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You may recognize our guest contributor. Barbara Hengstenberg takes over Write Naked today with her suggestions on improving creative flow. Barbara and I co-facilitated the artist/writer retreat earlier this year. She has many great ideas, and we couldn’t cover them all during the retreat. One I enjoyed was her guided clementine meditation. It sparked a memory I wasn’t expecting! Below she shares other simple steps individuals can take to boost creativity and start generating new work.

creative tools

Simple Ways to Help Words Flow
By Barbara Hengstenberg

“Create.” The word can make me stop in my tracks. As a directive, it can seem ominous. Pen in hand, white lined paper glaring…sometimes the words flow like paint from my brush. Other times, however, facing down that empty page can lead to a rise in blood pressure and performance anxiety.

While it may sound simplistic, I have used many strategies in my elementary school writing classes that seem to also work for adults…ways to get the creative juices flowing in a short amount of time. I recently used some of these ideas in a workshop I co-facilitated with (Write Naked founder) Tara Lynne Groth, titled Creative Connections: Art and Writing. This was a day-long retreat of finding ways to help with writers’ block or artists’ block.

Some ideas that I use–and that actually work for me!–are detailed below.

creative map

Mapping for creativity.

  • MAPPING: Mapping out our personal journeys to rekindle memories. For example, sketching a childhood bedroom or school room, a park you’ve visited often, or someplace special that will provoke memories or thoughts/ideas. Once you’ve done a quick sketch-map, jot down those memories and thoughts that come flooding in. You might discover that detail you’ve been struggling to describe, or a memory of a person who has been important in your life.
  • WRITING ON DEMAND: Given the boundaries of using a certain word or words, a tight time-frame (5 minutes perhaps), challenge yourself to write without lifting the pen within that short time-frame, until time is up. As an example, write the words SHOE and TREE. Then start free-writing. Can you find the spark of an idea in those words? If not, try again with a new starter word or words. I’ve often amazed myself with what appears on paper in a stream of consciousness when I don’t have the worry of forming the perfect sentence or idea (or the worry that someone will be reading my gibberish). You never know what treasures will emerge from this exercise.
  • SENSE OF SMELL: Using the sense of smell to jump-start memories and our creative thinking can take us to surprising places. Last year, I participated in a workshop facilitated by Tara Lynne and health coach Traci Philips. While I feel my strengths lie more in the visual arts, I found myself creating poetry from the smells that triggered childhood memories. Use essential oils as triggers or items easily found at home, such as cinnamon, coffee, oranges, crayons, birthday candles.

There are many other ways to tap into creativity: creating authority lists; building description lists; listening to music; reading poetry or prose; viewing art; sitting in one spot and observing in deep contemplation, jotting down every minute detail or your meditative feelings/thoughts. These are all ideas that I share in my creativity workshops, and ideas that I use when I feel stymied in creating art. Hopefully, one of these strategies may spark a way to get your stuck pen moving and creative ink flowing.

artist Barbara Hengstenberg

Barbara Hengstenberg

Barbara Hengstenberg has always embraced a creative entrepreneurial spirit. She has owned sole proprietorships, managed an international artisan non-profit organization, a market research firm, and many classrooms. Barbara’s experience has culminated in the founding of WildesArt, a gathering place for musicians, visual artists, writers, poets, foodies, and yogis. Through WildesArt, Barbara sells her Zen folk art with all profits designated to various charitable organizations, and she promotes other artists whom she invites to collaborate in the form of interviews and blogs. Barbara holds an M.A. in Education from the University of Saint Joseph, in Connecticut. She taught in Connecticut Public Schools for over 13 years where she earned the distinction of Teacher of the Year for the City of Torrington in 2009. Barbara currently resides in North Carolina with her husband, her cat, and a variety of farm animals in her small village. Find WildesArt on Facebook, Twitter @WildesArt and Instagram @bhengstengerg.