Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rutbusters: Busting Through Creative Block

Like it or not, it happens to all of us sooner or later; creative block. In some circles, it goes by writer's block. In addition to being a writer, however, I am also a musician, and I can tell you from experience that creative block happens to all artists, regardless of the medium.

Tapping Creativity, as a practice, is perhaps more valuable in breaking through creative block than it is in any other area of artistic productivity. What follows are some of my rutbusting quick fixes.

Rutbuster #1: Alternative Search Engines
Most users rely on Google, Yahoo, or MSN to do all of their searching online. For one week, try using some alternative search engines like Ask, Hakia, or Mahalo. They present results differently than The Big Three engines do and encourage you to search in a different way. When you are rutbusting, any break from the norm helps. When you change how you search, you may change what you find.

Rutbuster #2: Read Something Different
My favorite genre is literary fiction. After awhile, however, my own writing has had all the DeLillo, Joyce, Pynchon, Rushdie, and Faulkner influence it can take. By breaking outside of my main influences and venturing to read material I usually don't, I gain a wider perspective and learn a few tricks along the way. A few books that have helped me in the past include:

  • House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski is a completely different look at narrative structure and book layout. It's about as postmodern as you can get.

  • Why Not Me? by Al Franken chronicles his fictitious run for president in 2000. The only time I put this book down was to give my sides a rest. It was that funny.

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker. It's classic horror. And it's haunting in a way contemporary horror isn't.
Rutbuster #3: The Tried and True
As mentioned, I'm also a musician. Some artists inspire me constantly. When I'm rutbusting, it often helps to throw on some musicians who touch a creative nerve in me, changing my frame of mind. Personal faves include:

  • Bjork always offers a creative and unique approach to each album. In the end, however, when I listen to her music, I feel like the world is a million miles away.

  • Peter Gabriel has an honesty in his music that, opposite of Bjork, makes me feel in touch with the whole world at once.

  • The Beatles. As I mentioned in a previous post titled Write Like The Beatles, their ability to tie together meaningful narrative lyrics with great rock songs is the best of both worlds.
These approaches are far from the only ways of getting through creative block, but they are the first ones I usually turn to. If you have any stock rutbusters, please feel free to share.

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