It was Saturday morning, and I stared at a half-written scene in the all-to-familiar agony of writer’s block. My usual urge to craft a scene had left me, and my cat, Horton, made a bed of my forearms. The time had finally come to do something else.
My relationship with creativity is ridiculous.
At times, ideas won’t stop entering my mind. However, there is the occasion when I feel like my mind has run completely dry. During these times, I often try to re-energize my writing, change a routine, or work on a different aspect of my writing project.
This usually happens after I have planned an arc or chapter and the actual work of fleshing out the scene stands before me. Don’t get me wrong – I very much enjoy the process, especially if the idea is brand new. This was not the case with my current project.
Routines and Low Points
For those of you new to Paper Palaces, I am working on a fantasy saga known as A Thousand Watchful Eyes. I chip away at this project each day in a different way. Last week, I wrote about how little changes in my routine have impacted my writing progress.
While I have continued with my routine this week, I took some time to reflect on how I could revamp my daily writing habits. I added a half-hour writing sprint to my morning tasks.
The results were surprising:
- 4/5 of the days were successful.
- On Thursday, I wrote nothing, opting for more sleep from an exhaustive week. (I made up the lost word count on Friday).
- I wrote an average of 800 words per sprint.
- With each day, I felt like my scenes were developing, but all too slowly. Some were a little stale.
- By Saturday, I felt some writer’s apprehension and eventually some blockage with creating new material.
What I do when faced with a creative block:
When faced with a creative block, I usually turn to revision. Revision energizes me and gives me relatively simple task to accomplish. It activates the creative part of my mind, and pushes me forward.
For me, the obvious solution was to take the new scenes from this week and revise; however, I just didn’t want to do it. I was completely tired of writing the novel, which many writer’s know is a dangerous place to be. This is what I consider a low point in the writing process.
So… what did I do?
I worked on something else.
I decided to take the day off – not from project itself, but rather from the task of generating and revising scenes. Instead, I opted for investing time in tasks that inspire me to write the chapters, refresh my mindset, and help me build a richer, more interesting fantasy world for my characters to live in.
This is my advice for any person feeling the lull of a project that requires dedication willpower, time, and sustained effort.
Here are three questions you should ask yourself when feeling sapped of creativity:
Is there something else I can work on?
How can I make this more fun?
Am I depleted of ideas, or do I just need to re-energize?
These open-ended questions will help you to reflect on your project, whether you are a writer, reader, musician, dancer, entrepreneur, or anyone else who dedicates time, effort, and routine to a task. They help me revitalize my projects and habits that have devolved into mind-numbing work.
At the end of the day, I write because I love it, because I am fascinated by the world, and because I just really, really have to tell the story of these characters. Some mornings, I forget these simple reasons, as many people do.
In order to keep the momentum going, we must re-connect with the passion behind our passion projects. Here is how I approach each question:
Question # 1: Is there something else I can work on?
This question is definitely inspired by the idea of creative procrastination. At the end of the week, and the beginning of the weekend, I often want to rest. This was especially true after this week. By shifting my focus to a different aspect of my project – world-building and map-making, I made good use of my time and kept my passion for my fantasy series fresh.
Question # 2: How can I make this more fun?
I won’t lie to you. When I answered this question, it lead me to Youtube, where I began “researching” how to make fantasy maps.
After ten minutes, I felt better.
I cannot deny that this is a form of procrastination, but I would be lying to you if I said it didn’t help me create new material for my novel.
This world-building step was very fun. I ended up drafting new ideas for how the setting of this series will impact my novel without detracting from the integrity of the world I had already created.
Question # 3: Am I depleted of ideas, or do I just need to re-energize?
This question is the most important, as asking the question always leads to activity. Usually, this question comes first.
While my answers vary, I rarely say that I am depleted of ideas, even if I feel that it may be true. When I ask this question, I often can find that there is something in my writing for me to investigate, some idea that makes me interested, a character who needs attention.
Although I have experienced writer’s block, I find the notion of “lacking ideas” a little silly. This is mostly due to my experience with curiosity. If I stay curious, I often come up with new ideas. On the other hand, I almost always feel the need to re-energize at the end of the week.
Maybe this is a signal to me that I need to take a closer look at how I work. Maybe I should always revamp and re-energize on Saturday. Maybe I should schedule blocks of time for just having fun with the novel, or maybe I should schedule nothing at all.
If I remember anything from this Saturday, it is to always re-connect with the passion behind my projects, to push forward with my tasks, and not to give up just because a blank screen or half-written scene feels intimidating.
I hope these questions help you with your creative projects.
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