Give Yourself another Creative Outlet

Arigarumi ducks.  Crocheted by me.  December 2008. Photo by Dan Edwards.
Arigarumi ducks. Crocheted by me. December 2008. Photo by Dan Edwards.

I’m always amazed at the variety of ways my writing buddies find to be creative —

Carol is into photography.

Darcy quilts.

Valerie makes the most amazing desserts.

Joelle pulls together soups and breads every weekend from scratch.

I prefer knitting, crochet and beadwork.

Whatever you do, work out your creative muscle in a variety of ways.  If you’re like me, you’ll find that answers to writing problems come to you during other creative tasks.

Happy creating!


Give Yourself Backup from the Best

I rewrote the first two chapters of my NaNoWriMo piece, and I mean rewrite in the broadest sense.  Version Two retained only fragments  of Version One.   Then I stalled.

My characters perform what we consider magic, but they don’t.  It is just something they do.  Somewhat more extraordinary than scratching your nose but nothing along the lines of WOW.  Unless you are brand new to it.  Then it is the same kind of WOW as riding your bike without training wheels for the first time.

But I don’t want to use terms like “magic” or “casting a spell.”  So I’ve been pulling out my anthropology texts to read about magic and religion. 

I finally realized that what I am writing is something like the magical realism of Latin America.  Why not turn to the experts?  A quick trip to the library yielded up Isabella Allende and Laura Esquival. 

What writing challenge are you trying to meet?  Are you turning only to the how-to books?  If so, read how someone else has handled a similar situation.  In the end, you’ll still have to create your own solution, but why not work from the groundwork laid by the best?


Give Yourself (Fill in what makes you happy)

Is there something that you do that makes you happy beyond all reason? 

For me, its looking at knitting and crocheting books, blogs and magazines and dawdling at the Yarn Shop at the Historic Meyer House.   Shopping for beads is good too.   As is origami paper.  But yarn, knitting etc is the best.   And this is from someone who adores books.  But there is something about yarn and making things with it that is like chocolate or really good coffee.  I think it has something to do with texture and color. 

I don’t get it, but I do accept it.   Whenever I have what some people call writer’s block,  I pick up my knitting or my crochet even if it is right in the middle of my work day.  “No, no,” I can hear some of you hollering.  “Get back to your computer.   Otherwise you’ll just give up.” 

Stuff and nonsense.  A few rows of knitting or a round of crochet and my writing problem starts to work itself out.  I can see where I’ve force my main character to do something that is frankly out of character.   The error in organizing my how-to is now obvious.  Back I go to my desk and all is well. 

What can you do to reward yourself for a job well done?  To make you goofy happy?   To help you refocus?   Figure it out and you can help your writing flow. 


Give Yourself Movement

Yesterday, I met my last 2008 deadline.  By the time I finished, I was more than a bit cranky.   Why?  I needed to get up and move. 

Missouri has had enough dusky grey days that I haven’t walked the kids to or from school more than four times in the past two weeks vs the norm of twice daily, Monday through Friday.

Wood Duck at Missouri Botanical Garden.  December 2008.
Wood Duck at Missouri Botanical Garden. December 2008. Photo by Dan Edwards.

When the kids get antsy, I send them outside to burn off some energy, so that’s what I did to myself, grey day or no.  We went to the Missouri Botanical Garden.  We toured the delicious smelling Temperate House where we checked out the carnivorous plants.   We found numerous fruit bearing plants in the Climatron — they looked edible, according to my son.  In the far corner of the Garden we visited the lake at the Japanaese Garden.  No koi today but we saw the ducks, including a gorgeous wood duck. 

Now that I’ve moved around, sitting down to write seems doable.  Why not give it a try yourself?


Give Yourself a Sense of Accomplishment

Am I the only one who can’t write if I’m panicked about what isn’t getting done?   Instead of writing, my mind whirls with thoughts of what I’m not doing. 

Fortunately, I’ve found three ways to solve this.

  1. Take a 15 minute writing break and get something else done — fast.  Swish two toilets and wipe down two bathroom sinks.  Or fold a basket of laundry.  Or wrap three Christmas gifts.  Give yourself a feeling of accomplishment and then get back to the writing.
  2. Make a list of what I have accomplished.  Sometimes I think about what I haven’t gotten done and forget what I have accomplished.  Like I told another mom last week, “You’re not completely done with your Christmas cards but you’ve got 1/3 of them done.  That sure counts for something.”  Look at what you have accomplished.  Pat yourself on the back.  Then sit down and write.
  3. Delegate.  So far today we’ve taken my father to the airport and my husband mailed our three Christmas packages.  Look at that — two things done.  What?  I’m taking credit for him going to the post office?  No.  See above.  My husband mailed the packages.  But it is done.  Check, check.  And while he was gone, I wrote this post.  I could focus on it because I knew someone else was taking care of part of our to-do list.

This is such a stressful time of year.  Don’t beat yourself up over what isn’t getting done.  Concentrate on what is and draft a little help.  Then give yourself 15 minutes to write. 

You can get a lot done in 15 minutes.


Give Yourself a Vacation

Some days, you set writing goals and just can’t find the energy to turn on your computer.  The words just won’t flow.  Writer’s block.  There are many writers who will tell you that the solution is to keep your butt in your chair and write.  It doesn’t have to be pretty, enjoyable or even good writing.  Just do it.  Think NaNoWriMo.

For someone who doesn’t have a regular writing habit, that’s probably good advice.  Write regularly and consistenty and the words will flow more easily. 

If, on the other hand, you write regularly and just can’t get going today, or yesterday, or the day before that, you may need to give yourself a break. 

That’s right.  Take some time off. 

I know.  I know.  I just contradicted the butt-in-chair crowd.  

Freelancing professionally or even just writing as a hobby can take up every ounce of your spare time.  That’s dandy if you are working on a deadline.  Long term, it can drain you and leave you deflated, dejected and unable to write.  If that’s the case, get up and walk away from the computer.  Do something else.  Bake cookies.  Make fudge.  Go see Christmas lights.  Watch White Christmas.  Interact with people you enjoy.    Move around, live, and have some fun. 

Pretty soon, writing ideas will creep up on you and you’ll have no choice but to write.  


Give Yourself the Joy of Giving

If funds are tight, especially at this time of year, it can be really hard to focus on your writing. Instead, you focus on what you don’t have. An abundance of cash.

If you can’t donate to the charities you usually give to this time of year, you might be able to share with someone who needs what you have.

Last month I cleaned five stacks of books out of my office closet and three out from under my desk. Two boxes of these books now fill the shelves in a teacher’s classroom. She lost her previous classroom library in Hurricane Katrina.

Don’t know someone with such an obvious need? You can find people in your community who need what you have through  Freecycle ( Link to a group in your area and begin receiving posts abut items that people need. You can also post your items that need new homes. We gave away a wading pool and four enormous railroad ties. My son gave away a large box of Bob the Builder toys. “Mom, you can’t find these in the stores anymore but the tv show is still on. This will make some kid really happy.”

Why not share some of what you do have? In return, you may find the perfect idea for a story.


Give Yourself Laughter

Kids laugh at themselves, at each other, and at us. They don’t laugh politely with a hand covering their mouth.  They fall down and roll on the floor.  They make spectacles of themselves. Writing for this audience is tough when you’re stressed or blue. 

To connect with where they are — laugh.  If possible, laugh with them.

Yesterday, the school district called a snow day.  We managed one errand (where do my socks go when I put them down the laundry chute?) and came home with a new game.  Operation.

The new version tells you what piece to go for by blasting a corresponding sound including twittering for “bird brain,” croaking for “frog in the throat,” and a ripping sound for “deadly gas attack.”   Half the time I touched the metal side and set off the buzzer, I was screaming with laughter.  How could I not when my opponent twitched on the floor every time he shocked his patient and himself?

If you’ve got kids, play a game with them that let’s them be silly.  If you don’t have kids, borrow a neice.  Babysit your best friend’s kid.  Just get down on the floor and have fun.

After you wipe the tears from your eyes and your sides quit aching, try writing.  You’ll be in a better place personally. 

A place your reader loves to go.


Give Yourself Simplicity

You sit down, you try to write, but you just can’t quit thinking about . . . what?  For each of us its something different.

When our family drew names at Thanksgiving, I got the person who returns every gift.  Every gift.  Still, I didn’t want to settle.  I wanted to find something suitable, something good.  I tried shopping online.  I went to brick and mortar stores.  I even sent my husband and son to **gasp** the mall.  Nothing.  And instead of writing, I was still trying to shop online. 

When a deadline drew near and I was still having troubles focusing on my writing, a call was placed to my father-in-law.  “Get a gift card,”  he said.

My insane-perfectionist mind said: It’s Christmas!   Everyone needs a gift to unwrap. 

My more rational, writing-makes-me-happy-if-only-I-had-time-to-write mind said:  You can unwrap a gift card that’s inside a coffee tin.  Really.  It works if you let it. 

And that’s the key.  What problem have you made needlessly complex?  What are you letting eat up the time and energy you could be using to write?  Look for ways to simplify.  If you can’t think of any, ask someone who knows you well.  My father-in-law had the perfect solution.