Submissions is holding a project during the month of November in honor of National Novel Writing Month. During this month, writers try to write 50,000 words in the entire month of November, which ends up being about 1,667 words per day. We’re trying to collectively reach the goal together and publish our writings as an anthology about the Muslims of Rutgers, by the Muslims of Rutgers. We each have something to share with the world, so let’s SAY it. Let’s get our voices out there, because we all know the world isn’t leaning in to listen. You may not think that you’re a writer, but EVERYONE has something important to say and we want to hear it. (Click here to sign up, the deadline’s approaching soon!)

Creativity doesn’t come naturally to many people (me being one of them), so I wanted to pass along some tips that I came across to help you get those creative juices flowing for your submission to the anthology (and in general of course!).

1. Freewrite.
When you use glue or a fountain pen or a henna cone after a while, you have to clear off the gunk at the top before it flows properly. Writing is the same! Before you get started on an actual composition, clear your mind by setting an alarm for ten minutes, plugging in your headphones, and writing every thought you have without stopping until that alarm goes off. Write every mundane thought, even when one cuts another off. You’re not allowed to worry about mistakes or clarity until it’s over. When you’re finished, you’ll have a plethora of thoughts to sort through, and you’ll be surprised with what you can come up with.

2. Read. A lot.
Reading lets you take in different kinds of ideas and styles, and it helps you learn about the creative techniques of others so you can figure out your own. We’re all busy people, so we probably don’t have the time to reread the entirety of Harry Potter, but maybe pick up a short story or even revisit a favorite from your childhood or a younger sibling.

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3. Outline.
This is a really effective way of figuring out where you want to go and what your idea could develop into. It also helps you stay organized and is useful not only in creative pieces, but when you’re writing more academic essays, too! You don’t have to stick to solid, neat, step-by-step outlining, either; consider webbing or using different colors to make this process exciting.

4. Look at prompts.
Examples and prompts are there to get the gears in your brain turning. Sometimes you’ll start with one and go in a totally different, more exciting direction — how many times have you been struck with something in the middle of an essay at 2AM, grinned, groaned, and had to change your thesis? For Project: #MuslimsOfRutgers, the style guide has a huge list of prompts you can look at. The internet in general can lead you to great resources too.

5. Reflect upon yourself and your experiences.
Find out what kind of lessons and conclusions you can draw from your experiences. Ask yourself what matters to you. What’s something other people don’t know about you, or you wish they did? What do you have to say to the world?

6. Have something small you can write in to record important ideas.
Keep a small journal or even have something on your phone to record random inspiration, quotes, etc., that you don’t want to forget. It’s a total life-saver because inspiration can go as easily as it comes, and things like these are great to go through when you’re in a sour mood. Plus, it’s interesting to look back and see what stuck with you.

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7. Brainstorm with others.
It’s hard to come up with ideas on your own, so brainstorm with someone else, or even just talk. Shooting even the vaguest idea at an outsider lets it evolve in ways that would not have been possible on your own!

8. Take a walk or a drive.
You never know where or how inspiration might strike you.

9. Put yourself in a new environment.
Get out of your comfort zone and make yourself open to new experiences, ideas, and perspectives. Try something new. Try something you think you’d be bad at. It’s just important to be open to new possibilities.

Or on a more local level, get a new spot. If you’re always sitting on the couch with your laptop on the coffee table, sit on the coffee table with your laptop on the couch (note: don’t actually do that, but hopefully you catch my drift). If you usually type things right away, try writing by hand for a change of pace.

10. “Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy, you will find your self.”–Yohji Yamamoto
This quote isn’t condoning plagiarizing; it’s just a reminder that basing your work off other people’s styles and ideas isn’t completely horrible or taboo. After all, what we consider our classics–Chaucer, Shakespeare, and almost the entirety of Disney–are based off of the work of the people that came before them. As you write more, you’ll find what sticks with you and what doesn’t, and you’ll discover new ways to make your writing uniquely yours. But everyone has to start somewhere.

It’s okay to get frustrated. Be open to your own flaws. That’s why revising exists. But get your story written down before you start to criticize it. Tell it to yourself first so you can figure out how to tell it to others, or test it on your family and friends. Writing is a difficult process for everyone, so don’t let any slumps discourage you. After all, we need your voice. And we need to try to get our stories out there.

As always, if you have any tips you’d like to share, leave them in the comments below!

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