As writers, we live for those moments when our connection to our imagination is strong and the words pour out like we’re divinely inspired. We look back at what we’ve written and think, “Wow! Where did that come from?!” But for most of us, those magical moments of creative flow don’t happen every day. What if they could? Below are some great tips backed by science that can help. The links will take you to the source of the quote and more in-depth info on each suggestion.
- Write first thing in the morning – Many writers swear by this tip. Plus: “A scientific study of brain circuits confirmed that creative activity is highest during and immediately after sleep, while the analytical parts of the brain (the editing and proofreading parts) become more active as the day goes on.” You can prime the pump the night before by thinking about whatever it is you’re working on—try to think in images—and let your unconscious mind work on it while you sleep. Keep a pen and paper next to the bed so you can capture any inspired ideas before they disappear.
- Try writing by hand – Another one many writers swear by. And again, science supports the anecdotal evidence: “According to a study performed at the Indiana University, the mere action of writing by hand unleashes creativity not easily accessed in any other way”. If you really can’t bear to write longhand, try turning off your computer screen to force your internal editor to take a back seat and let your creative mind do the driving.
- Meditate – Mindfulness meditation “has side effects which have been shown to reduce the reactivity of the reptilian brain, increase resilience, stimulate the neocortex, as well as improve emotional intelligence. All these assist in getting ideas flowing directly to your best creative thinking brain: the neocortex.” Research suggests that “open-monitoring” meditation, where you concentrate on observing phenomena in the present moment, is the most effective for boosting creativity.
- Develop a writing ritual – Stephen King is a big fan of ritual. He starts at the same time every morning, and before he sits down to write, he takes a multivitamin with a cup of tea or water and straightens his desk. As he explained, “The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon”. How does ritual work? “Conscious control, which can stop-up a flow state, is released via ritual’s automation. When inspiration is elusive, ritual appears to offer a shortcut to creative flow.”
- Have a drink – Science suggests that Hemingway was right when he famously suggested “write drunk, edit sober”. Well, kind of right: “…at a fairly low threshold of alcohol, the brain actually is stimulated in creative ways the sober brain might not be”. So if you do like to imbibe, limit yourself to one or two drinks or you’ll actually be worse off. You’re going for a light buzz, not a full-on bender.