5 Ways to Recharge Your Creativity

Heather Richardson portrait and Doubting Thomas book cover
Category: Writing

Sometimes writers feel as if their brains are sizzling with more ideas than they’ll ever have time to develop, but most of us also go through weeks, months or even longer where it feels as if the battery is most definitely flat. Over the years I’ve discovered some techniques to jumpstart my creativity when it’s out of juice:


Make like a Martian

By experiencing the world as the ultimate outsider, everything is made new, strange and intriguing

In Craig Raine’s poem, ‘A Martian sends a postcard home,’ the titular extraterrestrial describes everyday earthly objects through alien eyes. To the Martian, a car is ‘a room with the lock inside’, the telephone is ‘a haunted apparatus’ and books are ‘mechanical birds with many wings’. By experiencing the world as the ultimate outsider, everything is made new, strange and intriguing. Try describing somewhere crushingly familiar from a Martian’s point of view. It will help you see things from a fresh perspective.


Reconnect with youthful obsessions

Children have a gift for becoming absorbed in things for hours on end. When I was a kid I spent one summer trying to speed up evolution by teaching ladybirds to swim. I wish I could say that no ladybirds were harmed in the course of my experiments, but, sadly, I don’t think that would be true. I also liked to build complex castles out of cardboard boxes. It would take me days. They were multi-storied, with turrets, battlements and drawbridges. And when I was finished, I’d set fire to them. Yes, I was a strange child. Still, there’s material there that could be the jumping off point for a new piece of writing. Think back to your own childhood. What were your obsessions or peculiarities?


Get weird

There’s a whole world of literary weirdness out there. Dinosaur erotica anyone? Yup, it really exists. Take ten minutes and come up with the most unlikely combinations of genre and subject you can think of. Seth Grahame-Smith mashed up Jane Austen and zombies and got a bestselling novel out of it.


Face uncomfortable truths

Our natural impulse is to shy away from uncomfortable emotions or memories

Life is complicated. Feelings are complicated. Relationships are complicated. Our natural impulse is to shy away from uncomfortable emotions or memories, but sometimes facing them bravely and dispassionately through our writing can be bracing. If you’re writing about a particularly difficult experience it’s important to protect yourself - perhaps by lending it to a fictional character very different from yourself.


Do something completely different

Writers spend far too much time in their own heads. Even the act of writing, in these virtual times, is peculiarly unphysical, with most of us gently tap-tapping away on our laptops. Creativity should be a physical experience, so have a go at actually making something. Draw, paint or stitch. Make a collage out of chopped up magazines. Buy some quick-drying modelling clay and make a terrible sculpture. Don’t worry too much about the end result; just lose yourself in the enjoyment of creative play. You might even discover a new creative outlet. While working on my novel Doubting Thomas I took up embroidery, and it’s led me to start an exciting memoir project combining text and textiles.

Heather Richardson

Heather Richardson was born in Northern Ireland in 1964 and lives in Belfast. She has an MA and PhD in Creative Writing and now works for the Open University as a lecturer in English and Creative Writing. Her second book, Doubting Thomas, is out from Vagabond Voices now.