This One Dreadful Thing Will Help Your Creative Thinking

My personal life often conflicts with my writing.

Separation Sparks Creativity

Photo Credit: JordanAnthony / Creative Commons

My sister asks me to babysit my niece, my mom guilt trips me into tearing out cabinets for lake house renovations and my girlfriend sighs when I say I can’t go to a movie because I’m writing at 8:00pm.

What I need is separation.

Separation from the tediousness of everyday stresses. Separation from the normalcy that leads to indifference.

The irony is that I actually dread that separation. I loath when distance is placed between us, because of one simple truth: I love them.

I realized the same goes for writing. While away, I worry about my blinking cursor and the unfinished work I have yet to complete. I stress that more and more personal tasks will further separate me from my passion.

However, this separation is not without good results. This distance provides a series of needs and nurturing attributes that enforce creativity and strengthen the bond between me and my writing – just like personal relationships.


There is a raw human need for change, while the romanticism of a return sparks creativity and the possibility of no return ignites a passion impossible to match.

The human need for change

Prying yourself from the monotonous staple that is your writing chamber to explore a change of writing scenery is a small taste of the change that we crave. It is human. It sparks creativity when you stand up and walk around, when you write while lying horizontal, when you shift your desk to the other side of the room.

Change means new experiences, and writing is about the embrace and communication of those new endeavors. Writing about your everyday “peel out of bed” routine screams boring.

Separation from your personal life is the same way. You need it to remain clear, to remain toned and to remain sane. While separation from your writing sparks a similar response. It takes you away from a world you are too familiar with – a cozy world where nothing can hurt you and everything is just perfect.

This cozy world destroys creativity.

You need space to breath and take the imperfections of your personal life to reveal the imperfections in your own writing.

“We need to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them.” – Stephen King

The romanticism of return

Distancing yourself from a love that you often dread, brings you closer to another love that you sometimes dread as well.

I love my family, but sometimes I can’t stand them. I also love writing, but the thought of plucking out my keyboard keys and flicking them into a fire often comes to mind as well.

Distance diminishes the duress caused by other loves and strengthens the bonds through the desire of reunion. The thought of seeing your passion or your love one more time in the near future propels us to think of how we will do things differently, how we will make things better and how we will be more creative.

The possibility of no return

Fear is an emotion that binds you to something you love. Fear of death, fear of financial loss and fear of ridicule are all things that push us towards perfection. We desire to see those we love one more time, and one more time after that. What if the love is lost unexpectedly? Life is short, so we want to make sure that every moment is taken in as if it were our last.

The same goes for writing. Separation from writing means the potential to never see it again. Maybe financial woes will cause the distance, or the wide array of family and social responsibilities The possibility of no return sparks a fear – no a love. A love so fierce that emotions and words are required to spill onto the page in the slight chance that it will be the last opportunity to do so.

Separation is a dreadful thought, but it is a harsh reality that actually ignites a flame of inspiration. It opens a world of question that is impossible to address…forcing the mind to run wild with thoughts of pure passion and love.

In what ways has separation ignited your flame of creativity?

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About Joe Warnimont

I am a writer, marketing expert and adventure seeker. I help people write, market their writing, live truthfully and embrace their lives through creativity. You can find me riding my bike around the streets of Chicago. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.


  1. Life has its twists and turns as you grow older and I have more responsibilities now with children than ever before. I do not get separation very often but it has never stifled my creativity. A simple walk on the beach is all it takes to have me running home to my stories filled with new ideas and a fresh outlook. Maybe the key is small moments in time for me or just taking a break and reading a good book.

    • Hi Kath,

      It’s good you have some sort of outlet to generate ideas and spark some creativity, even if they are just small moments by yourself. I can’t begin to imagine how hectic it can be with kids!

  2. One thing I hear you saying is that I need to get away from this desk and from my mind-numbing routine to expand my experience base. What, am I going to write about my past for the rest of my life? I have a friend I’ve known for 40 years, and all he can talk about is the past, over and over and over. He does nothing new. He does nothing exciting. He has nothing interesting to talk about, except what other people in his life are doing.
    The simple act of going to visit my mother for a few days gave me an immense amount to think and write about. A lot of it was painful, but needed to be addressed. So I will most likely write about it!
    Nice post. Thank you.

    • Great thoughts Sondra,

      Even painful experiences can spark creativity and most of the time those stories need to be shared. And yes, creating any type of new experience is for the better!

  3. Joe, didn’t know you were such a philosopher, but I should have guessed. I was struck by the “Romanticism of Return.” I thought of Wordsworth and his unexpected host of daffodils, and then of the wonder of spring returning each year after the winter “separation” from the green and blooming. Nature is my muse, and I combine my walks along the river or my puttering in the yard with talks with my loved ones — most especially my husband of 34 years. I do have a routine, I take Sunday off from marketing/writing for church with my family, and I do a family history blog on Sunday afternoons. I take daily walks, sometimes I have to be pulled kicking and screaming away from my computer, but once I’m walking, I always rejoice in the experience. I like the motto (if you know who wrote it, please share) “Write something worth reading or Live something worth writing.” Sometimes I feel my husband is pulling me away from my writing, but it’s ALWAYS to live something.

    • Hi Susan,

      Thanks for sharing. I love that quote, it’s so true. (Just did a quick Google search and it looks like it is a Benjamin Franklin quote.) It sounds like you have a nice way to get away from your writing by walking around and experiencing nature with your loved ones. I find that walks, even just around the block are always the most relaxing part of my day. They are a great release and make life more enjoyable.

  4. Some days are better than others and nothing seems to get in the way of writing. Other days…well, I simply pull the blanket over my head and wait for the day to end. Last week, there were two nights where I had a dream. Both of them so vivid that I woke up and wrote them down so I wouldn’t forget them in the morning as is so often the case with dreams. The result was two posts for my blog – both of which had comments demanding more.

    My source of separation is to have lunch or dinner at a restaurant – yes, on my own – and indulge in people watching. My grandchildren (all 8 of them) are also a great source of inspiration.

    • Thanks for sharing Lyn. It’s great how dreams often provide a great story or blog post. (I have to start writing mine down, because I always forget them) I too enjoy eating meals by myself and watching other people interact. I’m not quite to the point where I have any children or grandchildren, but my little niece is always great for inspiration! 🙂

  5. Brilliant! I love this post. It’s definitely got me thinking about my current writing life and how to possible change it.

  6. so loving this piece. I got me thinking creatively.. I am fired up

  7. Often, I am torn between wanting solitude and company. It’s not a case of greener grass on the other side, it’s simply about a task that needs to be completed, once finished I switch to a diametrically opposite task. The same thing bores me. That’s why, I try different forms and different styles even in my writing. It keeps me groovy. 🙂

    • I agree. There is never greener grass on the other side. However, it helps to get some separation to appreciate the grass on the other side. I’m sure switching to another task helps you prevent boredom! Stay groovy. 🙂

  8. There is an ebb and flow to life. It always seems to be in need of balancing. Ever moving, ever flowing. Some things can’t wait and have to be done immediately, or soon. Other things can wait. Sometimes people can wait too, but I try not to keep them waiting too long! I find that one activity informs another, so it is important to pull away from my loved ones or from my writing to keep life balanced. Pinging around keeps me fresh and renewed so I have something to give when I return to writing or to my beloved. I believe it’s all part of the ebb and flow of our lives. Thanks for igniting this little spark of neuroactivity on this subject, Joe.

    • Thanks Lily,

      You’re right, everything seems to connect and create this web of interactivity. One thing fuels another, while pulling away from something helps appreciate that activity even more. Thanks for your thoughts!

  9. Hi there – thanks for following my blog! Your tips are great – good to visit your site. Keep it up!

  10. Some very good advice here. Sometimes we need to pull ourselves out of a rut to get back to being truly creative. :<)

  11. Ha I blogged about going “Home”. I said I am taking a few days off. Some of the comments were about anticipating my stories on my return, inspired by my visit home. So even though I am not writing, I am still thinking writing. Do we really break our habit?

  12. It is so refreshing to see someone who is happy with life and who they are and who they can become just by believing in themselves. Keep living your passion and smiling each day! 🙂

  13. Thanks for the follow, Joe! Due to my low vision, I bookmark everyone as the ol’ inbox is a scary enough mess as it is! Look forward to reading more…

    Take care,

  14. Excellent article. I have struggled with all of these separation anxieties.

  15. Beautifully put! I try to live my life in the here and now. It keeps me grounded and making the most of every moment. But as time moves on so must I. What keeps me moving forward is that longing for what is not with me in the moment, that separation of which you write about.

    My passion is music and as a multi-instrumentalist and composer I go through periods where I will focus on one instrument to the detriment of others. In answer to your question, I find this diversity very beneficial to the creative process. Say I go a month without playing piano because I am working on guitar pieces and then I return to piano. I find that I am a better piano player than I was last time I played. I have new inspiration and new passion for the instrument. Creativity takes skill but the real driver is passion.

    • Thanks J,

      It’s good to see this thinking works for all kinds of arts forms. I can see why taking a break from one instrument makes you a better performer when you return. I think this really applies to anything. I remember back in high school after after we had a few days off from baseball practice, I would be psyched to get back out their and my mind would be refreshed and more relaxed than before. Thanks for sharing!

  16. you do, indeed, nail most, if not all, of “it” down in an essay such as this. i agree (and have lived thru, or consciously avoided) most of what you describe. still, what works best, (and, yeah, i may yet live long enuff to regret it), is to not do any system nor formula at all.
    like (michael palin) ‘they’ say: one never expects the spanish inquisition!