Pep Talk Week 4: 5 Creative Habits to Leverage Your JuNoWriMo Success

In this final stretch, boost your creativity for success with these five tips from Judy Lee Dunn.

For years, I thought that creative people had been blessed with a special gene. That they were sprinkled with magic dust from the patron saint of imaginative thinking. Though some people try to make it complicated, it’s really not that hard. Because while creativity is part ability and part attitude, mostly, it’s a habit. Now that you are in Week 4 of JuNoWriMo, you are probably noticing how much easier it’s getting to hit your word count with each passing day.

You’ve been showing up every day and coming up with new ideas has become a habit.

One thing I learned as a teacher of lower primary school kids is that we all have it, this creativity thing. My students came to school ready to explore, to try new things. They were imaginative, full of wonder and curiosity. They taught me so much about writing and blogging and the joy of seeing the world through a child’s eyes.

How can we as writers nurture our creative sides so our idea banks are always full? Here are a few starters:

  1. Take time to invent.

When my daughter was acting in L.A., she was a member of The Red-Headed Stepchild, an improv troupe. It was make-it-up-as-you-go fast, smart and funny. And they got very good at inventing. Did you know that you can train your mind to do this?

Here’s one way. Watch five minutes of a movie and reinvent the characters’ lines. My husband Bob and I sometimes put on an old black-and-white movie, mute the sound, and voice new lines of dialogue for the characters. Besides making us laugh until we are sick, the very act of spontaneously creating without doing a lot of thinking seems to free up the mind, see things in fresh ways, and activate other parts of the brain.

  1. Experiment with writing in longhand.

Pictures of the brain show that the sequential finger movements involved in writing by hand activate the region of the brain responsible for thinking, language, emotions, creativity and memory. When I write in my journal, mind map (see tip #4 below) or write chracater descriptions, I find that ideas come to me faster, I can express myself more freely, and my thinking is more divergent.

Could writing by hand make you a more creative storyteller? Set aside ten minutes a day and give it a try.

  1. Engage your inner child through play.

We writers are a funny bunch. We tend to stay inside our heads for long periods of time rethinking a plot point, defining a character, pondering our protagonist’s struggles.

Doing things just for the fun of it is the best way to give the brain a break and let our ideas percolate. That visit to the toy store was one of the best investments I ever made in the blocked creativity department. On my desk, within arm’s reach, are my hand puppet, my bendable Gumby, my Slinky  (yes, they still make them), and my set of juggling balls.

Your toys may be different, but choose ones that bring you joy. Try doodling, drawing with crayons or dabbling with water color paints—anything that calls out your inner child.

  1. Try mind mapping.

Mind mapping is a creative process for generating new ideas quickly. It is an especially useful tool for writers because it: stimulates both sides of the brain; pushes us to generate new ideas faster; makes the natural connections between ideas easier to see; and helps us figure out gaps in our thinking. It’s a great way to see pieces of your story—plot, setting or characters—laid out visually.

Some people think of a mind map as a tree, but for me, it is more of a fluid, non-linear idea picture. The lines branching out from the main idea lead to other interesting places and you can take them as far as you want. Even if you don’t use every piece in your story, mind mapping helps you understand your characters, setting and plot better. See this blog post for how I mind mapped one of the major characters in my memoir.

  1. Learn something new.

As you become more open to new experiences, you learn to think in different ways. The interesting part is that your new pursuit doesn’t even need to be related to the art of writing. In fact, it probably shouldn’t. So go ahead. Try cooking a gourmet meal. Take a class in pottery or oil painting. Learn quilting or pick up the basic skills of a new language.

The opportunities are endless. The only rule of thumb is that it should both relax you and recharge your creative juices.

So there you have it. Try adding one or more of these habits to your life to replenish the creativity well and make your writing time more productive.

Judy Lee Dunn is a writer, blogger, dreamer and lover of film noir and early 20th century fiction. She is working on her debut memoir, The Bark Peeler’s Daughter. Follow her on her Facebook author page, on Twitter or at, where she ponders about writing, living in an end-of-the-road beach town, and the big question: whether our lives have even the tiniest smidgen of meaning in the vast scheme of the universe.     

Judy lives in Ocean Shores, Washington with her husband Bob and their all-black rescue cat, Mr. Rochester. You can read her longer bio here.

2 Replies to “Pep Talk Week 4: 5 Creative Habits to Leverage Your JuNoWriMo Success”

    1. Elizabeth, Isn’t it great to add new stuff to your writer’s bag of tricks? I never get tired of new creative thinking ideas. Best wishes as you continue all the hard work you’ve done in JuNoWriMo!

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