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5 Ways Creative Cross-Training Can Improve Your #Writing #WriteTip

watercolor_old_fishermanAthletes train by spending grueling hours preparing for their sports. One way they do this is by cross-training.

We can do the same with writing.

Despite hours languishing in front of the keyboard, intense word sprints, or writing exercises, another way to exercise the writing muscles is to participate in another form of creative activity.

I find painting indispensable for my writing. And writing valuable for painting. They fuel each other.watercolor_Nebula_II

But how can creative cross-training be helpful?

By training your brain to function in ways also applicable to writing:

1. In order to paint well, you need to observe details. The way shadows fall across the face. The curve of tree branches. How colors interact with mood. Then you can imitate/replicate them on paper. Likewise, writing is an art of observation. The closer we observe the world around us, the better we’re able to draw upon it with words.watercolor_blue_man_with_glasses

2. With watercolor, overpainting is easy to do. You become impatient, hung up on those small details, and want to fix every little mistake. But in doing so we take out the simplicity and the imperfections that oftentimes make a piece special. We train our brain to recognize the stopping point.

Over-writing is similar. We beat our stories to the ground in order to make it perfect. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t revise, but at some point we need to put down the correction pen and be finished.watercolor_pink_face

3. You can only control watercolor to a certain extent. Because half of the ingredients is water, the paint continues moving after you put it down on paper. A lot of the magic happens when you loosen control and stop nitpicking where the water should go.

The painting below began as a nebula. But as I painted, the pink blobs appeared to be more like jellyfishes than stars. I went along with it and ended with a much better jellyfish painting than a forced nebula.

The same is true in writing. I’m a plotter. But when I sit to write the scenes I’ve planned, if I’m not willing to go where the scene takes me and loosen my grip I will miss out on the magic.watercolor_jellyfish

4. Depending on the type of art, erasing mistakes can be difficult. For the most part, I’ve found the best way to get rid of my watercolor mistakes is to incorporate them into the work. Oftentimes, this requires my flipping the problem to look at it in a new light. When I’m stuck on a painting and don’t know what to do, I need to do the same thing—flip the problem and analyze it in a new way.

Sometimes the best way to solve plot (and revisioning!) problems is to flip and look at them differently. But this takes time and practice and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

watercolor_old_woman_with_hand5. I believe the creative muscle is the creative muscle. Any type of exercise will burn some amount calories. As long as you’re using your creative muscle, your brain is receiving the exercise and preparing for long-term use and healthiness.

In short, don’t be afraid to take a break from the keyboard and pick up some other creative activity. You don’t have to be amazing in order to benefit from it, and you may discover the spark you needed for your writing.

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This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Abby- I love your paintings! You have such a talent in writing and painting! I love the blue painting with the man’s face- it is really mysterious. I think that you have a ton of gifts and I can’t wait to see more. Even just looking at the paintings inspires me- let alone painting them! 🙂

    1. Jill, thanks Jill! You should totally get into painting (or some other form of art). It’s so much fun. And then send me what you do so I can ooo and aaahh over it!

  2. Beautiful work, and a great reminder. I have almost entirely ignored all my other creative outlets to focus on my writing. I went to a concert this weekend, though, and immediately had another idea for my book. When I take time off and explore other mediums it almost always just increases my creativity for the writing, too, but somehow I keep resisting it.

    1. Lara, I’m glad you went to the concert! Now all of us can benefit from your creativity 🙂 You reminded me, I think there’s a saying–how if we write about life we have to go out and live it once and a while. What other outlets do you like to explore?

      1. I work with metals and enameling (jewelry), and papercut, as well as some non-traditional mosaics. I’ve taken some watercolor classes, so occasionally fool around with that, too. I also love to cook and take on DIY home decor. So, yeah, until I started writing, I couldn’t commit to a medium.

          1. What do they say, jack of all trades, master of none? All of my dabbling sometimes leads to more quantity over quality, I’m afraid. You should take a class in metals some time. It’s not as scary as you might think.

          2. The community college near us offers a metal working class for the community during summers. I’ve thought about paying for my husband and I to do it together- maybe I should!

  3. […] 1. Creative Cross-Train by switching mediums:  When we switch mediums we give our minds a small mental break from our current project but are still engaging in another form of creative activity. This means our brain is still participating in a creative act, though it is being used in a different way. Sometimes, simply engaging our brains in a slightly different manner is all we need to jump start that well again. If you want to learn a little more, I wrote an entire blog post devoted to  creative cross-training. […]

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