How to be creative | Sarah Gates

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In Year 2, my class was given a homework assignment: a self portrait. I, like every other seven-year-old except for one, drew a picture of my face. But one girl took a different approach. She sculpted her likeness out of Playdough.

I was amazed. The assignment never said we had to use pencils and paper. To think outside the box like that… it blew my mind. I felt frustrated that I would never be that creative. I just didn’t think like that.
Then this girl told me that her sister had the same assignment three years before—with a different teacher. Her sister had come up with the idea and passed it down.

I realised that creativity is subverting expectations. It’s pushing yourself to think differently. Sometimes, it’s knowing something that others don’t.
To be creative, you don’t have to come up with an idea no one in the world has ever considered. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series is insanely creative, but she uses witches, wizards, unicorns and giants—like many others before her.

Suzanne Collins created a reality TV show to the death in The Hunger Games, which closely resembled Japanese author Kōshun Takami’s book, Battle Royale, and subsequent movie adaption.

My own novel, Love Elimination, went behind-the-scenes of a fictional reality TV dating show when I was a big fan of The Bachelor and couldn’t get enough. When I started writing, I didn’t know about Stan’s UnReal and I didn’t realise until after my book was published that another member of my romance writing group was working on another reality TV dating show novel, with an athlete hero, with the same family situation.

I’m no longer paralysed by pressure and high expectations. And over the years, I’ve found ways to push myself and develop my ability to think up ideas for stories, characters, scenes and settings.

Love and romance are the most cliched of all themes. We’ve read, heard and seen love stories in every language, at every age. We talk about love and romance so much, nothing is really new. But creativity isn’t about producing something that no one has ever seen before. It’s about surprising your reader. It’s about ideas that take shape and flow one after another. It’s about creating something that is yours.

My OWL, Unlock you creativity, is about developing a tap of ideas in your brain, which you can turn on whenever you choose. It’s about learning to keep the inspiration flowing even when you’re not feeling it. It’s about sifting through those ideas to find the ones that work best and fitting them together. It’s about breaking your habits and adding spice to your writing by doing things differently.

I can’t wait to see what you create.

Unlock your creativity with Sarah Gates
RWA OWL Course Dates: 6 May to 2 June, 2019
Cost: RWA Member—$55. Non-RWA Member—$88
For more information and bookings:

Learn to tap into your creative juices with tons of writing exercises, tips and tricks—while drawing on new and exciting writing techniques.
Sarah Gates

Sarah Gates is a South Australian writer and digital marketer. She is the author of Love Elimination (Harlequin Australia) and a freelance writer for Junkee, Voiceworks and InDaily. Sarah teaches writing workshops at high schools, libraries and state writers centres, and has appeared on panels at National Young Writers Festival and Sydney Writers Festival. She can be found at 

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