Today’s post is written by author Rochelle Melander. Thanks, Rochelle!
I’d heard it happens to all writers, so I was not too worried. After spending most of the week writing blog posts, trying to revise the novel I wrote during last year’s National Novel Writing Month event, and editing a periodical—I hit the wall.
Unfortunately, I was not quite done checking off items on my to-write list. I had two more articles to write before the week was over. I tried hitting my head on the desk, hoping to shake loose an idea or two, but that just gave me a headache.
When runners hit the wall, they need to load up on carbohydrates. When writers hit the wall, we need to nourish our mind and spirit.
Here are five ways writers can feed their creative spirit when they run out of energy:
1. Read outside your niche.
Madeleine L’Engle, the Newbery award-winning author of A Wrinkle in Time and dozens of other books, read particle physics and theology to inspire and sometimes inform her novels. When I need a quick dose of inspiration, I visit my local library and scan the new bookshelves. In a small space, I can find books on diverse topics like economic theory, beading, and auto repair. I choose whatever looks good, and take it home for a retreat into someone else’s world. When I need more portable inspiration, I buy magazines or visit blogs from other subject areas.
2. Go back to school.
Many writers gain inspiration by volunteering to teach writing to young people at schools and after school programs. One summer I taught writing at a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School. I taught writing to pre-writers, teenagers, and every age in between. I provided writing prompts and suggestions, but the young people did the bulk of the work. They took my little threads and knit together magical worlds. I always left our sessions surprised and inspired by their ideas.
3. Get to know an artist.
I am often in awe of my artist friends when they tell me about all of the items they have repurposed for their art. One friend visited her town dump to get metal scrap for a piece she was completing. When I cannot find a living artist to learn from, I read about the lives of artists. Last week at the library, I picked up Molly Peacock’s book, The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins her Life’s Work at 72 about cut paper and mosaick [sic] artist Mary Granville Pendarvis Delany. Delany lived in the 1700s, and at age 72, discovered an early form of mixed-media collage. Before she died in 1788, Delany created 985 cut-paper flowers.
4. Get musical.
Musicians have the rare opportunity to make their craft in front of people. Watching a music group play together and talk about how they created a piece of music often inspires me to go home and write. When I cannot get to a concert, I tune into a music interview program like World Café, hosted by David Dye for NPR. Not only do I get to hear great live music, but the musicians often talk about what inspired them to write a song or put together an album.
5. Go outside.
Ernest Hemingway broke up his writing days by fishing and hunting. Psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan propose that we can restore our ability to focus by walking in nature. When I get stuck, I often leave my desk and hike through a park or around the neighborhood. When I have really hit the wall, I drive to a different neighborhood park to walk so that I can explore a new territory.
Writers, no doubt you have your own list of remedies for hitting the wall.
What do you do to nourish your creativity and write?
Rochelle Melander, the Write Now! Coach, is the author of Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live To Tell About It), to be released October 18, 2011. She is a certified professional coach and the author of 10 books. For more information or to contact the author, visit her site at www.writenowcoach.com.
Join the discussion
florence fois says
Great tips, Rochelle. I also use reading and music to break up my writing or to break open a “block.” I go to the pool and commune with nature, shop, or work with my hands. There are so many ways we can contact the muse. Your hard work is an inspiration. Keep rolling and write on 🙂
Rochelle Melander says
Thanks Florence. I love your suggestions. I find that working with my hands–even folding laundry–can really help open that block! Thanks for hosting me here! I appreciate it!
Andrew Z says
You could post this once a week and it would always be a good reminder. It made me want to pick up L’Engle again. She’s great.
Very nice post, Rochelle! Some writer’s call this a writer’s block. I especially like this part:
“When writers hit the wall, we need to nourish our mind and spirit.”
So very true; we need to feed the find so that it can produce great ideas in return. Hitting the wall is normal in a writer’s life and every time I experience this, I take it as an alarm clock. An alarm clock that tells me to leave my writing for a while and explore other activities that can lead to creative discoveries; activities such as taking pictures, exercising, or even meditating. These activities renew my energy and uplift my spirit and as I get back to writing, I feel good as new again.
There are still a lot of things that a writer can do to feed the mind and find inspiration to write. I would like to share this link that provides some great tips on finding your creativity:
Rose Byrd says
I practice all 5 of the above. However, BEING outside with my entire self, repeat: ENTIRE self; is the single greatest “kick my writing into a higher gear” technique I have used over many decades. Also, sharing internet links and participating in blogs like this one are becoming a great help, also. I also find groups that combine rotating among the members as teachers/creative leaders with actual writing/sketching exercises work great. Also heartily agree with Shyxter about the benefits to the creative processes of meditation and exercise. I also kept a visual arts dream journal for one full year some years ago and still draw material from it to append and to utilize in my writing.
Anne R. Allen says
Superb advice. We all need these reminders!
Emily Carter says
I allow myself to do all the lazy things I feel guilty for doing the rest of the time. Just watching TV, or reading less than educational books. And then eventually you get sick of the rubbish you’re watching or reading and want to get back to doing something a bit more meaningful so you end up writing again. Works every time!
Charlotte Rains Dixon says
I also like to do something relaxing and repetitive, like knitting. It not only eases and settles my mind, but something about the motion of it always kicks in new ideas. And, though it pains me to admit, sometimes about all my brain can handle is watching TV, but that can inspire also.