by Amanda Craig
Austin and heat go hand-in-hand in the summer. Something about those lazy dog days causes everything in life to slow down and I have an automatic urge to run for the nearest beach. What does it for me: a little salt air, lapping water, and healthy doses of summer rays. Heat makes me want to grab a book and lay on the beach for some veg out time.
I just returned from a trip to the beach, and even though the extended family was in tow, kids and all, I managed to not only relax but returned with fresh-whipped vigor for my writing. While I chose the beach, your time away might look a lot different for you. Obviously, humans are individuals with different likes and dislikes, not to mention different time availability, commitments, and bank accounts. The important thing is to step out of your “proximity box” and gain a new experience, relax, or relish that feeling of “I’ve never been here before”—and then use it.
Additionally, you probably know the benefits of rest on your health, but have you stopped to consider the impact on your writing if you refuse to occasionally get away or live life? If you are struggling with finding the right direction on a story—or what to write about at all—read on for some troubleshooting ideas that encourage you to refresh and recharge this summer.
Problem: Crumbling plot, dry characters
Solution: Change of scenery
A change of scenery can be invigorating. New images and experiences can trigger innovative plot lines, story twists, and unexpected character adventures. This means whether you can get away for two weeks, two days, or two hours, anything new you try can provide that boost of brain activity you need to generate your next masterpiece.
If you can’t flee to the Caribbean, at least flee to the local flea market for an afternoon. Try out a new festival, head to the mall to people watch, ride a roller coaster, or try a new sport. Make a commitment to do something new every week, no matter how small, and watch your creativity skyrocket!
[More: Writing in the Wild]
Problem: No inspiration to write; stress in general
Writers operate heavily in the cerebral and sometimes your brain simply needs down time. We live in an age where information is available for “brain download” almost nonstop. If you get too much jammed in there, you’ll have to metaphorically sort through it and weed out the stuff you don’t need.
Does the thought of reading one more email or writing one more word raise your blood pressure? Do you ever dream about getting away from it all? If so, those are signs you need to take that time away, at least in small doses, before your brain forces lifestyle changes for you. In fact, the last time I refused to shut down and reboot my computer, it eventually crashed. Our brains are no different. Whether you choose to surf in Australia for two weeks, or simply adopt a technology blackout for a month, allow your thought processes to operate at “low power” for an appropriate time. No writing allowed. No stress allowed.
Like soil on farmland that must experience a periodic seasonal rest, brains require healing time to produce consistent creative results. Keep your mind healthy and you will see fewer lulls in creative thinking and reduced mental stress.
[More: Losing Focus]
Problem: Same old, same old perspective
Solution: Read a book; talk to someone new
Take a book break! As writers, we tend to agree we should read, but how many of us carve out time to do that on a regular basis? Even if it is only one hour a week, read something that inspires your heart or challenges your thought processes. Regardless of the topic, you always gain from the experience—even if it simply teaches you what not to do.
Another way to gain fresh perspective is to talk to someone. I don’t mean a bare bones interview, but a conversation from the heart with the intention of truly getting to know that person. This requires an investment of time and emotion, but has huge benefits. Whether you chat with an older family member, or attend a local organizational meeting for a group or cause you are unfamiliar with, pick a specific person. Sit down in an area without distraction and begin by listening. Rather than writing questions in advance, what you hear should guide the next question you ask. If you really want to challenge yourself, attend a meeting for a cause you do not agree with and keep an open mind.
Hopefully this encourages you to try something new or relax—for your health and the health of your writing. Best wishes on your endeavors!
What sort of tactics do you guys have for breaking the monotony, and how does it affect your writing?