Need a Spark of Creativity? Try Annie Dillard’s Method

Photo of colored pencils in a row

Of a period where she was working on a difficult book, writer Annie Dillard recalled:

“Some days I read part of any anthology’s index of first lines. The parallels sounded strong and suggestive. They could set me off, perhaps.”

– Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I thought this sounded like a great idea to spark creativity—loose associations, unexpected juxtapositions, suggestions of thoughts ready to be completed.

For instance, here are the entries under the letter “I” in the “Alphabetical List of Titles and First Lines” from English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology.

  • I arise from dreams of thee
  • I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers
  • I had a dream, which was not all a dream
  • I met a traveller from an antique land
  • Indian Serenade, The
  • In London, September 1802
  • In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy
  • Introduction (Songs of Experience)
  • Introduction (Songs of Innocence)
  • In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
  • Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil
  • I saw a chapel all of gold
  • It is an ancient Mariner
  • It keeps eternal whisperings around
  • I travelled among unknown men
  • It seems a day
  • I wandered lonely as a cloud
  • I wnated thro’ each charter’d street
  • I was angry with my friend
  • I weep for Adonais—he is dead!
  • I went to the Garden of Love


This list sent my mind racing —how about you?

For more idea for boosting creativity, here are 7 tips I use to spark my creativity.

What are some strategies you’ve found, to give yourself new, fresh ideas?



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