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Great Storytelling Starts with Conscious Creativity

To keep the muse on call for duty, you have to treat her with respect.

A great story is the gold standard in communication. But conjuring a compelling tale isn’t always easy.

Everyone encounters occasional crises of imagination, often in the form of writer’s block. In the communication business, you need to produce words to tell stories. But what if the words won’t come?

To keep the muse on call for duty, you have to treat her with respect. 

Don’t let the specter of a blank page intimidate you. To keep your wellspring of inspiration bubbling, practice the art of conscious creativity with these tips to increase productivity and hone your storytelling skills.

Read
Wrestling with ideas can make writing feel like war. To counter conflicting thoughts, put down the keyboard and pick up a book.

Reading is the most effective way to uncork creativity and passively improve your writing. It exposes you to new ideas, unfamiliar vocabulary, and different styles. Simply absorbing someone else’s viewpoint transports you out of the echo chamber of your own mind.

Set aside time each day to read for pleasure: articles, newsletters, novels, comics, reviews, poems, commentary…whatever. Finding joy in reading guides your hand in writing.

Let It Flow
A common creativity killer stems from chasing perfection too early in the writing process. Don’t fret over every word or fixate on crafting that first amazing sentence. Such self-torment is a waste of time: Good writing often requires bad writing to forge the way.

Instead of meticulously editing words, sentences, or even entire paragraphs as you write, tell yourself they may get chopped in later revisions anyway. It’s best to start loose. Let your notions flow and see what takes shape.

Having trouble getting started? Try an off-beat prompt, then see if you can fuse it with what you’re trying to write. For example: Think about a song that has special significance to you. Where did you first hear it? Does it give you a certain feeling? Spark a particular memory? Start writing about the song and try to connect it to the task at hand, no matter how incongruous the two may seem.

What begins as a random exercise in unrelated concepts can open surprising paths to unique and authentic narratives.

Summon Voices
Hearing imaginary voices isn’t usually thought of as a good thing, but when it comes to writing, it can be an invaluable tool.

For example, the appropriate tone is a critical aspect of any written work and it’s not always easy to convey. It can be dictated by medium, subject matter, intended audience, purpose, or even brand depending on what you’re creating. If you’re struggling to achieve the right tone for a particular project, try replacing your own voice with someone else’s.

Imagine a familiar and distinct voice in your mind and channel it in your writing. You can mentally adopt the voice of your brother or boss or best friend. Better yet, try impersonating a fictional character or celebrity to adjust the personality of your work. Need a note of “everyman” in your text? Write it in the voice of Tom Hanks or Oprah Winfrey. Require a bit more sass? Try on the voice of Ali Wong or Ryan Reynolds. There are endless variations of this technique you can sample to inject flavor and tweak tone.

Collaborate
Anything you write is going to be better after you share it with someone you respect and listen to what they have to say.

Though writing is a solitary pursuit, storytelling is about communication. By definition, it requires the exchange of ideas. Embrace it.

You are not required to implement suggestions or changes just because you ask for feedback. But a fresh pair of eyes can often see problems you overlooked or help clear obstacles that have you stumped.

Line Up the Usual Suspects
Set a deadline and set the stage. When it’s time to produce, employ these tried-and-true tips for banishing writer’s block:

  • Clear your head: Take a walk outside, stretch, breathe deep, grab a glass of water, get comfortable.
  • Eliminate distraction: Silence alerts, set your status to busy, close your browser, hide your phone.
  • Take a moment to visualize: Review your notes, zero in on what you want to communicate and to whom.
  • Start typing: It’s that simple. Seriously, go!

Inspiration does not often strike out of the blue, as is so commonly believed. Like everything else, it travels more freely when it has a path. Tend that path with conscious creativity.

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