Writing Tips: Soaking Up Creative Energy

What is it and how can I tap into it?

The other day, I posted a blog entry about distractions. In it, I shared an exchange between me and one of my Twitter friends. He’d tweeted that the coffee shop he was trying to write in was distracting. When I asked why he’d try to write there, he said the place had “creative energy.”

On “Creative Energy”

I should start out by saying that I don’t really believe in “energy” as the term is used by New Age folks. I’m a skeptic about most things and the older I get, the more skeptical I get. So if he was referring to some kind of weird, new age “energy” fields — like the vortexes supposedly in Sedona — he completely lost me (and much of my respect).

But I don’t think he meant it that way. (At least I hope not.) I think he meant something I do believe in and understand.

Did you ever go someplace or do something or read something or see something that made you feel almost feverish about writing (or painting or doing something else creative)? It’s as if this place or thing gave you a poke with a creative juice taser. After (or during) the experience, you must create. You’re driven to create.

I really can’t describe it any better than that.

On WritingThis happens to me once in a while. Stephen King’s book, On Writing, made me feel like this. Although I couldn’t put the book down, I also couldn’t wait to get back to my novel in progress the whole time I was reading it. (And no, I’m not a big Stephen King fan.)

I’ve also felt this way other times. It’s a great feeling. It reminds me of why I wanted to be a writer.

It’s frustrating, too, because when it hits, I’m not always prepared to drop everything and get to work. Sometimes, it hits when I’m traveling on vacation or for business and I simply can’t make the workplace I need to get the words out. Or by the time I can, I’m too exhausted by the day’s activities and can only sleep.

I think my Twitter friend was referring to this feeling. I think he feels this way in the coffee shop he tweeted to us about, or in other places like it with “creative energy.”

Soak it Up!

I don’t think that places with creative energy are the best places to write if they’re also filled with distractions. But that certainly doesn’t mean a creative person should avoid them. Instead, why not use them as a place to soak up that energy?

Take my Twitter friend’s coffee shop example. How could you tap into the creative energy you might feel in a place like that?

Sit down with your coffee at a corner table, facing the room. Have your journal open and your pen handy. Take notes about what you see and hear. The woman with blue streaks in her hair is carrying a molecular biology text book. That guy’s accent is weird, like a cross between Australia and New Jersey. Those two women are talking about the guy sitting in the opposite corner, staring into space. There’s a crack in the ceiling that looks as if it might have been dripping last week. The smell of coffee is strong in the air. A song you haven’t heard in years has just come on over the speakers. It reminds you of the road trip you took during college.

Any of these people can be characters in a book or screenplay. The things they talk about can be ideas for articles or nonfiction works. What’s going on around you can trigger ideas that can get your creative juices flowing and help you break the writer’s block that may have sent you to the coffee shop in the first place.

But not if you try to build your workplace among these distractions by keeping your eyes on your laptop or notepad and earphones in your ears — which is what my Twitter friend was apparently trying to do.

Work in your workplace. Soak up the creative energy of other places by actively paying attention to it when you find it.

There’s More than One Work Mode

For a writer, there’s more than one way to work.

Sure, you can go into your distraction-free working place, as I discussed in my earlier post, focus on your writing, and churn out the words. That’s one work mode. The one that actually produces finished (or nearly finished) text.

But you may need to do things that generate the ideas and get you fired up about writing. If going to a coffee shop with “creative energy” does that for you, it’s an important part of your writing routine. I might think of it as the “pre-work” mode. And for folks who write fiction, there’s nothing better than an hour or so of people watching with your journal nearby to get those creative juices flowing.

And people watching isn’t the only pre-work you can do. Take a walk in the park and jot down notes about what you see. What’s the weather like? What does it smell like? What do you hear? Go to the supermarket at a weird off-hour. What’s it like? Hang around outside an office or retail space before it opens or as its closing. What’s going on? Think about the scenes in your work-in-progress and go to places like them to get the real-life scoop of what they’re all about.

Pay attention! You’ll be amazed by what you come away with.

Remember: Characters, dialog, and plot are only three components of fiction. Scene is another. Doing your homework can help you write about realistic scenes.

As for journals…well, I need cover the importance of those in another post.

What do you think?