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7 Top Secret Clues to Finding Your Creativity

Need inspiration for NaNoWriMo? Author Hillary Carlip and Harriet the Spy are here to help you find it!

7 Top Secret Clues to Finding Your Creativity

Writer's block is always a nuisance, especially when there's a time crunch like there is during NaNoWriMo. Fortch, author Hillary Carlip is here with tips on how to conquer it. Take it away, Hillary!

Have you ever felt like your creativity has been taken prisoner by the evil To Do List, or its badass sidekick, the overflowing inbox?

If you're like me, these are the daily foes determined to block all creativity and hold-up productivity. Luckily, and thanks to a childhood obsesh with Harriet the Spy, I've trained myself to sleuth out ways to make sure I'm not held captive by soul-sucking distractions.

Here are my 7 top secret clues to help you crack the code to unlocking and unleashing your creativity:

1.  Look for random inspiration wherever you go.

Even the most mundane tasks, like grocery shopping, can be a source of awesome creative power! For example, discarded shopping lists have always caught my eye. By looking at the items on the list, the handwriting, the paper they're written on, and even the misspellings (I once found one with Aunt Spray on it! Swear!), I imagined who the people were that left them behind. Over time, I've collected thousands of lists and I then used them, and the inspiration from them, in an art show and a book (A La Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers).

2.  Recruit a creativity co-conspirator.

Join forces with someone who is also on the hunt for fresh ideas, and make a plan to spark each other's imagination. A friend and I did a collage exchange for a year. One week she would mail me a collage she made, plus one extra snippet. Then it was my turn to create a new art piece inspired by the one I had received, and integrate that extra image. I then sent her my new collage with an additional bit of ephemera for her to use . . . and so it went. (If you need some fun 'n inspiring images to work with, check out DIY Collage.)

3.  Be a snoop.

OK, I don't mean hacking into someone's cell phone or rummaging through their garbage, but getting a glimpse of others' lives by overhearing a conversation in public, or using them as a character study can give you an excellent starting point. Warning: Some real people that you observe will be so over the top out there, if you use them as inspiration for a character you're writing in a book or movie, critics could say, "that one character was unbelievable and didn't ring true." So choose your inspiration wisely!

4.  Look for signs that say you're on the right track.

These things can be random messages you see – encouraging street art stenciled or wheat pasted on sidewalks and walls (see Message Spotting), or ones you've purposely planted to remind you. I put a welcome mat at my front door that says, "Today Will Be Epic." I turned it so it's facing in -- and that way I read it every time I leave the house.

5.  Find the recurring themes in your life, and use them for your art.

We all have certain signature subjects and topics we are drawn to, and they can be consistent wells to draw from for all creative projects. A couple o' mine are celebrating being different, and endless possibilities. Both of these themes are at the core of my books including my memoir, Queen of the Oddballs: And Other Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan, and my latest book/transmedia extravaganza, Find Me I'm Yours. Identify your themes and use them to stir up your creativity.

6.  Go where the action is.

Sitting at home and fretting about how you're going to find inspiration is like Nancy Drew sitting on her housekeeper Hannah Gruen's lap and waiting for the clues to come to her. Go get lost in the aisles of a local bookstore. Check out a gallery or museum exhibit that speaks to you, or take a walk through the city and dare yourself to find as much street art as possible. Soaking in others' creative works will help you kick start your imagination.

7.  Nail down your goals and TAKE ACTION!

First, get clear about where you want to go, what you want to accomplish. Second, tap into what it would feel like to be doing whatever creative act is right for you. See yourself manifesting what you've already decided you want. Last, turn those feelings into related actions and GO GO GO! Don't just think about being creative, do something about it.

It doesn't take a girl detective to see what robs us of our creativity, but getting it back may take some sleuthing. So go for it now, and start uncovering new ways to get inspired.

About the Author: 

Find Me I'm Yours is the fifth book written by best-selling, award-winning author Hillary Carlip (À la Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers, Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stores From a Life Unaccording to Plan, Zine Scene, Girl Power: Young Women Speak Out). As a visual artist, her work has been sold in galleries and shown alongside Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst in a five-city museum exhibit. Hillary has been creating content, websites, and news in the digital space since 1999. The New York Times declared, "Ms. Carlip's curriculum vitae reads like a CliffsNotes version of American Popular culture," and the Chicago Tribune called Hillary, "Gloriously idiosyncratic."

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Thanks for stopping by, Hillary! 

Do you have any clues to finding creativity of your own? Share 'em in the comments!