How to be Creative

I am an artist you know … it is my right to be odd.” (E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly)
As writers, we, like to think of ourselves as creative beings. But what does it mean?  Basically, it means we make things up. Creating=making.  Of course, being creative is part of the DNA of all human beings, so we’re not special. Children make worlds out of plastic blocks or sand. Writers make worlds out of words. As writers, we’re a curious lot.  We ask, We’re also ambitious. We want to create stories that resonate with readers. Being curious and ambitious are good traits…although sometimes dangerous. We all know what happened to the cat! And ambition can cause disappointment.what if?

RAMillu / Pixabay

Which brings me to another side of creativity. Being creative, living outside the box, has its costs.  It can affect our financial stability, our relationships and our health.  More likely than not, we can’t count on a steady income from our word play…our stories. Instead, we need a day-job, or a supportive family…and they have to be prepared for the precarious nature of our literary ambition.

As creative-types we’re often insecure and anxious. It’s the nature of the beast. We’re also easily distracted—sensitive to stuff all around us—except to the ticking of the clock. Like children, creative types lose all concept of time when immersed in a project. It’s a good thing someone invented deadlines. They help keep us on track.

Our biggest enemy is fear. That fear comes from inside us…not from any outer enemy. We’re afraid of being judged—of being criticized as not good enough. This usually happens when we compare. So stop comparing yourself and your art to the others. Have fun.


Here are more than 2 dozen ways to be more creative. Surely you have your own favourites. Care to share?

  1. Change your position, your view, your perspective. (write with crayons, wear mittens, sit cross-legged on floors, write in a treehouse, wear rose-colored glasses).
    JordanStimpson / Pixabay
  2. Slow down – smell the roses, or the melting snow. (aka: mindfulness)
  3. Brainstorm. Let yourself come up with forty-three solutions to a problem. (No editing out the silly ones!)
  4. Imitate. Find what you admire and copy it. (This is not cheating, it’s learning!)
  5. Surround yourself with the colour blue—according to a U of BC study. (Not sure if teal counts.)
  6. Play a musical instrument and strum for ideas (Einstein played the violin).
  7. Use mind-altering drugs (Supposedly Steve Jobs tried LSD, but coffee or wine work too).
  8. Make mistakes (yes, even the ‘greats’ created less than perfect art).
  9. Play (in a sandbox, with playdough, in a stage-play, or make snow angels, etc.)
  10. Avoid negative thinking (your cup is half full).
  11. Spend time alone (solitude is not loneliness).
  12. Spend time with others (connect, laugh, share).
  13. Steal and borrow (read and watch).
  14. Fake it ‘til you make it (aka, play pretend).
  15. Do what YOU want (forget the rules).
  16. Be physical (ride a bike, go for a walk).
  17. Sing – in the car, on your hike, in the shower.
  18. Share – making someone happy with your art empowers you as the artist.
  19. Spend time in nature – all year long.
  20. Write ideas down when they hit you (don’t wait).
  21. Take naps (with your notebook!)
  22. Live in a rainy climate.
  23. Live in a cold climate.
  24. Drink tea (in a fancy cup).
  25. Curl up in front of a fireplace—with a pen and paper.
  26. Travel—keeps you vulnerable, open and childlike.

More suggestions?

Elizabeth Gilbert said this about creativity: “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”

Gabe writes the books she wished she could have read while growing up as an awkward immigrant in Winnipeg. Her Katya stories are set in pre-war Soviet Union and East Prussia.

The Classroom and School Community

When you develop community in the classroom, you provide your students with a safe, secure environment where they can freely learn more about themselves and grow in their knowledge and skills. As their teacher, you model caring, acceptance, and support for everyone in the classroom. Through listening to the language of acceptance and modeling inclusion, you show children how to positively function within their community.

In my book “Relationships Make the Difference” I talk about how to use the Moral Intelligences (Michele Borba, 2001) to develop acceptance and inclusion with our students. It opens many doors of opportunity when you help your students develop and use respect, kindness, empathy, fairness, self-control, tolerance, and conscience with themselves, their peers and community.

I worked in a school that decided their school goal would be to develop these intelligences as they connected us to the moral fiber of our school community. Parents, students and staff believed these were crucial intelligences and encouraged their use on a daily basis; we were all using the same language and students got to practice daily in class, at recess and at home with their families. Students began to understand their personal strengths and learned how to share these and better support others. Some children became leaders because their strengths were knowing how to support and help others; others benefited from this extra support and learned more. There was a positive carry over to their daily learning and students felt part of a caring community were their needs and talents mattered.

Children demonstrate social responsibility when they learn to respect and care for others. Instead of only thinking about themselves, students realize that everyone needs to be treated with respect and kindness; we need to walk in other people’s shoes to understand how they feel and then tolerate their differences; this belief should be apparent in our decisions.

By adding moral intelligences to student academic learning we are providing the opportunity to develop their social and emotional skills too. Children learn at a deeper level and continue to develop these skills into their adult lives.

Patricia Trottier, an experienced educator, loves working with and writing about the daily joys and challenges of children and adults.

Tapping into Eureka

S is for Scientists In one of the entries for my book, S is for Scientists: A Discovery Alphabet (illustated by David Geister), I told the story about Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes and his legendary bath. In 256 B.C., after several frustrating and unsuccessful days of pondering a problem, Archimedes visited the public baths. As Archimedes lowered his body into the water, a solution to the problem seemingly appeared out of nowhere. As the story goes, Archimedes ran down the street naked yelling “Eureka!” (I’ve found it!), leaving us all with a memorable visual of the moment.

You’ve probably had an experience similar to Archimedes’ – hopefully not the running naked down the street part, but maybe a Eureka moment of your own when you are in the shower or running on a treadmill or walking in the woods and suddenly you see with extreme clarity the solution to a sticky problem – an elusive twist in the plot of your novel perhaps, or a way to organize complex information that moments before seemed obscure. At those Eureka moments, the brain seems to be operating on its own without conscious direction.

As writers we all face difficulties. Words fail, passages disappoint, ideas flounder on the page, and no matter how hard we try – writing and rewriting – we seem stuck in the mire, spinning our wheels in frustration. The phenomenon is so common that we have a name for it – writer’s block.

At these times, I find it helps to remember Archimedes and how he eventually became unstuck. Step aside. Leave the writing be. Engage in a mind-freeing activity (physically demanding ones work best for me). Trust the brain to figure it out, and then let it loose to unravel the thorny knot.

Why, I can almost hear you calling Eureka already.Y - text

For Larry Verstraete, an award-winning author of books for young people, writing is all about the journey and often the perfect writing storm occurs when high adventure, science and history converge. An advocate for literacy, Larry often visits schools and libraries to share his passion.

Penny Thoughts on My E-Reader

A typical bedtime–> James comes to bed, pries my Kobo from my fingers and places it on my nightstand. Then presses my hands down from their clenched position and adjusts my blankets… I’m sleeping. [James’ insert: She means “snoring”!]

This morning, I woke up to thoughts about my e-reader. I love it. I love that I can purchase books at a reduced price. It’s convenient to have my books in one place. When I read, I can get comfy and cozy with my plush moss green blanket, and never and have to turn my wrist to read the other side of the page.

Of course, there are downfalls of an e-reader.

I read the funniest line ever in Allan Stratton’s Borderline. I wanted to read it to James, however, it was during my morning reading and he was the one sleeping [James’ insert: Note – I don’t snore!] (Yes, he does!) Anyway, I read all morning. When he woke up, I spent ten minutes paging back…

and back

and back…

until I found the line I wanted to share with him. In a paper book, this would have been much faster, flip back and then scan the few pages till I found the line. I figure two minutes tops. There are eight minutes of my life I’ll never get back, never mind the additional five minutes of paging forward to where I’d left off reading.

I’d gladly quote the line for you’re here, however, that would mean an additional several minutes to find it again… trust me – it was about farting and a character’s butt cheeks getting windburn, it was hilarious!

So, downfall one: not so easy to flip through.

Downfall two: I’m a visual reader. The closer I get to the end of the book the more time I’ll find to sit down to read it (other than my habitual before and after sleeping) [snoring!] (hush now, they get it!). With my Kobo, I can’t get a sense of how long the book is before I start reading, and don’t have the visual, ‘oh, I’m half way now’. I miss this about a paper book.

And my third woe is I can’t pass along what I’ve read to others. (Let’s be clear, I mean other’s in my home. I’m rather hoard-ish about my books.) I read many of the same YA novels that my son reads. And I often recommend books to him. He doesn’t have an e-reader right now so I find I read the e-reader version and then buy the paper version. The thought of just buying him his own e-reader has crossed my mind…

Perhaps my e-readers woes are trivial and certainly not big enough contenders to revert me to reading paper books all the time. However, I like to think I’ve saved a few trees…

Do you have pros and cons about your e-reader?

¸.· ´¸.·*´¨) ¸.·*¨)
(¸.·´ (¸.·’* Suzanne Costigan writes middle grade and YA novels. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada with James, her children, three dogs and four cats.

Suzanne’s first novel, Empty Cup, is an edgy contemporary young adult story about a seventeen year old girl who lives through life’s ultimate betrayal. Suzanne lives in Winnipeg, MB.

Soccer Lessons for Writers

Years of being a soccer mom have enriched my life. Here’s some of what I’ve learned. To be a good soccer player you must practice, practice, practice. Same thing applies to being a good writer. But a good soccer player does more than just kick a ball into a net. That soccer player must also be agile, flexible, possess stamina, be willing to learn and develop team skills. These requirements also apply to a good writer. Let me explain.

Agility. You’re nimble and able to change direction as needed whether on a soccer field or shifting words around on a page. This skill involves quick thinking and shows that you have good control of the ball or the words.

Flexibility. In soccer, good players can switch positions when needed. They can play defense, even if they’ve trained as forward strikers. In writing, when you have a solid grasp of your material, you can re-shape it depending on your potential market. You’re versatile.

Stamina. This involves discipline. An athlete builds endurance through training. Athletes can’t perform if they haven’t practiced. As writers we train by putting in regular sessions at the keyboard or the notebook. We know that even writing that doesn’t get published is never wasted because it strengthens our writing muscles.

Coaching: A soccer player needs an outside assessment. Sometimes criticism hurts, but a good player uses that criticism to improve. As writers we need to step away from our game—our writing—and get another’s point of view.  A coach is like an editor. He or she knows our strengths, but also our weaknesses. We must work with our editors because like a good coach, they’re on our side.

Team skills. Soccer players need to communicate. While only one person can score that needed goal, it can take several passes to get there. Writers need to know where to pass their manuscript. They need be aware of what’s happening in the writing field where they play. Incomplete passes don’t mean the game is lost. When you regain possession of the ball or of your project, you find someone else to pass it to.

Goals. In soccer the goal is to shoot the ball into the net. For the writer, that ball is a manuscript and the net is a reader. Soccer, like writing, is a beautiful game, so enjoy the process. Of course you want to win, but when you don’t—just remember to still have fun.

Here’s some wisdom from Pele (one of the greatest soccer players of all time):
                                              Success is no accident.
                                 It is hard work, perseverance, learning,
                                     studying, sacrifice and most of all,

                               love of what you are doing or learning to do.

Peggy_Marco / Pixabay

Peggy_Marco / Pixabay

Gabe writes the books she wished she could have read while growing up as an awkward immigrant in Winnipeg. Her Katya stories are set in pre-war Soviet Union and East Prussia.
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