The Creative Spark! – You Love to Write

How does Stephen King do it? Sit and write five-hour marathons? Well, maybe he has fun—like you soon will. How? By doing something fun before you write, suggests Helen Sword. Or find fun places to write papers.

During undergrad, I had little playtime. My time-off revolved around a two-hour visit with a senior. I’d put sunglasses, sneakers, and makeup on her and wheel her to the mall. Or we played bridge.

But then I discovered the gym, which led to dancing, martial arts, weightlifting, cycling—even singing. I de-stressed with barbells. I studied on stationary bikes. I used dance moves as mnemonics. In other words, I packed fun into schoolwork.

To make class projects thrilling, I’d craft multimedia performances. I’d splash art, music, voice-overs, video, even dance into presentations. I’d hire crews of tech experts and designers, citing them all.

One time I rented a stereo system for my class presentation. The professor asked, “You plan on a proper presentation, don’t you?” I quipped, “I’m going to stand on this table and sing Barbara Streisand.” The audience looked sullen. Only my enemy smiled.

I later proposed to the same professor to hire actors for a script I’d write. The professor balked, but later, pulled me aside. She whispered, “I think edutainment isn’t such a bad idea,” and scurried off. When I readied for a teaching contract, I revisited edutainment. I searched online and clicked on a rubber chicken. I asked an AU mentor his views on the rubber beast. No reply.

Since then, my creativity toned down. Now, I love sprinkling random thoughts into reading notes, and adding thoughts far off the beaten path. Adding our own ideas steps up originality—which academia sadly stomps out.

While I write, I ask my boyfriend for funny fodder. He fires off funnies in a flash, and we share lots of laughs. He also serves as a living thesaurus. Ask him any word, and he promptly replies with synonyms.

Helen Sword researches the emotions—and fun time—of writers in her book Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write:

• Infuse your writing with joy and upbeat language.
• Don’t crash from five-hour daily writing marathons. Instead, do like Helen, and spice writing with fun.
• List stuff you love. Try to add more fun before or during your writing stints.
• Mix up different writing tasks—for variety. Start with research; switch to bibliography; shift to edits. Or do whatever you fancy.
• Or do like Helen and record your voice during a light walk. Dash to the library for a change-up. Use colorful sticky notes.
• Exercise before writing. Or write poetry. Or station yourself in a restaurant.
• Write about what you love—or change topics, says Brian Boyd (as cited in Sword).
• Often, how-to-books on academic writing say avoid university settings if you want writing fun.

So, light candles, sniff lavender, and warm up with downward facing dog. Dip into a hot bubble bath and read fiction. Oh yes, and at some point, write. A paradox? I call it a creative spark.

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