Ahead of her six-week course starting later this month, Starting from Scratch: Creativity for Writers, we spoke to playwright and children’s book author Hilary Bell about how to get your creative juices flowing.
While sometimes inspiration comes easily, other times it can seem like it’s in hiding. Where can writers go looking to find new ideas?
Just about anything can be source material. I’m a big believer in the idea that you only need to commit yourself to something in order to be drawn in deep. That ‘material’ might be an anonymous note you find on the street, a newspaper story, a bit of overheard conversation a song, any number of things. Adaptations are another means of creating original work—fairytales and myths, existing plays and short stories. Other jumping-off points might come from taking one of the ten commandments, or the seven deadly sins, or…
Are there small, everyday things writers can do to build their creative muscles?
There are plenty of good creative writing exercises available. One of my favourites comes from playwright and friend Donna Abela, in which you hone your skills of observation and your appreciation of the richness and weirdness that is always around us. This exercise focuses your mind by asking you to note five things you’ve seen or done today, one thing you’ve heard, and to draw one sight or incident, brief but with a couple of telling details. It’s quite amazing how much of the world we take in without necessarily registering it.
What’s the most unexpected source of creative inspiration you’ve encountered?
That would have to be the creations of Dr Frederik Ruysch, a 17th century Dutch anatomist who made dioramas out of human body parts. He was assisted by his young daughter Rachel (who went on to become a successful painter). She embroidered lace sleeves for dismembered arms and beaded exquisite necklaces for foetuses floating in formaldehyde. They led to The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Ruysch, which began as a radio play and then became an AWGIE-winning stage musical.