I’ve had a really fun few weeks filled with two of my favorite parts of the writing process: The Beginning and The End.
For Winter, I’m at the beginning, which means plotting and brainstorming and daydreaming and wondering What If and discovering problems and coming up with solutions. Yes, parts of this stage can be frustrating, because you have a big, complicated, messy plot, and parts of it don’t always come together easily, but that kind of problem-solving is one of the reasons I enjoy writing so much.
Cress is on the other end of the process, with copyedits, page proofs, and my final-final-final read-through. I love this stage because all those problems have been solved, the story has come together, and I can finally enjoy reading it as if it were just a book and I’m just a reader. It’s the first time I truly get to enjoy the story without nitpicking every little thing, and there’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment that comes with that.
And then, in between Winter daydreams and Cress appreciation, I’ve been focused on recharging my creative batteries. Or, refilling my inspirational well. Or, putting the boys in the basement back to work. Or, insert your preferred metaphor here.
The weird thing about this stage is that it is incredibly important. If you’ve ever met a writer who has suffered from writing burnout, I’m sure they’ll tell you how important it is—necessary for your happiness, comfort, and continued productivity.
Which is kind of awesome, isn’t it? How many occupations actually encourage downtime like this?
Here are some things I do to keep my creativity humming. Thankfully, they haven’t failed me yet!
1. Read, read, read! Nothing inspires me more than reading a great book, with a fascinating world, a worthy protagonist, or a smoking hot romance. Whenever a book leaves me with that satisfied, delighted feeling, I think: I want to do this too. I want to give my readers these same feelings. It never fails to spark something inside me and motivate me to work on the next story. On top of that, there’s always the possibility that a great concept or plot twist will inspire a new idea in you.
2. TV and movies. Very similar to reading lots of books, I usually use this downtime to catch up on favorite shows or go to the theater or settle down for a Firefly or Harry Potter marathon. It tends to be a more brainless activity than reading, but can have the same effect of filling my head with stories, settings, and characters.
3. Exercise. Though I strive to maintain a balance between work, play, and health as often as possible, when a deadline is approaching it can be difficult, if not downright impossible. Sadly, for me, the first thing to go is usually my time at the gym. But I also recognize that a lot of my best ideas come to me when I’m on the treadmill, listening to my Lunar Chronicles playlist and letting my mind wander. So I use this opportunity to not only lose some of those deadline-pounds *cough cough* but also to reinvigorate my imagination.
4. Try new things. I wouldn’t say I’m a super adventurous person, but I’m almost always up for trying new things. Some are simple, such as sampling a cuisine I’ve never tried before. But some experience carry a bit more novelty, such as taking a trapeze-flying class or touring the Winchester Mansion (both of which I did in the past few weeks!). Life experiences supply us with fodder for emotional responses, settings and backgrounds, character talents, sensory details… all sorts of things! And you just never know where your next great story idea will come from, so the more you experience in life, the better.
5. Cross some things off the to-do list. It seems that when I’m in the depths of a writing project, there’s never time to get caught up on all those other life tasks I set for myself. So I like to use this time to knock a few things off the list—such as organizing my photo albums or planting a garden bed. It makes me feel accomplished and like I have my life together, and idle tasks like this are fantastic for letting my mind wander.
6. Relax. Perhaps the most important item on this list—I refresh myself by taking it easy, and giving myself permission to not be productive for every minute of every day. Do I feel like reading a book on the sofa, or going to the movies, or taking a bath, or going for a leisurely stroll, or opening a bottle of champagne just because? Then I’ll do that. I find that for me, a lot of creativity is born out of contentment (which is rather opposite to the perception that angst-breeds-art, but that’s a topic for another blog post).
So I try to relax and breathe and have fun and remind myself every day how lucky I am that this is my life.
Your turn: What do YOU do to recharge in between writing projects?