I love the fall. The leaves begin to change color. The evenings grow cool and crisp. The holiday spirit begins to seep into consciousness.
This is also a time, at least for me, that is particularly productive. Perhaps it's the shorter days, which makes staying at the computer a little easier (it's so easy to be drawn out into the world when the sun is still shining at 8 p.m.!). Or it may be just the urge to harvest the ideas that come to mind, to tap into the creative spirit that seems to surface more readily when the seasons change.
Tapping into your creativity can sometimes seem elusive, but there are ways to coax your muse to come out and play. Scientific American published a long interview a couple of years ago with Julia Cameron (author of The Artist's Way and many other books on creativity), Robert Houtz, a psychologist who studies it, and Robert Epstein, a scholar who also has written several books on it. You can read the whole article here. But I want to share the essence of what Epstein said about how to corral your creative urges and make them serve you and your writing. He said there are four competencies that help unleash creativity:
“The first and most important competency is ‘capturing’—preserving new ideas as they occur to you and doing so without judging them. Julia Cameron’s morning pages are a perfect example of a capturing technique. There are many ways to capture new ideas. Otto Loewi won a Nobel Prize for work based on an idea about cell biology that he almost failed to capture. He had the idea in his sleep, woke up and scribbled the idea on a pad but found the next morning that he couldn’t read his notes or remember the idea. When the idea turned up in his dreams the following night, he used a better capturing technique: he put on his pants and went straight to his lab!
“The second competency is called ‘challenging’—giving ourselves tough problems to solve. In tough situations, multiple behaviors compete with one another, and their interconnections create new behaviors and ideas.
“The third area is ‘broadening.’ The more diverse your knowledge, the more interesting the interconnections—so you can boost your creativity simply by learning interesting new things.
“And the last competency is ‘surrounding,’ which has to do with how you manage your physical and social environments. The more interesting and diverse the things and the people around you, the more interesting your own ideas become.”
Put them to work for you.