Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thursday Thirteen -- 291 -- 13 Ways to Recharge and Fill Your Creative Well So You Can Keep Up That Daily Word Count

Are you running on empty? Panting to keep pace now that September has started -- with school if you have kids, or classes if you're still in school yourself? Have you signed up for clubs, restarted abandoned projects now that the crisp breezes of autumn remind you that summer is over?

How is all of this affecting your writing schedule? Here are a few tips on getting a handle on your creative work flow.

1 - First things first: if your schedule just got heavier due to multiple starting guns going off, give yourself time to build up endurance and pace. Things should fall into place by next month.

If this is the first time this has happened to you -- maybe this is the first year you've had a Real Live Writing Contract, or you may be self-publishing and have a delivery date looming -- don't fight it the tide. You'll tire more quickly that way.

Keep paddling, keep your head above water and swim sideways out of the grip of the current. You will reach the shore, I promise. 

2 - If you aren't a newbie to this seasonal time crunch, yet you find yourself swamped and worn out, take a look at those 24 hours that make up one day, and the 7 days that make up one week.

Something has got to give, and if you're a professional writer, it can't be the writing.

Take a harder look at your schedule than you're used to giving. Are you a longtime volunteer for your daughter's softball team? Have you always pitched in at church dinners? Now would be the time to let someone else step up and do their part for awhile, until you've acquired the stamina to get back to it without your daily word count suffering.  

3 - Do you embrace the New! Shiny! aspect of fall with all the clubs, organizations and courses on offer? Have you started cooking classes on Tuesday nights? Photoshop basics?

I'm going to immediately contradict myself in the very next section, but for # 3, the focus is on just that -- staying focused. It's easy to make your way through the whole week saying to yourself, 'Well, I'm tired from all of the new stuff I just learned at class. I'll get back to my manuscript tomorrow.'  You'd be surprised by how swiftly a whole month will go by with no new writing due to fatigue from unfocused energy output from you. 

4 - In a complete about-face, # 4 is here to tell you that sometimes what you need to do is take that class and sign up for that course. Sometimes your focus can be too rigid. Your daily word count may be dwindling, not because you're not disciplined enough, but because you've had your head stuck in your own story for too long. If that's the case, what you need is an infusion of fresh stimulation and new ideas.

5 - Whether you live in a small town or in a big city, there is something going on that will take you out of yourself for a few hours, once a week. Have you always thought to yourself, 'I'd love to learn how to refinish old furniture'? Give yourself permission and sign up. Often, instead of diffusing your energy, when you focus it in another direction, your subconscious will work on plot holes while you learn to sand hardwoods.

6 - Does an entire course seem like too much time to commit to stimulating your creative drive?

You can still make a regular habit out of leaving the house once a week for the express purpose of encountering new things. Perhaps you and your significant other love to drive through neighborhoods looking at houses. Maybe you and a bestie could make a pact to walk through the local park together on Saturday mornings. The main aspect of this is to place yourself in a situation where you will see, hear and smell new things. A change is as good as a rest. 

7 - Not easy or practical to actually leave the house to seek out new things? Let search engines be your guide. Roam around online. Hunt up how-tos on pretty much anything and get your answers without leaving your desk chair.

Wish you could get away to Australia's coastal region? Watch some You Tube video footage.

Wish you could redesign your kitchen? Virtual design shops will help you test out colors and textures without leaving your desk chair.

8 - Treat this indulgence of your curiosity as a means to rekindle your enthusiasm for creating.

If you treat it like a waste of time, you might ask yourself who is actually speaking inside of your mind. Shut down this internal editor. A creative person needs to protect that all-important sense of wonder inside of them. 

9 - If you still wrestle with yourself over whether or not to sacrifice daily word count to something that sounds frivolous, try to rephrase the indulgence of curiosity in official-sounding terms like 'retreat', 'symposium' or 'conference'.

Artists and creative people in all mediums seek out professional development by attending these sorts of stimulus-oriented events. Do you have to do it alongside three hundred other people for it to count as professional development?

Of course not.  

10 - Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way and How to Avoid Making Art, constantly encourages artists to make a date with play. She acknowledges the real problems of procrastination which all creative people experience.

However, by embracing regular play time, she suggests, the procrastination will quickly give way to true inspiration, and your writing output will have suddenly kickstarted into regular, dependable work.   

11 - How? you may ask. How does something like play lead to something that can be turned in as completed work?

Play is self-chosen and self-directed. Play is, first and foremost, an expression of freedom. -- Peter Gray, Ph D -- The Value of Play

Seeking out play intentionally shows a desire to problem solve within a protected atmosphere. It redirects the writer's brain away from non-productive thought processes. Do you recall how it felt to be a beginning writer, unconcerned with the three-act structure or Black Moments? You can relive that joy through the energy of play. You can then infuse that joy into the contracted work you're now producing.

12 - The key to embracing play as a tool in your creative toolkit is double-sided.

On the one hand, there is a highly-disciplined aspect in turning to play without sacrificing your writing schedule. You may notice you're lingering a little too long on funny dog videos on You Tube. Julia Cameron's advice encourages us to acknowledge this sign as a need for play in order to subconsciouly solve problems.

Just let yourself watch the funny dog videos. Laugh uproariously. Connect with the dogs' pure sense of fun.

13 - Keeping your eye on the clock and one part of your mind on the fact that you have a word-count target for the day, give yourself full and complete permission to watch the dog videos.

Then, once you've noticed that you've filled up on dog cuteness, be just as ready to head back into your manuscript as you were to watch the dog videos.

In that way, the sense of joy which your play brought to you will propell your writing forward with a speed that no deadline on earth can match.  


Susan said...

Wonderful ideas, Julia. I still go on artist dates once in a while. My new thing is learning how to sit still - to just sit for 20 minutes a day, and be still. It's amazing how calming it is. It's not quite meditation, I'm not saying any phrase, I just sit, and listen. This is from Nathalie Goldberg's book The True Secet of Writing, her latest writing book. In it she says the secret is to sit, walk slowly, and then write. It's a very interesting process.

jennifer anderson said...

writing is solitary so it can be easy to procrastinate.

Travis Cody said...

I'm glad you spoke about play. I think in our early adulthood, we decide that playing isn't grown up enough and leave it by the wayside.

But all we've really done is trade the kinds of toys and play experiences of our childhood and youth for different kinds of toys and play experiences. It's really all about distracting ourselves from all the "have to" stuff we encounter as we take on adult responsibilities.

As I approach the age of 50, I'm reconnecting with play time in a visceral way. I'm making play time something that I do on purpose rather than just something I stumble over once in awhile. It's been a good experience that I think has helped me cope with stress.