Most of us write every day, but we writers tend not to count things other than fiction as writing. Writing for us = story. I admit, I'm guilty of that mindset.
I'm writing this blog post now. After it I have a couple of e-mails to answer, notes to type up for my novel notebook, and then my daily wordcount quota to nail. If I have time, I'll add an entry in my private journal. I don't text -- no smart phone -- but I will jot down a few more tasks on my to-do list. I also have to update the calendar for March with some upcoming events. After I finish my daily edit tonight, I'll probably work on some character sheets and a synopsis in progress.
The truth is most of us write constantly. We pour words into our phones and computers, and scrawl them on our notepads, grocery lists and chalkboards. Some of it may even be fiction, but it's all writing. Everything we write is an opportunity to be creative, too.
Now I feel your skepticism, so let me give you a couple of examples:
Regular e-mail: Sorry, I can't make it tonight. I've got a migraine.
Creative e-mail: Forgive me for not making it tonight. A balloon T-Rex is using a titanium sledgehammer to play Some Like It Hot on the inside of my skull.
They both say the same thing, but the second e-mail is wry and funny. It communicates the same information, but it also pokes a little fun at it. The recipient gets a smile out of the no-show notice. Meanwhile, you're exercising your imagination, never a bad thing.
Taking a little extra effort to be creative with your other-than-fiction writing provides additional benefits. Routine and boring suddenly becomes unique and clever. Sometimes I laugh out loud at the market after I read off a creative entry on my shopping list:
Don't go down the candy aisle
Seed for damn squirrels to steal
Handy Dandy Wipes
No, don't go down the candy aisle. Keeping walking.
Bacchus's favorite snack
Flour au naturale
I am Ginger Root
You can't eat candy, you ditz.
It's fun inventing new names for things I need from the market (for those of you who aren't Popeye fans, Brutus's Squeeze = olive oil). It livens up a pretty boring chore, too. More than anything, it's writing practice. I constantly have to think up new ways to describe things in the stories I work on; I think writing a shopping list this way helps me keep my imagination limber and nimble.
Other ways you can practice your creative skills while writing things other than fiction:
If you have a chalkboard or whiteboard in your home, start writing a thought for the day on it.
Put funny or encouraging notes in your kids' lunchboxes.
Buy blank cards and personalize them for every occasion with a hand-written message.
Label storage containers creatively, i.e. Future Blackmail (kids' pictures or schoolwork), Not Lost Library (old manuscripts), and When I Feel Wretched Reads (keeper books).
Take an old white t-shirt (you can buy them cheap at Goodwill) and every day write in indelible ink a meaningful-to-you word or phrase on it. To prevent bleed-through, first place a piece of sturdy cardboard under the area where you want to write. When the t-shirt is completely covered, wash and wear it.
What are some of the ways you get creative with writing other than fiction? Give us some tips in comments.