healthy aging. Here are ways to stay inspired. It isn’t limited to the arts, of course; there is much creativity in everyday activities, from rearranging the furniture to advising a teenager. And it may be a big boost to healthy aging. I can’t summarize the suggestions here — do read the article; it isn’t long — but what most struck me was the observation that we become truer to our vision as we age, able to solve problems, whether they involve pages, paint, or people, with less dependence on others’ expectations.
So it seems fitting to share a painting by an over-70 artist friend who got serious about painting after retiring from another career, and whose work sometimes turns expectations upside down
So there I was, sitting at the keyboard, making a few notes about the secondary protagonist in my fledgling WIP, a man in his late 50s, a wildlife biologist whose father was murdered when he was in college. And all of a sudden, I found myself transcribing a conversation only I could hear, between the man and his therapist. I didn’t know he had one — now that I’m further into the planning process, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t, and my subconscious invented one on the spot, to give me an ear on the man’s innermost thoughts. And in those few minutes, the character got a name and a broken marriage and a daughter and a lot of history I would not have discovered, or would have needed a lot more time and work to unearth, if I hadn’t been willing to listen to those voices.
Try it. Take your character out for coffee and scribble in your notebook what she might say, how the conversation would go, if she were sitting across the table from you instead of in your mind. What is she wearing? Did she dress with care or throw on her stained gardening clothes? Is she calm or fidgety? Talking slowly and deliberately or a mile a minute? How does she take her coffee and does she cradle the cup for warmth or let it grow cold? Does she care what you think? Is she sweet to the server or rude?
Maybe you and your character think by moving. Take a walk and speak your conversation into the recorder on your phone. And no, no one will care — they probably won’t notice, assuming you’re on the phone for real.
Imaginary friends. They truly are the heart of fiction.
Friends, I need your help. It seems sales of BITTERROOT LAKE, my suspense debut written as Alicia Beckman, have not yet convinced the publisher to take on Alicia’s next novel. In my editor’s words, “we need something to push you over that bubble.” Would you please take a moment this week to tell at least one person to buy BITTERROOT LAKE? A friend, your sister, a librarian—they love hearing from patrons and many libraries have online request forms. While I plan to keep writing cozies as Leslie, I love writing moodier stories as Alicia, and I know many of you have enjoyed the book. I hope you can help—and let me know if you do!
I’m a big fan of what author Dan Blank, who works directly with writers and other artists to develop their author platforms, launch their books, and create marketing strategies, calls “human-centered marketing.” He challenges those who say they hate marketing or to reframe it as connecting with their audience — and we all want that.
“The more we create, the more we express, the more we connect. Creating is the best marketing, and the foundation for all the other ways your work will get shared.”
In other words, stop thinking of marketing as an evil separate from your creative work, and apply those key principles — creativity and connection — to all the work you do. Your readers will notice the difference — and just as importantly, so will you.