I stumbled upon an intriguing book recently called The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice by Todd Henry. How could I pass up something with a title like that?
The book is actually written for creatives who work in a corporate setting, like an advertising agency or the marketing department of a company--people who are expected to produce creative, high quality work on demand, day in and day out, and for those who manage them. However, I found much of the information applicable to those of us who are self-employed or who may not work for a larger organization, but who still want to produce the best-quality writing we can, as often as we can.
Henry's basic premise is that creativity is rhythmic, not a constant stream. We are not machines, and we should respect that rhythm. Just as our creative juices ebb and flow, so should the way we approach our work. After discussing some of the things that interrupt or block our creativity, he presents a fresh approach: literally, F.R.E.S.H., which stands for Focus, Relationships, Energy, Stimuli, and Hours.
Focus is just what it sounds like: concentrated time to establish priorities and focus on what's most important.
Relationships refers to those alliances that support our creativity, purposely forming "circles" and "core teams" for brainstorming and accountability (in our case, a critique partner? a writing group? a reading group?)
Energy means maintaining physical and mental energy. Henry advises us to maximize our natural energy through, among other things, carefully planning and pruning our activities and commitments.
Stimuli includes scheduling regular, purposeful time to absorb books, podcasts, videos, and other media with the stated goal of supporting our creative work, not just being entertained, and
Hours means being wise about scheduling our time, especially making time for things that others might consider wasteful or slacking, like "idea time" and "unnecessary creating."
Henry, of course, does a much better and more thorough job than I do of fleshing all this out in detail. If you struggle at all with maintaining your creative edge, I encourage you to visit the web site and read the book.