Inspiration, creativity and the 9-5
A few years ago, I participated in a writing course. At the time I was working in family law, and when I told this to the group, one member commented that it must give me an extraordinary amount of source material for my writing. After all, working in family law, I got to see the very best and the worst of people. I heard stories of unimaginably horrific and abusive family situations. I have been exposed to all of the hurt, anger and bitterness that is often the consequence of family breakdown. I have been moved by incredible courage, strength, positivity in the face of adversity and love. It definitely sounds like rich pickings for a writer, doesn’t it?
But I have never used my work as a source of inspiration. Not once. Not even a little bit.
Part of the reason for that is a question of ethics. People come to me and trust me with intimate details of their lives. It would feel like a betrayal of that trust if I used their stories as a basis or inspiration for my own.
It’s more than that though. After all, 99% of the time my writing is just for myself. The other 1%, I may share it with a small group. If I am writing something that no one else will ever see, why can I then not use my work to inspire a story?
The problem is that I just don’t feel creative when working.
Until that comment was made, it genuinely never crossed my mind that I could have source of inspiration in my 9-5. I am a lawyer. My job is to listen to problems and find solutions. That is fine – it is the career that I chose for myself and it is one that I like to think I’m good at. However, it is a challenging job, which can be mentally exhausting and I find it does sap my creative energy. I know that this must be down to work, because whenever I have a couple of days off, I can feel it coming back to me – characters and scenarios that I thought long abandoned pop back up and demand my attention.
I need to find a solution to this.
Between the hours of 9am and 5pm, I am a lawyer. Achieving outcomes for my clients is the most important thing during that time. However, I need to find a way to switch into creative mode from 5pm and not have to wait for a couple of days off before feeling able to pick up a pen.
My writing challenge.
One of the ways that I try to kick start my writing is using little writing exercises and prompts. Every now and then I will trawl through the hundreds of books on creative writing on Amazon (which I suspect is just another form of procrastination!) and order something that I think will inspire me. A few months ago, I purchased “What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers” by Bernays and Painter. I haven’t yet really made any use of it.
I am going to try to overcome the feeling of a lack of creativity by setting aside 30 minutes each day to get something, anything, down on a page using the writing exercises in this book as a guide. In that way, much like Pavlov’s dogs, I am going to try to train my brain to switch into creative mode as soon as I leave the office. To keep me focused on my goal, I will post the results of each exercise into this blog. There are 83 in total, and I will do one each day (though the results may take longer to appear on here as I do prefer to write by hand).
I’m really looking forward to starting this challenge as I think if I can be disciplined enough to keep it up on stressful days when I’m tired and can’t be bothered, then this could really work for me.
- Monday creative writing exercise because it’s a good way to start the week. SCRABBLE SCRAMBLE (bridgetwhelan.com)
- The Gift of Laughter/Tears (wordsthatserve.wordpress.com)