Thursday, October 18, 2012

Starving Creativity

My day went from wonderful to bad in the time it took to see my daughter.

 I came home from a terrific writing discussion recharged and happy. But then I found my daughter on the stairs, holding her stomach like she’d been punched. She hadn't, at least not in the fist-meets-gut sense. She said, “It happened again, Mom.”

Lately we’ve had a series of tragic pet rodent deaths. It may be close to Halloween, but I’ll skip all details except to say we’ve had three miniature hamsters and one pet rat expire in ways that left both my daughters crying.

 I know this isn’t a pet column, and good thing, because if this was titled, “The Proper Care and Feeding of Pet Rodents,” no one would trust me as an expert.

 I mention this because pets and houseplants don’t thrive without the necessary nutrients. (Oops, I said I wasn’t going to say what happened to that poor rat.)

Lately my writing hasn’t thrived much, either. Here are two things I hope will fuel your writing as well a mine.   

Yesterday a writer friend commented that her writing had felt flat. Then, after a huge life change relieved her stress, her creativity came bouncing back. 

I’ve mentioned my hammock in a previous post. For other people it may be yoga, a walk outside, a day of shopping, a comfy pillow and a good book (preferably one you can read without analyzing every bit of it.) For me, one half hour gazing at a blue sky might help, but I think I need more serious stress-fighting tools. 
  1. 1.       Taking the pressure off: It’s the times the writing worries come at me hard and fast as the aliens in that old game of Space Invaders (if you don’t know what that game is, you’re young and I’m jealous. Google it.) I’m too old. The e-book market is going to make it impossible for me to publish traditionally. I have no talent, or, any talent I once had is now shriveled up like the um . . . houseplant. I have to publish soon, or I never will. I can’t be happy until I publish. You get the idea. These kinds of thoughts don't help anything. It's all based on unrealistic and overly-harsh expectations, not to mention a sprinkling of hyperbole.

    In the writing group I mentioned, one member said writers tend to be a little OCD. While I may or may not agree (look at my messy house, then form your own opinion) we are, at least, very hard on ourselves. Being hard on ourselves in what is already a very difficult profession is, well, hard.

    2.       A Writing Vacation: While a break from writing might be good from time to time, I don’t mean that in this case.. I'm suggesting we find ways to make writing our break instead of a source of pressure.

    A Remember we write because we love it: Why make ourselves miserable? I was recently talking to my critique partner about authors who have very good first books followed by not-so-great sequels. We wondered if this is partly caused by the pressure these authors feel to produce those subsequent books. We can’t always eliminate the stress from our lives, but we can find ways to make writing something we want to do each day. Write something that makes you laugh. Take a notebook and go write someplace you love, maybe while eating your favorite dessert. 

    B Write something different. I credit my critique partner, Alison Randall, for this idea: She suggests taking time off from novel writing to create a short story, a poem, even a puzzle or game. Alison said magazines are always on the lookout for games and puzzles. Submit to a magazine or a contest. Writers need a little positive reinforcement to keep us from feeling as dead as that . . . houseplant, and an article or short story in a magazine can provide not only a morale boost, but also a publication credit.

    For almost a year now, I’ve wanted to write a short story from an idea I had. But I felt guilty because my novels aren’t thriving, and this has kept me from taking time off to draft the story. Now I’m thinking that may be just the nourishment I, and my writing, need. So I’m off to write that short story. It’s a little cold for the hammock now, but maybe I’ll write sitting on my window seat, looking at the red leaves outside, and a little fro yo might be nice too.



Alice said...

Good thoughts. I love the ideas and may try some of them.

Becca said...

Thank you so much for leaving comments. I appreciate it, and your words of support as well.