Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Creativity: Tribulations, Trilogies (and Telescopes)

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Thanks to everyone who sent me comments about yesterday’s post. Who knew there are so many Ringo fans out there?!

The hurry and hustle of December can make it hard to be creative, and often writers have a lot of projects that have to be finished before year end. But I think many non-writers try to be more creative in both their personal lives and careers. It’s very satisfying to create something, or solve a problem in a new way. And as work and home budgets are reduced, creativity can be even more important.

Here are a few methods I use to increase my creativity and blast through writer’s block:

Look at the Problem Another Way
I was working with a friend on rewording a phrase and we were getting nowhere fast. Then I said to her, “Can we take these words, which have a negative feel to them, and somehow make them positive instead?” In just a few minutes, my friend came up with a brilliant solution, but she was kind enough to say it was my suggestion that led her there. Creativity is so often just being open to different approaches and opportunities.

Git ‘er Down
Sometimes I have to give up trying to produce something creative and just write down the facts, so that I get them on paper or on the computer screen. Once that’s done, THEN I try to organize them and turn them into something worth reading. In this method for improving creativity, you have to give yourself permission to turn off your internal editor for a little while, and allow yourself to separate the writing process —or problem-solving process — into two (or more) steps.

I think this method works because you feel as if you’re doing something (because you are!) so you’re making progress, rather than just staring at a blank screen. As well, I often find that removing the pressure of producing something brilliant frees up my creativity. In the middle of just inputting my facts, a creative solution sometimes comes to me, and I feel like a real writer again.

Three’s NOT a Crowd
When I was an editor at Kids Can Press, I used to have to write back cover copy for the books I edited. I found this hard because I hadn’t had any training in creating “sell copy,” I was anxious to do a good job for my authors and I often wasn’t certain what the sales department wanted. I decided to write three versions of the text for each book: one that was fairly straightforward, one that was really zany and one that was extremely strait laced.

This approach gave me a lot of freedom to explore many aspects of the book and meant that none of my three pieces had to be perfect or address every issue. When I was finished, I usually took my favourite parts from each one to create one final piece to give the sales staff, but sometimes I gave them all three so they could choose. Usually we were then fairly quickly able to create back cover copy that satisfied everyone.

Now when I’m working on any copy that has me stymied, I try to look at it from very different points of view, with no expectation that one will be absolutely perfect, but with the hope that it will lead to a solution.

Want some more ideas on increasing creativity? Go to for more suggestions.

And if you want to see some really creative thinking, has some amazing and fun ideas. Dare you to try something similar at your home!

And Another Thing …
Did you know that today is Telescope Day? It marks the day in 1621 when Galileo Galilei perfected his telescope. He’d already discovered that the Moon wasn’t a perfect sphere — which is what people thought until then — but had craters and irregularities, like the Earth.

Galileo also confirmed that the planets and stars revolved around the Sun, not Earth, and for that “crime” he was confined to his house for the last nine years of his life. But super-star scientist Stephen Hawking once said about this giant of astronomy, “Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science.”

Thanks for reading.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Elizabeth MacLeod

Award-winning author Elizabeth MacLeod has written over 50 books for children. Her most recent book, Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries, was published by Annick Press.

Go to Elizabeth MacLeod’s Author Page