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MBM: Creativity: A Process, Not a Product by @TeresaHirst

Welcome to the sixth day of MARCH BOOK MADNESS! (Full explanation and schedule here.)

Today my friend Teresa Hirst is here. She is a total sweetheart and I loved her latest novel, Flowers of Graceinspired by a true story of a group of women trying to save a clothing store–and a hibiscus. (Link below her bio.)

Today Teresa’s here to talk about the ‘yoga’ aspect of writing, the ‘breathing’ moments to create something beautiful.

Creativity, A Process Not a Product by Teresa Hirst

Teresa Hirst: My life-time exercise philosophy was choose the best calorie-burning boost that fits into thirty minutes. That meant all workouts were cardio. Burn more and find good health. Right?

Then my health changed. Exercise became a way to heal more than a way to raise my heart rate. I needed flexibility, greater awareness of my body, Improved balance.

So, I perched in a yoga pose and listened to YouTube yoga instructor Adriene Mishler tell me to breathe and be present. Then she said, being on “autopilot really restricts me from a lot of things. I’m an artist and it totally takes me out of the creative game.”

She’s right.

Art comes from an inspired place of creativity and can hardly be produced without emotion, thought, time, or creativity.

Allie Larkin, author of two books, wrote recently about The Myth of Balance. She’s sacrificed in her personal life to stay focused on her novel-writing life, which she likens to a start-up company life.

“This is the thing about writing: It takes time,” she said. “And this is the thing about everything we pull from the bucket we call balance: it also takes time.”

Even when we give our all—all our time, focus, mental energy, emotional reserves—our creative process won’t always flow.

Could it be that as writers we sometimes metaphorically engage in only cardio workouts that bring visible results like word counts, more pages, and chapters?

Young Adult author Courtney King Walker, a long-time friend of mine, once told me in an interview, “I always feel like I need to be creating something. I go through phases where I focus on one aspect or another, whether it is art or writing or music or cooking. I need to create.”

But here’s what I found interesting: Even though she is always creating, Courtney doesn’t focus only on her next book. She’s absorbed in other creative pursuits—even making ordinary tasks creative ones—where she’s “taking it in, learning, and absorbing.”

My take-away, and the one I’m practicing, is that a well-rounded lifestyle can actually feed back into our creative pursuits. Life itself becomes part of the creative process.

Life itself becomes part of the creative process, Teresa Hirst

Photo credit: Jack Moreh,

Broadening your focus, rather than narrowing it, can actually help you achieve better work.

“Mix it up,” Jim Compton Hall said in a post on 10 Deadly Factors that Threaten to Kill Your Creativity. “To fuel your creativity, go and do things you would never usually do. Even if, or perhaps especially if, they scare you a little bit,” he said. “Get out and experience new things, new events, new places, new activities, new people. When it comes to thinking of ideas, you’ll have a much larger library to draw from.”

You can do the same.

Use a simple paper and pencil exercise to evaluate yourself. Identify the aspects where you are on autopilot—and consider ways to glean new insight from each. Here are three basic areas of life that can benefit a creative life:

1. Give more to your relationships

Make time for mutually supportive relationships. Be a friend. Listen. Love. Give.

I’m not suggesting expanding your circle as much as adding value to the ones you already have. Talk to others but also listen and observe. Experience real relationships that open you to real emotions in real time. It’s not research as much as the real life a writer needs to feel for and with our characters.

2. Gain new knowledge

Explore new fields of thought. Ask questions. Seek answers.

New knowledge about your craft is important but so is making time to learn outside the writing community. TED Talks will shake up your thinking in a short segment of time. Or, read a book outside of the genre you write. Volunteer with an organization that is outside your area of interest. The benefit? A new perspective to stimulate your work.

3. Get comfortable with yourself

Take time to understand yourself. Move beyond the flurry of opinions and define personal principles. Learn about others’ beliefs and how to respect those.

The emotional side of life is a driving force in a lot of writing, art and music. If you’re comfortable with your own principles and respectful of others, you can draw creative solutions from a deep well rather than a shallow puddle.

Whether balance is a myth or not, your focused writing will benefit from outside pursuits. A well-rounded life brings you and your writing a richer, fuller, more creative experience. And that’s a workout worth fitting in.

Rebecca’s Thoughts:

I so needed this post. I’m crazy far behind on The Pursuit, which I had hoped to have released it right now, but I’m still knee-deep in edits and re-writes. This post was like my own little yoga session–breathe; just breathe. It’s all good. It’ll come in time. For now, just listen, love, give. 

I really love the idea of creativity being a process and not just a product, because I think too many authors (including myself) get hung up on the final product and end up losing the vision of why we started writing in the first place. My biggest fear now is rushing through this third book just to ‘get it out there’ and end up sacrificing the story, plot, characters (which happens SO often in book threes). So thank you for these ideas. I will be rereading several times to remind myself!

What about you? What unique ways do you have to keep the creative juices flowing? Comment here.


Teresa Hirst grew up in the Midwest with an imagination and creativity straight from the stories she consumed in her childhood. Today, she observes and tells insightful stories—both nonfiction and fiction—that characterize our emotional experience with life. She is the author of Flowers of Grace and Twelve Stones to Remember Him. Teresa lives in Minnesota with her family, where she enjoys cooking, sentimental movies, Sunday afternoon walks, and great conversations.


Twelve Stones to Remember Him by Teresa Hirst

Check back next Tuesday for our next guest, Rone-award winning author, Danyelle Ferguson gives us 6 tips to avoid author burnout. See you then!



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