Tips for Lowering the Stakes

Starting (or restarting) a creative habit can be intimidating. I speak from experience, having only started writing in earnest about four years ago, in an attempt to pull myself out of a period of deep burnout and depression. Here are some tips for making it easier.

  1. Form an accountability group: I do hope that you share your work with the broader community in the comments of each post, but sharing with a more intimate group as well can go a long way. Form a small group of friends to trade your work with, and to hold one another accountable.

  2. Create a schedule with concrete goals: Carve out a standing block in your schedule to respond to each prompt, and keep track of your streak. Like any habit, the creative one will develop through consistency.

  3. Don’t look at the prompt until you’re ready for action: When the email comes in, you may be tempted to read the prompt right away, even if you don’t have the time to complete it just yet. Resist! You don’t want all that extra time to overthink. Wait until you’re actually ready to create before looking at the prompt.

  4. Set a timer: By giving yourself a concrete amount of time to respond to a prompt — say, 15 minutes — you put the focus on the activity itself as opposed to the output. Nobody is creating a masterpiece in fifteen minutes. Plus, you’re adding an ‘urgency’ that may force pen to paper much more rapidly (or paintbrush to canvas, etc.).

  5. Just start writing (or drawing, etc.): The first thing that pops into your mind upon seeing the prompt may seem silly, but it’s a starting point. Whatever it is, put it down on the page, and go from there.

  6. Let the page surprise you: When you’re struggling with your ‘chosen’ medium, use PFTV as a place for creative experimentation.

    • Maybe you’ve kept a journal for years, but have never written fiction.  Try it here. Next time you respond to a prompt in memoir form, twist one fact of the story around and see where it goes. 

    • Follow a stream of consciousness until you’re in strange, unfamiliar terrain. 

    • Throw a literal splash of color on your work, see how that points you in a new direction. 

You might be shocked at just how creative you can be if you allow yourself to be completely free.

Be sure to also read about How to Respond to a Creative Prompt.

Note: For those struggling with creative blocks, I’d highly recommend checking out Julie Cameron’s seminal work on creativity, The Artist’s Way.

Prompts from the Void can be a great tool for kicking off your Morning Pages, the practice of writing a three page ‘stream-of-consciousness’ first thing every morning. Cameron describes this practice as the ‘the bedrock tool of a creative recovery.’