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Creativity Tips - Find Your Triggers -- by Emilie Poissenot

There are a lot of articles out there about fighting writer’s block. What interests me is the stratagems we can use to reduce its occurrence and have an ace up our sleeve for whenever it rears its ugly head.

Today, we explore the creation and use of what I call “creative triggers”, stimuli that shoot words onto the page.


Dependence Is Bad

The human nature loves recognizable patterns. The alarm clock rings; we wake up. Friday night arrives; we unwind. Our lover’s name shows on the caller ID; we smile. Actions often repeated become a reflex which can serve us or hinder us.

As a writer, we want our patterns to be as flexible as possible.

Some writers can only write when music is playing, tea is drunk, food is consumed, etc. Their capacity to write depends on a set of behaviors/habits.

This is bad for two reasons:

  • Take the stimuli away and writer’s block is almost automatic;
  • When writer’s block shows up, there are fewer ways to fight it.

I recommend avoiding the association of a specific activity to your writing routine. Try not to always play music (or sit in absolute silence), drink tea, eat food, or whatever your natural instinct drives you to.


Triggers Work Together

Creative triggers are any activity that fuels creativity. Some happen before writing (ex: going for a run, looking at images or reading quotes), and others happen while writing (ex: listening to music, munching or drinking). Discover which stimuli work for you, and then, reinforce them by consciously treating them as counters to writer’s block. In other words, we can condition our mind to think “music = emotion” and enhance the effect of the stimulus, make it a surefire trigger.

I kid you not; the human mind is an amazing thing.

Different triggers can trigger different things. Here is my personal list:

  • Can’t write an emotional scene? Play the right soundtrack.
  • Can’t focus? Munch on something crunchy, change scenery or belt out a song.
  • Need calm, broad inspiration (to outline or get out of a funk)? Drink tea.
  • Need crazy creativity? Go for a run.

As you can see, my triggers have specific uses and work together to fight different types of blockage.


Moderation Is Key

Triggers are most effective when we limit their use to specific situations. This way, they become enough of a habit to work quickly, but not enough that we depend on them to write.

Think of it as medication: the effect is reduced if we overuse it. The minute a trigger becomes a stimulus we depend on, it cannot fight writer’s block; we can’t really "up the dose" on music or tea.


In a nutshell, carefully chosen, reinforced and moderately used stimuli become creative triggers which maximize the work done in one sitting and reduce writer's block.

Do you have creative triggers and, if so, how do you use them?


About the Author

Game Design Director by day and writer by night, Emilie Poissenot (aka Aheila) has several tricks to manage creativity, especially when dealing with content and/or time constraints. She also writes all sorts of stories, some of which are posted on The Writeaholic’s Blog as short stories or serialized novels, and is currently seeking publication for a steampunk novel.

This Creativity Tip is a rewritten advice from her blog.

Posted by Emilie Poissenot 5 Oct 2013 at 10:07
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Responses to this blog

Breeze 6 Oct 2013 at 12:39  
Love this:
Can?t write an emotional scene? Play the right soundtrack.
? Can?t focus? Munch on something crunchy, change scenery or belt out a song.
? Need calm, broad inspiration (to outline or get out of a funk)? Drink tea.
? Need crazy creativity? Go for a run.
I might add: find a photo that looks like a character you're writing about. I recently found the photo of an actor who seemed suitable for my Mr. Townsend, and that photo has made me change my mind about him. Of course, the book is already published, but Mr. T. will come back in a sequel, and now I'm prepared to let him change.
Rellrod 6 Oct 2013 at 17:35  
Need crazy creativity? Go for a run.
Or a walk, for the less athletically inclined. Great way to let the mind freewheel! (I find it works better if I don't play music while I go.)

Breeze 8 Oct 2013 at 09:08  
Yesterday, Emilie, with your post in mind, I thought about viewing abstract art and listening to modern music as triggers and creative inspiration. Thanks for your post!
Ml2872 8 Oct 2013 at 20:14  
When I'm writing fantasy, I break out all of my old stacks of Dungeons and Dragons stuff. Yeah, I'm a nerd from way back. The artwork is amazing and inspiring. Also, I'll pick a channel on Pandora that fits the mood, like gothic metal (More like fantasy metal). It fits, trust me. Then again, I can write extremely well in silence. For me, it depends on the day.

Also, I like to write outside when the weather permits. To me, there's plenty going on outside to work up some inspiration.
Aheila 8 Oct 2013 at 22:42  
Breeze, I'm glad my post made you think about new sources of inspiration. I like to use fractals when I'm feeling abstract, and let my mind wonder along the patterns and colors.

Rellrod, a walk definitely does the trick. It's especially beautiful outside this time of year in Canada. The trees are so colorful. During summer, I also like to walk during thunderstorms. The perception of the world is different from the every day and always electrifying.

Ml2872, you and me both. *laughs* D&D, White Wolfs' franchise... I'm an ex-game master, ex-LARPer and a current game designer. I learn to sing with Nightwish. Let's just say that I can relate to what you're using as inspiration. Strangely enough, I have yet to write a true fantasy story (I do urban fantasy, right now).
7 Nov 2013 at 10:05  
Whenever I go into writer's block, I always read creative works of other people to get my muse back. Some of my favorite sites are the Guternberg project and Browsing through these really give you a lot of ideas!

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