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Creativity: The X Factor

One of the most popular toys in our household these days is a set of remote control bumper cars. One is red, one is blue, and to win a round of this game, you need to crash into your opponent’s car at just the right spot to eject the little helmeted driver.


We acquired said bumper cars around the same time that our youngest learned to walk. She’d toddle after the cars, squealing with delight as she tried to catch them. There was no stopping her, so she became a part of the game, a sort of wild card. “The baby is the X factor,” we’d tell visitors as we handed over the controls.

A few weeks into the bumper car phase, I overheard my preschooler explaining to a neighbor that his sister is “the X factory.” I laughed, thinking that his dad and I needed to explain our jokes better, and then forgot about it—until I entered the living room days later to find him engrossed in an elaborate system of play. He’d lined up an activity cube, blocks, tiny cars, an airport runway, robots, animals and other seemingly unconnected toys, all strung together from one end of the room to the other.

“What are you playing, buddy?” I asked, curious.

“This is the X factory,” he explained. He spent the rest of the evening busy on his assembly line, manufacturing imaginary Xs.

To watch a child at play is to witness creativity at its purest. What would we create if we didn’t have so many preconceived notions about the world around us? If we didn’t ascribe meanings to certain words or situations, if we didn’t already know the purpose of actions and objects and even the role of particular people in society or our lives, how might we interpret things differently? What kind of magic might we bring to the stories we put on the page?

Our challenge as writers is to view the world day after day with fresh eyes, to assume nothing, to reinvent what our readers think they know, to all at once meet expectations and defy them, satisfy and surprise. It’s no easy task, and succeeding at it doesn’t happen by accident. Just like other aspects of the craft, creativity itself can be studied, practiced, invited, nurtured.

That’s where the July/August 2015 Writer’s Digestcomes in. (Preview the full Table of Contents here.) The feature articles in this special illustrated Creativity Issue are designed to help you tap into what inspires you in meaningful ways, to write better and write more, to rejuvenate your motivation when it runs dry, and to help you accept the X factors in your own life as a part of the writing game.

Or, of course, to construct your own X factory.

The beautiful thing about writing is it’s all up to you.

Special Sale on Our New Issue—And Other Creativity Boosters

This special Creativity Issue of Writer’s Digestis officially on sale this week—and as luck would have it, its release coincides with a huge 40% off site-wide sale going on in the Writers Digest Shop, today through the weekend. You can download or order the brand-new July/August 2015 Writer’s Digestfor just $4.19 (40% off the $6.99 cover price), and get the 40% off our already deeply discounted products, too, with offer code FFSUMMER40. If you have creative writing exercises on the brain, as I do, here are some of my other favorite idea-boosters that you can get now through Sunday for an absolute steal:

Shipping is free with all orders over $25, and this really is an incredible sale, so get these prices before they’re gone. Sale ends Sunday, June 7.

Jessica Strawser
Editor, Writer's Digest magazine
Follow me on Twitter @jessicastrawser
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