Write It Sideways

Hitting the Wall: Five Ways to Get Inspired

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.