My book-in-progress, The Integrated Writer, offers many tips for writers on becoming creative and productive. Here's a little nugget from it: seven principles to get you going.
1. The Writerly Frame of Mind
Being a writer doesn’t mean to write for a living, or even to write at all, but to think as a writer, to see the world as a writer, to be in the world as a writer. It means to watch every human being as a character in a drama, being played in front of your eyes on an infinite stage; to sense people’s motivations, their personal narratives, their back stories; to love analysis, synthesis, description, explanation, condensation. Once you put yourself permanently in the writerly frame of mind 24/7, you'll find it easier to write intermittently, in bursts, as your day allows.
2. The Principle of Alternation
You’ll navigate the chaos of life more deftly if you accept time’s unpredictability and discontinuity. A balanced push-and-pull of activities, both personal and professional, allows you to move forward and complete book projects while taking care of your family and your day job. The solution lies in your developing a varied and adaptable rhythm, and in finding the right push for every pull. You may even need to add activities to an already-busy schedule if they provide a pull against the push of habit (for instance, exercise for a sedentary person).
3. Juggle Several Projects
It may be useful for you to keep two or more contrasting projects going at all times. When one of them hits a wall, you switch to the other for a few days or longer. The push-and-pull of the alternating projects may help you remain productive and creative. Besides, spending many years on a single project that might never see the light of day is no way to make a living as a writer.
4. Adjustment Goes Two Ways
Adjust the physical world to your needs and wants by building the ideal writing environment to the last detail. At the same time, learn to adjust yourself to the physical world and to carry your writerly space within. Look for ways of being happy, or at least productive, or at least alert, in every environment there is, from the cramped airplane seat to the basement of your mother-in-law’s.
5. Improvisation and Structure
At the heart of every human action there’s an inevitable and desirable friction between improvisation and structure—that is, between freedom and order. In your daily work, alternate between methods that free the gush of improvisatory intuition (brainstorming, mind mapping, annotating dreams) and methods that strengthen structural skills (outlining, creating tables and bullet lists).
6. Tools and Toys
Writing by hand has a different rhythm from typing at a manual typewriter or at a computer. And writing by hand on unlined pages is different from writing by hand on lined paper. Every tool has its rhythm, and every rhythm has its place in the writer’s life. Alternate using pens, pencils, various notebooks, one or more computers, Post-Its, scraps of paper, and other media.
7. A Book is not a Book is not a Book
The wheels of creativity turn more smoothly when the terrain is varied. Research, discovery, adventure; walks, trips, visits; images, photos, postcards, drawings; encounters, interviews, parties—they all play one against the other to create a written text. Alternate between all media and all senses (word, image, sound, taste, smell, movement) while you develop a project, and writing the actual project will be both easier and richer.