Monday, May 21, 2012

Recharge your creativity tank


I’ve heard rumblings lately. Rumblings about how draggy folks are feeling. And  you know what? I’m feeling a twinge of the dog-days-of-August blues, and it’s only May.

In the publishing industry, the promo whirl is never ending. Got a book? Hype it here. Hype it there. Hook readers on this network or that one. Join the next greatest social media utility and start over collecting friends. And do it all while you maintain a grasp on life, and, oh yeah, don’t forget about moving forward on that next book.

Don’t get me wrong, I love doing all of that, but sometimes the creativity tank gets empty.

Know what I mean?

I notice it most when I spread myself too thin, when I’ve got too many active projects. Or when I start to think about the “have-nots,” as in there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done or not enough “likes” or “tags” or reviews.

When the have-nots and bone-deep weariness hit, writers go into a nasty spiral of inactivity.

It’s easy to get caught in that comparison trap. So-and-so has meteoric sales, a big-time contract, a movie deal, or network TV interviews. We all know people that seem to jet right to the top without “paying their dues.”

What’s a writer to do?

Here are five ideas to help:

Recharge your muse. Not everyone admits to having a muse, but we all know what it feels like when our creativity stalls. Not good. Many writers are also attracted to other arts. Visit a museum or get out your paints. Listen to music or take in a concert. Enjoy an arts and crafts festival. Take a photography course. Putter around in garden centers. Sew something pretty. Whatever it is that makes you happy – go for it.

Narrow your goal focus. Need to get the newsletter out, update the website, and create a postcard promotion for next month’s book release? Focus on one thing at a time. For me the pay-off comes when I check off each accomplishment on my to-do list.

Look outward. To get out of the dismal have-not trap, expand your focus beyond your everyday realm. Connect with real people in your physical universe. See firsthand the struggles others are going through, and your have-nots will pale in comparison. It’s about regaining your sense of perspective.

Nurture your physical health. It’s easy to forget our health. For a change, put yourself first. Whether it’s a foot massage you need, a walk by the seaside, or a medical checkup, make time to be healthy. Feeling a bit dull? Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. One thing’s for certain. An engine won’t run on crappy fuel. It will sputter and grind to a halt. Eat the right foods.

Take a hiatus. There are times when nothing seems to help. Your body/soul/spirit/muse needs a complete break. Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a Mediterranean cruise or a Habitat for Humanity house, doing something else shifts your immediate attention and engages you. Before you know it, ideas will start percolating again and you’ll be itching to hit the keyboard again.

Putting this post together energized me. I'm off to work on edits for my latest romantic suspense.

Maggie Toussaint
Read an excerpt of Death, Island Style at http://www.maggietoussaint.com/death_island_style.html

39 comments:

  1. Maggie, I used to get annoyed when other things pulled me from my writing. These days I look at it as a brain break, particularly when weeds need to be pulled and hubby wants to go out on the bike. Okay, sometimes I still get annoyed but only enough that when I can get back to it, I'm more productive. ;-) Nice tips!

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    1. Hi LK, I like that phrase "brain break." We all need those, and you're right. They make us more productive. Isn't that better than beating your head against the keyboard? ((smile)) Maggie

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  2. When I'm writing, I take breaks to walk the dog and throw in a load of laundry. But when I really need recharging, I'll read or watch a movie. Or just get away from the writing for a couple of days if I'm really having a problem. Sometimes I think I need to be refreshed by simply not working.

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    1. Hi Roni, These are great examples of recharging. I also get to the point of having to do something else. Thanks for the visit! Maggie

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  3. First, it's wonderful to have other writers to talk to. Imagine if you had no idea this kind of thing happened to other people.

    You've mentioned a lot of great things here. Personally I will listen to some music or take a walk. Walking is kind of like pacing but I don't look quite as crazy.

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    1. You made me laugh, Peg, because I do a lot of pacing - but I do it inside my house. I have a regular loop I make and after a few passes, I'm in a different zone. I began pacing when insomnia hit a few years back. I figured I might as well do something and if I exercised I would earn a snack. But I found the exercise to be freeing. Once I get that rhythm going, I just think about nothing and everything in a freefall mindset. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on refilling your creativity tank. Maggie

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  4. Maggie--you forgot "take a nap." That is so good because you can hide in the depths of your subconcious and you won't feel guilty. Naps are a cure-all...believe me, I am an expert on nap taking.
    Good post--you voiced all our collective thoughts, I do believe.

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    1. Hi Celia, Great point. Naps, in my experience, are a quick reset button. My most creative moments of the day are early morning, just after I wake up. If the day has gone all to hell and back, taking a nap gives me a second "top of the morning" experience when I wake up. I don't know how I survived all those years in my science career without naps. I'm a champion napper now. Thanks for reminding me about naps, Celia. Maggie

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  5. Maggie,
    Great post! I never really thought about what I do to recharge, because I don't ever seem to stop. My husband gripes about this all the time, and he does have a point, but I feel like I have to be creative while it's "there"--if I don't take advantage of it...well, we've all had those "dry spells" with our writing. LOL Thanks so much for sharing these tips--sometimes I just need to be reminded to STOP and smell the roses, and maybe it will lead to even better creativity!
    Cheryl

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    1. You know what's funny? I had the same philosophy as you about golf swings. I felt like I only had so many of them in my swing tank, so I never wanted to hit a bucket of balls before a round. I needed all my strokes during the game.

      I think you've subconsciously woven the energize part into your writing. Perhaps there's just enough variation of tasks that you feel like you are coming to each one fresh.

      They say that one of the differences between those that make it in business and those that don't are the folks who are infused with a sense of urgency. In that case, you will do well!

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  6. Great post. Me, I have to step away entirely for a while. Shut the laptop and go do something. Bake a loaf of bread, work in my garden, practice my taekwondo form. Anything that gets me to move. Speaking of which, my breadmaker is calling. =)

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    1. Hi Mary, Homemade bread sounds delicious. I'm sure that would fire up my Muse and my taste buds too. Your ways of relaxing are hands on, which must allow you to free your mind. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. If all else fails, read the writings of your faith, if you have one. The beautiful metaphors and similes, powerful imagery and great examples of good and evil are fertile ground for inspiration in more than one sense of the word.

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    1. Hi Beth, This is an excellent suggestion. Those timeless lines are a great comfort and inspiration and renewal. Thank you for sharing this with us! Maggie

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  8. Great advice, Maggie. Just what I needed today! I've been spending too much time worrying about publicizing DEATH LEGACY and not enough working on new writing. A change of pace seems like a great idea.

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  9. So very true, Maggie. Excellent post and suggestions. Did you remember the chocolate?

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    1. Yikes! How could I forget the chocolate? It's such a necessary staple! Thanks for the reminder

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  10. Maggie I so needed to read this!!! Thank you. I'm on a vertical learning curve trying to promote my debut novel, Once Removed, and feeling more than empty.

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    1. Kimm, I've been in your shoes. Savor that first novel. Friends and family will come out of the woodwork to support you. This is a good thing.

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  11. I agree with all that. Funnily enough I was just thinking about arranging a day trip to meet a fellow-author in the Alpujarras. I shall definitely do it now. Thanks, Maggie

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  12. I get more mileage out of my creativity by switching projects when the fun starts to ebb. I always have a WIP, a Work in Revision, and a Work in Production, and usually a back up for all of those (Baby WIP, etc). Sometimes if I just change what's on the screen, I find my mojo again.

    That said, I will be FOREVER indebted to Cathy Maxwell for her observation that if a book isn't working, she's probably not going to figure out how and why by staring at the screen. There's a time to turn it off and deal with the housework.

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    1. I love Cathy's advice. And good for you, Grace, to know how your muse works best.

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  13. Thanks for this uplifting and timely post. So many wonderful tips!

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  14. Great post, Maggie. As an indie writer, I feel totally overwhelmed with all the social networking I'm supposed to do to promote my books. I really dislike it. Moreover, I find those who do nothing BUT promote their books a turnoff. I don't want to be that. Promotion is really detrimental to writing, if that makes any sense. There's less time to develop new ideas because I'm trying to get the word out about my old ones. When that happens I find myself playing Spider Solitaire or doing a Sudoku puzzle. Walking helps.

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    1. Hi Polly, I think everyone needs to understand what works for them, but they also need to be aware of the cause-effect dynamic. Defining that middle ground of promotion is hard for me. And the more promotion I do, the less time I spend on writing. The only way for me to see out of the promotional tunnel is to set times for things - time for writing, certain days for promo, etc. Is it working? Seems to be. Thanks for your comment. And I love Sudoku too.

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  15. Maggie,
    Excellent post, great tips and reminders. I keep my breathing room by my goals list,and break down daily clear goals. It's that down time that I struggle with. :) You know, always something more I can do. Take care, and thanks for the wonderful reminders. *Hugs*

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    1. Us list-people have to stick together! Keeping it simple works the best for me too. Thanks for stopping in.

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  16. Timely post. I hike every Sunday with a friend, without pen and pad. Just my camera. Tired but my creative juices high when I return home. Thursday, three friends from my hometown in Ohio will be visiting. We'll spend the day catching up, laughing,eating. Nothing on my mind but fun with old friends.

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    1. Carole,

      Your hiking routine is one we should all aspire too - that daily time when you're alone with your thoughts and nature and getting in exercise to boot. Time spent with old friends is the best. Thanks for your comment.

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  17. Maggie, I can so identify. Having that list and checking things off seems to help me, too. And of course, recharging my batteries periodically is a must. :) I need to remember to do that before they are completely discharged, though. Great post!

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    1. Susan,

      Someone needs to come up with an early warning system about personal battery recharging. If you knew you were down 60% would you try to write a gripping scene? I sure wouldn't. I'd go refill my tank and then have at it. We should all take note of Carole's example above and schedule regular recharging.

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  18. Good post, Maggie. I'm a great list maker - long, long lists. It makes mefeel I've actually accomplished something when I cross them off. Also, I stop often to do something physical and not related to writing.

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    1. Hi Gloria,

      Lists are our friends. I need them to keep me straight and to focus my sense of direction. Otherwise, I'd be floundering around in cyberspace. Thanks for your comment.

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  19. Your caution about getting enough sleep was significant for me...after my doctor said, "Remember, sleep is your friend," I laughed but realized she'd hit the nail on the head. Now I take a 45-60 minute nap mid-afternoon and my "spring fever" has fled. Sometimes it's the simplest thing...

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    1. Hey Patrica,

      Sleep is something we seem to take for granted - until we can't sleep. Then nothing seems right. Walking around sleep-deprived can really skew your perspective, or at least that's what happens to me. I get insomnia just enough to make me appreciate a good night's rest.

      I love a good nap. I hope you keep remembering to follow your doctor's advice. Thanks for stopping in at Mudpies.

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  20. Excellent post, Maggie. Any of your suggestions would give us ideas for when we stall. Thanks for sharing them!

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